Matt Green from Barnsley in Yorkshire has been Head Chef on the luxurious Northern Belle for 15 years. Here he shares is food secrets and reveals how he cooks five-course dinners on a train…
How long have you worked on the Northern Belle?
I started back in 2006. It was a coincidence I got on there. My old college friend was head chef on the Northern Belle at the time and he was on the lookout for a chef. We got in touch and I’ve been there ever since.
Why do you like working on the Northern Belle?
I love seeing how the food on board makes people happy and there’s also a real camaraderie with the staff. When you spend 17 hours in a hot kitchen you need to get on with the people you are working with.
How many kitchens are there on the Northern Belle?
Two – both kitchens are tiny but the ‘smaller kitchen’ caters for 108 passengers and the larger kitchen caters for 168 passengers. There are usually two chefs in each kitchen along with two kitchen porters. All crockery is washed by hand; there are no dishwashers onboard the train.
Does the lack of space dictate what can be on the menu?
To a certain point, yes. Space is at a premium. We usually carry two days’ worth of food onboard at a time. At full capacity we cater for 268 passengers so having over 500 portions of food on board can be challenging. Imagine what it’s like when we do a five-course lunch!
How often do the menus on board change?
The menus change seasonally. We usually run about five menus over the course of the year which includes our festive menu. The menu is a set choice because we couldn’t offer a choice for the amount of covers we do and the space we have. We also cater for vegetarian and vegan passengers.
Are there any dishes that are always on the menu?
Not really, but we do bring back old favourites or dishes that have gone well down in the past. The only dish that was on for the past 18 years was the brunch menu. This consisted of smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, served on a warm buttered crumpet with caviar, hollandaise sauce and Whitby crab. Although this dish was popular with regular travellers, I decided to change this dish recently.
We re-vamped it and we now serve a hot smoked salmon fillet with a cheese twice baked soufflé with a chive cream sauce and tomatoes. The dish is proving to be very popular.
What can guests on board expect in the way cuisine on board a Northern Belle train?
Guests can be expected to be transported back in time to a bygone era of the golden age of railway travel. Every effort is made to make our guests feel totally at ease and relaxed. That means the cuisine is not pretentious but laid back in style. The food produced onboard is from good quality local ingredients cooked well and that shows on the plate.
What do you love about your job?
The fact that I get to cook every day with the most amazing ingredients, and work in a place that I feel very privileged to be in. My ‘office window’ changes every minute, that’s what makes it special to me. It is where I get my inspiration from. I could be in the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales one day to the Highlands of Scotland the next. What more inspiration do I need?
What is your food philosophy?
Keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Down to earth, simple honest cooking always works
Away from work, what do you like to do?
I love being at home with my girlfriend, chilling out with our dogs and cooking some home comforts.
Northern Belle recipe
Potato, Celeriac and Yorkshire blue cheese soup with sage and onion bread
Soup is comforting any time of the year, especially in the autumnal months. We serve soup onboard the Northern Belle generally as part of a five-course lunch or dinner. Surprisingly this is done in an old -fashioned soup terrine and silver served to the guest. This tests the stewards onboard the train. It takes some serious skill to serve boiling hot soup on a moving train at 100mph without spilling a drop!
Ingredients (Serves 6)
- 700g of celeriac, trimmed and cut into small chunks
- 300g Peeled potatoes cut into small chunks
- 50ml of sunflower oil
- 1l of vegetable or chicken stock
- 300g of Yorkshire blue cheese
- 500ml of double cream
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
- 20g of caster sugar
- 5g of salt
- 100ml of white wine
- 200g of onion, finely sliced
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions, allowing to sweat but not colour for 3-4 minutes.
Add the celeriac and water and leave to simmer gently for 40 minutes or so.
After 40 minutes, or when the celeriac and potato has softened, blend the soup in a liquidiser or food blender until smooth. Season to taste with sugar and salt.
Return to a clean pan and bring to the boil. Add the blue cheese pieces, salt and the double cream. Stir gently and check seasoning. Adjust consistency if necessary with a little water.
Add the finely grated garlic and white wine and bring back to the boil. Distribute into bowls and serve immediately.
*My blue cheese of choice is Mrs Bell’s Blue. It’s made in Thirsk, North Yorkshire by the Shepherds Purse Creamery. It’s a creamy rich ewe’s milk cheese with a piquant flavour. Similar to Roquefort but less salty.
Sage and onion rolls ingredients
- 500g strong white flour, plus extra for kneading
- 300ml lukewarm water
- 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast or 12g fresh yeast
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 8g fine sea salt
- 15g olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 15-20 sage leaves, chopped
- 1 egg to glaze (beaten with a pinch of salt)
- Poppy seeds to sprinkle
In a mixing bowl add the flour and make a well in the middle. Add the salt, sugar, oil, sage and the chopped onion. Mix well.
In a jug combine the yeast and water. Slowly, pour enough water into the flour until the dough comes together and cleans itself from the sides of the bowl. If needed add more flour or water. It shouldn’t be too wet or too dry.
Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place the dough into a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature until doubled in volume.
When risen divide the dough in 12 pieces and with your hands shape them into balls. Place the dough balls on a baking sheet (covered with parchment paper) and let them rest for 30 more minutes or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200c. Once rested, beat the egg with a pinch of salt and brush the rolls. Sprinkle on the poppy seeds. Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.