Dalehouse - from the House of Commons kitchens to a Bowland B&B
PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 February 2020
Talented chef Dominique Ashford has swapped the House of Commons kitchens for serving stunning feasts of local produce at her remote Forest of Bowland bed and breakfast
Dominique Ashford has cooked for some of the world's most recognisable people. As pastry chef at the House of Commons for 13 years, world leaders, dignitaries and officials from across the globe ate her food. She also trained in some of the best kitchens, including with the much celebrated Roux brothers and at Terence Conran's flagship restaurant, Le Pont de la Tour. Closer to home she has worked with talented chef Aiden Byrne, creating stellar desserts. Add to that consultancy work with restaurants, individuals and high-end brands including Lancashire stove and range cooker mega brand ESSE, and you start to get a feel for how skilled the 47-year-old chef is.
Today, you'll find Dominique in a remote part of the Forest of Bowland cooking for a six cover dining room at her charming bed and breakfast, Dalehouse. With views of green pastures as far as the eye can see, it's a stark contrast to life in the city. Walking around the gardens, Dominique forages for goodies to serve to her guests. And she couldn't be happier.
She swapped life in London for her rural idyll with partner Andrew. Together they provide breaks for those who love the countryside and want to get away from the hubbub of urban life - as well as those looking for a superb dining experience - which Dominique provides. It's a skill coveted by many, it's one that's even more admirable when you're in the middle of nowhere. There is no corner shop to pop to or neighbour's door to knock on. And this shows in Dominique's approach to Dalehouse.
Like any self-respecting bed and breakfast, the Lancashire cooked breakfast is something you would tell your grandchildren about. Dominique's culinary skills are allowed to truly shine when she cooks evening meals for guests or at one of the monthly supper clubs she runs from the barn adjoining the bed and breakfast. She prepares a three or four course evening meal that makes the best of ingredients available locally - whether this is from her own allotment, the farm shop or from the rich bounty of food made by local artisans or reared in the fields around the house. Andrew, a keen marksmen, also keep a steady supply of game for Dalehouse. You won't find a set menu - Dominique cooks only what is available and in season.
'I really feel this is the best approach,' said Dominique. 'And the only one when you live somewhere that's a little bit more remote. You feel more connected to the countryside and in tune with the seasons.
'I love being able to cook for our guests in this way and they love it, too. I love the freedom of being able to decide what to cook on the day, it's why we decided to do away with the menu. We only sit six people in the dining room, I would love to cook for more which is why I launched the supper clubs. It gives you that opportunity to do more and to create dishes you wouldn't ordinarily expect in a rural bed and breakfast.'
Dominique also spends time doing outdoor catering including for game shoots on the local moors - there aren't many who can cook a three course game feast on a camping stove. But Dominique can. She loves her development work, too, including using her ESSE stove at Dalehouse to develop new dessert recipes for the ESSE café as well as hosting demonstrations and cookery courses.
'I feel happy,' said Dominique, who won a prestigious bake-off in Manchester to find the ultimate Eccles Cake recipe, beating Michelin chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen and Steven Smith of the multi-award-winning Freemasons at Wiswell. 'I love our life here and I love being in the middle of the countryside, it's something people only dream about doing.
'I love working with ESSE, too, it's a fun part of what I do. I'm used to working with large capacity commercial ovens and when I saw the quality of the cakes and loaves emerging from these amazing ovens, I had to find out more about them. It's a partnership I'm really pleased to have. Moving to rural Lancashire has been a really good thing for us.'