Dec 19 2005

Nearly Christmas…

Dart

The lights are on. It’s nearly Christmas. Huge dazzling banners, twinkley fairy lights, glittering garlands, sparkling Christmas trees; they all light up the evening sky in every town, large or small. Late night shopping, free car parking, crowds, carousels, special Christmas markets, music on the streets, a Ferris wheel in Plymouth, good cheer everywhere, well mostly!

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Nov 26 2005

Snow on the Way!

Stream

It’s Beef Stew and Dumpling weather, Lancashire Hot Pot, Chicken Pie weather, comforting food weather. The week has been clear, sugary, crispy, crunchy, cold, cold, cold. As the sun appeared slowly over the hill the grass began to steam and boil. Gradually the land turned green again but now it’s cold and damp and getting worse! Snow forecasts for tomorrow, so unusual here, and freezing fog and dark, dank days. Suddenly it’s just a little warmer and the sky has taken on that certain ominous, pinky yellowy tinge we so rarely see in South Devon.  Time to hunker down, fill the stables with straw, feed the sheep on the hill and prepare for the freeze.

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Nov 02 2005

Autumn Melancholy 2005

April5_051_6 

Relentless wind and rain have battered October. Even today’s crisp sunlight illuminating a transparent clear blue sky does little to lift my perennial autumn melancholy. It evokes memories of childhood solitariness and isolation, of boarding school at seven, of a strangely emptying world. I hate dark mornings too, shopping by streetlight, grey foggy days. And the knowledge that it will only get colder! Most people struggle with ice cold January and February but for me November is the low spot of the year. Those first snow drops on Boxing day, dear mild Devon, lift my spirits once more and carry me on towards spring.  

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Oct 31 2005

Normandy Pheasant

Normandy Pheasant


This, without doubt, is one of my favourite pheasant recipes and is ideal for oven ready birds which have been commercially prepared. Pheasant like beef is better if it has been properly hung. If it is not it is inclined to be dry and dull when roasted. Apples and Calvados prevent the meat becoming dry and compliment the flavour wonderfully.

Brown a brace of pheasants in melted butter in a heavy frying pan then set aside on a plate. Melt more butter in the pan and fry a kilo of peeled and chopped apples till golden. A sweet apple is best such as Cox or reinette.. Choose a casserole that will snugly take the two birds. Put them breast-side-down on a thick layer of  the apple. Pack the remaining apples all round the pheasants. Pour on 125ml of crème fraiche. Cook gently for about an hour at gas 4 or 180c checking after forty minutes or so. After an hour take them from the oven, raise the heat to 8 or 230c and pour over more crème fraiche with 4 tablespoons of Calvados. Return to the oven for five minutes. Leave to rest before serving. As with all meat resting for a while will make it easier to carve.

There are a myriad of pot roast recipes for pheasant.

Sometimes I add celery or celeriac and smoked bacon or pancetta. I may add cabbage or mushrooms, carrots, onions, truffles, red wine, Madeira or cider. A young bird may be spatchcocked, spread generously with butter and olive oil and grilled slowly till the flesh is firm and cooked through but still pink. In fact pheasant is a most accommodating game for experimentation.


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Sep 30 2005

Filling the Larder Sept 2005

Kitchen_table_1

As we reach the Equinox once more the autumn sun drops from our heavens into the southern hemisphere. It joins us later and later each day creeping up over the hill and, leaving earlier and earlier, soon slides away again like a huge red barley sugar. The golden autumn light seems to wraps itself around the whole valley easing us towards winter. As the days get shorter the light becomes hard and sharp. Mimicking shadows, long, crisp, exaggerating, fall across the grass. The days are still warm but there is a chill in the misty morning air as we set off for the yard before breakfast.

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Sep 24 2005

Salting Meat

The meat and fish are preserved in a dry cure of flavoured salt and saltpetre. Saltpetre is sodium nitrite and in these health conscious days regarded as unsuitable for human consumption. Its dubious origins and old stories of its early collection certainly make one wonder! However it is a good preservative and turns the meat pink. If you are not using it refrigerate the meat during curing. Sea salt is considered the best for curing and preserving but rock salt is quite acceptable. Modern fine table salt contains chemicals to stop lumps forming so is therefore not suitable for curing.
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Sep 08 2005

Elderflower Cordial

Barb_2_013

This year the lemony scent of elderflowers filled the farmyard as never before. Even after I had harvested so many flower heads the bushes looked untouched. I was given this traditional old recipe by a friend who was given it, in turn, by her grandmother years and years ago. My kitchen was filled with bowls covered with clothes for days and days and already I wish I had made more.

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Aug 09 2005

SUMMER 2005

 Summer Again

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A holiday in France in June was a rare treat for us even though the sky turned grey, the rain poured down and lightning seemed to split the heavens in two.. We left the farm in the capable hands of Bryony and drove onto the ferry in Plymouth.  We travelled south to Bordeaux for a few days then up to  La Rochelle and the Ile de Rai finally retracing our steps to our dear friends in Northern Brittany.   I spent a glorious three days talking food, future blogs, and garden design with Evelyne. (see: Letters from Brittany) The restoration of their house is a triumphApril5_036  and their joy in it all a match to the beauty of the place. We had a magnificent time. And the landscape is so strangely familiar!

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Aug 08 2005

Un Jardin de Simples

Dear Sally,

It is a long time since I wrote you my last letter. But I have to say the winter and the spring had been so dull, cold and without any interest this year, I hibernated a little bit like all the plants in my garden!

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May 19 2005

A Cold Spring

Salad

Lambing has finished. Fat sturdy little lambs have moved onto the higher fields with their mothers, now I can turn my attention to the garden once more. How the years vary. I look back at this time last year and read with incredulity of a heat wave, of meals in the garden, seeds frying in the poly tunnel and fruit and vegetables racing away in the garden. As I write the rain pours down. The cairn looks out of the window and grizzles, the lurcher and the sheep dog are curled up on the blanket at my feet and the old labrador, crammed into a too-small basket like a giant brown dormouse, paws over face, is dreaming, I’m sure, “of delphiniums blue and geraniums red.”  I wonder whether to switch on the fire.

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