Officers’ Mess

We are absolutely delighted to have been given this plaque having hosted the 6th Annual Reunion Dinner of several Officers of the Royal Logistics Corps, (retired).

Compton House is proud to be chosen as their Dining Club; I always enjoy cooking for them and the port and madeira flow freely!

Many thanks to John, Paul, Guy, Patrick and Warren, we look forward to your next visit in November.

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Baked Applesr Breakfast

I was delighted to be featured this month, on the first programme of the new series The Food Chain, making Baked Apples for breakfast, for my guests.

I love to provide something warm in the Winter months and this is so quick and easy; just butter a baking dish, core the apples (leave the skin on) and fill with a nugget  of butter, a spoonful honey and I like to include the honeycomb, any fruits and nuts, and your favourite spices, maybe a little nutmeg or cinnamon.

Pour some liquid into the baking tray, I use homemade Eldeflower Cordial but I have also used apple juice, this keeps the apples from drying out.

Pop into the oven (about 150 fan) for 20-30 minutes and serve warm with plain yogurt or thick cream. I usually poach some extra pieces of apple poached in fruit juice with any spare syrup from the cooked apples.IMG_0326.JPG

 

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Mums Fruit

Mums Fruit

Written for my sister Christmas 2015

The orchard is wild now, where the fruit bushes flowered. The apple trees are gnarled and old, and the vegetable garden long since gone to seed. The greenhouse is empty save for piles of plastic seedling pots, and the garden shed, with it’s beaten earth floor and smell of oil and grass cuttings, lies quiet and unused.

All reminders of our parents’ garden where my younger sister and I spent our early years, in a quintessentially idyllic English country village. An unspoilt backwater in the Nottinghamshire countryside.

IMG_0291Our Mother lived by the rhythm of the garden, with the seasons and an age old succession of fruit and vegetables throughout the year; The summer soft fruits, redcurrants, raspberries and strawberries giving way to blackcurrants, blackberries and rosehips, apples, pears and finally damsons and plums.

We ran barefoot out of the kitchen door, across the lawn by the terrace, through the iron gates and up the grassy path, through more gates pushing into the orchard. Between the damson trees hung the hammock where we spent the summer afternoons after school swinging gently between the lawn and the canopy of dappled leaves.

In the Autumn the ladders were leant against the trees and we picked the ripe apples, twisting the stalks and making sure not to drop and bruise them. Mum liked to grow the traditional Old English varieties such as the beautiful Egremont Russets with their rough skins, and the red cheeked Discovery.

Later we would pick the “fallers” up, and then the damson and plum trees were heavy with fruit, and while we filled baskets and baskets with fruits for jam and puddings, my little sister in her blue pinafore, set up a stall at the front gate, with a funny homemade notice selling plums from Mums big kitchen scales.

Ma had 3 freezers in the garage; one for veg, one for fruit and one for meat and ice cream. She used to sit at the kitchen table with a pile of freezer bags and fill them with the surplus fruit and vegetables, secure the bags with a tie then push a straw into the top and suck out the air. Finally she labelled each bag with the year and the fruit – bns, strwbs, rasps, goosgs, never the whole word.

We loved watching the thick fruit sauce dropping slowly through the sieve after simmering on the Aga for hours in a thick bottomed saucepan. A vivid, deep velvety colour like the inside petal of the darkest rose.

Earthly and heavenly at the same time, the tartness and biting sharpness of the fruit on the tip of your tongue, giving way to the crunch of sugar and sweetness, then the swirl of cream making it even more delicious, cloaking our ice cream in a heavy, rich, ripe, intense sauce.

This food represents everything about our home; spring and summer, autumn and winter; sunshine and rain, the planting, growing, picking, cooking and freezing; the baking and the eating.

We are cooking with the last of the fruit from the freezer, and for my sister and I it is the unmistakable taste of our childhood.

A spoonful of home.

 

 

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Fragrant Autumn Breakfast

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Although our English breakfasts at Compton House are the bees knees, sausage and bacon are getting such a bad press at the moment, it may be  a good time to try something different.

We were lucky enough to have Adam Palmer to stay recently, executive chef at Grayshott Spa, and he gave me a copy of his new book, GutGastronomy which is fantastic. I love the recipes, and the photography by Lisa Linder is mouthwatering.

This recipe for Summer fruits en papillotte is a great start to the day, and  you can change the fruit according to the seasons, (I had fewer strawberries and added fresh figs and slices of mango), served with a bowl of plain Greek yogurt.

It is a great hit with our guests and so easy to make; seeing them opening the parcels and smelling the spices and fruits is a real treat for me. My photograph isn’t as beautiful as the one in the book, but you get the idea!

This recipe serves 4.

Pre heat the oven to 200c, 400f, Gas 6.

You will need a roll of baking parchment. (White looks better than brown).

Ingredients; 4 fresh rings of pineapple  peeled, cored and sliced.

6 strawberries, hulled

16 raspberries and a good  handful of blackberries

1 Vanilla pod,halved and  cut down the middle

2 cinnamon sticks, both broken in two

4 whole star anise

4 thick strips of  orange zest

For the sauce

Punnet  of blackcurrants and 5 teaspoons honey

Make the sauce by simmering the blackcurrants and honey gently for about 5 minutes. leave to cool.

Cut 4 squares of baking parchment, about 12″ x 12″.  Fold each one over diagonally to form a triangle.

Open up the square again and drizzle the blackcurrant sauce onto the crease in the middle of each paper square.

Arrange your fruit on top of the sauce, and top the fruit on each parcel with the star anise, cinnamon sticks and vanilla pods ontop so they can be removed before eating. Fold over the paper to make the triangle again and crimp the edges well so they form a parcel. Place on a baking sheet and bake for a good 10 minutes until the parcels are puffed up.

Serve the parcels straight away, with a sharp knife to open them and enjoy the gorgeous smells escaping from the parcel.

Healthy and delectable, what could be better?

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BIRD FOOD

Our delightful guest Daniel Blajan has written a charming book about his garden, called
“Foxgloves and Hedgehog Days”. I was so taken by the gentle tales of plants and wildlife I bought several copies for Christmas presents, and everyone I gave it to asked for another copy. (Amazon!).

In the book Daniel gives a recipe for birdfood which is a great success. The blackbirds in the front garden like the fatballs put on the garden, while the sparrows in the back garden prefer it in a net hanging up. We have several families in the honeysuckle. This Winter has been so cold and frozen,andour birds deserve a treat. The fatballs must be delicious because they are gone in a couple of days so I make a big batch and keep them in the fridge.

Here is what you need; quantities depend on how much you want to make;

Suet or lard
shelled unsalted peanuts
sunflower seeds
pine nuts
raisins and chopped apricots
dried meal worms
chopped apples
Any other seeds, nuts or fruit you might want to throw in, but NO SALT in anything,

Plastic or rubber gloves, a saucepan and I put them in cupcake papers so less mess.

Put on the gloves, and chop everything up. In the saucepan soften the lard, don’t get it too hot or completely liquid. Mix in all the other ingredients and when cool, form into balls with your hands. About the size of a gold ball or a little bigger. leave to cool and store in the fridge.
Daniel ties them in a net, I just put them in a holder or on the garden. And don’t forget to always have water available too. You will have very happy garden birds.IMG_2457

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Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda breadOur Irish friend of many years, Barney Murtagh, has given me some of her buttermilk plant.
I’ve made soda bread for years, with yogurt and a pinch of salt, but after watching Barney bake, and tasting how
flavourful her bread is, I’m going back to the original recipe and keeping my buttermilk plant happy so it grows and I can give some away too.

The buttermilk makes the bread so moist, and you can buy cartons of buttermilk in Asda and Waitrose .
I leave out the salt now, we have enough salt in our diet anyway, and it makes for a softer loaf I think.

Barney makes her bread on a flat baking sheet, and it cooks better like this than in a loaf tin. Easy to cut the loaf into 2 halves and make slices for toasting.

The only problem is everybody loves it and I’m baking for England (or Ireland) now!
Marvellous with marmalade, cracking with cheese, brilliant for beans on toast. No preservatives or additives, wholesome, good and delicious.

If anyone would like some buttermilk plant, give me a ring and I will put some in a jar when it has grown enough.

Recipe.
3 large cups of wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Half a pint of buttermilk

Fan Oven at 150, Gas Mark 3

Baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

Put the flour in a bowl, add the bicarbonate and mix well.
Add the buttermilk and mix with a wooden spoon, until it is well mixed. If too dry, add a little water, if too wet, sprinkle a little more flour over.

Using your hands, knead into a big ball and place on the parchment on the baking tray.

Slightly flatten the bread out, and using a sharp knife make a cross on the top (this helps to cut it when baked).

Put into the middle of the oven for about an hour, pierce with a skewer to make sure the middle is cooked.
If you are not sure whether the bread is cooked inside turn the oven off and leave the bread in to finish off.
You just have to experiment a bit to see what works in your oven.
When you take it out of the oven wrap in a clean tea towel until cold.

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Blooming Day at Chelsea

Thank you Brian for a fabulous day.

The rain held off, the gardens were wonderful and Beccy and I had  far too much Champagne!

We were very happy bunnies on the train coming home, such a treat, can’t wait for next year.Image

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