Spicy Cheesy Plums

ImageI was lucky enough to go on an Arvon Food Writing Course this summer in Devon during a warm, sunny September and had the time of my life. The other students came from all over the world and we had a wonderful time cooking together, learning about each others food and having a lot of fun as well as working hard.

This is a fantastic savoury/sweet dish for the end of a meal  in which we used a local Devon cheese with blackberries and raspberries, but I’ve adapted it to use our local Stilton cheese with spiced plums. Its so good, and unusual, go on, try it!

Use about 2 lbs plums, and poach in some mulled wine with a few extra spices thrown in, I used some cloves, cinnamon and finely sliced stem ginger, also pouring a little of the ginger syrup in. Add some brown sugar and poach until the plums are cooked. carefully take the plums out and lay in a dish, then rapidly boil the spiced mulled wine until it is reduced to a thicker syrup.

Try and take the cloves out (!) then while it is still warm, put some plums and syrup into a flat bowl, and carefully lay a thin slice of Stilton over the top, so it begins to melt. The saltiness of the cheese with the sweetness of the plums is divine.

Fabulous for Christmas Lunch.

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Winter Warmth

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It’s cold outside and, after a warm and sunny Autumn, the wind and rain has come with a vengeance.

So at Compton House we have embraced the end of the year with  a crackling fire in the Drawing Room, mulled wine on the stove and baked apples in the oven. Come down for breakfast from a snug bedroom, to fresh coffee or a mug of tea, bacon and eggs and porridge with cinnamon honey. Our breakfasts will set you up for the day and the freshly squeezed orange juice will ward off coughs and colds.

We like to keep things seasonal here, so replacing the lighter dishes of summer are warming  homemade soups, beef stews,  and apricot tarts with custard for pudding.

Tinker has taken up residence on his favourite seat in front of the fire and sleeps on the fender until bedtime.

Come and join him, we look forward to seeing you.

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About Town Picnic

Here is Marilyn Gardner, photographer extraordinaire, taking a photo of our lovely picnic for the  second edition of  new local magazine About Town. Intently watched by her pooch who had been trying to get at the sausage rolls!

I’m really enjoying writing for About Town and hope you enjoy reading it. The magazine is full of good things and interesting people. Make the most of the late summer sun, open a bottle of  something cold and delicious, and settle down for a good read.Image

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Happy Birthday Rats

DSCF0184Happy 40th Birthday to our wonderful housekeeper Racheal, nicknamed Rats.

You have been with us several years now and we appreciate all your hardwork. Not only do you keep us all organised, you are also a great friend to Mark and I and all the family. We couldn’t do it without you!

Have a fabulous day, with love from Lisa, Mark and all our guests who know you are the real star at Compton House.

We love you Rats !!

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Compton House Granola

Spring 2013 114

This breakfast granola has been very popular with our guests, it doesn’t last for long and I have been asked several times for the recipe. It is adapted from a recipe by Katie Quinn Davies, and it is good to add different ingredients, less or more of some things and make it to suit you. I’m a bit of a thrower-in-er so nothing is very exact, and it doesn’t matter; it’s full of good things and keeps in an airtight container for a good week or so.

So Erika, our lovely Californian girl, this is for you!

300 gms oats (rolled or jumbo)
100 gms shredded coconut (unsweetened)
Good handful of wheatgerm
2 good handfuls of whatever chopped nuts you have, I use hazelnuts, flaked almonds, walnuts and pecans
2 big dollop tablespoons olive oil
2 good pinches sea salt
2 egg whites
Teaspoon cinnamon or mixed spices
160 ml golden syrup (this is nearly a whole small tin, sometimes I just tip the whole tin in
which makes for a sweeter mix)
300 g mixed dried fruits, cherries, Turkish sultanas, cranberries….

Put the oven on at 150C or Gas 2.

Cover a large baking tray in baking parchment.

Add all the ingredients except the dried fruits and egg whites into a big bowl and turn to coat everything evenly. Whisk the egg whites and then stir into the mixture, turning it until thoroughly mixed. Lay on the baking parchment and bake in the middle of the oven for about 40-45 minutes. Halfway through turn the mix carefully so you break it up as little as possible.

When it is all nicely browned (don’t overcook and let it go dark or it will be bitter) put the whole tray on a cooling rack and leave to go completely cold. Carefully break up into pieces and add the dried fruits. (Sometimes I add chopped crystallized ginger to give a bit of bite, or cherries for colour).

Delicious with yogurt, crème fraiche, poached fruits, bananas, but very more-ish!

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Richard Rodney Bennett

Richard We were so sorry to hear about the death of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. He stayed with us at Compton House twice, both times with Clare Martin while they were doing a show at the Palace Theatre, Newark.

Richard was so nice, very charming with lots of marvellous anecdotes about his friends in New York. He adored cooking and taught me lots of great tips, especially how to make really good stock, which we discussed all the time I was making him a risotto one evening. He advised me “if you only buy one cookbook, buy Lindsey Barehams Soup book”, which I did, and although it isn’t one of todays glamorous cookbooks, and doesnt have any pictures, it really is my bible and has changed my cooking for ever.

Clare was so energetic and a real gas.

I  hum along to their CD when I’m in the kitchen and bless Richard every time I make a vintage stock!

P.S. My sister and daughters bought me an Arvon writing course for my birthday, as I have been banging on about booking one for years, and guess what? There is a cookery writing course with Lindsey Bareham, so  hopefully I will meet the author herself this year. Most exciting.

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The Wrong Loaf

We’ve had some wonderful Irish guests staying at Compton House, and Evelyn told me that what I had been making as Soda Bread, with wholemeal flour and runny yogurt, was in fact Wheaten Bread.  Soda Bread is made with white flour and Buttermilk.

Waitrose sell Buttermilk so I have been experimenting with different mixes and bread tins etc. The result is a wonderful, plump, moist loaf which toasts beautifully and freezes well.

The secret is not so much in the ingredients, as putting the loaf in a big Le Creuset saucepan with the lid on. Cook for about 40 mins with the lid on, then take the lid off for the last 10 minutes.

1lb white bread flour

Pinch salt

Good Teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda

426ml (11/2 cartons) of buttermilk

Pre heat oven Mark 6 or 200c

In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and bicarb. Mix in the buttermilk and then with your hands mix the dough until stiff but not too dry, if you need to, add a bit more buttermilk.

On a floured board knead lightly and form into a good round plump loaf, cut a cross in the top.

Put into the casserole or saucepan, and into the oven for 40 mins. Take the lid off the saucepan for the remaining 10 minutes.

Insert a skewer to make sure the loaf is completely cooked on the inside, if you are not sure, turn the oven off and leave the loaf in the oven for a few more minutes.

Turn out the loaf and wrap in a tea towel until cool.  If you can resist not pulling off a piece and eating it warm with butter !

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