So here we are at the end of October and about to enter November where we have both halloween and bonfire night, in relatively quick succession, to look forward to; it’s cosy and it’s magical and a happy reminder that we are nearing the festive season where fine foods, fine wines and luxury clothing go all out to creating a continuous flow of parties and events to look forward to.
I am loving the bold orange colours of autumn, where Waitrose entrances are brimming with pumpkins, gourds and squash of all shapes and sizes.
Hauser and Worth, in Somerset, hold their annual Pumpkin Festival this weekend where you can enter your own homegrown pumpkins into their Great Pumpkin Competition. The festival is part of the national Family Arts Campaign and Hauser and Worth work with the Hubbub Foundation as part of their ‘Pumpkin Rescue’ initiative. And as well as the finest seasonal foods served at the Roth Bar & Grill, there’ll be live music and a fancy dress spectacular as part of their Pumpkin Parade.
The great outdoors is still providing foraging delicacies like fungi, but don’t pick unless you’re really sure that they’re the edible ones. There’s plenty of advice at from the Woodland Trust and lots of local groups where you can join in with some experienced foragers; not only is their knowledge priceless, but you will find that the beauty of the great outdoors is magnificent in all seasons.
Foraging for sweet-chestnuts in time for Christmas is a delightful past time: the nuts can be baked, roasted, boiled or microwaved. Remember to score a cross in them to stop them from exploding when they are cooked. Once cooked and peeled they can be eaten as they are or used in deserts and stuffings. www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
October’s shooting season is well under way and timeless tweeds, again, grace countless fashionable collections. British brand Farlows launched their new Fieldwear Collection which is designed to combine the traditional style and etiquette of British game shooting, but with the hi-tech performance technology demanded by today’s shooting world.
British brand, Tail-or-Made, makes unique, hand crafted coats for you and your best four-legged friend. Their bespoke tailoring allows you to dress identically whilst out enjoying our beautiful English countryside.
Game recipes are aplenty this time of year. Roasted pheasant is a perfect accompaniment to all those foraged mushrooms you’ve gathered, and venison too – served with a full bodied glass of red wine – will make a delicious dinner party dish. Game can only be shot during specific times of the years to allow them to breed and successfully migrate to their wintering grounds.
Dare we say the word, but Christmas is fast approaching and there are plenty of Christmas preparations we can do to get ahead of the game – I always make a traditional Christmas pudding in early November and keep it under the bed until Christmas day! This might sound like a crazy idea, but even Delia Smith herself suggests this, and her recipe is the best it gets; it might sound laborious to steam it for 8 hours, but it really is well worth it. I halve this mixture and make one larger pudding for my family; then I divide up the other half into four to give to friends and family. It’s such a lovely treat to give and receive homemade goodies.
**Delia’s tradition; to gather all the family round, especially the children, and invite everyone to have a really good stir and make a wish, allows all the smells of Christmas to drift about the kitchen, and the excitement of wishes is such a wonderful way to start your festive preparations. You’ll be making this Christmas pudding recipe year after year!
110g shredded suet
25g whole candied peel, finely chopped
25g whole almonds (skin on is OK)
1 small cooking apple cored and finely chopped (no need to peel)
grated zest ½ large navel orange
grated zest ½ large lemon
2 tablespoons rum
75ml barley wine
2 large eggs
50g self-raising flour, sifted
110g white breadcrumbs
1 level teaspoon ground mixed spice
¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
good pinch ground cinnamon
225g soft dark brown sugar
Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding.
Take your largest, roomiest mixing bowl and start by putting in the suet and breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Mix these ingredients very thoroughly together, then gradually mix in all the dried fruit, peel and nuts followed by the apple and the grated orange and lemon zests. Don’t forget to tick everything off as you go to make sure nothing gets left out.
Next in a smaller basin, measure out the rum, barley wine and stout, then add the eggs and beat these thoroughly together. Next pour this over all the other ingredients and begin to mix very thoroughly.
**It’s now traditional to gather all the family round, especially the children, and invite everyone to have a really good stir and make a wish!**
The mixture should have a fairly sloppy consistency – that is, it should fall instantly from the spoon when this is tapped on the side of the bowl. If you think it needs a bit more liquid add a spot more stout.
Cover the bowl and leave overnight.
Next day stir in the sifted flour quite thoroughly, then pack the mixture into the lightly greased basin, cover it with a double layer of baking parchment and a sheet of foil and tie it securely with string (you really need to borrow someone’s finger for this!). It’s also a good idea to tie a piece of string across the top to make a handle. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan filled with simmering water and steam the pudding for 8 hours.
Do make sure you keep a regular eye on the water underneath and top it up with boiling water straight from the kettle about halfway through the time. When the pudding is steamed, let it get quite cold, then remove the baking parchment and foil and replace them with some fresh ones, again making a string handle for easy manoeuvring.
Now your Christmas pudding is ready for Christmas Day. Keep it in a cool place away from the light. Under the bed in an unheated bedroom is an ideal place.
(Recipe and image from www.deliaonline.com)
Closer to home, our gardens, whatever the size, will benefit form a bit of pruning in preparation for the cold and frosty months ahead. Fallen leaves can be raked and composted (after you’ve jumped in the large piles of them and thrown them into the air!) and beds can be dug over ready to attend to in the spring.
Be careful not to disturb the delicate bulbs that will emerge as snow drops and early daffodils as we head into the new year. Like us, they are keeping warm as the British countryside soon becomes white with frost and the earth crunches underfoot; but coming into the warm after a brisk walk is one of life’s little luxuries.
For Our Edible England: Part One, click here, and keep a watchful eye out for Our Edible England: Part Three, where Christmas comes to town!