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W I NT E R


The Ethicurean Cookbook

T

H E R E are a couple of special requirements for the Walled Garden in winter – first, a lighter to defrost the padlocks and secondly a good torch for evening trips around the garden, unless there is a full moon. Frosts in the Wrington Vale are spectacular. The air hoar that decorates the trees creates a landscape that is more akin to Siberia than Somerset. In an early-morning drifting fog, the view from the glasshouse is divine. During our first year at Barley Wood, we had heavy snow and several hoar frosts, and the pathway through the centre of the garden lay under a good three inches of snow. Jack clipped on his skis and, armed with two bamboo canes pinched from Mark’s beans, managed to ski right through it. Morning trips to the compost heap at the bottom orchard, the reserve of the luckiest in summer, become a task to be avoided by all of us. By early December we try to finish pressing the last of the season’s apples, as working in the icy cider barn is harsh. Elena, Paûla’s mum, and Phil, Jack’s dad, run the apple business. Both are used to warmer climates – Mexico and the Gulf respectively. You’ll find them in the barn, clothed in multiple layers, debating which varieties of apples to blend. Their fridges at home are bursting with labelled specimens: Tydeman’s Late Orange sits next to Reverend James. The season’s last pressings require juggling the final few trugs of sweet varieties with the later cookers, such as the infamous Bramley and the cloud-textured Blenheim Orange. The cold weather acts as a gentle prod towards more fullbodied, buttery food and drink. By December, calorific caution is thrown aside as we march towards the inevitable feast, and by Christmas we are trotting full-bellied towards absolute gluttony. Partridges are synonymous with this time of year: we all know the song. These plump birds virtually fly out of the kitchen, roasted and glazed with a coat of hawthorn jelly with its wildfruit tartness.

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The Ethicurean Cookbook

Winter is a chance to deploy all of those chutneys, jams, pickles, jellies, liqueurs, infused gins, beers, ciders and wines that have been squirrelled away during seasonal gluts. It’s a time for experiments, sweet concoctions such as membrillo-infused vodka and vanilla and espresso bean rum. Our Walled Garden apricot jam and black cardamom vodka, a triumph of a drink, was the sweet product of a bitter day in January. From the New Year, while everyone else detoxes, exercises and diets in a cloud of resolve and perspiration, we are preparing the biggest event in our calendar, our annual Wassail. For us, the Wassail is a festival fix during the cruellest part of winter. We feel we have recaptured a lost part of our country’s heritage and richly updated it. On this cold evening, we never fail to enjoy the magical rituals of eating, drinking and working together. By the end of January, we are the ones paying penance for our alcohol consumption and excess. Work begins, or rather continues, after a little break. All the fruit trees are pruned, the dividing hedges that are mature and ready for laying are confronted with billhooks and axes, the formidable hedge outside our cider barn is due to be laid next year. We are lucky to have the oldest hedging society in the country, the Wrington and Burrington, which was formed after the Enclosures Act came into force in the early 1800s. It still meets regularly just down the road. There are distinctive styles of hedge-laying that vary from region to region. Each style is specific to the local climate and the types of trees and shrubs that will grow in local soil. The area around the Walled Garden is a hedge-laying stronghold, although we suspect few people will have heard of our local celebrity‚ Uncle Frank, a hedge-laying legend from Butcombe. All the maintenance has to take place before the birds establish their nests. A carefully selected mix of shrubs and trees, well planted, will yield enough fruit to feed plenty of hungry humans and birds. The hedge, framed in the giant doorway to our cider barn, reads like an inventory of our larder at The Ethicurean: hawthorn, sloes, wild damsons, rosehips, crab apples, hazel and cobnuts. Before our resident robin has time to sing for a mate and build a nest, the yew hedges are clipped, offering an early reminder of the garden’s cyclical, ordered style and the imminent arrival of spring.

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Beetroot Carpaccio with Honeyed Walnuts Winter is a testing time for even the most hardened proponent of seasonality. An anonymous sigh can sometimes be heard in the kitchen when Mark, the gardener, comes in with yet another basket of beetroot. The audacious pink-and-white-striped Chioggia, the common red Detroit and the unimaginatively named golden beetroot are frequent visitors to The Ethicurean kitchen at this time of year. However, the chefs relish the opportunity to create an original dish. This one is our play on the classic beef carpaccio. Reminiscent of a stained-glass window, it celebrates the distinctive taste of each of the beetroot varieties that grow on our doorstep. Flavour and spice intertwine with vibrant splashes of colour, brightening a monochromatic wintry day. serves 4

Put the beetroot in a pan with the vinegar and half the sugar.

3 beetroot, topped and tailed

Pour over enough cold water to cover the beetroot completely,

300ml red wine vinegar

then add the spices and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and

120g caster sugar

cook gently for about 40 minutes or until there is only a slight

1 clove

resistance when you insert the tip of a knife in the beetroot.

3 star anise

Meanwhile, prepare the walnuts. Melt the butter in a small pan,

12 black peppercorns

add the walnuts and fry over a medium-high heat until lightly

a small piece of cinnamon stick

coloured. Add the honey and toss until the walnuts are evenly

a handful of winter salad leaves (we

coated. Decant from the pan into a cool dish.

suggest a mixture of mizuna,

winter purslane, land cress and

Drain the cooked beetroot, keeping half of the cooking liquor,

rocket)

and cool them under cold running water. Pour the saved cooking

flaky sea salt and black pepper

liquor into a clean pan and add the remaining sugar and a pinch of salt. Boil over a high heat until it has reduced by three-

for the honeyed walnuts:

quarters; it should have a thick, syrupy consistency. Remove

½ tsp butter

from the heat and leave to cool.

25g walnuts 1 tsp runny honey

Peel the beetroot and cut them into quarters. Using a mandoline, slice them wafer thin. If you do not have a mandoline, put the quartered beetroot flat-side down and slice lengthways as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife. To serve the carpaccio, arrange the beetroot on 4 serving plates, then drizzle over the syrupy liquor. Add a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, then scatter the honeyed walnuts and the salad leaves on top.

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The Ethicurean Cookbook

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Duck Terrine with Cranberries and Cobnuts We use Aylesbury-cross ducks from Madgett’s Farm to make this terrine. It was through farmers’ markets that we became aware of the commendable work Madgett’s has been doing for years. Situated near Chepstow, it was originally a dairy and beef cattle farm (and was even mentioned in the Domesday Book), but over the past decade the poultry business has taken off. Like other great family businesses, they care deeply about what they do which, of course, is reflected in the quality of their produce. This is a very versatile recipe and you could easily substitute chicken or goose for the duck. Careful weighing of the ingredients is key, as you need to compress them evenly into the moulds. The terrines need a night in the refrigerator before serving. They will keep well for several days because they are sealed by the goose fat. You probably won’t need to butter your toast before liberally applying the terrine – although it is pretty tasty if you do. makes 4 small terrines

Put the goose fat in a heavy-based pan over a low heat until

210g goose fat

melted, then add the salt, pepper and star anise. Place the

1 tsp salt

diced duck breast in the fat and cover the mixture with a circle

1 tsp ground white pepper

of baking parchment. Cook over a very low heat for 30–45

½ tsp ground star anise

minutes, until the duck is cooked but still slightly pink inside (a

465g skinned duck breast, roughly

meat thermometer should register 74°C, though we cook ours

to 55–60°C). Remove from the heat and leave to cool at room

diced

60g dried cobnuts (or hazelnuts),

temperature.

lightly crushed

60g dried cranberries, soaked in

Take the breast meat out of the cooled goose fat and put it in

cider for 30 minutes, then

a bowl. (You can pour the fat off the cooking liquor from the

drained

duck, strain the liquor and use it to add flavour to other dishes.)

135g black cabbage (cavolo nero),

Add the nuts, drained cranberries and the cabbage, if using, and

season well. Line four 150ml ramekins with cling film and put

coarsely chopped and then

blanched in boiling salted water until just tender (optional) sea salt and black pepper

them in a dish to catch any spillages. Divide the duck mixture between them; it should come slightly above the rims. Pour over enough of the cooking fat to fill the gaps, allowing it to sink in before checking the level again. Cover each terrine with cling film and then spike it with a knife tip so the extra fat can run away as the terrines chill. Place a chopping board on top and weight down with 4 heavy tins. Leave in the fridge overnight. Before serving, dip the ramekins in hot water for about 30 seconds to loosen the terrines and then turn them out on to a board. Leave to come to room temperature so a little of the fat melts away, then transfer them to serving plates. Serve with toasted sourdough and Rowan Jelly (see page 299), if liked.

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The Ethicurean Cookbook

† It is reassuring to know that the great Mrs Beeton would have approved of our choice of breed. In her Book of Household Management, she writes:

‘The White Aylesbury duck is, and deservedly, a universal favourite. Its snowy plumage and comfortable comportment make it a credit to the poultry-yard, while its broad and deep breast, and its ample back, convey the assurance that your satisfaction will not cease at its death … this member of the duck family is bred on an extensive scale…in the abodes of the cottagers. Round

the walls of the living-rooms, and of the bedroom even, are fixed rows of wooden boxes, lined with hay; and it is the business of the wife and children to nurse and comfort the feathered lodgers, to feed the little ducklings and to take the old ones out for an airing.’ This inspiring extract serves as reminder of the importance of food provenance in Victorian times, when a meal was a family process that stretched beyond sitting around a table.

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