Sunday, 1 November 2015

Country living :: Work and Play :: Fireworks, Slow Rabbit Stew, Mistletoe and Mince Pies

It feel's like Christmas again this morning. I think it's because of the mist. It casts an eerie light, like when it snows. It's typical autumn, day-after-bonfire-night mist, but very mild. The 1st of November and the warmest UK November day on record since 1946.

The attic has been restored and we now have storage back again, so we've been finishing off painting it (mostly Ahmad) then trundling back and forth with boxes, up and down from the garden shed, up stairs, and then up into the attic. It's fun to open them and find forgotten treasures, the plastic yellow elephant mirror! Some of Hannah's baby clothes, Christmas decorations, old photographs and winter clothes. 

The front room looks a bit like a loading bay again. I bought a bargain vintage 1950's/60's wardrobe for £50. It wouldn't fit up the little old stairs but we managed to dismantle it. Hopefully once painted we'll be able to take it up, bit by bit, then sort out our bedroom at last. 

It's busy, busy, again but we've had time for a bit of fun. An errand in Hay, on market day ended in favourite Booth's. I couldn't resist having another peek at the old bound Thoreau book...It's well and truly out of my system now...Ahmad treated me to lunch. Tasty warm chicken, freekeh and pearl barley salad with a tangy lemon dressing for me, boar burger with crunchy golden chips for him. Then we shared lemon polenta cake with a blackberry and apple glaze. We've eaten there a few times and the food is good, amazing ingredients, great service, well cooked and a nice friendly atmosphere (good for people watching too. There always someone interesting to spot). I love it...but would like to try The Old Electric Shop next time...the buddha bowls sound interesting...

We bought local honey on the market, a brace of pheasant to cook with pomegranate molasses, walnuts and honey to make Persian fesanjoon, and rabbit, to make stew. 

Back home we tidied up the garden after the old golden egg plum tree had a short back and sides. I managed to rescue the mistletoe. Hope it'll keep 'til Christmas. 

In the kitchen I made my first rabbit stew. I'm trying to wean Ahmad off too much red meat.  I was hoping he'd like it and didn't expect too much, but hands down this is the most scrumptious thing I've made this year. Probably because of the addition of Ahmad's amazing homemade cherry wine.

Slow Wild Rabbit Stew

Ingredients for four people:

  • One small wild rabbit, skinned and jointed.
  • A litre of chicken stock (hot)
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • Two leeks, topped and tailed, cut in half lengthways and sliced and then washed thoroughly in cold water to remove any soil.
  • Good red wine a couple of glasses. I used our lovely deep red homemade cherry wine. It has a lovely intense fruity, sweet/sour flavour 
  • A little flour, any kind will do 
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Three or four small potatoes
  • Two smallish carrots
  • Olive oil  
  1. Remove the outer leaves from the leek. Top and tail and cut in half down the centre then cut into smallish slices. Wash thoroughly to remove any soil.
  2. Pour a little olive oil into a heavy based pan,(cast iron is perfect for this). Add the leeks and cook until softened
  3. Whilst this is cooking, season a couple of tablespoons of flour with salt and pepper and coat the rabbit portions and peel and wash the potatoes and carrots. Cut the potatoes into quarters and slice the carrots finely.
  4. Peel and crush the garlic cloves and add to the leeks, cook for a few minutes.
  5. Push the leeks and garlic to one side in the pot, add the rabbit portions and brown.
  6. Add the carrots and potatoes to the mixture and combine with the other ingredients.
  7. Pour over the hot stock. 
  8. Add the wine and bring the stew to the boil. Cover and reduce the heat. Cook for about two hours until the rabbit is tender. Remembering to check and stir every so often to ensure that it isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
This is delicious served with creamy mashed potatoes and a dark green vegetable like cavelo nero(black tuscan cabbage).

Rustic Mince Pies

    Ingredients for about a dozen pies:
  • 6oz of cold butter or alternative
  • 14oz of plain flour (I used strong flour because I like a firm crust for mince pies, but you may prefer to use regular plain)
  • a pinch of salt
  • Two beaten eggs
  • A little milk
  • Icing sugar for dusting. If you like a sweet pastry you may also like to substitute some of the flour with sugar.
  • A jar of good shop bought mincemeat. I used just over half of an 840g jar of rich Christmas mincemeat. If using a plainer one you may like to add extra lemon zest, chopped apples, or other fruit or alcohol to spice it up a bit.  

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c
  2. Sift the flour into a baking bowl.
  3. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
  4. Add icing sugar at this point if making a sweet pastry and stir. 
  5. Add the eggs and combine to form a dough. Wrap with baking parchment or place in a plastic bag and chill in the fridge for about twenty minutes.
  6. Oil a muffin pan well.
  7. Flour a clean work surface. Remove the pastry from the fridge a and cut in half. Return one half to the fridge to keep cool. Roll out the pastry until it measures about 3mm thick. Cut out twelve circles using a cutter or glass that larger with a 4ins diameter. Place one into each of the holes in the pie tin and press to shape.
  8. Spoon a generous spoonful of mincemeat into each one.
  9. Do the same with the other half of the pastry. Only using a 3ins diameter cutter. Place these circles on top of the pies. Press gently together.
  10. Brush the tops with milk and then bake for about twenty minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
  11. Dust with icing sugar.
Lovely served warm, with natural yoghurt or vanilla ice cream. mmm...

Saturday night was bonfire/halloween celebration. I'm still a kid when it comes to fireworks...Hope you had a happy Halloween too...
I best go and move some more boxes...

joining with karen for weekends...


  1. Everything looks wonderful, as always, Debbie! Your mince tarts look worthy of the finest bakery. Fireworks for Halloween? That's interesting. Rained here, so we didn't get a single trick-or-treater.


    1. They were scrumptious Jane but that was because of the lemony, fruity shop bought filling. Hopefully next time I'll have time to make my own mincemeat. Shame about your rainy halloween. There don't seem to be as many trick or treaters here as we had before in Oxford...I miss them. As bonfire night is celebrated on 5th of November (to commemorate Guy Fawkes' failed attempt to blow up parliament, apparently people lit bonfires to celebrate the king, James 1st survival. ) and so close to Halloween the market town decided to do both on the same night. But it seems that each of the villages around is down their own bonfire night on different nights, so there were lots to choose from.

  2. it was such a quiet halloween here we had to 'take it' to our grandsons cross-town. wet, dreary. i didn't even carve my huge pumpkin...thinking i'll turn it into an ice bucket for a dinner club in a couple weeks!

    1. It's a shame it was quiet dressing so amazingly. Loved both your outfits. Shame we didn't see Freddie too. The pumpkin ice bucket sounds fun...will the pumpkin flesh be part of the dinner?

  3. My heart beat a little faster at seeing the bookstore, just beautiful and a place I could get lost in.
    My husband's grandmother use to make mincemeat pies and cookies, I've never eaten it, but my Mike speaks fondly of the memories.

    1. It's lovely isn't it? I could spend hours there with a book and one of those comfy chairs. Heavenly... We do get lost there. There are three floors covering all sorts of books and when the three of us go, we each go in different directions. Then spend ages trying to find each other...Not a hard chore, we don't really want to get found...
      If you like vine fruits I'm sure you would love it Tracey.

  4. love all the photos. sounds like a great weekend. <3

  5. you are so LUCKY to have that bookstore, I am jealous. Really!! Lovely weekend and my I'm glad you have your attic storage!! I think you might be nearly done with the house work, or at least I hope nearly done.

    1. We are Karen, and it's only a short drive away. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel...nearly there...]

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