Something is troubling me, for about a week or two, that set me on this path and I wanted to share it with you. My friend asked me what’s your favourite meal your mum cooked for you, that special dish if you could have it now what would it be?
An innocent question that stopped me in my tracks. My mind wonders and I am cross I can’t think.
I reconnect with the question for over two weeks, I can’t think, I wonder through the memories of dinner parties, the chocolate eclairs at the winter wonderland party I ate so many I was sick. The apple pies with cinnamon pasty and slices of quince.
I am going mad, I could cry as I don’t have a favourite, I see my friend’s smug face as she declares it’s my mums roast dinner, another announces it’s her mum’s pie and mash. But I have failed I can’t think of a single dish. I conclude that as her cooking was so legendary it must be that, that’s stopping me choose.
But no there must be that one? like to love of your life! when they enter the room you just know. But I don’t, and I feel I have failed my mum, by not having a favourite. I’ve become obsessed with it, I wake up and wonder what it would be if I could sit down now and eat it. I almost settle with the battered oysters, then the nettle soup, I finally finish on the treacle pudding, but NO there’s more!
Its only when I reach the quince tart that I stop dead in my tracks I travel through time and I’m in the kitchen, my mums smile fills the room my dad’s cheeky funny self is entertaining her, she slightly flushed from the warmth of the aga, and the air is filled with the smell of roasted pheasant, I can almost taste the potatoes as their slightly earthy aroma steams from the pan as they cook. A large green cabbage is on the side waiting to be chopped and added to the pan. The plates are added to the bottom oven and I catch the smell of a quince tart as the door closes.
The kitchen is starting to fill up with pans some on the heat some push aside I beg for nutmeg butter, to go with my cabbage and watch as she turns the squash in the roasting tray, as they jostle for space with the carrots. I feel the warmth of the room as it fills my soul with such joy. YES I’ve remembered it’s! My Favourite dish, I want to go home, right now, I want to go to Barland Cottage and lay the table, put out the serving dishes, stoke the fire and sit expecting while my mum brings the table to life. My dad makes a joke, and my mum’s laughter fills the air we giggle, after all, he’s funny. I can safely say I’ve remembered the dish its Roast Pheasant that’s my all-time favourite and something I’ve not been able to cook since my mum died. I miss my mums cooking, I miss roast pheasant.
Blackcurrant Extra Jam a winner , so is the Strawberry. So in 2013 I entered the great taste I won 2 * for my Lemon curd, 1* for my raspberry and in 2016 I entered again with strawberry syrup and yep it is a winner with 2 * so just when I thought I missed the enter deadline. I managed to squeeze in with 2 of my best selling products strawberry Jam and of course Blackcurrant, into 2017 awards. and……..this is what the judges said….
Strawberry jam achieved a star the judges comments on this
“Wonderful fresh summer strawberries on the nose, the set is perfect. The judges really liked the whole strawberries that still had a delightful texture and a lasting, fragrant strawberry flavour. Skillfully made”
and my Blackcurrant extra jam achieving 3 stars. I am feeling very proud of this achievement and I would like to thank you for the support, judges comments.
“Beautiful deep blackcurrant flavours on the nose, a thick set, giving a deep, lasting flavour, not overly sweet, allowing the true fruit flavour to shine through. The judges loved the sheer intensity of fresh blackcurrant flavours, the quality of the fruit and gentle preservation.”
So if you fancy learning my secrets of great jam making come along to my cooking lessons at :
5 years ago I entered the World Marmalade Awards and won a bronze for my Seville with Cacao it was an epic day it lead me to decided that this is what really makes my world go around. So I thank Dalemain House for giving me the confidence that started me on this epic journey, this road has consisted of late nights and even hospital visits as I have fallen out of a trees. So thank you. (I am giving the world marmalade awards a rest, no other reason than I didn’t post it on time yet again!)
So now I make jam and the very fact you all wanted to buy eat and enjoy it well is nothing more than fabulous. Time has flown by and I moved out of my home kitchen, to one I built, started to keep bees, planted more fruit and vegetables, teamed up with the Chewton Glen to forage sustainably. So far so good.
I’ve lived and loved every minute, every disaster, every high, every low, they have all been fantastic. Although I feel that I may have lost the plot from time to time! But you, my friends, my children and my family have been there always encouraging me, every step of the way believing in me. Which means so much to me it hard to put into words.
So thank you all for supporting me in every way be it small large for helping me forage be it picking crab apples Carol,(Daisy cake company)or for growing them Darren Venables, to believing in my wacky ideas Martyn Nail, Luke Mathews, Leckford Farm, and of course the many bar tenders who have invited me in to help develop products cocktails and use jam in ways that made toast curl !
If I was to say I love what I do, it would underestimate the passion I have and my urgent need to cook everyday. I am always up early and chomping at the bit to get into the kitchen. So as I stop and reflect on the past five years, I shall share with you a few moments below.
Antonio Carluccio at Leckford Farm shop opening
Waitrose Charimans Award 2013
BBC Children in Need Carfest
Lunch Break with the Fabulous Baker Boys
Food & Drinks Award Hampshire
Foraging with nothing but the Bear essentials
Cooking at the Hotel & Catering Show
Cooking with Luke Mathews (my hero)
Talking Foraging with Estate Manger Darren Venables