This isnt really a recipe, more a guide. It’s too easy to be a proper recipe. There are really only four requirements; a bird, a brick, some veg and time.
March starts on Saturday, and I am looking forward to it with every fibre of my being. Every year I resolve to make peace with February. I focus on the little flowers, the days stretching out with a few minutes more light every morning and evening, the beauty of the stark branches, the joy to be had in a half-term holiday, hot chocolate and open fires, on and on with an increasingly desperate fervour.
The fireplace was where the middle cottager cooked, heated water, and made bread in a little brick oven off to the right. We still cook on the fire every couple of weeks or so in winter, just for fun really. I can stand up inside it, stretch out my arms and not touch the sides. It basically takes up an entire wall.
One of my uncle’s indicators as to whether a person is living a rewarding life, is whether or not they have friends and family around them with whom they can sing when they get together. It’s a bloody good indicator. And it seems that it’s one that fewer and fewer of us can say that we have nailed.
This is not the classic original, but it is a lovely dish.
We have had our first duck egg! I am disproportionately excited. It was the classic duck egg blue colour, although covered in mud, and perhaps a little murkier than most interior designers would have it.
Above the winter bulbs, and the hellebores, are the flowering shrubs. This being a limey, chalky garden I don’t have any of the witch-hazels that I admire in books. Instead I have viburnum, sarcococca, mahonia, and the odd solitary rose bud in a protected nook against a house wall. This last never looks quite right, or happy, in January, and will never open even if picked and brought inside.
Ours is not a garden of winter flowers. I still find it beautiful in winter, but that is great part due the plant forms, dead, alive, with or without leaves, that fill it. Structure helps it at this time of the year too. It’s (very, very) far from being a perfectly constructed garden. In many ways it’s a bit scruffy, and in many ways, so is its owner. It is however an attractive scruffiness, at least in the case of the garden, that works in this rural setting, and gives due place to both the plants and man-made structures (stone labyrinth, hedge enclosures, rose arbour) that give it shape.
There may be trouble in paradise. It is beginning to look like we have a duck lothario in Poultropolis. His insistent advances are not welcomed, either by the object of his affections, nor by her preferred partner. He is, I’m sad to say, attempting to force himself upon her, but so far he has not succeeded. This may well be because she is in fact a goose, and about seven times as big as him.
This easy and delicious dish is based on middle eastern food, the split pea stew being something traditionally found in Persian cookery. The source of this idea was the peerless Claudia Roden, specifically her book Middle Eastern Cookery.