Tag Archives: pheasant

Margot’s 12 Faves of Christmas

With Poppy’s 4th birthday out of the way and a week of cards and cake dutifully observed, Christmas has finally entered the cottage.  A huge succession of large parcels have descended (thank goodness for next day delivery) and in true last minute Margot form, all food bar the main event arrived by the back door in time too.  The postman and I are on first name terms and he brings Monty biscuits.  Keep it between us, dear Reader…..I have panic bought pretty much everything for Christmas.  Every year I promise myself that I will have everything ready by the beginning of December so that I can actually enjoy the lead up to the big festive day and apart from the year that Poppy was born, I haven’t managed to be even vaguely organised!  However, I’ve decided that the best way to combat all the Christmas rush and stress is to take a leaf out of the Danes’ book and embrace ‘hygge’.  Everything else can wait.

candles

From what I can gather, Hygge (pronounced hooga) is all about the art of cosiness – enjoying good things with good people, creating a magical glow with candelight, making time to stop and think, appreciating what we have, rather than wanting more……  The perfect winter antidote.  So this Christmas, I shall making like a Dane, feasting with the people I love, taking a moment to stop and stare at the roaring fire in the grate (whilst sipping sloe gin obviously, dear Reader), remembering that cooking Christmas lunch is only like cooking a Sunday roast and switching off from the world outside to make Lego farms with Poppy and Primrose, sip hot tea, eat crumpets, savour long muddy walks in the woods, scoff Quality Street, finally watch the end of Mad Men and dive into my latest haul of Raffaela Barker novels.

Before I sign off until the New Year though, dear Reader, I thought I’d share my 2015 Christmas favourites with you – my 12 ‘faves’ of Christmas….

  1. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a pheasant wreath so here is this year’s homemade effort.  Thanks so much to Phil the pheasant who was trapped in the dog proof fencing and as I went to rescue him, decided to fly off, leaving me with all his tail feathers in my hand!  Phil, I do hope you haven’t been the butt of numerous jokes – pop back and I’ll find you a jumper.

Christmas wreath

2. Despite the ridiculously unseasonal weather, I will STILL be snuggling down on the sofa with my favourite people by the fire, even if it means we will be wearing t-shirts and drinking pina coladas in the sitting room.  Letters written to the Big Man have already been laid on the fire and we watched as the smoke curled up the chimney, hoping they reach him in time.

Fire

3. Hot steaming mugs of tea and good books with my beautiful cashmere bed socks before everyone else gets up – Yawn London you have made my Christmas this year so a huge thank you to you.

Yawn

4. Finding out who’s been naughty or nice with Primrose and Poppy at the Long Barn in Alresford – really magical and so much fun. FC Long Barn

5. Our very own handmade pigs in blankets from our first pig, Cumberland.

Pigs in blankets6. How could I forget the Christmas tree?  Ours doesn’t go up until after Poppy’s birthday but I adore it when it is finally in situ – you can’t beat the smell of fir in the house.  I even managed to embrace the tree decoration free for all…….

Christmas tree

7. We always have a new book for Christmas and Christmas week, we read our favourite Chistmas bedtime stories including an Oxford Annual of Christmas I’ve had since I was 6!  Poppy and Primrose love the stories of Victorian Christmases and Mummers.  However, the book that is asked for time and time again has to be The Jolly Christmas Postman.

Jolly Postman

8. Christmas Monty – I promise he hasn’t eaten Father Christmas but he IS terribly suspicious of men in red suits falling down the chimney….

Christmas Monty

9.  We’ve been so busy with one and thing another, that I forgot to tell you about a new four legged friend of ours.  Introducing Willow, the 28 year old Welsh Mountain pony.  A very sweet farmer’s daughter who lives nearby asked us if we could fuss over her old pony, groom her and take her out for hacks.  As you can imagine, it was like all Poppy and Primrose’s Christmases had come at once and now it’s Willow this and Willow that.  Christmas Eve will see us taking carrots to her and her horsey companion.  A complete wish come true for 2 pony mad girls and 1 pony mad Mummy, dear Reader.  Jerry has taken to frowning at the number of riding hats and paraphernalia in the hallway……

Willow

10.  Cheese.  Need I say more.  I have a fridge full and it makes me rather happy, dear Reader.  Oh that and the Christmas Double Issue of Country Life!  I shall be sneaking down the stairs in the dark, Nigella style, to midnight feast on Stilton and Tunworth cheese whilst reading a page or two of this country Christmas treat.

Christmas CL

11.  Winter walks – in between all the feasting and present giving, there’s nothing like trudging up to the woods and blowing away the cobwebs. Can’t wait for a crisp frost to coat our little corner of countryside.

winter leave

12.  Perhaps the best thing under the Christmas tree this year will be our newest addition….  Meet Isadora, dear Reader.  Dora for short.  All black velvet and gorgeous puppyness.  Arriving on an early Christmas delivery, we’ve already been enjoying plenty of cuddles.  Jerry certainly knows how to get a Christmas present right!  However, Monty is still not too sure if it is love at first sight.  He will be taking a view on the whole puppy pulling his ears and sleeping on his bed situation, post Christmas.

Dora

SO that takes us to 2 cats, 2 dogs, 5 hens, 1 pony and a pig in the freeezer……wonder what else we can find a home for in 2016?!!  I would say that we were mad but if you’ve been reading this since the very beginning, then you already know that, dear Reader!  Wishing a very Happy Christmas to you and yours – may your Christmas be filled with feasting, plenty of cosiness and most importantly, love, peace and a little gin.  See you on the other side x

Star

Get your game on

Great_British_Game_Week_Logo_918Oh dear Reader, this week has had its ups and its downs to say the least.  It started with the car breaking down on the school run (homeward bound thank goodness, otherwise Primrose would have been stranded at school).  The three of us ended up being towed away in the end after the breakdown chap decided that our car was indeed dead.  Arriving home from the school run 4 hours after Poppy and I set off was not as planned but Primrose was thrilled as it gave her something to talk about for her ‘show and tell’!  Never let a 6 year old tell you a joke about a car breaking down at a petrol station on the way home from school……it just might come true.  This incident was quickly followed by losing my watch – something which wasn’t hugely expensive but was irreplaceable sentimentally as Jerry gave me the watch for my 21st birthday.  I’ve spent the last few days searching everywhere for it to no avail so shall mourn its loss.  The last in the series of my Margot disasters happened on my way to talk about all things game on BBC Radio Solent with Blackmoor Game when I had a tonk in Jerry’s Lanny at a set of traffic lights.  They say things come in threes….let’s hope that I am covered now for any further mishap.  Not sure my nerves could take anything else this week, dear Reader.

Still, onwards, and there’s nothing like Great British Game Week to warm the cockles and wet one’s appetite for some gamey goodness.  So I thought I might bring you my week in game, dear Reader:

Roast Wild Mallard, marinated in sloe gin (of course!) and Plum Chazwinkle’s

Wild Mallard

Raised game pie – pie but something very traditional.  Think pork pie only more gamey.  This is a labour of love to cook but so worth it – a perfect Boxing Day feast, cut into thick slices and served with a deliciously spiced pickle or preserve.  Great with a little snifter of something….

Raised game pie

Pheasant terrine –  a quick and easy pâté that can be whizzed up in minutes (literally) and cooked in a bain marie in the oven for an hour and a quarter.  Made the day before, all it needs is some warm bread or melba toast.  Two lovely additions could come in the form of quince jelly or another delicious pot from Chazwinkle’s, this time Rhubarb.

Pheasant terrinePigeon with red wine jus – something a little special for the weekend

Pigeon

Game pie – smoked garlic, chunky smoked bacon lardons, a teaspoon of anchovy essence and a good couple of dollops of Beetroot Chazwinkle’s added to the pot before slow cooking really make this recipe like a huge hug and a kiss.  Just the right thing for bringing cheer to someone who has given the front end of their husband’s car a bashing…..

Venison pie

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, diced

1 leek, finely chopped

2 cloves of smoked garlic, finely chopped

150g smoked bacon lardons

500g mixed game

150ml port

250ml game stock

1 tbsp of plain flour

1 tsp anchovy essence

2 tbsp of passata

2 tbsp Beetroot Chazwinkle’s

ready made puff pastry

beaten egg

a handful of chopped winter savoury (you could use a mixture of thyme and rosemary instead)

Add a drizzle of oil to the pan and fry leek, carrots, celery, garlic and bacon until the vegetables have softened.  In a bowl, season the game with salt and pepper and add the flour, coating the game in the flour.  Add the game to the pan and fry for five minutes or so, stirring to avoid too much sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Spoon in the Beetroot Chazwinkle’s – this adds an earthy note and touch of sweetness to the pie.  Pour in the port and cook on a high heat for a couple of minutes before adding the stock, passata and anchovy essence.  Stir in the winter savoury, before popping into the slow oven.  Cook at 100 degrees Centigrade for at least six hours before either turning up the heat to 180 degrees for 30 minutes or placing in the top oven for the last part of the cooking.  The sauce should look rich and unctuous and the meat should be falling apart as soon as a fork touches it.

Spoon the stewy mix into a large pie dish and cover with the puff pastry top, rolled to the size of the dish leaving a little overhang to allow for shrinkage.  Paint the pastry with the beaten egg and bake the pie in a hot oven (200 degrees) until the puff pastry is golden and feels crisp to the touch.

Go on dear Reader – get your game on too!  I’d love to hear about your game numbers and if you fancy tuning into my little game stint on BBC Radio Solent, then do go over and listen here from 01:32.

A countryside Christmas

church flowersIt seems so fitting to be sitting here writing this post in the first days of January after our first countryside Christmas, dear Reader.  2013 was such an eventful year: swapping kaftans for tweed and heels for wellies, leaving behind the Big Smoke for rural Hampshire, getting a gundog pup, Primrose learning to live with mud, Poppy learning not to eat it, Jerry living out his dream of driving his own Lanny, CHICKENS……I could go on.  Not to mention the beginnings of Margot Tries the Good Life world domination in written form.  So one couldn’t blame me dear Reader, for half expecting Christmas to be a bit of let down after all that!  Amazingly, it wasn’t.  However, most of December was rather bumpy with Poppy succumbing to a hideous bout of the hand, foot and mouth virus and the four of us having to live in quarantine with the sign of the plague daubed on the door.  After two weeks of illness, followed by Poppy turning 2 and then the mad dash to prepare for Christmas, we were all looking forward to a bit of festive peace and quiet.

Luckily for us, the week of Christmas proved less fraught.  Never have we felt more at home than here in our little old country cottage.  Rather spectacularly, the village seems to have well and truly embraced us and the whole of the festive period felt as if it had been stolen from The Archers’ airwaves.  My contribution to the church flowers was infinitely better than my first attempt at Harvest time, Poppy and Primrose dressed as angels to form part of a tableau around the crib with some dear little village shepherds and everyone roared with laughter when a grumpy Poppy yelled (rather loudly I might add) in the middle of the prayers “I don’t love you Mummy” when I ran out of sweeties to bribe her silence.  I turned my hand to Christmas wreaths and even managed a bit of countryside recycling when my dear Pa turned up with this……

Roadkill

Roadkill

and I fashioned it into one of these!

A bit of countryside recycling!

A triomphe de plumes!

Jerry’s family – I do promise (truly) that I did not feed you what was left of the pheasant when you came to lunch….thought I had better declare that……just in case, anyone was worried….!

Our dear little tree!

Our dear little tree!

Moving on…  We enjoyed the hospitality of several villagers and settled in to the swing of all things Christmas.  I was accosted to form an impromptu choir for the service – only to find that there were quite a number of villagers who have been hiding their musical lights under a bushel.  One even turned out to be a recorded artist and entered the choir practice in full voice, trilling vocal warm ups.  Amazing, the things one doesn’t know about one’s neighbours.  Christmas Eve proved to be a wonderful evening with Ma and Pa in tow, children snug in their beds, stockings hung by the fire and a magical walk along the starlit lanes to Midnight Mass.  A goose from our local farm shop went without hitch and I even managed to churn out a cake with the girls.

Edible glitter and edible spray in the hands of a 5 year old!

Edible glitter and edible gold spray in the hands of a 5 year old!

Say nothing about Robin Pinkbreast, dear Reader – Primrose was utterly delighted and I spent the whole time telling Christmas guests that it was all the children’s work…
With 2014 ushered through the cottage door, I have had time to think on resolutions and wishes for the new year.  More tweed is certainly on the agenda, learning to shoot a gamebird is well and truly up there and tackling the awful jungle of a garden has to be priority number one.  Meeting one of the organisers of the New Forest Show over lunch, I was almost persuaded to enter and ‘show’ my chickens.  Oh and the vicar already tried to twist my arm to join the Parish Council to represent the young people.  Not quite sure that I am ready for the challenges of either of those yet!!  Apparently, Jerry says we have to start sorting out the cottage and redecorating too.  Perhaps now would be a good time to lock myself away in the study and pretend to pen a little chapter of a book or two?  Sounds like 2014 is going to be just as hectic as 2013….  Dear Reader, I do wish you and yours a very happy and prosperous 2014.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading, supporting and telling others about my little blog.  Without you, 2013 really wouldn’t have been half as brilliant!

Happy New Year from the countryside!

Happy New Year from the countryside!

The New Arrival

Irresistible..!!!

Puppy Puppy Puppy!!!  After 8 weeks of waiting, we finally brought our scrumptious spaniel home last week, dear Reader!  Jerry, Poppy, Primrose and I stood on the doorstep for our first family photograph and it felt like we were bringing home another newborn baby!  So far Monty is proving to be every bit as gorgeous in temperament as he is in looks and doesn’t even mind when well meaning visitors ask if he is a Springer!  His first night went so well that Jerry and I were slightly worried that he wasn’t breathing.  I suddenly wished that we had bought a CCTV-style baby monitor so that I could check on him without having to go downstairs and wake the whole household.  The last pup to leave his mother, he had already spent one night on his own and after a long day’s play with our girls, he was so exhausted that took himself off to his bed inside his crate.  We didn’t hear a peep from him until we all got up at 6am the next morning (Jerry and I never get a lie in as Primrose and Poppy are the early to bed, early to rise sort of children……sadly).  There have been the piddles and puddles as we expected but he is pretty good at calling us to open the back door to be let out now.

He has also proved the perfect tonic for dearest Poppy who has been very ill, having caught the dreaded chickenpox, with infected spots and temperatures of seriously high proportions.  Not an inch of skin could be seen on her and she was unable to do much more than flop on the sofa and whimper just like a little pup.  In response to her obvious distress, Monty has licked her, let her snuggle down with him and even rest her head on his back – thus proving that a well known fact that dogs are extremely good therapy.

A trip to the vet and first jabs over and done with, we are now looking forward to the second jab when we can FINALLY take Monty out for a walk.  In the meantime, I have resorted to taking him out for a wander inside my coat so that he can begin to get used to all the sights and sounds of the Big Smoke as I push Poppy in her buggy.  I am not entirely sure why I received such strange looks……surely everyone carries a dog in their Barbour, dear Reader?!

Monty's first portrait!

Monty’s first portrait!

Alongside the Brilliance in Blogging awards shortlisting (which is fantastic and many many thanks to those of you who voted for me), I have some other exciting news to share this week, dear Reader.  This month will see the launch of Monty’s own blogging adventures and he and I will be sharing our puppy ups and downs as a monthly featured blog on the National Farmers Union’s Countryside website and magazine here so do look out for us!  The first installment will be published next week and Monty and I are looking forward to seeing our names in print – huge thanks to NFU Countryside for making it happen!

Monty and his cuddly pheasant

Monty and his cuddly pheasant

PS…..Being on the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging awards shortlist is truly marvellous and I cannot thank those of you who nominated me enough.  There are TONS of fantastic blogs on the list.  They all deserve a vote in my opinion and I am honoured to considered among them.  Do vote for your favourites at Britmums – I know I speak for all the bloggers when I say it means such a lot to us that you read and follow our capers! 

NOMINATE ME BiB 2013 FRESH VOICE
NOMINATE ME BiB 2013 LIFESTYLE

New man in my life

A little country something for my new man

Country puppy essentials

Dear Reader, I think that it would be fair to say that I have not slept a wink in the last week.  I have been simply TOO excited about the house and our move.  Getting back to normal every day life has proven quite tricky after the whole house buying Easter weekend and Jerry and I keep pinching ourselves about the whole thing.  As if moving to the countryside wasn’t enough to get our heads around, my new man arrives on the 20th!  Don’t worry dear Reader, I have not traded Jerry in…. I am referring to our little pup.  A rather handsome young chap in the shape of a working cocker spaniel.  Meeting him for the first time on Good Friday was absolutely wonderful and it was love at first sight for all of us.  Poppy was utterly smitten with all the pups in the litter and even lay down with them on their bed.  Very sweet indeed!

Wanting to be completely prepared, the girls and I have been very busy buying puppy essentials: honking pheasant toy, clicker, whistle, pheasant print bed, puppy food and so on.  Hilariously, one can even purchase a baby carrier type affair for pooches and a DOGGY PRAM no less!  I promise, I resisted those!  I did discover, however, all manner of wonders at Muddy Paws and a new favourite for all things hound and country at Dog and Dobbin.  I think that I am likely to get completely carried away with the puppy accessories before long, both for dog and home.  Don’t tell Jerry!  Primrose wanted to purchase a tweed overcoat for the dear boy.  This was after steering her away from pink leads and anything encrusted in diamanté.  The coat was rather stylish but I do draw the line at dressing up dogs.  The poor hound must be allowed to walk the country paths with some dignity!

Taking the training seriously!

Taking the training seriously!

I have also been frantically reading up on training and am armed with heaps of newspaper for the inevitable piddle puddles.  Jerry and I have debated what we will say when we take him out for a pee.  The puppy book says “Busy”….  I really can’t imagine saying that so I thought “Whizzy whizz”.  Jerry has bluntly refused to say anything “that ridiculous” and thinks that “Go and have a wee” should suffice.  At time of going to press, I can inform you, dear Reader, that no compromise had been reached.

I was going to wait until the 20th to introduce him to you but honestly, I am awful at keeping things to myself and I am just bursting with excitement.  So here he is.  Introducing Montague, the new man in our lives.  Monty for short.

monty1

Monty, the sweetest handsomest fellow.

 No doubt there will be many adventures in the countryside with this little man, dear Reader.

The perfect spring cover for Shooting Times. Surely!

The perfect spring cover for Shooting Times. Surely!

Are you game?

Dear Reader, if you are of the vegetarian persuasion, you may wish to look away now.  I have no wish to offend but this one is for my carnivorous chums and I shall make no further bones about it…..

Watching a recent Great British Food Revival programme on the BBC, I was reminded of the wonders of game by one of my cooking and countryside heroines, Clarissa Dickson Wright.  Inspired by her fervour for wild meat, I set to work on finding a suitable recipe and fell upon this.  Apparently, November is Game to Eat month.  How glorious!  Deciding to indulge my ‘wild’ side and always up for a culinary challenge, I thought that I would attempt some gamey gastronomy this week.  I suppose as a countryside offering, it doesn’t get any more authentic than game.

First things first, where to find a feathered or furry friend to eat?  Jerry and I have often wondered about the deer culls in Richmond Park and where the meat goes as it is certainly not on any of the gastropub menus in our little corner of suburbia.  Thinking that local venison would probably not be in the pot and not wishing to pick up any roadside offerings from our jaunts to the country, I began my quest at beloved Waitrose.  I found, to my surprise, that they did have a good selection of all the usual gamey items: partridge, pigeon and even wild mallard.  Thankfully all plucked and ready for roasting.  Not so long ago, I did find myself in a feathery mess when a brace of pheasants were brought to the door by a member of the family.  I had been expecting them in more of an oven ready condition….

Moving on from the great plucking incident of 2011, I decided that perhaps birds should not be part of my  dabbling on this occasion.  I can still hear Jerry reciting the ‘Pheasant Plucker’ ditty and we had to explain to a wailing Primrose that they were very naughty birds who had eaten all the farmer’s crops.

Remembering a delicious meal Jerry and I had in a charming little osteria in Florence some years ago when we were footloose, fancy free and sans children, I thought how wonderful it would be to recreate the roasted rabbit we had had that evening.  No feathers to worry about there.  I was out of luck at Waitrose so went in search of a butcher.  Dear Papa has an excellent butcher down on the South Coast whose shop is beautifully adorned with the heads, skins and feathered carcasses of all sorts.  A delight for the meat lover’s eyes but not one for the vegetarians….  I continued my ‘townie’ search for the elusive wild bunny to cook but no fluffy bunny could be found.  To be honest, at one point I thought that I would have probably had more luck trying to bag one myself with a shotgun.  I pondered, for a brief moment, my friend Minty (Araminta) and her recent dilemma of how to rehome her domestic bunnies but thought that she might not appreciate my idea of ‘rehoming’.  Well, after all during the Second World war, rabbits were bred for the pot…..

One of Minty’s temptingly chubby bunnies….

Three butchers later and I found what I was looking for.  One wild rabbit ready for roasting.  Primrose wept at the thought of eating dear old Peter Rabbit or Benjamin Bunny (Beatrix Potter, you have a lot to answer for, in my opinion).  She was convinced that the butcher would present the rabbit with its dinner jacket still on.  Mercifully for all, he did not.  I did try the old “He ate all the farmer’s crops” story but no amount of white lies would persuade her to sample the end result.  She even hid her toy bunny in fear that I might just cook that too.

Looking down at the rather large rabbit on the meat board, I did feel a little out of my depth trying to follow Clarissa’s instructions on jointing.  I wasn’t too sure what to do with Peter Rabbit’s heart, liver and kidneys either.  Perhaps I had become a little squeamish by this point?  Jerry did remind me that it is not the done thing in the country to name one’s food…..  Bolstered with a good glass of Barolo, I soldiered on.  The effort was worth it.  Memories of Florence wafted back with each mouthful of Coniglio Arrosto con Patate which I can only describe as heavenly.  Signor Antonio Carluccio, I salute you.  I can only say that with a recipe as good as that, even dear fluffy-tailed Peter might not mind being eaten!

Margot tries Carluccio’s delicious rabbit dish

Rabbit well and truly polished off, Jerry and I settled down by the fire with a box of chocolates and I discovered a recent interview with Clarissa DW in The Telegraph.  She seems to have caused quite a stir with her calls for us to eat badgers to solve some of the proposed cull problems.  Mmmm.  Rabbit, venison, partridge, pigeon..all a resounding yes.  Badger….sorry CDW, not sure even I am game enough for that one!