Monday, 17 September 2012

September 16th - Blackberries, Rosehips and a Harvest Supper

Dear Nigel,

After last year's complete failure to find any Blackberries, suddenly this year I'm having no trouble at all. The wonderful wet Summer has done wonders for these little midnight berries and even the wild hedgerow ones are juicy and plump.Such is their enthusiasm that their long spiny tentacles bridge over the little stream and meander through the fence to find us.

Like every child since year dot, mine are transfixed with their bountiful juiciness and that they can be had for free. It is harder persuading a little one to watch and wait until the colour has turned completely black and daily inspections are being made to check on the progress.Scraped arms are a right of passage and distant memories of the taste are as much bound up with the pain of foraging, the stained  purple hands and the smell of musty Autumn heavy in the air.

Autumn has arrived for you, too: 'A fine autumn day has turned to a chill evening where the dry leaves are being blown against the windows, whirling and crackling in sudden gusts.' You opt for comfort food in the guise of  mushroom pappardelle - a pasta dish made with chestnut mushrooms (which taste so much better than the ordinary closed cap cousins), with a 'lovely autumnal flavour...if you let the mushrooms cook until they are nut brown and stickily tender'.It's a very simple dish (pg 283) with plenty of parsley and grated Parmesan added, but tasty. Like you, i also think that 'much modern cooking is so exquisitely contrived that the chunky, rustic-looking dish, inelegant and apparently thrown together, is something of a rare treat.'I thoroughly enjoyed this simple supper dish and its comforting heaviness banished the Autumn chill that had set in.

Against my kitchen window is a fine wild rose bush with jewel-like hips in abundance. I tentatively think about making some rose hip syrup, but change my mind: I will leave them for the birds so we can enjoy their feasting in the depths of winter and a little colour against the blank white canvas of snow.

The village newsletter makes its rounds - not quite on par with the evening standard, but probably more avidly read. Ours is an amalgamation with several other small villages around us, each with their own page. Highlight of this month's calendar is the Harvest Festival and its associated pagan charity auction and a Pea and Pie supper. It's a school night, but opportunities here are few and far between, and the chance to bid £11 for a loaf of bread seem too good to miss. My friend June is making pickles as there are a great many cake bakers in the village, as the Jubilee tea was able to testify.

There has been a great deal of action here in the last few weeks. The tide may have turned now but the balmy Indian Summer weather of the past couple of weeks brought all the tractors and combines out in a flurry to bring in the last of the hay. Little old tractors, modern monster-sized vehicles, and all hands on deck. One balmy evening i set off to walk the dog through the meadows beside our house. Two little pairs of feet too awake to sleep appeared behind me in nightgowns and wellies. We walked on through the last golden rays of sunset watching the haymaking on the other side of the hill. Our friends Jane and Kevin were baling the rows of dried hay. Terry was helping out, and little Liam and Jessie were running along behind a trailer stacked with bales, laughing and calling out. We waved back: A timeless scene of country life, like a richly-oiled Turner.


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