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The humble rowan and the Glorious Twelfth


As the end of August approaches, the bountiful summer season starts draws to a close with the last deliveries of Alan’s strawberries and blackcurrants. Without wishing the fine weather away, I can’t help but start to turn my mind to dishes with a slightly more autumnal feel. At this time of year, the hedgerows are starting to groan under the weight of brambles, blackberries, rosehips, elderberries and much more – a forager’s paradise. There have been many firsts for me in 2017, and this month was no exception. The humble rowan berry has come into my life. Though it may sound strange, it genuinely never occurred to me to forage for these little bunches of red and orange berries until suggested by our in-house ‘flower-fairy’ Pauline.

After further research, I’ve learnt that rowan berries feature prominently in nordic cookery. In true Scandi-style, they are pickled and turned into syrups –  a slightly different treatment compared to the rowan berry jelly with which we would more commonly associate the berries here in Cumbria.

NB: Please note that eaten raw these little berries do upset the liver so it is important they are cooked!

Talking of foraging, this month I stumbled across some home-made of Elderberry wine from 2010. At the time the wine was so tart it just got buried at the back of a cupboard…until now. The depth of flavour is somewhat satisfying, and it has mellowed beautifully. I’m looking forward to using this wine as a seasoning to an up-and-coming dish.

With glorious hedgerow delights comes the Glorious Twelfth.  The Glorious twelfth refers to August 12th – the first day of the shooting season in Great Britain. The game act of 1831 ensures the red grouse are left alone through the summer months while the young are still dependant on their mothers. The seasons then lasts until December. These birds generally have a diet consisting of moorland heather, which gives them a rich, distinctly gamey flavour which gradually develops over the course of the season. Our first grouse dish will be appearing on the menu on the 18th August from the upland fells and moors of the Borders. Keep an eye out on social media for updates!

And finally…as I type there’s  a clear blue sky and bright sunshine outside the window but I’m quietly turning my thoughts to colder months considering what the second 1863 Christmas menu will look like…

I found myself longing for a mince pie and some Christmas Cake the other day whilst putting pen to paper over this year’s festive preparations. The challenge I’ve set myself for this year is trying to create and deliver a menu that is suitably Christmas-sy and full of festive flavour, but that has the 1863 ‘twist’ and element of surprise.

Hold that thought and I’ll explain more next time.