I liked the attitude of the teaching staff. If you were happy being left to your own devices, that was cool. If you needed help, they were there in an instant, offering suggestions. It’s not remotely precious, not remotely patronising.
While our stews merrily bubbled, we whipped up a fruit cake each (yup, just like that). Then we were dispatched to the yurt (total heaven, with a huge woodburner in the centre) to sip elderflower champagne while the kitchen was transformed into a dining room for lunch.
What can I say? A second day of gargantuan feasting. But it was huge good fun and I’m coming round to the idea of cooking...providing, that is, I have kitchen elves to provide me with ready-prepared meat and to whisk away the dirty pots and pans. Oh and a brace of madly cute River Cottage chefs wafting around to tell me that my efforts are ‘perfect, darling, just perfect.’
Now then, this is NOT turning into a food blog... However, for those that are interested, the recipes follow....
Badger Ales Game Stew
2 tablespoons rapeseed or sunflower oil, or dripping
250g home-cured bacon belly, or bought pancetta, cut into chunky cubes
1.5kg mixed game, cut into large chunks
2 onions, finely sliced
2–3 large carrots, cut into big chunks
2 celery stalks, sliced
6–10 juniper berries, bashed slightly
A large sprig of thyme
At least 300ml beef, venison, chicken or game stock
300ml Hall & Woodhouse beer, of your choice (we used Poacher’s Choice)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
|presentation not our strong point!|
150g dried apricots
85g orange marmalade
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
300ml Hall & Woodhouse beer, of your choice (we used their Applewood cider)
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g light muscovado sugar
4 medium eggs
Lightly grease a 20cm spring form cake tin and line with baking parchment. Put the flour, baking powder, salt and spice into a bowl and whisk lightly to aerate and combine.
Use kitchen scissors to cut the dried fruit into chunky pieces – cut each fig into about 6, removing the hard stalk, and each prune and apricot into 2 or 3. Combine them in a bowl. Warm the beer or cider and pour over the chopped fruit in the bowl.
Beat the marmalade with a fork to loosen it, then stir in the lemon and orange zest. Combine the marmalade with the dried fruit. Allow to steep and cool.
Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat well until very light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour/spice mix with each. Fold in the remaining flour with a large metal spoon, then fold in the marmalade and dried fruit as lightly as you can. Try not to overmix it; everything should be just combined.
Spoon into the prepared tin and place in an oven preheated to 160°C/Gas Mark 3. Bake for 1½ hours, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin.