Beatrix Potter gave the world its most famous make-believe vegetable garden: Mr. McGregor's.
Late in life, Potter discovered the joy of digging in real dirt after she purchased Hill Top Farm (and other properties) in the Lake District. Though she'd been raised to be a proper Victorian lady, she shocked herself when she began to pilfer plants. Her mischief was reminiscent of Peter Rabbit's antics in McGregor's garden. The city mouse was becoming a country mouse. And she loved every moment.
Was life imitating art?
Her garden provided vegetables for her larder and fodder for her books.
"Timmy Willie was a little country mouse" who crawled into a vegetable hamper, gobbled up some peas, then crawled into a pod and fell asleep. It was the beginning of a great adventure.
Peter Rabbit "climbed upon a wheelbarrow, and peeped over. The first thing he saw was Mr. McGregor hoeing onions." Since McGregor had a bit of a reputation for eating trespassers, Peter "got down ver quietly off the wheelbarrow, and started running as fast as he could go."
What's in its pocketses, Peter Rabbit?
This week the Novel Bakers are in the kitchen with Beatrix Potter's Country Cooking.
If you leaf through the index of most British cookbooks, you'll find a large section devoted to fish, poultry, and game. Beatrix Potter's Country Cooking is no exception. Since I live in a petting zoo, complete with ducks, chickens, geese, and peafowl, I skipped over the recipes that focused on feathered darlings. But woman cannot live on salads and eggs (at least this woman can't).
I saw a photograph of roast pheasant with rowan jelly, and like most of the recipes in the book, it came with a little introduction:
"Beatrix Potter and Willie Heelis were married in the autumn of 1913 in Kensington, London; the honeymoon was spent at Sawrey. Willie was a keen sportsman and therw was nothing he liked better than a good day's shooting...Beatrix did not share Willie's interest in field sports, though she must have enjoyed eating the game shot by her husband."
I could substitute Cornish hens for the pheasant...but where would I find rowan jelly? My mother told me to use orange marmalade. It added a golden "bark" to the hens, and the taste was ambrosial.
Cornish Hens with Orange Marmalade
lemon wedges -- 1 for each hen
butter (room temperature)
salt and pepper
orange marmalade -- 1 heaping tablespoon per hen
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare the hens: rinse them under cold water and drain on paper towels. Place a lemon wedge, butter, and herbs into the cavity of each bird. Salt and pepper. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over each hen. Into a baking dish, add the birds and bake 1 hour. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, brush marmalade over the hens. Remove from the oven when the skin is golden and crisp.
springtime magic--recipes, tablescaping, and more. You're invited to follow our adventures during Beatrix Potter Week on Pinterest.
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