Tuesday, April 8, 2014

In the Garden with Peter Rabbit Plus a Recipe: Cornish Hens with Orange Marmalade Glaze

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 
 Cornish hens 
lemon wedges -- 1 for each hen
1/2 lemon
fresh parsley
fresh thyme
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.
Thanks for visiting!

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  1. Love this! The pictures with the Peter Rabbit figures as so cute! Almost like another book in the series. My husband loves Cornish Game Hens - I think he likes feeling like Henry VIII gnawing on a whole chicken! I usually glaze them with apple jelly, but will try orange marmalade next time!

  2. once again i am dancing for joy over your adorable miniature magic! those pics are priceless... i am having net problems, pics aren't showing for me, i have to try and try again with my slow bandwidth to get things to open, the last pic was the johnny town mouse pea pod pic, perfect for my soup today, and beyond the cutest pic of all! it looks like you hired a profession to pop in and create this beatrix beautific bounty...

    but no, you don't stop with cute, you hop right into DELICIOUS! i too skipped all the meaty game recipes, i was dining more like a rabbit for the week myself, but i know tasty when i see it! your presentation is beautiful, like a featured food photographer popped in and styled you up to mach one!

    i have to say i truly enjoyed this cookbook, every recipe i made was a hit and i love seeing you create more to tantalize me even further!

  3. These are some of the cutest pictures ever! The kids and I have always loved Peter Rabbit--thanks for shedding some light on the author! :)

  4. Darling figures of Beatrix's characters nestled among the vegetables. Beautiful photos and scrumptious skillet of Cornish Hens. Your garnishes make it so appetizing.

  5. LOVE IT! <3
    The mouse sleeping in the pea pod is too cute!

  6. Another recipe I'll be passing along to my chef. Cornish hens with orange marmalade……….this has to be fabulous!
    Enchanted with your darling miniatures of Peter and friends. Your photography should win awards. Amazing! It's obvious you are having fun with this, Michael Lee. I'm certainly having fun following along with each new post.

  7. Oh your photos are delicious! I adore Timmy Willie in his pod that you cleverly tucked into the cabbage! Your wee collection of Beatrix Potter characters are adorable. And you cornish hens....oh my! Your photos look like they're from YOUR cookbook with the lemons and herbs! I can only imagine how perfect the orange marmalade is! I'll be back for another taste :)

  8. Your hens are gorgeous, and I am almost drooling, but your vignettes with the vegetables and bunny figurines are just over the top fun and brilliant! The spelling from the book is fascinating, as is the way other cultures eat, and how food has evolved over time~such great details~

  9. So happy to find you blog. Your Beatrix photo settings are just precious and delicious...I think health eating looking at your meal. Looking forward to reading more on your blog.