Winter

Winter

By
Annie Smithers
Contains
4 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781743792643
Photographer
Patricia Niven; Illustrations: Robin Cowcher

Winter brings many challenges to my little farm, but it also brings great rewards. Winter is the season to eat well, very well, and a chance to explore some of the most robust recipes in the French farmhouse repertoire. It’s easy to wallow in the proverbial and literal mud, in the gloom, and in the cold of the dark grey winter, but I don’t. I relish the coming of winter. It is, in a curious way, my favourite season, and this helps me deal with the tasks that need to be attended to in late autumn and early winter. There is the beautiful process of putting the garden to bed for the winter. There are the wood heaps to address – piles and piles of neatly cut and split wood to see my fires through the winter. There are the poultry houses to prepare. Dirt and straw, wheeled in, to build up the levels of the yard in case there is a lot of rain and the poultry need to stand above the water level. Working through these tasks builds up a hunger, a need for good, rich, wholesome food that nurtures and nourishes the body through the cold months.

Kitten tends to sit the winter out. He has two daily excursions: one to accompany me out to the poultry in the morning to let the birds out of their pens, and two, to supervise me putting the birds away safely in the evenings. He does not linger outside, but returns quickly to the hearth where he can roll about doing his very best impression of a fur seal. Fenn, however, has other missions. As food for the field mice becomes scarcer in the paddock, the mice move in to the hen houses. Fenn spends countless hours, strong and still as a statue, waiting to pounce and devour the mice.

Life at du Fermier is delicious in the winter. I find that people respond to food very differently in the colder months. There seems to be an almost primeval need to be warmed and comforted by food, which makes my job incredibly easy. As customers come through the door into my cosy restaurant, warmed by the log fire and rich with the smells of freshly baked bread and braised meat, it is easy to sit them down, bring them a drink and then a procession of dishes that satisfy them to the bottom of their hearts.

And if eating in the depths of winter is a pleasurable experience, it has nothing on the joy of cooking at this time of year. For those who love to cook, the winter means there are few other distractions and you can settle into the warmth of your kitchen and cook to your heart’s content. And for those who find winter hard on their nerves and their patience, cooking can often be a way out of the gloom.

As the season runs its course, there is so much to revel in. Thick, blanketing fogs that have you curled by the fire with a mug of hot soup and a good book. Crisp white frosts that make the yard look like it has been cleaned and whitened overnight, no slushy dirty mud to ruin the picture, as it has all been frozen solid. The joy of watching the fruit trees exposed – first as they drop their final leaves and then as the yearly prune defines their shape with a skeletal beauty. And, if we are really lucky, snow. That soft, white magic, not terribly common in our part of the world, that turns the little hamlet of Trentham into a winter wonderland.

Recipes in this Chapter

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