Berkshire Harvest Supper

This eighteenth-century farmhouse dish is excellent and the recipe is interesting because it has a rather sophisticated sauce and garnish. This suggests that it was originally served at the harvest feast of a great house or at the home farm of a big estate, where the farmer’s wife had seen dishes prepared for the tables of the wealthy. Most early farmhouse recipes do not suggest any form of garnish. The original dish was made with joints of rabbit and hare (both, no doubt, driven out of the stubble of the harvest field and snared or shot). It is suggested, however, that it may well be made with pigeons and chickens. In fact, any dark and light meat, such as pork chops with a pigeon, or chicken with beef give the character of the dish. The original recipe would have served about 20 hungry men.

Ingredients

  • 4 pork chops or chicken joints
  • 1 young pigeon, cut in quarters or ½ saddle of hare, quartered
  • ½ lb (240 g) dried haricot beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 quart (9 dl) stock (stock cubes will do)
  • ½ teaspoon rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 onions, sliced in rings
  • 3 tablespoons (45 g) butter
  • A little flour
  • cup (1.5 dl) red wine
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Pepper and salt

The Garnish

  • 4 dessert apples, peeled and cored
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red-currant jelly
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) butter
  • 4 thin lemon slices
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley with 1 teaspoon finely chopped mint mixed with it

Method

Drain the beans and put them into a large, wide casserole with the stock, rosemary and thyme. Cover the casserole and put it into the oven at 350°F (180°C, Gas Mark 4) for 1½ hours.

Meanwhile prepare the apple garnish. Put the apples in a small, buttered baking tin and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar into each central hole. Melt the red-currant jelly and pour it over the apples, coating them and almost filling the centre holes. Put a small dab of butter in the top of each hole..Bake at the same temperature as the beans but low in the oven until the apples are just soft; they must hold their shape. Remove the apples from the oven when cooked and keep warm.

Fry the onion rings in the butter until just soft and beginning to colour. Remove to a dish and keep warm. Flour the meat and fry on all sides in the pan in which the onions were cooked. Remove the beans from the oven; they will have absorbed most of the stock. Pour in the wine, add the lemon juice and seasoning to taste.

Arrange the onions on the beans and put the meat on top. Return the casserole to the oven uncovered and cook for a further 1 hour.

To serve, put the pork or chicken alternately with the pigeon or hare all round the edge of a large flat dish. Pour the beans and onions in the centre and arrange the glazed apples on top of the beans. Garnish with the lemon slices and parsley.

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