It was all planned. After lengthy discussions (kindly indulged by my great friend and host Ben Pentreath), we had finally decided on Beef Wellington. There’s nothing I like more than planning a menu and Ben’s kitchen in Dorset is not only one of the most beautiful kitchens I know but has the added delight of an AGA oven. I grew up cooking on an AGA and even though you have little control over heat, I feel comfortable with one and was looking forward to attempting my first Beef Wellington after hours spent researching recipes.
Ben and his AGA
The night before, we went for dinner at a friends' home, which is affectionately known as the Pink Palace. Bellamont Farm deserves it’s own story so I’ll just show a picture of it here and say that it has been a home away from home for me since it was first built almost 20 years ago. In food terms alone, I could write a hundred posts about the most delicious meals at the Pink Palace and December 30th was no exception with Longhorn beef raised on the farm and potatoes Boulangère.
However, the morning of the 31st, after having over indulged on all that juicy, tender beef, our New Year’s meal no longer seemed appealing and a new plan was hatched. We decided to buy ready made fish pie from Dorchester. Imagining that I would write to all of you about my adventures with Beef Wellington, I had a slight panic about buying a prepared dinner until the realization hit me in a Eureka moment. This was exactly what I have been preaching since launching Many Kitchens— supporting all of these producers working hard so we don’t have to. Charlie Bigham’s fish pie is something he has perfected over years and is far better than any I could ever cook. (I still dream of being able to make a chicken potpie that comes close to the one we sell from Pie Corps.)
Suddenly we found ourselves in the unfamiliar position of having all this extra time on our hands. We all lead such crazy lives and the unexpected pleasure of having an extra few hours with nothing to do at first left us a little confused. We resorted to showing each other slightly unfunny videos on YouTube. We ran out between rain showers for a refreshing walk. We even had time to play my favorite board game before dinner. No pots to wash, no last minute preparations, the main course was perfect. I won’t mention dessert which was an unmitigated disaster and only brought home the appeal of leaving it to the experts.
Should you wish to pass the dinner off as your own, you can even transfer from original packaging to your own dish – attempted below:
As resolutions were being shared around the table, I resolved to hunt down the best fish pie in America and convince its maker to let me sell it on Many Kitchens. If you know of one, please email me!
I just have to leave you with a few photos from our walk on New Year’s day, the first sunshine I had seen since arriving in England and I’m hoping was a sign of the year to come.
St. Catherine’s Chapel, Abbotsbury
St. Catherine herself on Chesil Beach
Happy New Year to you all.