Autumn in Still-Life:
Bringing the Autumn Garden into your Home……
A Vintage Recipe:
Shooting Party Chutney
I am not a lover of contrived arrangements, I prefer to admire my flowers in the garden and not in the vase, although, I do appreciate bouquets of flowers when given to me, what woman doesn’t! But, I do like to adorn my home with seasonal flora and foliage; it’s an elemental urge to bring greenery into the house in order to “deck it…they can be small posies of wild flowers in the spring and summer, or a stem of holly with its crimson berries and glossy green leaves in the winter…as well as swags of pine-scented Douglas fir at Christmas time, draped over old pine dressers and on the mantelpiece above the fire. At autumn time however, I tend to veer away from flowers, and it’s fruit and vegetables, as well as bronzed foliage and berries that make their way into my home….
…..Autumn is a bountiful season; in my back garden alone, I have an amazing palette of foliage, berries, fruit, nuts and vegetables to paint my home with…….the pyracantha hedge is covered in scarlet berries, and the resident blackbirds make their way backwards and forwards to gorge on the feast of berries, somehow managing to dodge in and out of the cruel thorns. My hens at the bottom of the garden are back in lay again, after a humid and wet summer, and they linger under the fig tree, ready to catch the falling fruits, anticipation showing in their eyes, ripe figs have proved to be a popular snack with them all! And, my walnut tree is shedding its load by the hour – fresh walnuts semi-clad in their old summer jackets lie on the ground, and already I have baskets full in the pantry and about the house.
So, when it comes to dressing or “decking” my home at autumn, I tend to embrace the “Still Life” approach…….the kitchen table has baskets and containers of varying shapes and sizes filled with fruit, eggs and nuts. Never has there been such a beauteous site than that of an old antique bowl filled with quinces; their heavy scent fragrancing the kitchen and surrounding rooms, waiting to be chopped, stirred and preserved. Quince Cheese, Quince Jellies and Quince Marmalades are already stored away in an old cupboard, waiting to be dressed with a mob-cap and label to be given with love at Christmas time.
Small plates of figs are placed on an old wooden coffee table, ready for instant snacking, whilst a larger bowl of figs sits by the windowsill, teasing the birds who watch outside the window. Fig and walnut salads have graced our mealtime tables and fig jams and chutney sit alongside their preserved quince cousins in the pantry, and a golden squash sits on a brass tray in the middle of a marble table, surrounded by bronzed leaves and a wreath of pyracantha berries…sheaves of corn are placed on old blue and white meat platters, and dried golden hops form a halo around a candelabra, it’s beery smell lulling anyone who sits next to it into a midday slumber.
Blue and white planters are filled with pine cones, and also I like to tuck a few cinnamon sticks amongst them as a seasonal room scenter. The whole of the house looks like an enormous still life painting, and my friends comment on how richly fragranced the sitting room is, whilst admiring the berried wreaths in the parlour as they devour a seasonal casserole at the scrubbed wood kitchen table. As the nights start to draw in, and wood burning fires are lit in the snug and the kitchen (ready for cooking as well as heating) the berries and fruits seem to glow in the dwindling light and their presence reminds me of how lucky I am to have such a harvest…the urge to “lay down stores” for the winter takes over, and gradually my still life painting dwindles, as my pantry shelves grows more crowded…but, I’m not sad, as there will be more paintings to be created later, when the holly and the ivy are heavy with berries, and the festive period approaches…and when fir wreaths adorn winter doors proclaiming joy the world, and there is preserving to be done with the last of the green tomatoes……
…….today’s recipe is very special, it’s a sweet chutney with a bit of a kick, it’s wonderful when served with salads, curries, cheese boards and charcuterie platters. Also perfect for any glut of green tomatoes you may have at the end of the tomato season. Adapted very slightly from a reader’s recipe that appeared in an edition of Farmers Weekly in 1934. (Mrs. L. Dallyn, Petworth, Sussex), if you make it now, with any lingering green tomatoes you may have, it will be nicely matured in six weeks, and you will be dolloping this fabulous chutney on all your cheese and cold cuts over the festive period.
I hope you enjoy Autumn as much as I do, as well as this rather lovely old British chutney recipe. Karen