Take a trip to England with these treats

Published 12:04 am Saturday, September 27, 2014

We have just returned from a wonderful week in England visiting country houses and gardens. Our first stop was Tetbury at the Snooty Fox Inn. Supper was bangers and mash in the pub.

Breakfast is my husband’s favorite meal in England—the full cooked English breakfast (eggs, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast). The only part of it he eschews is the baked beans.

Our main goal was to visit Highgrove, the home and gardens of Prince Charles. Our tickets were purchased in May since they are limited in number and the gardens are not open when the Prince is there.

When we visited his grandmother, the late Queen Mother’s garden in Scotland last year, we had also to plan our trip around where the Prince was, or more correctly, where he was not.

We had directions to Highgrove, but there was no sign — at all.

We made a turn, drove down a road and came to a security guard. Security was tight. We had to show our passports and tickets at two different checkpoints, and no photos were allowed — anywhere.

We had a guide with us at all times, ostensibly to guide and answer questions, and I suspect to keep us in tow.

Highgrove is a multifaceted and beautiful garden, and the guide shared with us His Royal Highness’ (as she referred to him) ideas and preferences.

There are 12 gardeners to carry out his organic approach to cultivating old plants and heritage livestock.

He even likes to use draft horses to assist with the garden work rather than mechanized equipment.

After our two-hour tour, we ended in the restaurant just in time for lunch.

The produce from the kitchen garden, which unfortunately we did not get to visit, is used to prepare the dishes offered.

We had a leek and potato soup with a cheese scone, which was enhanced by a spicy fruit chutney.

I liked the chutney so much I brought three jars home.

I have developed my own leek and potato soup recipe and used a cheese scone recipe from the King Arthur’s Flour Baker’s Companion.

This was called the “gardener’s lunch,” not too much but just right. I was looking back in my journal and noted we ate a hot soup and scone last year at the Castle of Mey, the Queen Mother’s home.

Leek and Potato Soup

Serves 4

Sauté two leeks in a tablespoon of butter for about 10 minutes.

Add 1 clove garlic and sauté for another minute. Add 2 peeled and cubed Yukon Gold potatoes and to the leeks and garlic. Then add 4 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper and cook on medium for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Cool slightly.

Puree in batches in a blender. Put in bowls and serve warm.

Cheddar Scones

Makes 12 scones

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

2 large eggs, beaten

¼ cup cream or sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Sift together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Rub in the butter with your fingers.

Mix together the eggs, cream and mustard. Add this to the dry ingredients. Stir in the grated cheese. Mix just until combined. This is the consistency of drop-cookie dough.

Liberally flour the counter and your hands. Pat the dough into a 6×9-inch rectangle, about 1-inch thick.

Cut the rectangle into 6 smaller rectangles, and cut each smaller rectangle into two triangles, forming 12 triangular scones. (You can also cut 12 round scones). Place on a well-greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned and a cake tester inserted into a scone comes out dry.

After lunch, we visited nearby Hidcote Garden.

We realized that we needed GPS to find these country gardens that aren’t well signposted and maps that aren’t detailed enough.

At our next stop, we had the manager print out directions to our destinations, which were extremely helpful.

The worst part of the driving was trying to find a signpost telling us which road we were on — not the left side driving, nor the left hand gear shifting.

The roads are narrow with no verges (another British term) in many places and those wonderful signs, “Oncoming Traffic in the Middle of the Road!”

We had pre-purchased National Trust passes to decrease the cost of the several gardens we were visiting.

Hidcote is one of the several gardens we visited that were created in the 20th century.

The garden was created by an American, Major Lawrence Johnston, starting in 1907 and reaching its peak in between the war years of the 1920s and 1930s.

The most outstanding feature, I think, of this garden, is its double herbaceous border using red as the predominate color.

White gardens are popular and he had one but the red is different.