Try these Sussex favorites

Published 12:31 am Saturday, October 4, 2014

On our way to Sussex, south of London, we visited Churchill’s country retreat, Chartwell. My husband thinks Churchill was the greatest man of the 20th century. The dining room is large but cozy, looking out over the weald of Kent. A Churchill quote captured my attention, “My idea of a good dinner is first to have good food, then discuss good food and after this good food has been discussed, to discuss a good topic with me as chief conversationalist.” But of course he started the evening with his dry martini. His buddy, Franklin Roosevelt, liked his martinis too, and even had his own equipment and miniature bottles strapped into a hard little suitcase!

We spent the rest of the trip at Stone House in the village of Rushlake Green in Sussex. This country house hotel is still the home of the Dunns whose ancestors built the house in 1495. There is an 18th century addition with two large sitting rooms off the two-story entrance hall. Our room was in the 15th century section. Drinks can be had in the parlor in the evening. My husband was excited to find Talisker Scotch whiskey available. It is a smoky, single malt made in Skye and not widely available. So Scotch it was even in southern England. Of course there was talk about the upcoming vote on the independence of Scotland. My heart said yes, but I think the people chose the next week more on the finances of the move to vote no.

Dinner was served in the old section of the house and was quite nice. We were told when we booked that we needed to dress for dinner. The lady of the house, Mrs. Dunn, is the chef and I will share with you some of her dishes that we most liked. There was a great endive salad, followed by the main course of a chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and chorizo and wrapped with prosciutto. This was accompanied by several vegetables from the garden served family style: new potatoes, butternut squash, and cabbage. Again the kitchen garden comes into play these days in Britain. A beautiful walnut torte was for dessert.

In Sussex we visited two more gardens of the 20th century. Perhaps the greatest is the Sissinghurst Castle garden of the eccentric Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicholson. Christopher Lloyd, who developed the garden at Great Dixter, is also no longer in residence. Christo, as his friends called him, died just a few years ago and those friends established a trust to keep and maintain the gardens. Here the garden rooms are so densely planted it is hard to walk. Dahlias are a highlight of this garden at this time of the year. Another design element I especially liked was his massing of potted plants with different blooms, foliage, and color near the entrance doors. Another fun space was a rose garden designed by Lutyens that he pulled up and filled with exotic plants reminiscent of a tropical garden. Two other places we revisited were Batemans, the home of Rudyard Kipling and the 15th century moated house, Ightham Mote, with the only Grade I listed dog kennel (dog house) in England!


Endive Salad

2 servings

Chop together 4 endives (they are small), 1 avocado (chopped), ¼ cup of pinenuts, ½ cup of lardons, and some sultanas can be used (I did not have any so did not use them). Toss this together with a vinaigrette dressing of your choice. This was crunchy and delicious.



Chicken with Goat Cheese and Chorizo

Serves 2

2 skinless chicken breasts

4 ozs. goat cheese

4 ozs. chorizo (You can buy ground chorizo sausage at most grocery stores.)

½ cups of grapes

4 pieces of prosciutto

Pound the chicken breasts between two pieces of saran wrap until thin but you are still able to roll.

In a food processor mix the goat cheese, chorizo, and grapes until a nice firm mixture.

Spread ½ of the mixture on each chicken breast and roll up and tuck in the ends. Place the prosciutto on top of each chicken breast.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Let cool before cutting. Serve with potatoes and any green vegetable.


New Potatoes

Take 1 lb. of small new potatoes and bake them for 20 minutes at 350°. After baking, place them in a small skillet with 1 tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and ¼ cup of fresh mint. Mix together, add salt and pepper, and serve immediately.