If ever you should require a large dose of comfort or perhaps a little something to nibble alongside your tipple of choice of an evening, look no further than ‘Lotte’s Country Kitchen’. This cook book is a beautifully inspired collection of recipes by writer and broadcaster Lotte Duncan. You may also wish to prepare yourself for a trip to the garden centre…
Lotte lives in a quaint cottage in the heart of the English countryside and runs a cookery school from her home. Although she cooks with an Aga, her recipes are suitable for conventional ovens too. Packed with flavour and bursting with energy and personality, Lotte dishes out the food that “has formed the backbone of her life” and that she has shared on countless occasions with her family and friends. Having had the pleasure of meeting Lotte recently, it was lovely to see how her warmth and personality speak from every page in her book.
Lotte has styled her own food throughout the book and it has been superbly captured by photographer Lara Holmes. The design also deserves great credit, as Matt Inwood and Claire Siggery of Absolute Press bring together Lotte’s English country garden and her recipes with enchanting style. Stunning flowers grace the pages, perfectly complimenting the food, which brims with colour as well as flavour. Lotte’s funny and heart-warming head notes and recollections make this a truly special cook book for any home cook’s collection.
Lotte takes you through her culinary year, month by month, starting (as she means to go on) with ‘cheeky olives’ to accompany a large glass of wine and a good chat with friends in the “dark, chilly month” of January. For supper, Lotte serves ‘little cheesy salmon pots with marinated cucumber’ and for pudding the not-to-be-missed ‘nutty treacle tart’ – orange-infused pastry filled with sweet and gooey maple and golden syrup coated nuts. I tried a slice of this made by Lotte’s own hands, served with a sharp crème fraiche and a crisp white wine and it was really delicious! I will certainly be making it myself for a dinner party or perhaps an evening with friends.
Further into spring, Lotte looks forward to her annual “seed packet frenzy” as she begins to bring the garden into her country kitchen with dishes, such as ‘wild garlic, sorrel and nettle tart with cheesy pastry’ and ‘potted salmon with sorrel’ served in a pretty china teacup.
By early summer, as Lotte confesses she is an “herbaceous plant addict,” and she adorns her ‘fairy cakes with fruit icing and sparkles’ with rose petals. She shares her versatile ‘English herb and flower salad’, perfect with some English asparagus or local goat’s cheese, alongside her quite unique ‘elderflower fritters with strawberry and ginger cream’.
Summer recipes are equally stirring, with Lotte’s pink ‘whole salmon baked with rosemary, orange, bay and clove’ sitting prettily outdoors on a blue-chequered table cloth along with recipes from last summer’s “fire pit party” including ‘ spicy flat breads’ and ‘fire pit baked leg of lamb with my garden herbs’.
Two stunning desserts sit at the very heart of the book; a deep ‘raspberry and rosewater cream tart’ along with the striking ‘baked strawberry and lavender cheesecake’ also shown on the front cover.
By late summer, Lotte is sitting in her hammock nibbling on ‘crunchy nutty chicken with chilli jam’ or ‘beer-battered alliums.’ Your own garden or a spot of berry-picking will, without doubt, inspire you to re-create Lotte’s ‘apple, blackberry and elderberry squidgy pudding’ or ‘plum and pistachio tart.’ Beautiful British plums could also be steeped in vodka or gin (they certainly will be in my house this year).
By late autumn, Lotte declares “Pie Season” with her ‘chicken and anchovy trust-me pie’ or a hearty and rustic ‘lamb pie with pear and cranberry’, which could be perhaps be served at a bonfire or certainly next to the Aga along with a large glass of Rosé.
All that is left of the year is to celebrate Christmas in style. Lotte shares her ‘boozy mincemeat’ and ‘mulled cider’ recipes along with an enticing ‘potted stilton with apple and warm pear and cranberry chutney’ to be eaten by the fire with a huge wedge of bread or could be served with your turkey on Christmas Day for an added level of indulgence.
Lotte brings happiness and joy to the table with every bite of her mouth- watering and eye-catching food. The recipes exude comfort and fun and they will certainly inspire you to look differently upon your garden, with flowers, fruits and herbs providing a wonderful twist to your cooking.
“Lotte’s Country Kitchen” by Lotte Duncan is published by Absolute Press, with photography by Lara Holmes