Weather, Autumn and Comfort Food in Chilbolton

Whilst tramping round the common this evening with Blue, as the rain was thrashing down, the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes” came to mind. I turned up the collar on my re-waterpoofed jacket and Blue fluffed up his coat, trotting off ahead across the purleygig bridge, with his tail wafting, happily sniffing to see who’d been around.

There’s definitely been an autumnal feel to Chilbolton over the last week, with the leaves turning and the first frost. Unlike recent years, I don’t feel that we have been cheated out of summer, in fact today, I think, is the first really wet day we’ve had since July. I know I got very wet watching the dressage at the Olympics, where the forecast for light showers, was accurate…if you were in Dehli!! But since then its been pretty good, not too hot, not too cold, a traditional British summer.

Chilbolton Cow Common in early summer

Today though I could feel that winter wasn’t too far away and with the smell of wood smoke in my nostrils I stood and looked across the common. A scene I’ve seen every day, in all weather, for almost 6 years. Timeless, yet ever changing. The Egrets standing hunched at the river edge, some Gulls squabbling over some tit bit or fish and the cows standing eye-ing Blue and I suspiciously, with water gently dripping from their ears. They’re looking pretty good this year, with so much good grass to eat – I can see some lovely prime rib roasts and steaks to come…

It doesn’t matter what the weather is, as long as you’ve got the right clothes, its always good to be out. In fact on days like today, when no-one else is around, there’s nothing better than stomping round the common in my boots, a waterproof jacket with my hat pulled down low. Then when you get home  and Jo says, I thought I’d make fish pie, a good bit of warming comfort food; it just doesn’t get any better.

Roll on winter, with your hard frosts, early morning mist, crunchy leaves and snow. I’ll counter that with warm jackets, gloves, scarves, log fires, hot chocolate and steaming plates of warming comfort food. I’m ready for you.

Plum Crumble with Chilbolton Honey

Chilbolton Stores recipe for Plum Crumble with Chilbolton Honey

A delicious Plum Crumble with Chilbolton Honey

There seems to be glut of plums in Chilbolton this year, so if you’re not sure what to do with them all, try this quick recipe using local Chilbolton Honey.


  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 450g (1 lb) Victoria plums
  • 3 oranges
  • 100g (4 oz) plain wholemeal flour
  • 50g (2 oz) margarine or butter
  • 50g (2 oz) light soft brown sugar
  • 50g (2 oz) white granulated sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (around Gas mark 6).
  2. Dissolve the white granulated sugar into boiling water in a saucepan.
  3. Wash the Victoria plums before cutting each plum into half, removing the stone and adding to the sugar liquid in the saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer. Remove from the heat when the plums are softened and start to lose their shape.
  4. Grate the rind from one of the oranges and keep this zest for adding to the recipe later.
  5. Juice two oranges, add this fresh orange juice to the plums and stir.
  6. Peel the third orange, remove pith and divide into segments. Add the segments to the saucepan and stir.
  7. Add the honey, stir well and then pour the saucepan contents into a 1 ½ pint ovenproof pie dish. Four Pyrex or stoneware ramekins could be used for cooking individual fruit crumbles.
  8. In a separate bowl, add the wholemeal flour and the margarine, or butter if preferred for taste.
  9. Rub flour and margarine together.
  10. Add the grated orange rind (the orange zest) and the light soft brown sugar into the bowl. Stir the ingredients together well to complete the crumble mix.
  11. Spoon the crumble mix over the top of the Victoria plums with orange to cover it completely to the sides of the pie dish.
  12. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top looks golden and is crispy to touch.

Delicious Game Pie Recipe

Game PieAs its the season for eating Game and with the cold nights drawing in, this is perfect for a weekend meal and certainly went down a treat on Saturday, with some of our friends in the village.

First get friendly with one of our locals with a shotgun licence and ask nicely, you never know what they might have in their freezer. Patrick was very obliging and a brace of partridge and pheasant later you’re on your way. A rabbit is always nice, but to be honest you can make this with all sorts of game and most butchers will do a pack of mixed game.

This is my recipe and as with all recipes its only a guide, please feel free to adjust.

Serves 6-8
1.5Kg of Game (I used Pheasant, Partridge, pigeon, Rabbit and Mallard)
4 large rashers of smoked bacon – streaky ideally
8 shallots – quartered
3-4 Bay Leaves
Half a bottle of red wine
A good slosh of brandy
A good pinch of mixed herbs
Red current jelly
2 500g Packs of Just Roll Shortcrust Pastry (I cheated, but you can always make your own)

First remove all the meat from the birds (assuming you’ve bought the rabbit and mallard diced); you’ll be able to use the breast and leg meat on the Pheasants, but really only the breast from the partridges. Put all of the meat in a bowl, pour in the wine, brandy and salt and pepper and herbs and then leave for a few hours to marinade.

Pop the carcases from the pheasant and partridges in a stock pot (big sauce pan) cover with water, add a carrot, bay leaf, celery and a few pepper corns and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about an hour or so and then sieve into a fresh pan. I then simmered it for another 30 minutes to reduce the liquid and intensify the flavour. You want to aim for about a pint of stock and if you don’t want to make the stock use chicken stock instead.

Get a large casserole dish, that can be used on the hob. I used a Le Creuset type of pot with a lid. Fry the shallots in olive oil until they have a little colour and then start adding the meat to seal. Once the meat is browned, sprinkle a good tablespoon of flour over the meat and give it a good stir. Then pour in the stock, add a few sprigs of thymes, rosemary and 3-4 bay leaves.

Bring to the boil and then turn down low to simmer for a couple of hours (you can do this in an oven at about 160 degrees centigrade). Check the seasoning occasionally and adjust as required. I also added a good tablespoon of red current jelly at this point.

About an hour and a half before you intend to serve prepare the pie. I used a 26 cm pie dish, oiled and then sprinkled with flour. Roll out the pastry and cover the base of your pie dish. Fill the pie with your meat and pile it up. Then put the second disk of pastry on top and seal the edge with egg. You’re aiming for a pie that looks like “4 and 20 blackbirds” will fly out.

Finally brush with beaten egg. If you do this twice with about 10 minutes between, to let the first coat dry, you get a fantastically glossy finish. Sprinkle with freshly ground salt (this gives the pastry a wonderful flavour) and bake in the oven for about an hour at 150-160 degrees Centigrade (depending on whether you have a fan oven).

Once the pie is golden brown, serve at the table with a mountain of mashed potato, cabbage, carrots (or whatever you fancy) and enjoy with a robust red wine with lots of body. A good Shiraz or Bordeaux will go beautifully.

I hope you enjoy