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Al fresco dining Georgian style

Pack some sandwiches - maybe beef and mustard or cold lamb and pickle - for a simple and appropriate Regency picnic. Finish with strawberries. Those who like a culinary challenge can try this recipe, courtesy of television chef Keith Floyd.

Pigeon Pie

Ingredients: four to five pigeons, drawn; salt and pepper; 250g stewing beef; 250g shortcrust pastry; beaten egg to glaze; two tsp cornflour.

Joint the birds into two breast joints and two leg joints each and stew the rest of the carcass in a little water to make stock for the gravy. Cut the beef into small pieces and use to line a deep 20cm pie dish. Lay the pigeon joints on top, cover with water, add salt and pepper, then cover the pie dish with greased paper or aluminium foil. Place in the oven (pre-heated to 180C350FGas 4) and simmer for one and a half hours. Remove from the oven and raise temperature to 200C400FGas 6. Cover the pie with the shortcrust pastry, brush the top with beaten egg, put back into the oven and bake until pastry is golden brown. Leave to cool.

Rout drop cakes

Ingredients: 150g plain flour; a pinch of salt; 50g softened butter; 50g caster sugar; one small egg; half tsp orange juice; half tsp rosewater; one tsp sweet sherry; one tsp brandy; 25g currants.

Heat the oven to 350F180CGas 4. Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Work in butter to make a crumbly mixture, then add sugar. In a small bowl, beat the egg. Add the juice, rosewater, wine or sherry, and brandy. Stir well. Mix in the liquids slowly until dough is smooth. Add the fruit. Put the mixture in small heaps, 2cm across, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 16-18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 16-20 cakes.

Where to do it

* Box Hill, near Dorking, is open all year round. For more information telephone 01306 885502 or visit the National Trust website, www.nationaltrust.org.uk.

* Attingham Park in Shropshire, one of the great stately homes of the Midlands, with Regency interiors and deer park.

* Ickworth House in Suffolk, an unusual late Georgian house created in 1795 by the eccentric fourth Earl of Bristol.

* Arlington Court, Devon, an intriguing Regency house surrounded by a fine estate for picnicking.

* Also suitable for a Regency picnic are the seaside resorts of Brighton, Weymouth and Torquay. For a Jane Austen flavour try Bath or Lyme Regis or the village of Chawton in Hampshire, her home for many years.

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