Al fresco dining with Mrs Greville

12th August 2005 at 01:00
So what would be the dish you would set before the King? There was one dish that Edward found superior to all others, and that was turtle soup. It required, of course, a turtle (sun dried) and took the best part of a day to cook. If that makes you feel squeamish there is, of course, mock turtle soup, which requires only that you detach a calf's head from the rest of its body and simmer it for hours.

Assuming that you will not actually be setting out on your picnic armed with a 12-bore, beaters and gundogs, you will still need something gamey to feast on. Lady Clark of Tillypronie, writing in a cookery book in 1909, suggests the following as perfect picnic fodder: Birk Hall excursion pie

Four grouse or six partridge (selected branches of Sainsbury's will stock them as the season progresses); one onion, sliced; 300ml beef or chicken consomme (tinned if you must); truffles (what, no truffles? Oh all right then, mushrooms will do); 375g rough puff pastry.

Set the oven at 350F175Cgas mark 4. Use the fillets of the birds only, in as large pieces as you can. Put them in a pie dish with the onion, consomme and chopped truffles or mushrooms. Cover with foil and bake for one and a half hours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Set the oven to 425F225Cgas mark 7. Roll out the pastry and cover the pie with it. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and then put in the fridge overnight.

And to drink...

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who worked on Channel 4's series The Edwardian House, has the following recipe for something to help your picnic pass in a golden age haze:

Edwardian champagne cup

Serves 10. Two oranges, sliced; half a cucumber, sliced; two sprigs of mint, chopped; one wine glass of brandy; one wine glass of orange curacao; one bottle of champagne (chilled); 750ml soda water (chilled).

Put the champagne, oranges, mint and cucumber into a jug or bowl. Add the orange curacao, brandy and soda water. Stir until blended. Serve in tumblers over ice.

Where to go

* Polesden Lacey, Dorking, Surrey. Mrs Greville's house still exudes opulence and luxury, and the elegant rooms look much the same as they did when she and the Westies swished through them. The autographed portraits of honoured guests decorate the walls alongside William McEwan's extensive art collection. The gardens are fragrant with lavender beds and rose arbours and the picnic-friendly lawns are shaded by what were once Mrs Greville's celebrity saplings.

* Castle Drogo, Drewsteignton, near Exeter. A granite fortress designed by one of the most famous of all Edwardian architects, Sir Edwyn Lutyens. You can picnic in the gardens or play croquet on the lawn (mallets are available for hire).

* Shaw's Corner, Ayot St Lawrence, near Welwyn, Herts. An Edwardian villa and home to George Bernard Shaw from 1906 till his death in 1950, where "the last thing of real importance that had happened was perhaps the flood".

* And finally, the grandest Edwardian house of them all: Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, the country retreat of the Queen, and built in 1870 by Edward when he was still Prince of Wales. It has been designated an area of outstanding natural beauty and is open for would-be Edwardians from July 31 to October 31.

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