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This afternoon, Jackie gathered together all the ingredients for her first ever fish pie that she made without a recipe. Potatoes for the mash lay on the worktop alongside butter, leeks, parsley and cheese. Eggs boiled in a pan alongside dishes of mixed salmon, haddock, and prawns to which were added a layer of parsley, and, when defrosted in the sink, spinach. Regarding the meal as a lost chord, that is, a creative effort that cannot be repeated, our Culinary Queen will not give further details of her method. There are a number of available recipes on the internet, although Delia Smith’s Fisherman’s Pie I used from her Complete Cookery Course doesn’t seem to be included on her Internet page.
She took a break before it was time to place the dishes in the oven, and drove us through the forest.
On Holmsley Road the equine staff of a landscaping company kept the grass cropped at the entrance to Wootton Oaks.
Rather splendid crab apple trees stood on the moors at either side of Holmsley Passage.
Much of the heather has browned already, but purple patches are still in evidence.
Although there is no through road along Castle Hill Lane between Burley and Burley Street, we decided to explore it. We were rewarded with sun-dappled forest scenes on either side of a narrow, winding, gravelled thoroughfare.
It was as I walked along admiring the landscape that I met a delightfully fascinating elderly woman who lived on the lane. Having been Chair of the New Forest Publicity Group for a 35 year period, she held a vast amount of the forest history. She nipped into her cottage to obtain a leaflet about the ponies for me. Although much faster than me she came out hobbling because she had a thorn in her foot. She bent down and removed it. It was then she told me she was a verderer. The leaflet explains that the verderers ‘are a body of ten persons appointed to administer the law concerning the New Forest. They hold the register of brands – all pony owners must use a brand to identify their depastured stock. The Verderers also have complete administrative control of all the stallions on the New Forest.’ When we parted, my informant, strode on ahead, paused for a while in a shaft of sunlight, then jogged on past the Modus and into the distance.
While I was drafting this, Jackie cooked two pies in the ovens. She withdrew one for tonight’s dinner and decorated it with sprigs of parsley.
This was served with piquant cauliflower cheese; sautéed leeks and mushrooms; and colourful crunchy carrots. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, Elizabeth, Becks Blue, and I, Casillero del Diablo reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2016.