Friday, August 6, 2010

Quail, Lavender & Longleat House

Longleat House, 1675, by Jan Siberechts 1627-1703)

A highlight of the England trip was a visit to one of the premier examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain. Designed by Robert Smythson it took 12 years to build and was mostly completed by 1580 for Sir John Thynn (1515-1580). He was also the builder of the house and the ancestor of the current owner of the house, Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath (1932-). John Thynn began life as a clerk in the kitchen of Henry VIII and quickly accrued great wealth and power (and 2 turns in the Tower for sketchy financing). He bought the property for £53 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536-39.

Photography is not allowed in the house but from their literature …

Red Library (one of 7 in the house with 40,000 books dispersed among them!)

Great hall
State Dining Room
and Saloon (28 meters long)

are really something to see. It is vast and positively oozing history from every artwork and stick of furniture in a style that is hard to grasp these days.

Have you ever seen Bill Gate’s house?? It is devoid of any level of art or craftsmanship and aside from an ridiculous level of technology, just a largish place. What fun is being one of the wealthiest men in the world if that’s the best you can do with your money? Do you think it will be around in 500 years?

Not so at Longleat. You can see where the money went. However, the insanely rich interior with nearly 500 years layering in most of the public part of the house contrasts mightily with the current Lord Bath’s rather mad murals.

Lord Bath is something of an eccentric in the classic English sense. Known for his “polyamorous lifestyle with “wifelets” according to Wikipedia (this part was not in the Longleat literature—surprise!), he is a tireless decorator/artist of his enormous family house and a separate tour of his work can be seen when visiting the house. It takes up a special wing of Longleat.

There are also 900 acres of park designed by Capability Brown and 8,000 acres of woods and farmland. It is unfathomably enormous. There is even a Safari Park!!!
Lord Bath (in his signature colorful vest) with 75 year-old Amos the Tortoise

And the gardens… the gardens are beautifully maintained and luxuriant in July.

Hedge Maze made of 16,000 yew trees that takes up 1.48 acres (commissioned in 1976)
Longleat Garden

Have I mentioned that England is perfumed with lavender at this time of year? It is everywhere from the humblest cottage garden to the grandest house. I would say it perfumed my visit and I will never be able to smell lavender without remembering this time here (I had never been to England in the middle of summer before). Longleat was rich with lavender in its acres of gardens.

In honor of my scented memories, I wanted to share a recipe for Quail with Lavender that my friend and astonishing opera singer Robert Osborne shared with me a few years back ( I added the smoking element -- his recipe was simply grilled). I was an absolute coward about cooking quail. For any of you who have put this off out of fear that they are difficult to work with... let me assure you, not so!!! Just the opposite! After I made it I could kick myself for waiting so long. I am grateful the inspiration of English Lavender pushed me to do it because the combination of rosé and lavender is sensational with quail (or any poultry, I suspect).

You may wonder, where to get quail? Not to worry, the wonderful people at D’Artagnan have the loveliest little birds around and can send them anywhere for you. As I’ve mentioned before, I am lucky enough to have them as neighbors. Their quail is the most flavorful, the Coturnix breed. They are free-range and raised without antibiotics or hormones yielding a rich, flavorful meat. You can have them delivered easily by going HERE Honestly, for something so special they are very inexpensive.

Quail with Lavender Onions Serves 2 Main Course, 4 Appetizer

1 bottle rosé wine
2 T honey (preferably lavender otherwise any mild honey)
1 ½ T orange zest
1 large clove garlic, smashed
2 T olive oil
4 branches fresh lavender plus 1 t flowers
salt & pepper
4 butterflied quail
1 pound pearl or small onions
2 T butter
1 T red wine vinegar

*Smoke Mixture:

3 T jasmine tea
3 T jasmine flowers
2 tiny pine branches (8’’ size and not thicker than a toothpick) with a few sprigs of needles cut up quite small (altogether this should be 1 c worth, loosely packed)
2 T brown sugar

  1. Reserve 1 cup wine. Place the rest of the wine in a saucepan, and simmer until wine is reduced to 1 ½ c. Add 1 T honey, 1 T orange zest, garlic, oil and lavender branches. Set aside until cool, then strain. Season with S & P

  1. Place the wine mixture in a large bowl and add the quail and marinate 1 hour.

  1. Meanwhile, place the onions in a saucepan with water to cover. Simmer 3 minutes. Drain and cut off the root ends and peel.

  1. Heat butter in medium skillet. Add onions, remaining honey and vinegar. Cook until onions start to brown. Add remaining wine and ½ T orange zest. Continue cooking until liquid is syrupy.

  1. Line a wok with heavy foil and put the smoke mixture in it. Place quails on a rack that will fit inside the wok, put them in the wok then turn up the heat until the mixture is smoking and turn down the heat to low. Smoke for 15 to 20 minutes, turning them midway. They should only be warm to the touch. (** If you have a charcoal grill, the smoking and cooking can be done at once. Just place the smoke mixture in an aluminum toss-away container and moisten, then put on the cooler part of the grill with the lid closed till they smoke, put the birds on and cook the quails 3-5 minutes on each side until just cooked through).

  1. If you are not grilling, heat the butter in a skillet (or 2) large enough to hold the birds. Pat them dry and cook till brown and lovely on the skin side and then flip them to finish cooking. This should take no more than 8 minutes
  2. Remove the quails to a platter and tent. Add any pan juices to onions. Briefly re-heat onion mixture and correct seasonings. Stir in lavender flowers and serve with the quail.

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Diane said...

Lord Both is quite a character! I used to live in Bath in the late 40's and early 50's but never went to Longleat. I still have family living in Bath.

Yum that quail looks delicious. Diane

Tasty Trix said...

my dear I am so behind with my blog reading!! I particularly want to catch up on yours. I love this post - Lord Bath seems like textbook dotty British royalty, I love it! And I totally agree about Bill Gates and people on whom money is wasted. Why don't we have that much $$? We would live in castles and cottages. Sigh. And that's a lovely and perfectly fitting dish you made!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What a gorgeous piece of real estate and quite a juxtaposition between Longleat and Bill Gate's place. Gives new meaning to your home is your castle :)

Mmmm, what an elegant dish and so befitting a Lord or Duke. I think I'll try this with Cornish Game Hen!

Unknown said...

This was a great post I really loved reading it, thanks for posting it on this blog...

Stella said...

Hey Deana, what a wonderful post. Lord Bath is an interesting character & the property is absolutely beautiful and awe inspiring. Oh, and the quail looks lovely. I actually just won a tin of culinary lavender. Hmmm?
p.s. I have to say that I actually really appreciate people like Bill Gates though. He has all that money that he actually earned through his own genius (unlike many wealthy people) and he's not materialistic or even snobbish according to rumor! I admire that, but I admit I would spend his money differently (smile)...

Sarah said...

The quail looks wonderful. I am so busy with putting away food right now that I am not really dining. But, I beg to disagree about Bill Gates house. It may not be built of stone, or ornate, or even Arts & Craft but I bet it will be around in 500 years. I am sure he built like a bunker with a very non-descript exterior. The new millinia multi-billionaires are not all about the pomp of olde England's royalty. Some are, but thankfully, some aren't. Perhaps compare it to a cottage in the Alps or Flathead Lake in Montana! I don't know how much of the wealth of the olde royalty was given to the plebes! Just being a devil's advocate!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Dearest Deana,

This was a splendid tour to a place that I have never seen, but it is high time I visit England....France and Italy have been my focus both for linguistic and culinary interests, but you have enticed me with this FABULOUS recipe! I love using lavender in scones and in my pizza sauce, but this is a must. And the admiration with which you speak about the quail, well, I must try this. THank you for coming to take the time to visit with me, and I just love the analogy of the Japanese laquer and life....beneath those layers...what a gem. Enjoy every bite of life dearest, and thank you for looking beyond the surface and unveiling such treasures of delights!!! Anita

Deana Sidney said...

FOodfun>Lord Bath is really something and part of a dying breed of aristocrats... I loved him!
TRIX>Thanks for stopping by when you are so busy... it was a really fun place to visit, and yes, I know we would do more
Savoring> trying it with cornish hen is a great substitution but give the quail a try if you can... and eat with your fingers... lord of the manor style!
Stella> You go girl... use the lavender up on this one... you can get the lavender branches at WHole Foods or a farmers marker if you aren't growing it!
Sarah> I have seen the interior of Gates house and it is unremarkable. The thing is, he spent a fortune on the place... in technology which is so freshness dated. I guess that is what I meant.
All that money on something that will not last and that will not go into the future well. Where is the beauty??? It is not about opulence but about craftsmanship... that's what I meant to say. Gates, unlike say, Warren Buffet who lives in a little non-descript house that is worth nothing is different... he didn't spend tens of millions of dollars for it, Gates did. I guess I am saying what did he get for it???
CastlesCrowns> Glad you like that quote... I do too! I can just imagine you serving the quail in your perfect house.. divine!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Another fantastic post! I was just telling friends about your site Deana and how fabulous it is! :) And hehe I do recall Lord Bath being on television here, for being an eccentric if I recall correctly :P That quail looks glistening and divine!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a lovely and informed tour through such a lovely old home. The quail sounds delicious. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Jacqueline said...

Oh, what a treat to get to share in your wonderful travels with you. What an incredible house. I agree, I would want to build something that last forever. My husband became obsessed with building with stone after we visited Europe for that same reason ( that doesn't mean we have done it!)

I can't even imagine the heady taste this quail would give. i love quail. My husband's dad would hunt them and it is just delicious. We have a little family of quail that live in the empty lot next door. They are quite prolific each year and it is so fun to see their little family scamper across the street. They have really enjoyed my garden this year (they don't take too much).

Thanks again, I will be envisioning this house and the enchanting gardens all weekend.

Ana Powell said...

We have been to Longleat Estate too and we loved it. Absolutely awesome place.
Another delicious and so well presented dish.
Wishing you a great Sunday ♥

Faith said...

I have loved your England posts! They're so full of history and absolutely transport me to another time and place. I especially love those gorgeous garden photos! The quail is stunning, and a really lovely way of remembering your trip.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful estate! No, I think Bill Gate's home shows a total lack of imagination. Perhaps though, he is like me and he likes a kind of spartan living space. I know its a bit silly, but it makes me feel like I have more control over my surroundings when there is just less stuff in it.
Stunning meal dahling, I am amazed at your cooking, it is truly elegant. Whoever gets the pleasure of eating your dinners is lucky indeed.
*kisses* HH

Marjie said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks the Gates house is absurd. Mine is an 80 year old Norman chateau style house, and full of fussy furniture and things. I'd be quite happy in Longleat Estate, other than the fact that it's too darn big even for my overzealous imagination! Your England posts have been beautiful.

And thanks again for the salad dressings; I'm looking forward to them!

Needful Things said...

Awesome post. I loved the photos of the murals and the maze!

Joanne said...

That maze of a garden is awesome!

I have some culinary lavender sitting here that I'm not quite sure what to do with...I love your savory use of it!

Sue said...

Gorgeous recipe Deana - I adore lavender and what fantastic photos!

lisa is cooking said...

Incredible architecture and gardens. I love the hedge maze. Gorgeous quail too! The lavender must be delicious with it.

Anna Johnston said...

And a game park too. Mind bogling to think so much work and intricate planning has gone into this amazing place. Loved the murals. I didn't get to really explore Bath when I visited and your wonderful descriptions are making me want to really "do" time in this area. Love the quail and lavender, its true how we relate perfumes and smells to a place.

Jonny said...

Thanks so much for this post! I love Longleat, and remember it being one of the few stately homes (along with Chatsworth House in Derbyshire) my mother forced us to go to as kids that I actually really enjoyed. As a soon-to-be parent, I'll definitely be "subjecting" my kids to this too. Lord Bath is a true eccentric in the sense that he's rich enough to be able to be eccentric and inbred enough not to have any other choice. His polyamorous ways are not so dissimilar to that other famous Bath resident, Chaucer's Wife of Bath. Is there something in the famed water? I loved the comparison with Bill Gates' house. Many of the English nobility nearly ruined themselves building grandiose homes; I doubt the Gates' will suffer that fate! Love quail, love the use of lavender. It's sometimes overpowering but judicious use of it with a game bird is a wonderful choice.

Moira said...

Hi Deana,
I only used lavanda once in cookies and love it.
So I will try these quails soon, they look wonderful.
If I was rich like Bill Gates I would live in a "Chateux" ;) not in a little insignificant house, but in the same time that explains how he gets more and more money, he does't spend it hehehe

Lynne @ CookandBeMerry said...

I loved this post. It reminds me of the two weeks I spent driving around England in 1976. It is so old and full of history, with castle ruins popping up in the country fields. And the flocks of sheep everywhere with big colored circles painted on their backs to identify the flock. So different from home. Thanks.

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