House Party: Shooting in Cumbria

Reprinted by permission of the publishers, Lyons & Burford, from
"The Orvis Cookbook" (£19.00). All rights reserved.


My loader weighed 20 stone (or all of 280 pounds). He was dressed in impeccable tweeds: breeks, waistcoat, jacket, and matching hat. He wore heavy wool knee socks fastened with garters, the swallowtail tabs of which correctly showed just one and one-half inches below the fold of the sock at his knee. His cordovan shoes were polished to mirror brightness. I could see the reflection of my awestruck face in them even though it was raining cats and dogs.

I drew a numbered brass marker from the mahogany case the gamekeeper held out to me. It was number seven, in the Wood.

"A difficult butt, madam," offered Gordon. I think he felt as apprehensive as I. Only the evening before it had been casually mentioned that I would be the first woman, ever, to shoot in the line at Dallam Tower. Knowing the estate had belonged to our host's family since the eleventh century, I felt a certain amount of pressure — approximately nine centuries' worth.

I was determined to get the first bird that came down the hill through the trees. I just prayed it was a pheasant because I knew what a pheasant looked like, even though I had never been on a driven pheasant shoot before in my life. I was worried about shooting one of the prized white pheasants, which was a no-no. Suffice it to say, I did get the first bird. It was a pheasant, and it landed stone dead right at my loader's feet.

The final evening during dinner a gallant brigadier rose and told a story on himself. It seemed his wife had been loading for him on a drive that lasted one hour and five minutes (the beating was superb). We had been requested by our host to use only one gun on this drive and they had gotten very hot. The brigadier turned to his wife and requested his second gun to replace his overheated one.

"Certainly not, Charles!" she responded. "Mrs. Perkins in the next blind is outshooting you and she doesn't have a second gun with her. Shame! It wouldn't be sportsmanlike." So saying, he raised his glass and drank a toast to the first lady ever to shoot on the line at Dallam Tower. Of such chivalrous gestures are fond friends and memories made.

Avocado Soup


  • 3 cups chicken stock (canned broth is all right.)
  • 3 cups light cream
  • 4 large ripe avocados
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion

Peel and seed the avocados. Put them in a blender or food processor with the lemon juice, onion, and chicken stock, and puree. Remove the mixture from the processor and pour into a large bowl. Whisk in the sour cream and then the light cream. Add the salt and pepper, taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Put into a double boiler and heat. Or serve chilled with a sprinkle of chopped parsley on top. Garlic toast is perfect with this creamy, lightly flavoured soup.
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Garlic Melba Toast

Preheat over to 350°.
Blend 4 tablespoons soft butter with 1 clove of garlic, which has been put through a garlic press. Spread on 6 slices of very thin white bread with crusts removed. Cut in halves or quarters to form triangles, and bake in a 350° oven for 7 to 8 minutes. If the toast isn't totally crisp, turn off the oven and let it sit another 15 minutes. Cool and store in a covered tin if not serving right away.
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Roast Pheasant

Preheat oven to 350°.
One bird for 2 people will be ample. If fresh, the pheasant should have been hung 4 or 5 days under refrigeration before cooking. If it has been frozen, thaw it completely to room temperature.

Clip off the wings at the first joint, legs at the joint, and the neck close to the body. Liver and heart may be used for pate or for another recipe.

Place the birds in an open pan with a splash of water, breast side up. Cover the breast with 4 full strips of bacon. Place in a preheated oven at 350° for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on size. Test for doneness with the Thermicator. The internal temperature should be 140° to 150°. We recommend 140° for the best flavour and moistness. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 or 15 minutes before carving. The bird will continue to cook while it is standing, so if you want a pale pink centre remove it from the oven at 140°.
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Bread Sauce


  • ½ small loaf white bread, crust removed
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt and freshly groundpepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 small onions
Put the bread, broken in pieces, into a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the salt, pepper, butter, and milk. Cut the onion into halves and stick the 3 cloves into 3 of the halves and put all the onion pieces into the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring gently. Set aside for 1 hour, then reheat. Remove the onion and cloves, stir well, and serve in a sauce boat. This is the traditional English accompaniment for all kinds of game and poultry. It is always served with:
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Buttered Bread Crumbs

Crush the dried bread with a rollingpin, then rub through a wire sieve. Melt the butter in a small frying pan and stir crumbs in the butter over medium heat until browned and crisp. Serve in a small bowl next to the Bread Sauce and pheasant.
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Orange-Potato Souffle

  • 6 Idaho potatoes
  • Grated rind of 1 navel orange
  • 6 egg whites
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup hot milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Preheat oven to 375°. Peel the potatoes and cube roughly. Boil in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes, or until they feel soft when pierced with a fork. Drain the water off and place the potatoes in a food processor, or you may mash them by hand. Add the orange rind, butter, hot milk, and salt and pepper. Beat with an electric mixer or run food processor for 8 to 10 seconds, until the potatoes are creamy.

    Beat the egg whites until stiff, and fold a small amount of them into the potato mixture to lighten it, and then pour the entire potato mixture into the egg whites and fold in carefully. Pour into a buttered 4-cup souffle dish and bake for 25 minutes until it is puffed and golden brown on top. Serve immediately.

    This dish is also very good with duck instead of the traditional wild rice, for a change. The hint of orange flavour underscores the natural affinity between wild duck and orange.
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    Brussels Sprouts Vinaigrette

    - SERVES 6
    • 1 pound of the smallest brussels sprouts you can find
    • ¼ cup oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and put through a garlic press
    • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 3 scallions, finely chopped
    • 1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
    Steam the brussels sprouts until cooked but still firm, about 6 or 7 minutes. Keep them warm in the steamer with the heat turned off.

    Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small skillet and saute the garlic over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not let it brown. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring all the time.

    Put the steamed, drained brussels sprouts in a heated dish and pour the sauce over them, stirring lightly to mix. Serve at once.

    Brussels sprouts are not a popular vegetable, and in my opinion it's because they are overgrown in this country. They should be about the size of your little fingernail, no larger. The taste and texture are superb when they are this size. They're hardly the thing one can grow in a windowbox, but if you have a garden, plant some. Harvest them from the bottom of the stalk first when they are tiny. The upper ones will be barely discernible at this time; leave them to grow until they reach the tiny size. Down with the overblown little cabbages that we see so often in the market!
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    Lancashire Lemon Soufflé

    -SERVES 6
    • 3 lemons
    • 3 large eggs
    • ½ packet unflavoured gelatin (1½ teaspoons)
    • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
    Separate the eggs and beat the yolks until frothy. Grate the rind of two lemons and beat into the yolks with the sugar. Beat with an electric beater or by hand until creamy and smooth.

    Squeeze the juice of all the lemons and beat in gradually. Dissolve the gelatin in ½ cup warm water and add to the mixture, then strain into a clean bowl. Beat the egg whites until stiff and carefully fold them into the yolk mixture. Pour into a 2-cup souffle dish and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.

    This is a relatively low-calorie dessert and it has a very tart, lively flavour, which is most welcome after a full dinner such as this. The recipe was given to me by the cook at Underley Grange in Lancashire when I sought her out in the kitchen after dinner one evening, exclaiming upon its lightness and refreshing flavour.
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