It’s a few weeks now since we were at our autumn retreat in the gorgeous Old Sawmills on the Fowey River. This waterside venue was a first for us; not only further east than we’ve been before but completely away from the world in a house that can only be reached by water or foot. Transporting ourselves and a week’s worth of provisions was an adventure, as was escorting our guests along the autumnal wooded path that leads from the nearby village of Golant to the little tidal creek beside which the Old Sawmills stands.
The peace and quiet was complete. Each day we saw the trees turn more golden as the nights drew in a little more. Our little writing community of eight got down to work and the house hummed with ideas. Outside, wading birds picked their way along the shore; we looked for otters but didn’t see the shy creatures.
As usual on our retreats, the mornings were devoted to workshops and writing, the afternoons to more writing, and one to ones in which we heard a wonderful selection of drafts, stories, memoirs and plans. Our guests never fail to amaze us with their creativity and skill. As the week continued, everything seemed to grow; a short story turned into an outline for a novella, an opening was reworked, a work of non-fiction was mapped out and became achievable in the mind of its author. We were reminded every day why we love hosting these weeks.
Evenings were our time to gather round the dinner table, full of lively chatter, accounts of the day and excitement about the rest of the week. On the final evening, we asked which recipe everyone had enjoyed the most; debate ensued, was it Kath’s brownies, Jane’s soup, the venison sausages in redcurrant sauce or the stroganoff? In the end the chicken cider casserole won. Here it is, with ingredients for six people.
- 6 large chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons of light olive oil
- About 10 button mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 4 leeks
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
- A bag of fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- I large pot of crème fraiche, half fat
- 2 teaspoons of English mustard
- 2 bottles of Rattlers apple cider
- New Cornish potatoes and green beans to accompany the chicken
- Lightly flour the chicken and brown in some olive oil and butter on all sides. Set aside
- Add the garlic, leeks and mushrooms to the pan and saute until lightly brown
- Add the chicken pieces, toss together, add the cider and braise until cooked through (about 30 minutes)
- Turn the heat up to reduce some of the liquid
- Add the crème fraiche and mustard, stir and warm through. Check for seasoning
- Just before serving, add a handful of chopped parsley. Stir gently to combine all together
- Serve with baby new potatoes and green bean.
It’s a lovely warming dish for autumn, best eaten with delightful retreat company in a waterside conservatory after a day of writing, reading and staring at the inspiring views outside. Enjoy.