Recently, I strayed from beautiful South Yorkshire and ventured over the border to Derbyshire. It wasn’t a long journey (in fact it’s only a few miles from Sheffield), and a real pleasure to visit another stunning English county.
Having lived in Derbyshire for a couple of years myself (a few years ago now), this was not my first visit to Chatsworth, but it was almost certainly the most glorious summer’s day that I’ve experienced there – quiet, still, warm. The day itself felt lazy. Sounded lazy. Relaxed. And everything around looked green, lush and flourishing. Perfect. Admittedly, it’s very unusual to experience more than a handful of these days in a year in the UK, but that just makes them more special. It’s easy to sound idyllic, unrealistic, sentimental. But perhaps that’s the point.
Of course, Derbyshire is familiar to many – if for no other reason – than as the location of Mr Darcy’s imposing estate in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. And it’s therefore not surprising that the Chatsworth estate (including the house and park) was chosen to play the role of Pemberley in the somewhat bland 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice (the one with Kiera Knightley).
Incidentally, it was the slightly more modest Lyme Park that was used for the far superior 1995 BBC series, which of course starred Colin Firth in his notable performance as Mark Darcy. In a wet shirt.
But Austen’s description of Elizabeth Bennet’s reaction as she first entered the park through Pemberley Woods, can readily be interpreted in relation to the imposing Chatsworth Estate, and it was a great choice of location:
“…the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley…It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance…The hill, crowned with wood, which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and [Elizabeth] looked on the whole scene, the river, the trees scattered on its banks and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it, with delight”. (Chapter 43)
But as well as spending time in the extensive- and truly stunning – park grounds, I was determined to visit the award winning (2 x Farm Retailer of the year) Chatsworth farm shop, situated in the village of Pilsley, just 1.5 miles from the house itself.
I’m always particularly impressed by the delicatessen (I can never resist their selection of cheese), although the greengrocer and bakery is similarly impressive. And it’s always fun to look around at their more miscellaneous items, which includes everything from their own label piccalilli (made in nearby Bakewell), preserved fruit, wine and beer (brewed on the Estate by Peak Ales). There’s also a Farm Shop restaurant, which makes a great place for an informal lunch.
But it’s the butchery that always impresses me most, where a combination of their philosophy (to source their meat almost exclusively from the estate and the estate’s tenant farmer’s), as well as the outstanding quality and range of the produce makes it irresistible. I went there looking for Chatsworth spring lamb, and wasn’t disappointed. The staff was incredibly helpful, and I came away with just what I’d been looking for – a large leg of lamb suitable for slow roasting and sharing with friends later in the week.
But giving into temptation, I also came away with something for dinner that night – these tasty lamb steaks – which were beautiful rubbed with a spicy paste and lightly grilled. And it’s a recipe that would be perfect for a barbecue too.
Oh. I also bought some venison. And four wood-pigeon breasts. Any suggestions?
Recipe: Spicy Lamb Steaks with Chickpea Salad and Minted Yoghurt
For the spicy paste:
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
If you don’t have the time to toast the seeds, then it’s fine to use a teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin instead
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
A small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 fresh red chilli, thinly sliced
You can remove (some of) the seeds if you prefer things a little less spicy
A small bunch of fresh coriander
If you find that you have more than you need for your lamb steaks, I’ve found that it keeps well in a sealed jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
4 lamb leg steaks
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
150g Greek-style natural yoghurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
For the spicy paste:
If you’re toasting the cumin and coriander seeds, start by popping them into a frying pan over a medium-high heat and lightly toast them for just a few minutes until golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the toasted spices to cool for a few minutes. Put them into a pestle and mortar and grind until fine.
Once you’ve got your toasted ground spices (or you can just use ready ground cumin and coriander), put them into a food processor with all the other spicy paste ingredients and whiz until smooth.
For everything else:
Brush up to half the paste over one side of the lamb steaks. Cook under a pre-heated grill for 6-8 minutes (for medium-rare), turning once or twice – brushing with more paste as appropriate – until it is nicely browned but still a little pink in the centre. Transfer to a warm plate and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
While the lamb is cooking, toss together the chickpeas, watercress, spring onions, olive oil, red wine vinegar and whole-grain mustard. Divide salad and steaks between four plates.
Stir together the yoghurt and mint and spoon into a serving bowl. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and serve with the lamb and salad.