Anna Barnett talks to Marte Marie Forsberg of The Cottage Kitchen
The Cottage Kitchen is a cookery book to be treasured, swooned over and - more importantly - cooked from. Our food contributor Anna Barnett chats to the author
10 May 2018
The Cottage Kitchen is an entirely charming cookery book that's guaranteed to have you ready to pack up and move to the countryside to live the quintessential, English dream.
Rolling hills, log fires and quaint little villages with thatched cottages - and a dog to boot. This is a book packed full of heart-warming recipes and tales that are as beautiful to read as they are to look at.
The Cottage Kitchen is a cookery book to be treasured, swooned over and - more importantly - cooked from.
Here, Anna Barnett chats to author Marte Marie Forsberg about her go-to cake recipe, her favourite restaurants and moving to the countryside.
Where’s home for you?
My mother always says that home for her, is where her loved ones are, and I must admit that over the years that has come to feel true for me too. Meeting my soon-to-be-husband, and with the much anticipated arrival of our baby girl in just a few weeks, home is where we can be together. It´s more about the people than the place.
However, we have fallen head over heels in love with a small village called Tisbury, in Wiltshire and bought a cottage and made it our home. Its green rolling hills, truffle laden forests, old estates and beautiful lakes, makes its hard not to find this place attractive. But it is the glorious wee village with its wanly old cottages, fish monger, butcher, deli with my favourite cheeses and charcuterie from France and Italy in addition to local treasures, and with a bottle shop offering up treats from the continent both my the glass and bottle create a quality of life we truly love.
What inspired you to write the book?
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve devoured books with gusto. Reading is a form of escape, a way to be inspired, and a way to dream, and I’ve always hoped that one day I´d find a way to put pen to paper and write my own book.
When I got approached by Clarkson Potter in New York to see if I was interested in writing a cookbook, I knew the time was right, and that I wanted the book to be as much about the personal story as it was about the recipes and imagery.
The biggest inspiration behind the book, though, was probably the move to the English countryside. It felt like a reawakening of both my senses and tastebuds, in addition to being a return to my roots of growing up in the countryside in Norway. It changed my fast paced, big city life that I´d grown accustom to in my twenties living between Tokyo, Milano and San Francisco, and gave me an opportunity to rediscover who I was, or perhaps who I´d become.
Who should buy it?
I wanted the book to feel personal, and to invite the reader in to my cottage kitchen. If you love simple rustic comfort food mixed with stories behind each recipe and a good dose of the English countryside, then this cookbook is for you.
Looking for a quick mid-week, no fuss dinner, which recipe should we head to?
When in doubt I usually go for my risotto Milanese, a traditional creamy Saffron risotto with bone marrow, that is ever so tasty and traditional to my second home town, Milano.
It's fairly easy and straightforward to make, and any leftovers can be made into these tasty deep fried arancini balls for lunch the next day. You’ll find both recipes in my book.
What's your favourite recipe from the book and why?
It's hard to choose as I love them all, but I think my ultimate favourite recipe is Marie´s birthday cake with wine-soaked strawberries and fresh raspberries. It's just such a treat and relatively easy to make. It does take a bit of time, but the result is mouthwateringly fresh and delicious. It´s quite the show stopper.
Tell us your ultimate dinner party dish?
When hosting a dinner party I love being able to enjoy pre-dinner drinks with my guests rather than running around in the kitchen, so my orange and clove roast chicken with pears and baked butternut squash (scroll down for the recipe), is full of flavour and taste, and can be left to work its magic in the oven while I serve my guests a cold welcome drink.
And what's your ultimate dessert?
When in doubt I reach for my birthday cake for dessert. As mentioned above it is a real favourite and it's always a highlight of any meal with its wine soaked strawberries and fresh raspberries nestled in between layers of sponge, cream and vanilla custard. It goes without saying that when the berries are in season it elevates the cake, but I make this year-round when I want a gathering to be extra special. It's also great as an afternoon tea treat on the weekend.
Can you name your top three restaurants?
Spring in London is always a treat to dine at, and I love their scraps menu, using up whatever is leftover and creating an exciting one off meal. Not only working towards cutting food waste it also makes leftovers feel like a real treat.
Al Matarel and Da Giacomo in Milano, both lovely old school trattorias. The first, Al Matarel, scribble on their windows with a marker when the Alba truffles have arrived, and it all just feels like you're taking part in a no-fuss "Nonna" meal that tastes better than any Michelin star restaurant you've ever been to.
Pythouse Kitchen Garden a local favourite in my neck of the woods of Tisbury in Wiltshire. Seasonal, with mostly local produce and from their own garden, rustic meals cooked over open fire and smoked create simple and delicious meals that I return to again and again. Plus they have a Guinness and chocolate cake to die for!
Which cookery books do you always reach for from the shelf?
I reach for Anna del Conte's books on a weekly basis, Nigel Slater's many books and Buvette. The latter is Jody Williams' cookbook with favourite recipes from her two infamous gastrotheques in Paris and New York.
What’s next for you?
This year I´m simply going to chase my dreams, as the saying goes, if you don´t build your own dreams, some else will hire you to build theirs. This year I´m also launching quite a few more photography and business workshops around in our favourite spots in Europe, which always makes me ever so excited.
I´m also renovating my wee countryside cottage. It feels ever so exciting to be able to properly put my own stamp on a place, to set the backdrop for guest to come spend a weekend and create memories to take home with them, hopefully of an excellent time!
I'd love to write a second and third book in the cottage kitchen cookbook series, telling the tales of good rustic home-cooked food harvested in season, grown in your back yard, and served with love with friends and family. No matter how wonderfully exciting a new eatery can be, my favourite restaurant will always be a meal shared with friends and family at home.
Orange and Clove Roast Chicken with Pears and Butternut Squash
1.8 kg / 4 pounds free range organic chicken
50 g / 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crushed dried chilli
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 oranges, quartered
4 garlic cloves, crushed, skin on
5 to 7 sprigs fresh thyme
2 to 3 sprigs fresh sage
1.3 kilos butternut squash, peeled, cored, cut half lengthwise, and sliced
2 yellow onions, quartered
1 kilo / 2.2 pounds British Mans Piper potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 Conference pears or other firm pears, halved and cored
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. Butter a large roasting pan with 3 centimetre / 1 1/2 inch high sides.
Remove chicken from fridge 30 minutes in advance. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel. Place the chicken into the prepared roasting pan, backside up.
Using a pestle and mortar, firmly pound the butter, pepper, and chilli until well combined. Use your hand to carefully loosen the skin away from the chicken breast. Gently stuff half of the butter mixture underneath the skin on the back of the chicken. Rub the remaining butter over the top of the chicken, and then season generously with salt and pepper. Press the whole cloves into the top of the chicken, piercing the skin with the clove tip. Squeeze two orange wedges over the top of the chicken. Place two orange wedges inside the chicken carcass with half of each of the thyme, the sage, and garlic cloves.
Arrange the butternut squash, onion quarters, potatoes, pears, and remaining orange wedges around the chicken, and scatter the remaining thyme, sage, and garlic amongst the vegetables. Liberally drizzle with olive oil. Cover with aluminium foil.
Place the pan on the middle shelf of the oven roast 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, uncover, and stir well, twice. Baste the chicken with the juices that have gathered among the vegetables. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C / 355°F and roast, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and is crispy brown, stirring through two more times, 40 to 45 minutes.
The Cottage Kitchen is published by Clarkson Potter in NY. You can purchase your copy here.