Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dorset Verse and Victuals

Clockwise from top left: The Old Rectory, Winterborne Came / William Barnes / St. Peter's Church, Winterborne Came

William Barnes was born in Dorset in 1801 and worked as both a solicitor's clerk and a schoolmaster before getting his degree from Cambridge in 1851. He served as rector of St. Peter's in Winterborne Came, Dorset, from 1862 to his death in 1886. Barnes was extremely interested in language and published three volumes of poetry written in the local Dorset dialect. This poem comes from an edition of Barnes's poems edited by fellow author and Dorset-dweller Thomas Hardy. I think it's safe to say they both admired milkmaids!

from Select Poems of William Barnes

To go with the Dorset poetry, I made an old Dorset recipe that I've adapted from The National Trust Farmhouse Cookbook. It's not terribly photogenic, but Smothered Chicken is a great method for keeping the chicken nice and moist. It reheats well, too.

Smothered Chicken

2 oz. fresh breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
juice from a small lemon
Imperial pint (20 oz.) hard cider
1 chicken, jointed
flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, for dredging
4 rashers bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, onion and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the lemon juice. The mixture should be wet enough to moisten the bread, but not make it mushy. If you need more moisture, add a bit of cider.

Dredge the chicken pieces in seasoned flour and place in a single layer in the bottom of a large dutch oven. Lay the bacon rashers over the chicken, then cover everything with the breadcrumb mixture. Pour cider around the meat until it comes about halfway up the chicken pieces.

Cook in the middle of the oven for 1 1/2 hours, checking occasionally that the cider hasn't totally cooked off and adding more, if needed. You want it to make a thickish gravy with the flour and the breadcrumb mixture.

Adapted from "Smothered Chicken" in Laura Mason, The National Trust Farmhouse Cookbook (London: National Trust Books, 2009), 62.



  1. I'll take that Smothered Chicken anytime, you simply can't go wrong.

    Interesting piece of poetry.

  2. I actually think the Smothered Chicken is rather photogenic! Can't wait to see you!

  3. I think it looks amazing. This will be one I make pretty damn soon actually. And I loved the poem by the way.

    1. It doesn't require standing over any heat source. You'll love it! :-)

  4. Your smothered chicken looks darn tasty. And yours is the first post I've seen with the word victuals in it :)

  5. Smothered Chicken sounds (and looks!) delicious. I like the lemony bread crumb mixture.

  6. This dish sounds delicious, even if it isn't the prettiest dish. It sounds perfect for the cold nights we are having.

  7. You've reminded me that I want to reread Thomas Hardy. I just saw a preview of a new film based on "Tess of the D'Urbervilles." I love Thomas Hardy's books and would love to visit Dorset. The chicken dish looks delicious!

    1. Tess of the D'Urbervilles was my introduction to Hardy. We never read anything by him in school, so I picked up the book at the library here in Wichita not too long after we'd moved here. I also listened to Far From the Madding Crowd while knitting an aran sweater for Paul. I enjoyed each immensely--Hardy's use of language is captivating.

  8. Ooooh, this looks so, so good. I dont care that its 112 outside, lol, I want some smothered chicken!
    These photos are beautiful. I love how you combine your love of history with food. Yummy and informative!~

    1. It's not too bad to make it in the heat, because you just throw everything in the pot and then stick it in the oven. However, why why why is it 112 degrees? It's just not nice.


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