It definitely feels autumnal here at Highclere. The trees are beginning to be edged with ochres and reds and the horses are already rugged for colder nights in the park fields. We still have some figs to collect, and a lot of cooking apples to pick, use and freeze. I am not sure the quince tree looks very happy: I think it may have quince leaf blight which can partly be managed by raking and collecting all the dead leaves and thinning the tree out. Sadly I can see no quinces!
In the diary we have a few private weekends coming up as well as the various events booked in the Castle. It’s a good time to plan the autumn, look at menus, think about what the season brings and generally take stock. All of this is implied in the old fashioned term “Michaelmas”, officially celebrated each year on September 29th. Originally a feast day to mark the end of Harvest, and one of the rent quarter days, it commemorates the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels (Highclere’s church bears the same name). University and school terms still refer to the “Michaelmas” term in the UK and even the US Supreme court sits on the first day after Michaelmas. Here at Highclere, leases would commence again and the farming cycle still begins again for the following harvest next summer as the fields are cleared to plough and seed.
I am busy helping organise a harvest festival service to take place in the church in early October. Apart from autumn flower arrangements, I thought we would take down some chickens (in a cage!), sacks of grain, dogs, sheep and a Shetland pony as well as some refreshments for after the service. I thought I would ride to church with few friends so it is all a bit more fun.
In the Castle we always try to create menus to reflect the season and there is nothing like a good autumn soup. One of my favourites is a spinach soup with a little round of delicious warmed goats’ cheese. My husband oscillates between a cream of cauliflower soup with a blue cheese dumpling or a classic onion soup. We both love Highclere’s white bean soup with a dash of truffle oil which has the advantage of being popular with the young as well.
Highclere Castle’s White Butter Bean Soup:
The night before, soak the butter beans in lots of water, and let the beans swell.
Next morning pinch the skin off the beans and rinse the beans clean.
In a pan heat some pomace oil and unsalted butter.(Pomace oil is a second pressed olive oil without the strong flavour, and you need 2/3 tablespoons of it).
Add some chopped shallots, chopped celery, chopped white of the leek and crushed garlic and cook until softened but not coloured. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper and stir gently.
Add some thyme or a little rosemary and cover with homemade chicken or vegetable stock.
Cook for maybe 30 minutes and then test a bean to see if it is soft. Blend with a hand blender and if you wish, push through a sieve to get a really smooth finish.
Add cream if you desire or a little truffle oil (my usual choice) to finish.
(Quantities: the above uses about 200g of the dry white butter beans and then when it comes to cooking them, about 1½ litres of stock)
All images (C) Highclere Castle.
Hello there I have just recently watched the documentary on your beautiful home and of course castle. It must be marvelous to live in such a historical place. I hope that someday I will be able to visit thank you for such a great blog I will definitely be trying the bean soup. Sincerely Lindsay
Here in Cape Town, I noticed a display of quinces in abundance! Jams on the shelves, and soon quinces as an accessory on the menus!
Quince is delicious, I use it in stews as well as with cheese. I think I am going to plant one or two more quince trees elsewhere whilst I hope this one recovers.
This White Butter Bean Soup sounds delicious. To tell you the truth kind of South Carolina Southern, USA
Thanks for the expanation of Michaelmas. I”ve read and heard of it in quite a number of films and shows but never knew. – just thought it meant Christmas.
Me, too, Shirley.
We are just starting to get some cooler days here in the Southeast of the U.S. – which means it’s only in the 80’s (F) instead of the 90’s during the day! At least it’s cooling down properly at night now. 🙂 It’s strange to see the mums and other fall decor at the garden stores when it’s still so warm.
I used to live up in New England (Maine) and this time of year was my favorite, even though it was so brief – the trees putting on their last show before having to rake the leaves up, pulling out the long sleeves and warm coats to wear, and feeling the crispness in the air. The apples are magnificent during harvest time and are a favorite snack this time of year. A fall favorite of mine was a big bowl of chowder (or chow-duh if you say it properly in that area) with some crusty bread – yummy!
Happy Michaelmas to you! Thank you for sharing some of the beautiful fall season pictures from Highclere. I’ll have to make a batch of your butter bean soup – it sounds divine! 🙂
I find it very relaxing to try to focus on the fruits and the garden – we have been collecting apples today for apple crumble on Sunday. I made some plum jam yesterday but did not add pectin which was a mistake. We will just have to eat it quickly as it will not last!
I visited Highclere on sept.9th.It was so exciting touring rooms that I had seen on Downton Abbey.I especially enjoyed the Egyptian rooms .All in all it was a great visit. Thank you for sharing your home with us…
Beautiful. Thanks for sharing the soup recipe, and the explanation of and your plans for Michaelmas! 🙂
Good morning from NYC !
The Pope is visiting our country today and the weather is bright and sunny ! This is my first time on this blog and I must say I am looking forward to it. I have been traveling to UK since I was 12yrs ! Many years ago. I recently spent 2 weeks in England visiting family and I about to travel at end of October to University of Cambridge with
My husband Dr. Odom for a conference. Looking forward to that but sadly The Castle closed to visitors, so not able to visit but may just taxi by to see the castle from a distance . Thank you for sharing all your beautiful experiences with your fans .
I really enjoy your blogs. Thank you for the recipe. Please keep them coming. They make me feel connected to your Highclere that along with your descriptions of the everyday coming and goings I faithfully watched Downtown Abbey. This created this connection along with reading your books. Highclere has quite a history. You can be really be proud of your history and all that you do. Happy Michealmas and coming harvest and holidays.
Lady Carnarvon, I just adore the fall and even in Florida we have lovely weather. When fall arrives nothing is more satisfying than a hot bowl of homemade bean soup. Your recipe sounds wonderful. Love that I always learn something new from you, Michaelmas sounds like such a wonderful event, enjoy!
I love truffle oil – it is a brilliant way to finish the soup.
Merci beaucoup pour cette recette de soupe. Nous sommes amateurs de soupe à base de légumes secs, mais là je n’en connais aucune.
Je vais tester…
Sur une soupe de légumes moulinés j’aime rajouter des flocons de pois chiches qui cuisent en quelques minutes…
L’automne arrive à grands pas, avec sons lot de couleurs et de scènes superbes.
Merci pour vos photos et commentaires très intéressants.
Lady Carnarvon, I’ve followed your blog for quite some time and toured your castle last year. I have a question for you that is probably ridiculous, but please humor me.
Do you have a full time kitchen staff now? Do you enjoy cooking yourself?
Personally, I would absolutely love to have someone do my cooking and plan my menus. I believe I should have been born a few centuries ago – things like a Lady’s Maid, Butler, and a Mrs. Patmore would have thrilled me to death! 🙂
We do have 3 full time chefs under Paul Brooke Taylor our head chef – they are with me in the photo above (underneath the clock in the kitchen) They are cooking for 1,000 visitors a day at Easter and in the summer. We also have either lunches, tours or weddings etc in other parts of the year. They are really therefore involved in the event side at Highclere. When Downton were filming here and they had less to do, they might well cook supper for us and it allowed us firstly to experiment with new dishes and secondly we have been exploring old menus as well.
I do enjoy cooking and use first of all what is in the garden and then build a meal around that. I am very interested in balancing foods and I use a lot of herbs – (hence the herb garden here) . Our chickens produce fabulous eggs so a starter of baked eggs is always a winner!!
I often start off in the kitchen in the morning and catch up with Paul, Rob and Jack – and of course a little croissant with a hot coffee is a great way to have a meeting..
Thank you for bringing us back to Highclere, through your descriptions and photographs. Each of your posts gives me the chance to learn something new. Your writing is always detailed and refreshing! Here, in New England, we are harvesting apples and pumpkins, and are watching the sedum redden and some of the roses re-bloom before the real fall chill. The agricultural fairs are in full swing and every farmer or home gardener is seeking out his largest melons or most well-matched carrots to enter in competitions around Connecticut. I look forward to making your recipe. Thank you for sharing.
That all sounds very “Downton”!
I’ll have to try that recipe! There is always something interesting happening at Highclere. I enjoy the pictures and your descriptions of events and seasonal changes. I love Fall.
Rosemary from British Columbia
Your blog is a delightful read and having read the first received on Michaelmas, I am looking forward to future posts. Thank you for giving such a vivid insight to your activities at Highclere. Now I must obtain the books you have authored. I must confess that I did not know what Michaelmas was about until I read your post. Many thanks!
I love the pictures of the kitchens. Your kitchens seem small, yet efficient. Thanks again for sharing a bit of Highclere with us. Just peaking my interest until I can get there, next summer.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What a delightful picture your words have painted.
Thank you also for sharing the recipe. Here in Sydney, winter is trying to still hang on through Autumn for a bit longer than is usual. It may be about the last opportunity this year to enjoy the warming sensation of a good soup before the weather gets too warm/hot!
On a different note, there is a protected bird sanctuary on the Great Barier Reef known as the Michaelmas Cay. It is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
I am unaware as to how it came by that name but I have assumed that it must have something to do with Michaelmas Day or Term (or a sailor’so homage to the Archangel Michael). However, it originally was called Oyster Cay and I do not know why the name was changed.
If fellow bloggers are interested, here are a couple of links to websites that concern the Cay:
Best wishes & fond regards.
My husband and I had such a lovely visit at the castle and grounds among the Tour & Tea group on Sunday (Sept 21). Almost got to speak to you but the gentleman in the very bold plaid suit with the Shirt of Hounds understandably caught your eye instead! Speaking of fashion, I loved your “Santorini blue” cover, so smart with white. I want you to know how pleasant and very helpful the ladies in your gift shop were — among my gathered treasures from there was a nice hat where I’ll pin the last one of the bumblebee brooches they pointed out to me.
I find the history and people of Highclere Castle much more captivating than Downton Abbey (even though I enjoy it immensely). I’m now re-reading your book about Almina who was just such an inspiring and amazing lady.
Well, I’m the lady who accidentally let Bella in on Sunday (we were about 5 minutes late since I was last in the gift shop line!) — I wanted to apologize about Bella and ask how to do but you were too busy to notice.
It was a lovely time — just wish I could have said hello.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, I have just come in from having a nice horseback ride, and opened your wonderful blog. Have you ever thought of having horse back rides at Highclere? It would truly be a very beautiful ride. Your soup recipe sounds. Wonderful, think I will have a nice bowl of chicken noodle. How are the puppies? Growing big I suppose. Please keep the blogs coming, they are the greatest. Desiree.
It was such a pleasure to tour your lovely home in August. It was very high on my “Must See” list. After tea, it was so much fun to go through the Gift Store and bring home your books and some gifts for friends. What a pleasant surprise to see you had signed them. A wonderful touch and a bit of an inside view of how much your husband’s family has impacted you.
How lovely it must be to go into the garden and plan food around the bounty at your feet! Enjoy the good weather, as it will soon be gone for a long cold winter!!!
I always enjoy reading your blog. I love hearing about everything going on. So when your having a private event, weddings, parties, Do you stay there or do you and your husband leave ? Do you have living quarters with living room and kitchen that’s for your family that’s off limits to the public?
My favorite color is “Autumn”. We will be leaving next month for our fall “Mountain get-a-way” in the Great Smokey Mountains. The bean soup will be most welcome on chilly mountain evenings. Thanks for sharing.
I love the Autumn – the fall – and one part of the arboretum (our Wood of Goodwill) is planted for Autumn colours with smoke bushes, cornus, parrotica perisica as well autumn acers and oaks. I tried some silver grasses last year and I am going to spend some time this weekend in there to see where to plant for this year. I guess some soup afterwards would be great!!!
Thank you Lady Carnarvon, for the pictures of Highclere and the bean soup recipe! Think I will try it some time when the cold and crispy weather will be installed here. We have rain and wind and some sun glances fort he moment. They call this a continental kind of climate and soon the leaves will turn yellow and red and bronze colored. Raking leaves, picking up apples, cleaning the garden before winter will be a quite busy period. An then we will have the apples pressed for the juice! Wonderful! I just finished the two last bottles of 2014… Thank you for your beautiful blog. Diane
I have been clearing out brambles in the evenings this week, good decompression at the end of the day and was just looking for what I could buy to help make apple juice – you are ahead of me!
Your photograph of Highclere Castle shimmering behind the autumn-colored tree is magnificent. Of all the images you have shared here on this blog and on your Facebook page, to me, this image outshines them all.
Thank you for making our lives brighter with every Highclere scene you share.
thankyou for telling me all about Michaelmas, as Shirley stated, I also thought it was related to Christmas. It’s spring here in Melbourne Australia and the blossom is coming out and the grass is growing at a rapid rate. The days are getting longer but the nights are still cold. I’m looking forward to reading all the things that need to be done at Highclere as you descend into the winter months.
I must chime in, too, and thank you for the recipe! I would especially appreciate any others you care to post from the kitchens of Highclere. I love to cook, too. Cheers, from the Colorado Rocky Mountains!
Hello Lady Carnarvon. I’m so happy to find your blog. I’ve only read this one so far but am excited to dive into the rest. The recipe above sounds fabulous.I love using honey truffle on brie cheese. It’s a yummy combination. I’m an American but currently live in The Netherlands as an expat. But my time here is rapidly coming to a close. I have several things still on my bucket list and seeing your beautiful home is one. I see the castle is not open at the present time but will keep checking back. Again, thank you for blogging. I blog as well and it’s so much fun. I blog about my expat life. Today.. working on a post about my girl’s weekend trip to the Champagne region in France. Lots of laughs and bubbles. Have a lovely day. Lisa
I enjoy the old stories they make me find more grounded and clearer!
After having visited Highclere Castle (with guests) over 40 times this year, it is lovely to read your blogs and see the real estate. There is so much more to it than just the Castle and you allow us an insight into everyday life. A few of our guests are lucky enough to speak to you and whilst some of the American ladies in particular can get a little excitable, it is lovely to see their enthusiasm for this little corner of English heritage. Looking forward to the next season. Best regards to Mr and Mrs Edwards too. They do a grand job.
My husband has recently discovered quite a green thumb. I’m now wondering if we can try our hand at quinces out here in Washington state as our weather tends to mimic that of England! Oh, and this is the first I’ve ever heard of “Michaelmas”. As it’s only 2 days away here, I’ll dig into what we can do to celebrate – me being the holiday lover. This is a lovely web site and it’s fantastic seeing you contribute online. Additionally, thanks for the recipe. I was thinking of cooking some lovely schnitzel and white butter bean soup might go perfectly with it.