Thursday, February 16, 2012

English Country Kitchens

I have always had a thing for English country kitchens.  They just exude coziness.  The Aga stove, the larder cupboard, the dresser, the copper pots, the storage baskets, the big farmhouse table, the hearth, and the promise of homemade jams and freshly baked breads.  They make me want to pull out my mixing bowls and whip up some scones and brew a pot of tea.  I spotted these images recently and they take me to that place of comfort and warmth that the best country kitchens convey.  After all, isn't a country kitchen where we all want to hang out?  I can imagine a cook setting aside a day each week for baking in these kitchens, producing scones, pies and  cakes --  the baked goods that have always made an English tea so delicious.  

Pale blue Aga stove set within a brick recess 

A larder cupboard provides storage for baking supplies, as well as crockery and linens.  I love the blue and yellow colors that have been used here.  The floral linens add a prettiness to the look. 

Country-style gingham shade on the door

English cheeses like Stilton are often kept in a cool space, stored in a cheese safe like this glass dome

 A door rack adds additional space for spices, herbs and dry goods and looks so charming

All ready for baking day, marble counters look great in a country kitchen
 These pretty beaded linen covers for the jugs add to the old-fashioned look

A pretty magnetic board to keep shopping lists and other materials visible

Jams and pickles are canned and covered with decorative lids, pretty labels and charming fabrics

This storage piece for an apple harvest allows the air to circulate

Great storage ideas for the pantry
All photos above via Country House and Interiors

Ben Pentreath owns a home decor shop in London, Ben Pentreath Ltd., and spends his weekends at his lovely country home in Dorset.  He is also the author of one of my favorite blogs, Inspiration/Ben Pentreath.  I love reading about his adventures in the Dorset countryside.  This dresser displays his lovely china plates and Wedgewood biscuitware terrine.

With many of us going into nesting mode in the winter, there is a comforting feeling of warming ourselves, both body and soul, in the kitchen.  

I pull out my coziest country-style cookbooks for inspiration.

One of my favorites is "Home Cooking" by Laurie Colwin.  She was one of the best food writers around.  I read her articles for many years in "Gourmet Magazine" with great affection.  She cooked honest and delicious food without any pretense and her feelings about being in the kitchen often resonated with  me.  She wrote:

"When people enter the kitchen, they often drag their childhood in with them.  I was brought up on English children's books, in which teatime and cottage life play an important role.  These formed my earliest idea of comfort:  a tea table in a cozy cottage.  As an adult I have reinforced these childhood notions by reading English cookbooks as if they were novels..."

When I read these words I knew I had met a kindred spirit in Laurie Colwin.  My influences were also English books, especially English novels.

English food writer Elizabeth David is another one of my favorite food writers.  In "Elizabeth David's Christmas" she gives a recipe for "Sugared Oranges" that sounds delicious:

Sugared Oranges
"Halve and quarter the oranges, scoop the flesh from the pith and skin with a serrated knife and, adding white sugar, store the orange segments in a wide covered glass jar in the refrigerator, adding to them whenever you have a moment to prepare a few extra.
Serve the oranges chilled, in deep wineglasses.  Pour a tablespoon of Kirsch or Cointreau into each glass just before the meal, or perhaps a little lemon juice and a sprinkling of freshly chopped mint leaves."

This recent book on the domestic life of Bloomsbury promises an interesting look into the kitchen of Virginia Woolf who had houses in London and the Sussex countryside.   

I love reading Melissa Clark's column "A Good Appetite" in the New York Times especially at this time of the year when she features comforting country recipes.  Recently she wrote about these savory scones and suggests serving them with stews and soups.   Here is the recipe for her "Savory Scones with Onion, Currants and Caraway."  They would be so good with a great lentil soup.

And finally here is the English country kitchen that we see every Sunday night on Masterpiece Theatre.  I love this scene in "Downton Abbey" when Lady Sybil decides to learn how to cook.  Those kitchen scenes with Mrs. Patmore and Daisy bustling around and producing meals are some of my favorite scenes on the show.

I am inspired to get cooking.  How about you?


  1. Oh yes! I ate up every word and photo. I love watching British television shows for their charm. Two of my favorites are the BBC productions of As Time Goes By and All Creatures Great & Small. (I get them on Netflix.) The kitchens are just like you've described here, full of warmth and comfort.

    What a delicious post!

  2. Oh, I do love to cook.
    And you always have the most inspiring book suggestions for me!
    Wonderful post.

  3. Hello Sunday!

    I love cooking! It is my favorite things to do, baking and cooking especiall soups and breads and of course sweets.

    The English counrty kitchen is also a favorite, I woul d love to have an AGA but unfortunately my husband things the expense is not go good investment as we are not in our forever house and are probably moving in the next year.

    These images are fabulous!

    I am counting the days until the last episode of Downton! I cannot wait to see what happens but I do not want to there to a cliffhange with Mr. Bates until next season, I am impatient in that way.

    I hope you have a fabulous weekend! Elizabeth

  4. I've read Mrs Woolf and the Servants - it's an excellent book. It is so interesting to read about the lives of the women who Bloomsbury depended on. Running a home was so labour intensive in those days that without servants Virginia and Vanessa wouldn't have had nearly so much time to devote to art.

  5. I need an AGA. And one of those kitchen clothes-drying racks that manor-house kitchens always seem to have. I keep hoping I can find a house that already has an AGA, but it's probably not likely in Kansas!

    You know I don't need much of a push to make British food! Now I'm convinced I need to find a copy of Mrs. Woolf and the Servants. Sometimes I think it's too bad I don't have a cook, but then what would I blog about?

  6. Oh, scrumptious! I recently visited Harriet Beecher Stowe's house in Hartford, CT--her kitchen is wonderful, useful and beautiful and cozy. She really cared about such things, having written, with her sister, a guidebook called The America Woman's Home. On other recent topics, did anyone see the great article about Edith Wharton by Jonathan Franzen in the current New Yorker?

  7. Your blog is always wonderful source of good things. I always like the descriptions of the homely kitchen in Wuthering Heights and the way Nellie Dean goes about her everday routines, making the Christmas cake etc etc while Cathy and Heathcliff prance about on the moors!

  8. Oh, what a fantasy dream kitchen. Love the AGA, dresser and cupboard. Blue is perfect for this country kitchen. You have a wonderful collection of cookbooks, no doubt you've made delicious recipes from them. AND, the kitchen from Downton Abbey has been where you find me on Sunday evenings (I feel the cast is family). It is gorgeous!

    The French Hutch

  9. Connie, yes I saw the article and am planning to read it. Harriet Beecher Stowe's house sounds wonderful, I would love to visit. I didn't know about her guidebook, how interesting.
    Did we go to UCLA grad school together? If so I would love to get in touch!

    1. Sunday, you probably know me as Connie Neustaetter. I don't know when we were last in touch, but to fast-forward, I am a mapmaker married to a residential architect whose specialty is old houses; we live in a converted 19th century academy building in a CT village. E-mail address:

  10. Elizabeth, I know what you mean, I would love an Aga stove also! And yes, I am so excited for the last episode of "Downton" on Sunday night.

    Lauren, that was funny, yes you need to keep on cooking so we can read about it on your wonderful blog!

    Vintage, I want to go back and look at the kitchen scenes in "Wuthering Heights," thanks for the reminder.

    Emily, I agree with you about the cast of "Downton," they have become a comforting presence on Sunday nights.

    Joanne, I am planning to read "Mrs. Woolf and the Servants," especially after your recommendation. Thank you!

    Keri, I loved "All Creatures Great and Small."

    Pamela, isn't it wonderful how much we learn from our fellow bloggers, I certainly get so many great ideas from your blog!

  11. Oh me too - love that unfitted English country look!! When I was in publishing, I worked on a couple of Laurie Colwin's books - loved her - so sad, I think she was just 40 when she died. And I will have to check out Ben's blog - I'm not familiar with it - thank you!! Have a great weekend!

  12. I love cooking (the nice sort of cooking - the everyday stuff can be a bit tedious) and a kitchen like that would be a dream come true...not very likely to happen as long as I live in London though ;-) Great pictures and post. Have a lovely evening xo

  13. Oh, in your final photo I spy one of those little knitted covers with the beads weighing it down on top of the little pitcher. I will absolutely keep my eyes peeled for that. I would love to include it in my food photography. I also really like those scones!! And I love the light on the photo. I am making my weekly soup today and I may give those a try ...photograph too!

  14. I love this entire post so much that I hardly know what to say about any one thing! I adore every single item in the "great storage ideas for the pantry" photo. I'm a fan of Ben Pentreath, too, and I've owned Laurie Colwin's "Home Cooking" for years but have never actually read it--crazy, I know; based on things you've said about it, I've pulled it out and plan to read it in the next week or two. I also plan to read Elizabeth David's Christmas later this year, and I hope to bake some of Melissa Clark's scones soon!

  15. This looks nice! What a delicious post:)

    Lily @ cupboard