Town & Country (UK)
FORK IN THE ROAD
Since swapping New York for rural Oxfordshire, Amanda Brooks has discovered the joys of pork pies and picnics. By Frances Hedges
How Amanda Brooks swapped the New York subway for Cotswolds Sunday roasts
Amanda Brooks is sitting in a makeshift office at the back of the vacant site that is soon to become her first-ever clothing store, the epitome of understated Manhattanite elegance in a navy-blue shirt dress. We are in the picturesque Cotswolds market town of Stow-on-the-wold, nine miles west of Fairgreen Farm, the rural retreat to which she and her husband Christopher moved to six years ago. The launch of the boutique, which includes a small café, is the latest in a long line of passion projects for Brooks – proof that while she has given up the New York fashion scene in favour of country life, she remains, by her own admission, a born ‘working girl’.
It’s that same drive that motivated Brooks to develop an interest in cooking when the family first began holidaying at the farm, where Christopher had been born, raised and still kept a home. ‘We were supposed to be on vacation, but my husband was always out on the tractor or planting trees, so I started this tradition of buying a new recipe book every summer and cooking my way through it,’ she recalls. When a year-long sabbatical at Fairgreen turned into a permanent move, the desire to cook became a discipline: ‘I was preparing three meals a day – it was such a contrast to New York, where you get off the subway exhausted and all you want to do is order a pad Thai.’ Gradually, she found herself picking up British culinary traditions, such
as cooking Sunday lunch (‘I had to learn how to make proper English roast potatoes’), though she still likes to give her dishes an American twist: ‘I’ll serve chicken pot pie instead of a roast, or I’ll make strawberry shortcake from the fruit we grow in our kitchen garden.’
Being surrounded by so much fresh produce is a constant source of culinary inspiration, says Brooks. ‘I bake lots of seasonal fruit puddings, like rhubarb crumble, and I’ve started making juice using a combination of apples and, for sweetness, pears from the espalier trees outside the cottage.’ Before setting off for a picnic – a favourite pastime, especially during bluebell season – Brooks likes to visit her local farm shop at Chadlington and pick up the ingredients for a ‘cobbledtogether’ feast of pork pies, cherry tomato and bocconcini mozzarella salad, and slices of homemade olive-oil cake, all served with citrusinfused iced tea.
The idea of writing a book evolved organically from Brooks’ blog entries and Instagram pictures. Chronicling a year on the farm through photos, anecdotes and recipes (her own and those by food writers she admires, from Tamasin Day-lewis to Elisabeth Luard), the volume is designed to appeal to anyone who has ever fantasised about escaping to the country. ‘As a New Yorker, there are still things I can’t believe are part of my everyday reality,’ admits Brooks. ‘There’s something about the lushness when I look out of my bedroom window at the garden; it’s just a little paradise.’ ‘Farm from Home’ by Amanda Brooks (£30, Penguin Random House) is published on 5 June.
‘I’LL MAKE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE FROM THE FRUIT WE GROW IN OUR KITCHEN GARDEN’