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

Town & Country (UK) - - CONTENTS — SUMMER 2018 -

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’

left and op­po­site: dishes from brooks’ book. be­low: her home, fair­green farm left: amanda brooks and her dog gin­ger. right: her kitchen

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