This is the start of a really good year. My beautiful little Summer House in the woods has been revived with the installation of my new Ironheart stove. I had been looking forward to its arrival very much!

The Summer House is hidden away in East Devon and has wonderful views out to sea over Lyme Bay, just a few miles from where I work at River Cottage.

Originally, it had a small open fire but it didn’t work at all well and, as the house is off grid, we had no way of warming it up inside.

It had been a bitter January and the little stone house was terribly cold. So when the Ironheart arrived I simply could not wait to get a fire going!

The difference it has made to the house can not be measured and it cannot be explained in words. The warmth that comes from the Ironheart is so reassuring and so comforting that you never want to let it die out, it heats the very fabric of the house and in the half light of a frozen dusk, it glows steady and strong.

I’ve liked making fires since I was a small boy. The first time I cooked wild mushrooms I was nine years old. I lit a small fire 15ft up an old beach tree we used to like to climb and in the embers I toasted the mushrooms like marshmallows. They were delicious and something I will never forget.

Im still cooking with fire… but less so up trees. There are very few things more satisfying, rewarding and tangible than working with wood and cooking good food.
With my Ironheart I get to do both at the same time!

So this is the beginning of my year at the Summer House. Im going to be cooking a lot there and every month I’ll put up some recipes. I don’t know what they’ll be yet. It will depend on what’s available at the time.
In late spring I hope to be catching the first of the mackerel down on the beach. In the summer I’ll find wild herbs and sea greens and then maybe Roe deer and cob nuts in the autumn.

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February 2013 –  Sunday Lunch:
This is my first recipe. Its also the first thing I cooked on my Ironheart. It was a perfect, warm Sunday lunch.

Slow Roasted Duck and Potatoes


4 -6 people


  • 1 large free range or organic duck (about 2.2-2.5kg)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Good olive oil
  • 2kg of largish white potatoes such as Maris Piper or King Edward.

Preheat the oven of your ESSE to ‘very hot’.
If the duck is tied up, untruss it and gently pull the legs apart, away from the body. This will help the heat get to the meat.
Season the duck skin well with salt and pepper. Put the bird in a roasting tin and trickle it with a little olive oil.
Place into the oven for about 35 – 40 minutes, so the fat starts to run.
Baste the bird with any rendered fat or juices then cover it tightly with foil. Return the bird to the oven and keep the heat to the lower side of ‘very hot’.

Cook the duck for two hours or until the meat is tender and easily comes away from the bone.
Place the duck on a clean serving dish, cover and keep warm on the ESSE top. Keep the roasting tin with all its fat for the potatoes.

While the duck is cooking, peel the potatoes in some fresh water. Cut the potatoes into similar sizes, roughly golf ball size. Place them in a heavy based pan, cover with water, add 2 tsp of salt and bring to the boil on the hot plate of your ESSE.
Cook the potatoes for 10 minutes or so or until just starting to break around the edges, remove from the heat then drain them and leave to steam dry for a few minutes.

Place the potatoes in the roasting tin, and turn them through the duck fat. Sprinkle them with salt. Make sure your oven is on the higher side of ‘very hot’, cook the potatoes for about 30 to 35 minutes on the top shelf then give them a shake and a turn. Return to the oven for a further 25-30 minutes or until crispy and golden.

To serve, take the meat from the duck – it should be giving and tender – and divide between warmed plates.

Serve with the roast potatoes, a crisp green salad and some good bread.