We’re very excited in my house.
Or, at least, I am. This morning, my kitchen was a room where I prepared the kids’ meals, which lately have included stuff like fishfingers with chips and peas, and frankfurters with mash. But now I’ve got hold of a copy of The Great Dixter Cookbook: Recipes from an English Garden, it is about to become a centre of rustic, wholesome gastronomic excellence.
For this earnest and beautifully photographed collection of seasonal recipes from the home of the legendary writer and gardener Christopher Lloyd, penned by its head chef, Aaron Bertelsen, is full of simple, achievable recipes that have re-animated the former earth mother (you know, before I had two kids) in me. And anyone who’s visited the beautiful stately home and admired its gardens – Lloyd’s life work for 50 years – will find its pages as inspiring as a walk around the grounds themselves.
Alongside the 70 recipes – which include world dishes such as börek (spinach
and feta filo parcels, below), shaksuka and cholent, all created from fresh, seasonal
English produce – there are gardening notes for the home veg grower, with a seasonal garden diary and growing guides at the back, with tips on composting, crop rotation, weeding, staking, etc. Bertelsen writes in the kind of chatty style you’d expect from Bob Flowerdew or Alys Fowler, which makes the potentially daunting task of starting a vegetable garden seem approachable and unscientific – as it should be. Easy-to-grow veg and fruit are covered, as are herbs and, pleasingly, edible flowers.
While this book may not be enough to equip the complete novice (you’ll probably need a bit more info on pest control, for example), it’s inspiring enough to make you want to pick up a gardening fork and could be combined with something more dedicated to growing, such as the RHS Growing Vegetables and Herbs (£12.99) to get the full picture of how a biodiverse allotment works.
Bertelsen’s recipes are designed to be personalised, depending on what you have in the cupboard and windowbox, and he references many of Lloyd’s original recipes – many of which are here in print for the very first time. There’s a section on chutneys, jellies and jams that use an uncomplicated range of equipment – but of course they’ll have to wait a couple of months.
This weekend, I’m going for Roast Vegetable Soup, Tuscan Marinated Beef, and the overnight-proved bread. Follow us on Instagram to see how they turn out, and for your chance to win a copy.
The Great Dixter Cookbook: Recipes from an English Garden, £12.95, Phaidon
Photos: Andrew Montgomery