I, like millions of others, sat down last Monday evening to watch the wonderful Mary Berry in her latest series ‘Foolproof Cooking‘. I will be the first to admit that I am completely biased but I did think the garden was the best bit of the whole programme. It looked stunningly beautiful and the spirit of the place was somehow captured.

Eating the garden

Writing this at the tail end of winter when the garden is long past its abundant fruitfulness it is sometimes easy to forget all its wonderful gifts. So, most importantly, the programme served as a reminder of the garden’s potential, a reassurance that, in the nature of these things, we will, once again be harvesting and eating the garden.

Mary did a wonderful job in promoting the concept of an organic veg box delivery. Flagging up its freshness, variety and convenience. How it encourages families to eat a range of seasonal veg and to know where their veg comes from.

I had an influx of orders as soon as the programme finished and they have continued to come in since. Of course, most of them were from all over the country, rather than within the 15 mile radius we deliver to but we have gained some new customers which is wonderful.

Jack Richardson with Mary Berry

Jack showing Mary Berry his culinary creations

I did feel, however, that there was a missed opportunity, a disconnect somehow between the garden and her kitchen. It is this connection that I feel is fundamental to everything we do at Coleshill. Eating and cooking the garden.

Her recipes used tin tomatoes, shop bought pesto and a cauliflower that was a poor relation of the wonderful romanesco that she saw in our garden. In contrast, when she sat down to lunch at ours, cooked by my son Jack, everything from the garden was on the table… leek and cheddar tart; spelt with kale, Parmesan and lemon; roast beetroot; red peppers with boiled eggs and capers; roasted romanesco with pine nuts and zatar; roasted squash with tahini dressing; French beans with borlotti beans and cherry tomatoes and a pesto dressing.

Literally the garden on the table.

The Woodspeen

Earlier this week I ate at a restaurant near Newbury called The Woodspeen. I met the executive chef, John Campbell, who was working in the Polytunnel; I was there to see his garden. It is their second season.

In the Polytunnel were salad plants, nearly ready to be planted out. There were eight raised beds, a fruit cage and a composting area. The garden was meters away from the kitchen, the chefs are responsible for maintaining the garden and harvesting the vegetables. The diners get the freshest of vegetables, grown organically and sustainably and meters away from where they are eaten.

Sonia Oliver and Woodspeen executive chef John Campbell

Sonia meets John Campbell

John explained that the thinking behind the garden was to ensure a seasonal menu, that the chefs had respect and care for the produce, that none was wasted – if you understand and are part of the growing process you will not waste anything. I loved the concept and the more I thought about it the more I realised that the closer you eat to the source of your food the more wholly satisfying the experience. We all have memories of picking and eating an apples straight from the tree and how wonderful it tasted.

I was reminded of an incident years ago involving my daughter, Flo, and cherry tomatoes. I found her, one morning, lying under the tomato plants, in the Polly tunnel. She was eating a cherry tomato while it was still on the plant. She explained she wanted to eat the freshest tomato possible, that had not even travelled a meter. This is the thinking behind the wonderful pop up feasts we have had in the garden – the joy of eating the garden in the garden.

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Caper Dressing

  • Olive oil
  • Cauliflower
  • Lemon juice
  • Capers
  • Sea salt and pepper

Break the cauliflower into equal sized, bite sized florets and coat in olive oil. Season well. Place in an oven dish, put in a hot oven and roast for about half an hour. Meanwhile make the dressing. Whisk together fresh lemon juice, olive oil, seasoning, capers and chopped parsley. Coat the cauliflower when roasted.

This can be a side dish or a meal in itself with pasta.