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Georgina Campbell's Cookery Feature - Grow & Cook

The Great Dixter Cookbook

As we head into early summer - loveliest of seasons for gardens, whether your own or others to visit - there’s no better time to remember the late great Christopher Lloyd, gardener and garden writer extraordinaire.

His books are inspiring yet full of common sense and they read like novels, and his home - Great Dixter, on the borders of Kent and Sussex - was designed by Edwin Lutyens, who also designed most of the gardens that were the love of Lloyd’s life and remain one of Britain’s favourite gardens.

Although best known for their magical, densely planted floral displays, there has always been a practical side to this lovely spot, so food production has its rightful place here too. Lloyd himself was a self-taught home cook and a number of own recipes have recently been published for the first time in the Great Dixter Cookbook (Phaidon, €29.95) a beautiful hardback written by the vegetable gardener and resident cook at Great Dixter, Aaron Bertelsen.

And, although there is no hint of it in the title, this is also a gardening book and, for many readers, an especially enjoyable feature will be the first and last sections, which are all about growing for the kitchen. And this is practical stuff for hands-on gardeners.

At the front, there’s a seasonal grower’s guide with favourite varieties, key dates and common problems all covered for a wide variety of produce, for example, and there’s a lot more at the back, including a glossary and guidance on basics like digging, composting and feeding, sowing and planting, watering, staking, pruning and harvesting.

So, definitely not ‘just’ a cookbook - but a very good cookbook nonetheless. Continuing the welcome theme of “Honest, simple cooking” that was so close to Christopher Lloyd’s heart, Bertelsen celebrates the seasons in the garden and the kitchen through his collection of over seventy recipes.

Ranging from the homely and traditional - such as Chicken and Leek Pie, Slow-Cooked Shoulder of Lamb, Apple Crumble and Beetroot Chutney - to more unusual and contemporary dishes, they all come with meaningful introductions that give them context in the ongoing story of Great Dixter.

Whether looking for inspiration or practical advice, every lover of good food and gardening will find it here.

RECIPES:

Chickpea & Tomato Salad

Chickpea and Tomato Salad

Serves 3-4 as a light lunch, or 6 as a side dish

This recipe comes from my friend Ellie, who helps me in both the garden and kitchen. I still remember the first time I had this salad. I was so struck by the levels of different flavour it had, I made her give me the recipe before we even got up from the table. The great thing about salads like this is that they can be eaten either as a light lunch or alongside something more substantial, such as a grilled (broiled) lamb chop or baked chicken thighs. Coriander (cilantro) grows very well at Great Dixter, but is one of those plants that wants to run to seed as soon as it can. You need to keep on top of the picking, and this recipe is a perfect way to use up a good lot of the herb.

2 x 400-g/14-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
16 cherry tomatoes, cut in half good handful chopped coriander (cilantro) or flat-leaf parsley
7.5-cm/3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated?
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Pat the chickpeas dry with paper towels. Put into a bowl, then add all the other ingredients. Mix well and let sit a while to let the flavours meld. Mix again before serving.

 

Beet Top And Feta Tart

Beet Top And Feta Tart

Serves 8

Once I mastered pastry-making, there was no stopping me, and any meal became an excuse to make a tart. As?time went on, I started looking for new ingredients to mix together. Beet tops (greens) are often ready in the spring before the spinach and chard, which is what gave me the inspiration for this tart. They have a nutty, earthy flavour and are also good eaten on their own as a steamed or boiled vegetable. I love this tart so much that I cook and freeze the leaves for those times we do not have any.

oil or butter, for greasing?
1 x12 oz/350g quantity chilled Shortcrust Pastry (12oz/350g flour, 6 oz/175g butter etc)
flour, for dusting?
beet tops (greens) from 8 plants, rinsed and chopped?
175 g/6 oz feta cheese, diced or crumbled?
300 ml/10 oz (11⁄4 cups) crème fraiche
3 eggs
100 ml/31/2 fl oz (scant 1⁄2 cup) milk
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, placing an oven rack in the lower part of it. Grease a 30-cm/12-inch loose-bottom tart pan.
Roll out the pastry (dough) on a lightly floured work surface until it is large enough to line your tart pan.

Put the beet tops (greens) into a pan with just the water that clings to them after washing. Cover with a lid, cook over?low heat for about 5 minutes until wilted. Let cool, then drain and spread over the bottom of the pastry case (shell). Sprinkle with the feta.

Put the crème fraiche, eggs and milk into a bowl and beat together. Pour this mixture into the pastry case and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 40–45 minutes until just set.

Take the tart out of the oven and carefully slip off the outer ring, leaving the tart sitting on the base. Return to the oven on the baking sheet for another 5–10 minutes so that the sides get really crisp.

 

Raspberry Ice-Cream

Raspberry Ice-Cream

Serves 4–6

Home-grown raspberries have such a good flavour that they’re great to eat just as they are, but a number of my friends make it clear when they come to visit that fruit alone does not constitute a proper pudding. This ice-cream is the perfect solution. As it can be made in advance, it gives you more time with your guests – and it uses up any surplus fruit from the garden.

250 g/9 oz (2 cups) raspberries,
plus extra to serve
225 g/8 oz (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
2 eggs, plus 4 egg yolks (save the whites for another dish)
600 ml/1 pint double (heavy) cream

Put the raspberries and 2 tablespoons of the sugar into a small pan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, keeping your eye on it the whole time. Simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened, then push through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding the seeds.

Put the eggs, yolks and remaining sugar into a heatproof bowl and whisk briefly to combine. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure it does not actually touch the water, and whisk for 3–4 minutes, until the mixture is thick and pale and has doubled in volume. Take off the heat and continue whisking until the mixture is cool (about 3 minutes).

Whip the cream in a separate bowl until it forms soft peaks. Fold it gently into the cool egg mixture until just combined. Pour into a shallow freezer-proof container or dish. Gently swirl the raspberry coulis through the mixture, cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) or a lid and freeze for 3 hours.

Remove and beat with a fork to break up the ice crystals, then return to the freezer for another 3 hours.

For easier serving, allow the ice-cream to soften slightly at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Scoop into bowls and serve, topped with extra raspberries.

 

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