Winter wonders

Winter wonders

As I write this on a mild January day, I’m beginning to wonder where winter is this year. Maybe it will beat me to the publication of this column, but it’s been so mild up to now, we don’t really know ourselves here.

Certainly, we are making the most of the abundant celeriac in the Kitchen Garden, though some have been blighted by an as-yet unidentified grub. We also have grey fly under some of the kale leaves, and it’s very time consuming to clean off. Roll on the frost to kill the nasty pests.

Our Tipi is home to seasonal flavours, including celeriac soup served in gorgeous vintage turines with croutons, hazelnut crumb and truffle oil, which fills the place with a wonderful aroma. We’ve also been roasting the celeriac and it’s receiving praise all round.

The mild weather has kept the rosemary growing, which is a wonderful bonus. We did a lovely carrot soup in the Tea Room last week, adding bruised freshly picked rosemary at the end. The oil it released added a magical layer of flavour, while rosemary croutons added flavoursome crunch.

We’re catering shoot weekends now, so the chefs get to experiment with new recipes, including a delicious celeriac gratin with whole grain mustard, cream and parmesan.

Meanwhile, we’re planning the garden for the year, hoping to plant a little less, but in fortnightly cycles so that we stagger the crop deluge. It’s tricky – courgettes turn into marrows at the blink of an eye and rainbow chard is like a rain forest if you don’t manage your picking properly – so scheduling is all. We’ll also whitewash the wall outside our offices to create a ‘yarden’. It’s a real sun trap for growing tender micro-cresses. We’ve got edible violas all over the farm, and they’re wonderful for garnishing deserts and wedding cakes. I have an image of meeting up with brides and grooms surrounded by herbs and flowers as we sip coffee and develop their menus. It’s an achievable goal – until the tractor rumbles by! Happy New Year!

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