June. Month of hollyhocks and garden roses, sudden rainstorms and asparagus. A month of driving around and filling the boot of the car with the wild abundance that England has to offer at this time of the year.
We are in the thick of summer now and yet, golly, the weather so far has been dreadful. Sporadic torrential downpours, muddy puddles, alarmingly bruised roses, muggy monsoon afternoons. You need a pair of good boots in this weather, and a good book.
Heavy rain forever makes me want to scour cookbooks, to retreat into the kitchen and make comfort dishes, bake cakes, it's as if making food can compensate, somehow, for the lack of sun and ability to wear sandals. I am preoccupied by things I’ve seen at the greengrocers - gleaming aubergines, fleshy mango, fragrant herbs - new recipes I’ve read, unexplored dishes. Earlier this week in Marble Hill we ate burrata with grilled peaches, the creamy cheese contrasting with the tartness of the fruit and sticky sweetness of balsamic glaze; I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Food and flowers. It is no coincidence, I think, that some of the most innovative floral designers have collaborated closely with some of the greatest chefs - think of Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume or Alice Waters and Carrie Glenn (or, more recently, Max Gill), weaving together the freshest, most seasonal ingredients with locally foraged elements, fruiting branches and vegetables. There isn’t a greater pairing - a ravishing table, laden heavy with beautiful produce, flowers and foliage - and a good wine, of course. And the ‘gathering-up’ bit beforehand - my favourite bit before a dinner party - slowly compiling all the elements from their various sources, driving around picking up the meat, the candles, the wine, cutting jugs of flowers…
Jesse held a tremendous lunch lately, a celebratory family gathering - crispy roasted organic chicken from The Ginger Pig on Askew Road with thyme and lemon, fresh greens, tomatoes and herbs from the Farmer's Market, asparagus with parmesan shavings and fried courgette flowers washed down with elderflower and lemon, and lots of dry rosé.
The table was dressed with apricot foxgloves, white poppies, apple mint and lemon balm from a flower farm in Sussex, and foraged ingredients from hedgerows along the way home - honeysuckle, dog rose, elderflower, and from our own cutting patch we had English roses and pea vines. For pudding, a rosewater and pistachio pavlova with strawberries and scattered rose petals from a recipe by Wild Delicious. It was the perfect summer lunch stretching on into early evening, scented by the honeysuckle and roses. The candles burned low, the plates and glasses emptied and still no-one was persuaded to leave the table.
Some recommended kitchen-related reading we've enjoyed recently:
The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art by Jans Ondaatje Rolls
Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll
Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution by Thomas McNamee
The Constance Spry Cookery Book by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume
Hostess by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume
The Pauper’s Cookbook by Jocasta Innes