One year ago, when I was food styling, cooking and writing for my food column in The English Garden magazine, the weather was warm, the sky was blue and the garden much more ahead of itself than now. As I look out of my study window all I can see is rain and grey clouds.
How quickly just one year passes. Without a trace. I forget nearly everything: names, places, who contacted me, where I went and who I saw. But I have a really strong gustatory memory: I can remember how sweet last year’s strawberries were, how green last year’s asparagus were, how tart last year’s gooseberries were.
In the June 2014 edition you will be able to see, in all their technicolour glories, Jason Ingram’s photographs of my recipes for green beans and roasted tomatoes with almond and basil pesto, baked aubergines with tomatoes and thyme yoghurt and strawberry jam brioche puddings.
If you possess a sheltered greenhouse, a warm conservatory window, or even a south-facing garden shed, you can grow tomatoes out of a grow bag, big long, terracotta toms or even a cast iron bath tub. Same with aubergines and green beans. Liquid seaweed compost, timely watering and a careful eye for aphids and slugs are required.
As always, I try to feature simple, frugal, easy ideas that can be prepared with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of flavour. Many dishes can be prepared ahead – and they taste better for it.
One useful tip is to do your cooking for the day early in the morning – leave everything under cling film and a damp cloth, and all the dishes will stay beautifully moist and ready for when you are ready to eat. After weeding, digging, planting, plotting and pulling, you will probably be too tired to cook anyway.
Food at ambient temperature is delicious – it is not “cold” food, it is pleasurably ready, traiteur-style food, and certain take-away London food retailers I know charge a very handsome price for the same sort of dishes I prepare every single day for my family.
I also find that during early mornings, with hot coffee, BBC Radio 4 and the dawn chorus, I am better prepared to focus on the tasks in hand. Undisturbed and unplugged into the world of e-mails, I can prep quietly in the calm of my solitary, undisturbed kitchen.
I hope you enjoy the magazine, your garden and your recipes this June.