The Shopkeeper Diaries – Notes from The Pop-up Kitchen
When we started the pop-up shop and kitchen café we thought that it would look all professional to have printed Menus for our customers. But because the seasonality of produce and the vagaries of Mother Nature are so unpredictable, we ended up having to print them at the very last minute, sometimes as customers were walking through the door.
One minute chard leaves are in full flourish and at the peak of their colour, and the next they are wilting in the heat of the summer. We planned to make strawberry tarts, only to realise that the fruits that were sweet a few days ago were getting a bit past it and are not so tasty on the day they were required.
The same with flowers and herbs – one chance land, miss the moment and it’s gone. So we kept changing ideas, menus, recipes and plans as we went along, and just published a “sample” menu on the website, in the hope that not too many customers would be displeased with our choices.
Garden writer Cinead McTernan and her photographer husband Jason Ingram are shooting one of their new book projects here at Bincknoll House, and so they kindly left some of their vegetable, herb and edible flower containers in our garden. We have been feasting on them ever since. I cut the produce daily, and I also water prodigiously.
It is amazing how easy it is to cook different recipes nearly every day with cut-and-come-again produce. All our guests commented on the taste – real produce as opposed to pre-packed supermarket fodder.
What we do not have to pick we buy from Maddison’s, the greengrocer in Royal Wootton Bassett, or Cobb’s Farm near Marlborough-Hungerford.
We buy our meat from K. and E.J. Crump on our high street. We try as much as possible to use the produce we sell in our shop – we only sell what we know and love, and we use it all ourselves.
Some of the recipes have been uploaded into the journal, so you can make them at home.
Many of the dishes shown in the photographs do not have a recipe – they are just flavour combinations brought together really simply, frugally and with minimum fuss. No drizzles, gels and foams in our kitchen.
We offered taster menus at £15 per head, or a little bit of everything. Courses were just £5 each. We’re just a pop-up café in the middle of nowhere, serving Mamma food in a homely way. Most people got it, liked it and some even came back for more.
Zucchini flower and marrow salad.
Pappa di pomodoro with lovage
Wiltshire lamb neck fillets cooked with flageolet beans
Carrot and almond hummus and aubergine and broad bean hummus, with garden herbs
Homemade egg tagliolini with English saffron butter
Herby fried chicken
A selection of Wiltshire-Gloucestershire-Somerset cheeses with dates and flowers
Lombard bread rolls – straight out of the oven
Chocolate, pistachio and violet cake
Lemon and sherry cake with strawberries marinaded in honey, thyme and sherry
Almond and vanilla cake
A selection of biscotti we make for teas and coffees
Our garden gooseberries baked with homemade elderflower cordial and raw cane sugar
Our communal lunch table