We sit outside in the warm September sun just enjoying each other while she chops my veg and we laugh at the ridiculousness of life
There is a wonderful place in the market town of Wimborne in Dorset called Deans Court - a beautiful ancestral home owned and run by William and Ali Hanham. The house has been in William’s family for more than 500 years but has a history going back to 750AD when it formed part of a Monastery.
Like many others, the owners of these houses have had to come up with creative ways to pay for the huge upkeep and William and Ali have excelled themselves whilst closely guarding the essence and traditions of the property and land.
There are cottages to rent in the grounds - I have peeked through the gap of a slightly open door of one of these on my last visit and wished I didn’t live so close and could justify a stay. Attention to detail and comfort seems to run through everything they do here.
There are a host of events including pop-up restaurant evenings, tours, workshops and performances in the gardens. A few years ago my Beautiful Girl and I attended Pride and Prejudice with a picnic in the grounds one summer evening. After she died I never thought I would return but the gentle beauty and happy memories lured me slowly back.
The former Squash Court has been renovated and given new life as a shop and is one of my favourite places to pick up unusual gifts (often for myself!), thoughtfully sourced with more than a nod toward simplicity and tradition. Books, clothing, soaps, unusual cards, jewellery and fabrics all mixed with a few one-off vintage finds.
I am lucky enough to travel to this pretty town a few times each week and the Friday morning Yoga class with my teacher trainer, wonderful yogi and dear friend Hayley Gummery is usually my last group practice of the week. Hayley, who was also my daughter’s beloved teacher, and I have taken to sharing time together post class at this peaceful location with a coffee and often a slice of irresistible, homemade cake.
It is also where we discovered the most glorious vegetable basket scheme.
We excitedly signed up straight away.
From July to December 21st for £300 (equivalent to less than £15 per week) Deans Court offers gorgeous baskets brimming over with organic produce grown on their land.
So generous are the offerings that Hayley and I are sharing one and I am practically living off the spoils of mine each week.
We have had tomatoes, black and green beans, chard, potatoes, greens, leeks, figs, squashes, courgettes, cauliflower, apples and juicy pink figs to name a few, along with more unusual offerings like black radishes and other strange things. We can hardly bear the excitement when Fridays come around.
We both love to cook and while my fingers are damaged I have had to be much more mindful - especially when cooking but were there is a will there is a way and Hayley has arrived each week with her chopping board and knives to prepare some of the more tricky items. We sit outside in the warm September sun just enjoying each other while she chops my veg and we laugh at the ridiculousness of life.
This week I thought I would share a few of the things I have made and hope to inspire others to seek out their local allotments, veg delivery services and enjoy the abundance and the miracle of nature.
Summer Spring Rolls
I pack of Rice Wrappers
Assorted, finely shredded veg - I used shredded red cabbage, cucumber cut into batons, spring onions, shredded carrot and black radish and a few herbs.
Dipping Sauce - I made mine with a little peanut butter, copped chilli and soy sauce with a little water.
Have a dish of warm water to hand to soak the wrappers and a clean tea towel.
Soak a wrapper for about 12 to 15 seconds (see instructions on the pack) and carefully place on the dry tea towel.
Place a little of each of the fillings in the centre of the wrapper and fold in the sides and the bottom and roll neatly and continue until all the rolls and fillings are used up. Eat straight away of keep in the fridge for one day.
You can use any fillings really. My friends like soft lettuce, avocado and prawn or crispy tofu. but avoid things that are too wet or the wrappers will go soggy.
Leek, Potato, Chickpea and Parmesan Soup
This was a favourite of my daughter’s and I still have the recipe inside her cook book smeared in cooking stains. I don’t know the original source of this but i can tell you I have made it many times. I had also been inspired to buy a pressure cooker by my dear Cuban friend and Salsa teacher, Enrique Perez Valdes, who created an incredible feast at my home in no time at all wielding a pressure cooker in a manner I have never witnessed before! He bought me a wonderful Cuban cookery book for my birthday and it reveals a pressure cooker is a much-loved and much-used kitchen tool in the kitchens of Cubans.
I admit to being a little scared at first having seen my mother and grandmother use them as a child but am delighted to be able to utilise loose, dried ingredients so quickly. They taste better than the tinned, are cheaper and the cooking process retains more of the nutrients.
These following three recipes used one 500g bag of dried chickpeas.
I am and instinctive cook and don’t get too hung up about weighing things and being precise adjusting as i go along. My top tip? Taste as you cook and don’t be afraid to experiment.
A third of the bag of cooked chickpeas (or one tin drained).
NOTE: I cooked mine from dry in the pressure cooker. I cup dried peas to three cups of water. Brought the cooker up to full pressure and turned the heat down and let them for 40 minutes, Waited until the steam stopped and drained the beans. You can of course cook them overnight and boil for a couple of hours too.
Five med sliced leeks
Three cloves garlic
One large or two medium potatoes chopped into cubes.
Around 500ml of veg stock
Butter or olive oil for vegan.
Parmesan (There is great vegan version in most supermarkets).
On a low to medium heat sweat the leeks and olive in the olive oil or butter (or both) being careful not to brown them, when soft add the chickpeas and potatoes and cook for about minute.
Add the stock and simmer for about 10 to 15 mins or until potato is soft.
Use and blend to roughly blend the soup - I like it with little texture.
Adjust seasoning - salt, pepper a little more stock if you feel it needs it.
Freeze at this stage or serve while hot with a little parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
Leek and Chilli Falafels
A third of the pressure cooked chickpeas
Four cloves garlic
One fresh chilli
Olive oil or butter
100-120g fresh breadcrumbs ( I whizz up dried bread in my food processor and keep bags handy in the freezer.)
A few fresh herbs - I used parsley, lemon balm and mint
Sweat the leeks an garlic in the olive oil and/or butter until soft.
Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process for a few minutes retaining some of texture.
Roll in small balls.
Heat a little oil in frying pan and lightly brown the falafels.
Heat in the oven for about 15 minutes or store in the fridge or freeze them in batches.
Serve warm or cold with salad, yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon.
Hummus is great and heathy way to use up the last of the chickpeas.
I simply throw the remains third of the peas into the processor, add a heaped tablespoon of organic Tahini, juice of whole lemon or more taste, two or three clues of garlic and as it is processing I pour olive oil a-around two tablespoons, into the feeding the mix until it reaches a consistency I like.
Eat (last about three/four days in the fridge) or freeze.You can add roasted peppers, roasted chilli or any other flavours you fancy for variation.
Summer squash, courgette and pea soup
Mixed squash, courgettes - about 1.5 kilo - roughly chopped.
Frozen peas - about 300g
I large onion
Garlic - three cloves
Veg stock cube or granules.
Salt/Pepper to taste.
Fresh mint or other herbs
In a large pan saute the onions and garlic slowly until soft.
Add the chopped squashes and allow them to soften a little -about five mins on low to med heat.
Pour over water enough to just over the veg, add three/four stock cubes and the frozen peas.
bring to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for about 12 minutes or until the squash is soft but not disintegrated.
Remove from the heat, add roughly chopped herbs and using a hand held blender whizz until the desired texture.
Adjust seasoning. Serve or freeze.