October 05, 2012

Farm Food: Finding My Way

Food is a really big thing for me here in England. First of all, there is no take out or delivery service nearby so you have to cook. This was a problem for me when I first started coming here age 23 because I hadn’t yet progressed much beyond college cooking. With my future husband unable to prepare anything other than eggs, baked beans and toast I had no choice but to go down to the local bookshop and get inspired. That first summer I cooked my way through The River Cafe cookbook, and then onto Nigella Lawson the second summer, Tamasin Day Lewis the third, Jamie Oliver the 4th, and so on. This past summer, along with the rest of the world, I made my way through Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty (much to the delight of my vegetarian daughter), and am now moving onto Hugh Fernley-Whittenstall’s “Three Good Things” which is delightfully simple, easy and delicious. You can see I like a cookbook trend. Anyway, this is the way I learned to cook, and mostly only in the summers when I was in England. Every year I managed to convince myself that I would cook more when I went back to New York, but I was always too busy, too stressed or too disorganized.

So now that I am here, my cooking is inspired by my beloved cookbooks, but it really centers around three things: meat, eggs and fresh produce. Where we live in Oxfordshire there are three excellent butchers all equidistant from our house, but in opposite directions from each other. So whichever way I am driving to or away from home, there is always a convenient opportunity to buy an excellent piece of meat. Pork with crackling, leg of lamb, and organic free range chicken are my most frequent purchases.

Then there are the eggs. In addition to our own chickens, my husband’s brother and sister, who also live on the farm, have their own laying chickens too. So we are constantly trying to think of new ways to use the eggs. There is no shame about having fried, boiled, or scrambled eggs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner here. My cholesterol must be through the roof!

And finally, the produce. While we won’t be able to get our own vegetable garden going until the spring, there are two other kitchen gardens on the farm, and each one could probably feed all three families on its own. So I am always thinking about what is fresh and what needs to be eaten quickly or in great quantity. When I have an abundance that proves too much to cook, I relieve guilt by squeezing them into juice. And if that doesn’t happen then the pigs get it, which is fine with me too. But we do have lots of fruit in our garden – pears, apples, all kinds of berries – which has prompted me to search for a baking cookbook. Any suggestions?

The bounty from the kitchen garden.
Leg of lamb, just about to go into the oven. I sliced a very sharp knife into the skin and stuffed a clove of garlic and some rosemary into each hole. While I have always loved that bright green, completely artificial version of mint jelly that Polaner makes in America, I have been won over by a more naturally colored one here in England that tastes a bit more real.
This is the farm stand at my kids’ school. They have their own chicken eggs and make their own jam. It’s one of the things that won me over when I first visited the school.


My first meal from “Three Good Things” – chicken, tarragon and roasted tomatoes. Easy to cook and totally delicious.


We’ve had an incredible blackberry season. You know, I never thought I liked blackberries, but eating them straight after picking is delicious! They are much sweeter than any store bought ones I have ever tried.
Lunch is usually a collection of leftovers from previous dinners. My son is a dedicated carnivore and my daughter is a vegetarian, so usually some combination of things I have made for them is perfect for me.


I never get over the wonder of freshly laid eggs. Collecting them never gets boring.


My breakfast most days of the week. I have soft boiled eggs down to a science. You boil the water and just as its starting to bubble you drop two lit matches into the water (not sure the science behind this but it prevents the cold eggs from cracking as they enter the hot water, according to Tamasin Day Lewis). Then gently drop the eggs in for exactly four and half minutes which ensures the white part is cooked by the yolk is runny enough to dip buttered soldiers (toast strips) into. Salt and pepper are a must.


I never get tired of this kale salad with butternut squash, toasted almonds and clothbound cheddar. If you can believe it, Katie Holmes first told me about it at a Calvin Klein fashion week dinner. It’s from a restaurant in NYC called Northern Spy. You can find the recipe online.
It was very very wet here this summer so our raspberries where huge but a little watery. We ate loads nonetheless.
My first ever pie made with blackberries and apples from our backyard. I have to admit that I cheated on the crust – I bought the pastry. It was still delicious, but now that I’ve done it once, I’ll make my own next time.


Sometimes I crave one of my favorite meals from NYC and have no choice but to recreate it. This one is inspired by my favorite lunch from Pain Quotidien.


I was so excited the first time I saw artichokes growing. The whole plant is so beautiful.


More garden bounty.


(My secret treat when I’m in Oxford!).


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7 years 9 months ago

Love the photos! You're making me want to take a trip to the English countryside in the fall! Coming from a region of endless clouds and rain, that is saying something about the magic of a farm story:)


Caren Day
7 years 9 months ago
Beautiful photos of the food! I personally have a great love for the grilled vegetable salad at the Ivy and you can find the recipe in one of Lynn Von Kerstling's books at her store Indigo Seas. Indigo Seas is the shop Lynn opened right next door to the Ivy and is filled with wonderful treasures. The book itself is a great collection of photos from her homes and store mixed with recipes from the Ivy and her own personal cookbook. Check out the store next time you're in LA. Also, an old standby of mine is Julia Child's Mastering… Read more »
7 years 9 months ago

Love the artichoke plant, never saw the whole plant before:) xo Caroline

Bumble at home
7 years 9 months ago

Sarah Raven In Season is great,just the proper sort of simple food I think you would like.I live a similar life to yours at the moment but in Australia and use her book all the time, so easy to look up relevant recipes to the veg one picks that day.Love your point of view.

7 years 9 months ago

Gorgeous photos!
I second the Dorie Greenspan rec above. Her recipes are easy to follow, unique, and delicious.