"When Dickon talks about it you feel as if you saw things and heard them and as if you were standing in the heather with the sun shining and the gorse smelling like honey - and all full of bees and butterflies."
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
This week's is a bit of a special post. Not only am I deviating from the format a little, it (most thrilling for me) features gorgeous photographs by the very talented Megan Marsh, who I've been having a great time working with lately. In early May, I hosted my first supper club at The Pigeon Hole Cafe, a dinner for 21 people inspired by The Secret Garden. Though not packed with references to food, the ever present garden and countless references to heather and the smell of honey from the moors provided more than enough inspiration. Dickon's baby lamb did too, but perhaps the less said about that, the better.
I've spoken of my love for The Secret Garden before, when introducing this cake and this sandwich, but I think it's worth doing so again (briefly) here. As a lover of seasonal eating (there is a reason why Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries and Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite are almost always in use in my house); The Secret Garden is a dream book - one that feels seasonal too. The gloriousness of British spring is captured on every page. We've had a particularly mild winter this year, but I've still welcomed the asparagus, radishes and spring potatoes with joyful enthusiasm.
And so, to the menu. Inspired by the frequent mentions of honey, each course featured some English honey, paired with salad (and gin), with lamb, with lavender, with lemon and with rosemary. If you do try the recipe below, try to get some honey from local bees - it will make a big difference.
Goat's cheese and fennel tarts with spring vegetables and a honey martini dressing.
Shoulder of lamb roasted with honey, lavender and rosemary, roast new potatoes,
charred spring onions and a herb salad.
Honey and rosemary cake, honey, lemon and ricotta cheesecake
and honey and lavender ice-cream.
Honey and Lavender Ice-Cream
Makes around 20 scoops
330ml double cream
Zest of one lemon
1.5tbsp dried lavender (ensure it's the type you can safely eat - picking and drying some yourself isn't terribly reliable, unless you can ensure that there are no dogs about!)
7 egg yolks
Pinch sea salt
200g caster sugar
40g pistachio nuts
1tsp dried lavender
Large mixing bowl
Ice-cream maker and/or freezer-proof box and electric hand whisk
Mortar and pestle or large knife
1. Place the milk, cream, lavender and lemon zest in the pan saucepan. Bring almost to the boil over a low heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the honey and sea salt until light and creamy.
2. Once the milk and cream are just under boiling point, pour it (and the infusing lavender) over the yolks, whisking continuously so that the yolks don't cook. Wash out the saucepan, then pour the custard into it and cook while stirring over a very low heat until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. If you're worried about it splitting, keep a sink full of cold water at the ready, and plunge the pan in to cool down if you think the mixture might be curdling. I find that keeping the heat low and stirring continuously works well in preventing this.
3. Once the custard is thick, pour it into a large bowl, and press a layer of cling film onto the surface of it (which prevents it forming a skin) and allow to cool.
4. Once cooled, pour the custard into the ice-cream maker and freeze according to the machine instructions. Alternatively, pour into a freezer-proof container and freeze for two hours. Once partially set, remove from freezer, beat until smooth with the hand whisk and return to the freezer for another hour. Repeat for three hours and then freeze overnight.
5. For the praline, melt the sugar over a medium heat until golden brown. Arrange the nuts and lavender on the greaseproof paper lined baking tray. Once golden, pour the hot caramel over them. Shatter with a knife or bash with a mortar and pestle and serve over the ice-cream.