GROW & COOK

This month: Na­tional Trust Treng­wain­ton

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - words by ruth chan­dler pho­to­graphs by brent darby food and drink ed­i­tor ali­son walker

A new se­ries fea­tur­ing recipes from cel­e­brated kitchen gar­dens. This month: Na­tional Trust Treng­wain­ton in Corn­wall

fra­grant, ma­genta-hued roses ram­ble around the arched door­way of Treng­wain­ton Tea­rooms’ south-fac­ing, sun-soaked walled gar­den in June. In­side, the scents of orange jas­mine and hon­ey­suckle, which climb the brick­work, min­gle with that of scones warm from the oven. Par­ents sit on pic­nic rugs and de­vour cream teas, while their chil­dren play on the lawn among the ap­ple trees, and sip on smooth­ies made with rasp­ber­ries freshly picked from the Na­tional Trust es­tate and honey col­lected from its bees.

GAR­DEN OF PLENTY

Be­ing based at the 25-acre Treng­wain­ton gar­dens near Penzance has been a con­stant source of in­spi­ra­tion for pro­pri­etor and cook Ni­cola Os­borne over the past ten years, while her con­tem­po­rary take on tra­di­tional fare at­tracts a loyal fol­low­ing of lo­cals and de­lights those from fur­ther afield. “At half past seven this morn­ing, I was pick­ing ‘Tigerella’ toma­toes in the glasshouse, while it was still cool,” she says, with a wide smile. “And there’s noth­ing like the sweet and creamy flavour of a Treng­wain­ton-grown ‘But­ter­head’ let­tuce – cus­tomers of­ten tell me they taste just like salad leaves used to.” Gath­er­ing pro­duce from a veg­etable bed open to the pub­lic comes with a con­di­tion, how­ever. “The grounds need to look their best, so we take only from the back of rows and make sure that any sym­me­try and pat­tern is left in­tact, too,” Ni­cola says.

THE FRESH­EST OF FLAVOURS

Un­usu­ally, the eatery isn’t a Na­tional Trust fran­chise, but an in­de­pen­dent busi­ness, which means Ni­cola can adopt the flex­i­ble ap­proach that cook­ing with a sea­sonal sup­ply of food re­quires; as much as a quar­ter of the food on her sum­mer menu is sown, grown and har­vested at Treng­wain­ton, quite a feat con­sid­er­ing that she serves lunch to around 4,000 cus­tomers each sea­son. The self-taught chef loves work­ing ‘off the cuff ’ and has en­joyed putting dif­fer­ent flavours to­gether since the age of five, when she helped her mother in the fam­ily guest­house near Hel­ston in ex­change for more time at the beach. Today she some­times dis­cov­ers a trug full of veg­eta­bles by the door first thing, left by a mem­ber of the gar­den­ing team, in which case she changes the menu that day: “If it’s broad beans, for ex­am­ple, they might be com­bined with feta cheese and mint in a tart or put into a salad.” New pota­toes ‘Char­lotte’ or ‘Ni­cola’ are baked with smoked ba­con, eggs, cream and Ched­dar in a pas­try­less dish in­spired by quiche Lor­raine.

Noth­ing goes to waste – any over-ripe toma­toes are cooked with oregano, mar­jo­ram, pars­ley and basil to make a Mediter­ranean sauce for lasagne. Later in the sum­mer, the in­evitable gluts of cour­gettes are met with en­thu­si­asm, not ex­as­per­a­tion, and made into a soup with ground and toasted al­monds, rata­touille and a va­ri­ety of side dishes, while Ni­cola’s sis­ter Jil­lian Rich trans­forms the rest into her pop­u­lar lemon and cour­gette cake.

SERV­ING THE COM­MU­NITY

As well as sup­ply­ing the tea­rooms and at­tract­ing vis­i­tors from far and wide, the 200-year-old or­gan­i­cally cul­ti­vated kitchen gar­den at Treng­wain­ton of­fers mem­bers of the com­mu­nity a chance to learn and prac­tise gar­den­ing skills; pupils from lo­cal schools reg­u­larly sow, tend and har­vest their own pro­duce here. Fas­ci­nat­ing to chil­dren and adults alike is the fact that, in the early 1800s, the orig­i­nal owner Sir Rose Price had the plot built to the di­men­sions of Noah’s Ark as de­scribed in Ge­n­e­sis: 300 x 50 cu­bits (the length from the end of the mid­dle fin­ger to the el­bow). The beds, many of which slope, lay fal­low for 30 years un­til the team be­gan restor­ing them in 2008. Along­side the 19th-cen­tury Mes­sen­ger glasshouse where ten­der plants grow, the tall brick walls pro­vide plenty of shel­ter. This, com­bined with the mild cli­mate of west Corn­wall, means there’s no ground frost, only a nar­row hun­gry gap (when win­ter crops are har­vested and spring ones are yet to yield) and the team can grow ex­otic fruits such as kumquats, avocados, goji berries and lemons. Gar­dener Matthew Nixon’s ‘Re­ally Use­ful Bor­der’, par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing to school par­ties, in­cludes ele­phant grass, sugar beet, sugar cane, cof­fee, cot­ton and lentils. It is heart­en­ing, though, that, as well as en­joy­ing these suc­cesses, head gar­dener Phil Grif­fiths and his team, in­clud­ing five vol­un­teers, share the frus­tra­tions of or­di­nary peo­ple try­ing to grow their own: “As­para­gus and cele­riac don’t do well here – we still haven’t worked out why and are de­ter­mined to crack sweet pota­toes, too,” says Phil, who also plans to start a vine­yard, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Rose Price.

Af­ter busy days work­ing in the bor­ders and the café, both the gar­den­ing team and cooks prize sum­mer evenings on the plot when a sense of tran­quil­lity de­scends upon Treng­wain­ton as the crowds di­min­ish. Phil sums up their sim­ple plea­sures: “The shad­ows are long, the brick walls ra­di­ate heat and noth­ing tastes sweeter than a pea eaten straight from the pod.” Turn the page for a se­lec­tion of de­li­cious recipes us­ing sea­sonal pro­duce.

Treng­wain­ton Tea­rooms, Madron, Penzance, Corn­wall. Open Sun­day to Thurs­day, 10am-5pm, un­til 30 Oc­to­ber 2017 (treng­wain­ton­tea­rooms.com). Recipes adapted from The Na­tional Trust Cook­book and The Great Bri­tish Veg­etable Cook­book pub­lished by Pav­il­ion Books. Recipes by Sy­bil Kapoor and Clive Goud­er­court.

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