The Mail on Sunday

Rachel Johnson


SIAN LLOYD and her husband, motor-racing entreprene­ur Jonathan Ashman, are realising their dream of becoming self-sufficient after renovating their sevenbedro­om, 18th Century Welsh property, complete with 20 acres.

‘These potatoes will be the first vegetables we’ve planted here,’ says Sian, 51. ‘I know nothing about growing them but can give you ten ways to cook them.

‘When I was growing up I was known as the Queen of Potatoes due to the amount I could eat. A meal wasn’t complete without them and still isn’t.

‘I do a great mustard mash but put so much cream and butter in it that the other ingredient­s become irrelevant. I’m not competitiv­e but I do have the edge over the others because I have the inside track on the weather.’ THE former chief of the World Health Organisati­on’s cancer programme says his finest hour was winning third prize in a marrow competitio­n at a village fete in Cambridges­hire.

‘I was very pleased with myself,’ says Karol Sikora, 60. ‘It was a whopper but not a very nice shape, which is why I only got third prize.

‘When I was a consultant at Cambridge I had an acre of land and grew lots of vegetables, including potatoes, so I’m reasonably greenfinge­red. There are certain chemicals in plants which allow them to grow faster, so I’m going to get on to the professor of botany at Cambridge and see what he suggests.

‘I’m also going to put coffee grounds on top of the soil, which is probably an old wives’ tale but is supposed to do something.

‘New potatoes straight out of the garden do taste better than shopbought ones and I’m going to have mine for Sunday lunch.’ DESPITE living in a rambling 17th Century farmhouse on Exmoor, Rachel Johnson admits to having never grown a thing in her life, bar a few bulbs.

‘There used to be a vegetable garden here with raspberry canes and all sorts, but now all that grows is nettles,’ says the 44-year-old sister of London Mayor Boris Johnson.

‘My husband [the National Trust’s communicat­ions director Ivo Dawnay], who’s been in the newspapers recently for failing to tend to the National Trust allotment, sometimes says we should reinstate the vegetable garden but I always pretend I haven’t heard him.

‘Apparently you have to spend two hours on a vegetable patch every day. I don’t spend two hours on anything every day. When in London I live in Notting Hill, where women don’t eat wheat for years at a time, so I feel better about eating potatoes and I love dauphinois­e potatoes.

‘I’m no delicious Ms Dahl but I’m not bad at cooking. A little attention often is my tactic in life, so I’ll apply the same to my potatoes.’

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