How to sow, grow…and reap the culinary benefits

Gary Jefferies

GREAT DIXTER, on the Kent and Sussex borders, was the lifelong home of gardening guru and writer Christopher Lloyd for 80 years.

Although he died in 2006, his horticultural legacy lives on courtesy of those who now run the historic home and gardens.

This includes Aaron Bertelsen, who has published a cookbook celebrating the joys of growing your own, as well as some of Lloyd’s recipes.

Here he shows how you can create delicious recipes from the fruits – and vegetables – of your labour

Tarragon Chicken

The marriage of tarragon and chicken is one made in heaven, and more than enough reason to grow the herb. At Great Dixter, I grow it in pots that sit in the courtyard outside the kitchen. Christopher’s recipe, below, is unbeatable, but do take the time to brown the chicken properly at the start, ideally in a cast iron pan. The iron gets very hot and then holds the heat so that the chicken takes on more colour while cooking.

What you need:

Serves 4

Preparation: 5-10 minutes

Cooking: 50-60 minutes, or 30 minutes if using chicken pieces

Large piece of butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 x 1.3-kg/2½-lb free-range chicken, or chicken pieces if preferred

1-2 small onions or shallots, sliced

120ml/4 oz (½ cup) dry white wine

Several sprigs of tarragon (be generous)

For the gravy

Piece of butter

Handful freshly chopped mixed herbs (eg: parsley, tarragon, sorrel, chervil, dill, rocket/arugula), a lovage leafet, one shoot each of thyme and winter savoury, or whatever you have available)

175ml/6 oz (3/4 cup) double (heavy) cream (optional)

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8

  1. Melt the butter with the oil in a cast iron casserole dish (Dutch oven), then brown the bird (or chicken pieces if using) on all sides. Towards the end of browning, add the onions, wine and the tarragon, stuffing a couple of sprigs inside the cavity of the bird and placing a couple alongside?in the dish. Cover and roast for 40-45 minutes (or 30 minutes if using chicken pieces), or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast registers 75°C/165°F. Transfer the bird or chicken pieces to a dish, discarding the tarragon from the cavity, and set aside to rest.
  2. Meanwhile, make the gravy. Put the pan of chicken juices on the hob, remove the tarragon sprigs, add the butter, then stir in the herbs, mixing well. Remove from the heat. If using, slowly stir in the double (heavy) cream until combined – and that’s it.

Chickpea and Tomato Salad

What you need:

Serves 3-4 as a light lunch, or 6 as a side dish

Preparation: 10 minutes, plus standing

2 x 400-g/14oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

16 cherry tomatoes, cut in half good handful chopped coriander (cilantro) or flat-leaf parsley

7.5cm/3inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil?salt and pepper

This recipe comes from my friend Ellie, who helps me in both the garden and kitchen. I still remember the first time I had this salad.

I was so struck by the levels of different flavour it had, I made her give me the recipe before we even got up from the table.

What you do:

Pat the chickpeas dry with paper towels. Put into a bowl, then add all the other ingredients. Mix well and let sit a while to let the flavours meld. Mix again before serving.

Rhubarb Tart

What you need:

Serves 8

Preparation: 15 minutes,

plus chilling

Cooking: 45-50 minutes

Butter, for greasing

1 quantity chilled ready rolled sweet shortcrust pastry

Flour, for dusting

1kg/2Ib rhubarb, chopped into 5cm/2inch pieces

2 tablespoons demerara (turbinado) sugar

120g/4 oz (½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (optional)

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5, placing an oven rack in the lower part of it. Butter a 25cm/10inch loose-bottom tart pan.
  2. Roll out the pastry (dough) thinly on a lightly floured work surface and use to line the prepared pan.
  3. If using spring rhubarb, arrange it in the pastry case (shell) and sprinkle with the demerara (turbinado) sugar. If not using spring rhubarb, put the caster (superfine) sugar and 200ml/7 fl oz (cup) water into a pan and stir together over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil, then add the chopped rhubarb and simmer for 1 minute – you don’t want it to lose its shape. Drain rhubarb, then arrange inside pastry case.
  4. Place the filled case on a baking sheet and bake on a low oven rack for 40 minutes. Take the tart out of the oven and carefully slip off the outer ring, leaving the tart sitting on the base. Return to the oven on the baking sheet for another 5-10 minutes so that the sides get really crisp. Slide the tart on to a plate and sprinkle with caster sugar, if desired. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Recipes and images courtesy of The Great Dixter Cookbook: Recipes from an English Garden by Aaron Bertelsen, published by Phaidon and priced £24.95.

Times readers can save Save 30% today with code: TNT30 (+p&p) when they order online at or call 0808 168 9598

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