The Ethicurean Cookbook

Even on a grey day, Barley Wood Walled Garden has a magical quality to it. When the sun shines, it feels like hitting the jackpot. Driving through Hotwells, negotiating the knot of roads that turn into Brunel Way and cross the river, dark clouds broke into blue skies and sunshine. On hitting the Bridgewater Road, leaving Bishopsworth behind and skirting Barrow Gurney; the city already felt miles away.

When I dropped by last, to Barley Wood, there was a sharp frost and the hard earth was all but bare. This time, the borders had sprung back to life; clumps of bluebells congregated in the orchard and the trees were thick with apple blossom. Dotted around the garden, espaliered fruit trees stood sentry and, there was the swollen promise of good things to come.

Part of my reason to visit Barley Wood, was to pick up a copy of The Ethicurean's hotly anticipated cookbook. I'd already taken a sneak peek from a well thumbed proof copy that was in the café for people to see and, was looking forward to the finished thing.

A pot of Darjeeling and a slice of their magnificent toffee apple cake later, having decided that it was probably far too early and far too irresponsible to drink a sloe gin cocktail (even if it was served from a teapot), I flicked through my copy of the book.

The book itself is a very pleasing thing and, although you should 'never judge a book by its cover', it does have beautiful one. A wood engraving by the Gloucestershire based illustrator Andrew Davidson, it is a fitting summation of both Barley Wood and The Ethicurean.

Inside, photography by Bristol based Jason Ingram, charts the garden as it changes through the seasons, and shows off the mouth watering dishes with aplomb. Part journal, part recipe book, it takes you through a year at both the café, and the garden that provides so much of the inspiration and produce for the recipes within. As well as showcasing foraged foods, there are tips amongst others, for preparing and storing ingredients; pickling; hot smoking; curing; confit and making tinctures. Pleasingly, cocktail and drinks recipes are also included, with even a section on oaking your own vermouth.

Unfortunately, they have kept the recipe for their delicious sticky toffee apple cake under their (bowler) hats. Then again, without the view of the Mendip Hills, the recipe probably wouldn't be the same. Instead, I look forward to searching out pineapple weed, concocting sherbets and making delightful sounding spooms.
The Ethicurean Cookbook: Recipes, foods and spirituous liquors, from our bounteous walled garden in the several seasons of the year -Ebury Press.