I am sitting in our plush, spacious and funky new office above the cookery school and attempting to write something coherent for the first time in three years. In truth, the office is not the testament to luxury I am making it out to be but it is an unimaginable improvement on what we used as an office/wine store/changing room/storage which was in total no bigger than our king size beds in the guesthouse. This new office is above the cookery school and overlooks our garden which has become an endless money pit but is finally starting to give us something in return for all the cash and effort being lavished upon it.
My friend, Tim Yorke, is overseeing the whole project and patiently travels from West Cork every week to give advice and help Michael Hodnett our “man on the ground” with help and day to day advice on the care of this particularly needy baby. Nevertheless, I am almost more excited about the existence and prospects of the garden than I am of my fabulous new kitchen. I love showing people around this unique space. It is, as you know, a walled garden slap bang in the middle of Dungarvan town – this does not crop up very often.
The lettuce, rockett, mizuna, chard and baby kale appeared in abundance last month. The baby cucumbers, broadbeans and herbs will come any day now to be followed by the tomatoes, five varieties no less! Courgettes, soft fruit and ratte potatoes soon after.
Conor, our amiable and canny local fruit and veg man is now buying ou salad and will take surplus of anything we dont need. This is a comforting arrangement – for the first time the garden is generating an income, albeit a modest one. This, together with the garden supplying us with 60% of our vegetables over the summer will start tomake some financial sense at last.
This hard nosed fact is of course only one side of the coin. I am practically getting weak at the knees at the prospect of cookign food and creating dishes in such an – well – organic way. It just seems so right and so natural. For all my cooking life, the process of menu design and cooking food has always been seasonal, but step one was to order an ingredient when in season and plan a dish around it without even looking at the ingredient. Now I have got a plan for the broad beans, the parsley, potatoes, soft fruit, tomatoes and everything else that will shortly make a welcome appearance. I impatiently check every day to see when I can order the lobster to go with the broad beans or Fingal Ferguson’s salamis to go with the potatoes. Its like waiting for numerous babies to be born and I am the father of them all!! I am genuinely more excited to be cooking the produce from our garden than I have been about cooking anything in years – it has given me a new lease of life and I think has been worth every bit of the trouble. Now if only I could convince my wife of that……