10 Best Things about Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival at Powderham 1st & 2nd May 2015

MediumGardenFest-MattAustin%0A.Matt.Austin 15

After last year’s outstanding success, Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival is back at Powderham Castle on Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd May and heralds a new style of gardening show, combining expert horticultural knowledge with plenty of delicious local food, craft, live music and family fun – a great day out for everyone.

10 Things ………..

  1. It’s a festival!Image 4“I love a party,” says Toby, “for me the festival is a giant garden party where I can invite some of my favourite friends to speak and share their vast knowledge but there’s plenty more going on too, it’s a place where you can kick-back, listen to live music with a glass in one hand and fine local food in the other surrounded by beautiful plants in a stunning Devon location.”
  1. We have more specialist nurseries than anywhere in the South West, double the amount as last year!MediumGardenFest-MattAustin%0A.Matt.Austin 3_2

This is where to get best advice straight from the growers who really know their stuff. If you love gardening, this unique access to so many knowledgeable nurseries is gold dust. Whether you are looking to plant the perfect pond, discover rare raspberries or pot some pinks, you’ll find a plants-person to talk about it with here.

  1. We’ve picked another great crop of gardening experts & broadcasters.Image 1_2_2

Toby will be joined in a packed programme of talks and demo’s by gardening broadcasters: Christine Walkden, down to earth again after ballooning adventures over Britain; Bob Flowerdew, organic gardening aficionado and Gardener’s Question Time veteran; Jim Buttress and co-judge Jonathan Moseley, both fresh from BBC2’s successful series The Big Allotment Challenge, plus many other fascinating specialists from the festival ‘family’ of nursery exhibitors.

  1. The location is glorious!Powderham Castle ph RinusKool

Powderham Castle is one of England’s oldest family homes and been home to the Courtenay family since it was built by Sir Philip Courtenay in 1391. Powderham Castle is located in a beautiful setting just outside Exeter, beside the Exe estuary. The Castle is open to the public from 27th March to 30th October 2015, and provides a perfect history-laden family day out.

  1. New for 2015 – Dining under canvas Tipi

For the first time the festival will host a fun “pop-up” restaurant  BOOK now for a delicious Devon lunch from Burnicombe Farm, in High Hat tipis set in the heart of the deer park. The tipis are just one part of a whole new selection of caterers who have been hand-picked with the same care as the specialist nurseries.” Dearly loved Devon producers such as Hunters Ales, recently seen on BBC2’s ‘The Fixer’: Victoria Cranfield, famous condiment maker and winner of the “World’s Best Marmalade Award”; Pipers Farm, best butcher and meat producer at the Devon Life awards plus newcomers like ‘Two Birds Kitchen’ in their vintage caravan and ‘Just Pigs’ who do amazing and delicious things with pork. There will be talks on growing edible things too from Christine Walkden, and many others during the two days.

  1. We’re taking to the treesMediumGardenFest-MattAustin%0A.Matt.Austin 31

There’s a new dynamic element to our event as “Teign Trees and Landscapes” have climbers in the trees at the festival main entrance gateway throughout the day doing exciting tree climbing demos and challenges and will be part of our spectacular entrance ceremony. They’ll also be offering harnessed, supervised tree ‘climbs’ for children and be on hand to answer tree surgery questions and discuss conservation.

  1. Young Gardeners can get muddy in their own marquee 

Growing Devon Schools hands in compost copy

“Growing Devon Schools” will have a marquee with ‘mud kitchen’ ‘musical vegetables’, ‘compost corner’ and more, providing an opportunity to wonderfully support young children’s natural desires to explore and discover, imagine and create, relate and interact with soil. Bicton College will be in the marquee at the festival, building a garden live on site.

  1. Kitchen Cuttings – a celebration of our nursery personalities. Powderham-Flower-Matt-Austin-69 (1)

From botanical cooking to urban mushroom farming, the ‘Kitchen Cuttings’ talks & demos take place in the Castle’s Victorian Kitchen and cover a diversity of topics that take gardening into other realms of interest. Meet Chris Greenman who took inspiration from heritage tools in his grandfather’s shed to create ergonomic implements that help the gardeners back; learn the tricks from Steven Hickman, the Agapanthus Man, who runs the only nursery which dedicated to agapanthus and tulbaghia, and discover how GroCycle turn old coffee grounds into blooms of oyster mushrooms – just some our popular and intimate sessions with exceptional exhibitors.

  1. “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme…..”MediumGardenFest-MattAustin%0A.Matt.Austin 60

Toby Buckland is the new President of The Herb Society, an internationally renowned educational charity, so as part of the festival we are celebrating history, fragrance and flavour of these plants. The Herb Society are bringing a 1636 leather-bound volume of Gerard’s Herball, giving visitors an opportunity to view this 400 year old book, on a rare outing from the Society’s vaults. The St Nicholas Priory “Tudor Herbal Wives” will be demonstrating their many uses and Toby will be discussing practical modern applications of herbs with useful tips and ideas on growing and enjoying them.

  1. Everyone can come to the party.

Everyone’s invited to Toby’s festival from novice or seasoned veteran, from nine to ninety. This year a bloom-bedecked Tuk-Tuk taxi will take those less able up the Castle ramp and over the moat to the flower filled courtyard.

MediumGardenFest-MattAustin%0A.Matt.Austin 51_2

Toby welcomes everyone to his festival at Powderham Castle in Devon and is also delighted to announce a second, new festival, at Bowood House and Gardens, Wiltshire on 5th and 6th June 2015. The duo of festivals will be celebrating gardening throughout the South and West.

Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival at Powderham buy tickets here

Friday 1st May and Saturday 2nd May 2015

10am- 5pm   Tickets £7.50 (or £6 if you book online now) kids under 16 are free


Directions here: Powderham Castle,  Kenton, Near Exeter, EX6 8JQ

My love affair with our NutriBullet

Originally posted on Devonium:

image This morning’s juice of spinach, cucumber, baby beetroot, strawberry, pineapple and banana.

A year has passed and I’m posting this again because my husband and I still share a green smoothie every morning and I’m glad I bought this little gizmo. Speed, that’s what I love about our NutriBullet. I used to have a juice extractor that took over an hour to produce one cup of juice – you had to chop the vegetables, ram the bits into a narrow feeder tube a little at a time, then take it apart and clean 8 different pieces with a toothbrush thingy. Ahhh! and you don’t even get the fibre. I sold it on Ebay with great joy. Now I make a fabulous fruit and veg smoothie every morning in about 30 seconds, with a nifty little machine that pulverises everything to such a smooth consistency I can suck it through a…

View original 637 more words

Lemon Curd – Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy


Just made divine lemon curd with the girls in 1/2 an hour. It’s liquid gold and really easy to make, with a few ingredients stirred in a bowl over boiling water.

4 lemons, zest and juice
200g vanilla sugar
100g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 free-range eggs, plus 1 free-range egg yolk

Zest and juice the four lemons into a heat-proof glass bowl, then add the sugar and the butter.

Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir the mixture every now and again until all of the butter has melted.

Meanwhile, break the eggs and yolk into another bowl and whisk lightly, then stir them into the lemon mixture.

Whisk again until all of the ingredients are well combined, then leave to cook for anything from 10-20 minutes, stirring every so often, until the curd is creamy and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove the lemon curd from the heat and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally as it cools down.

Once cooled, resist drinking it straight from the bowl, and spoon the lemon curd into sterilised jars to eat later.

This delicious elixir is much richer and sharper than shop bought curd. We recommend it on toast, stirred into Greek yoghurt, poured on porridge or just eaten straight from the jar with a big spoon.

Keep the jars in the fridge. Makes Two 250g jars


Vongole! Vongole! Vongole! with Dartmouth Clams

imageDevon clams from the Dartmouth estuary can’t be beaten at this time of year, so good in fact, that we ate them on Christmas day, followed by a stupendous turbot.

This dish tastes of the sea and makes a superb supper dish in just 15 minutes.

Serves 4


1          kilo of small washed clams

4          cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1          shallot sliced finely (optional)

3           tbls Virgin olive oil

1          a knob of butter

250 ml good, dry white wine

15 cherry tomatoes (small ones are tastier)

400g of spaghetti


1  handful of chopped fresh parsley

1 chopped fresh green chilli (optional)

Take a look at the packet instructions of your spaghetti and notice the recommended cooking time because you will need to know ( in this case,11 minutes). You will also need a timer.

Take a large pan and put it on the heat to boil.

imageMeanwhile sort through the clams and discard any that are open. Then peel and chop the garlic and shallot, measure out the wine and make sure the tomatoes, oil and butter are near at hand.

When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti with some salt, swirl it into the water and bring back to the boil. Start your timer. At the same time, place another empty pan on the stove to heat up.

With 5 minutes to go on your pasta (6 minutes into the cooking time for mine), add the olive oil and butter to the hot, empty pan. Throw in the garlic and chopped shallot, wait for a few seconds then tip in the clams and the wine. Shake them about. Place a lid on the pan, give it a last shake and replace on the heat. After 3 or four minutes the clams will start to open and release their juices so shake the pan to move them around.

When your timer rings, drain your spaghetti,

Remove the lid of the clam pot and check the clams are all open, then add the spaghetti and tomatoes.

Stir and toss for another minute or so to let the delicious juices become absorbed into the pasta.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve scattered with the parsley.



Vietnamese Roast Chicken with Nuoc Cham for Christmas

photoVietnamese Roast chicken

‘Oh!” The faces of my family fell as I brought a gleaming roast chicken with all the trimmings to the Sunday lunch table last week. There was a collective whine of disappointment. “We thought you were making Vietnamese roast chicken.”

I first went to Vietnam ten years ago, and brought back several recipes that have become much-loved in my repertoire. This chicken one involves pounding lemon grass, shallots, garlic, sugar and fish sauce into a paste which I stuff under the skin and rub all over the bird before roasting. I serve it quartered on a bed of rice with little dishes of tangy nuoc cham sauce. There are never any leftovers. This Sunday I’m cooking two.

4                                  stalks of lemon grass, finely chopped

6                                  large garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

4                                  large shallots, sliced finely

1 tablespoon                sugar

1/2 teaspoon                salt

2 tablespoons               Thai fish sauce

1 tablespoon                sunflower/vegetable oil

1.5 kilo                         chicken

½ teaspoon                  coursely ground black pepper


In a pestle and mortar, pound the lemon grass, garlic and shallots to a paste

Add the sugar, salt and fish sauce, stir into the paste. Add a little oil to the mix.

Rinse and dry chicken, loosen the skin with your fingers (I include a sub recipe below if you wish to look at a method for doing this) Take half the paste and push it under the skin over the breast and down the sides over the thighs.

Take the rest of the paste and rub it all over the chicken, and the inside cavity. Drizzle a little vegetable oil on top to moisten. Wash your hands. Grind the black pepper over the bird to finish.

Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and add 1/2 cup of water to the bottom of the pan. PLACE FOIL OVER THE CHICKEN SKIN then REMOVE foil 15 minutes before end of cooking to crisp the skin.

Roast at (220degrees) for 15 minutes then lower oven to 190 degrees for approximately an hour and fifteen minutes depending on your oven and the size of the chicken. Check the chicken half way through, the sugar in the paste may start to burn.  Also add a little more water to the pan if it dries out. The chicken should be cooked well enough to break apart easily.

When ready let the chicken rest under foil for 15 minutes then break it into pieces. Place chicken pieces on a serving dish and pour over the juices that have collected in the roasting pan. Serve with rice, nuoc cham, greens and a chilli sauce.

Serve with Nouc Cham Sauce

This is a dipping sauce that has many variations. Some are sweeter or more sour than others. You have to find your own balance, but for this recipe the sharpness of the sauce is an important element to compliment the savoury chicken.

2                      small garlic cloves, crushed

1                      chilli split and seeded

1 teaspoon       of fine white sugar or more to taste, dissolve in hot water if necessary.

2                      limes juice of or juice of one big lemon (30ml)

60ml                rice vinegar or mild low acid vinegar like cider vinegar

60ml                fish sauce


Place all in a jar and shake about to blend the flavours.



Stuffing chicken under the skin is the very best way to get moist meat and the skin becomes particularly crispy when you separate it from the flesh as it cooks.

First place the bird on the chopping board with the legs pointing towards you.

Starting at back, insert your four fingers of one hand, palm side down into the cavity between the skin and the chicken breast meat GENTLY PULL THE SKIN TOWARDS YOU WITH THE OTHER HAND, trying not to tear the skin. Loosen the skin from breast and legs by gently pushing your hand under the skin and against the meat. Use your index finger to loosed the skin around the drumsticks. Remove your hand and turn the chicken around and repeat the process from the neck end also.

Take the stuffing paste and using your fingers, gently push it into the pockets under the skin. Remove your hands from the bird and massage the paste down. Take some more and repeat making sure you get some onto the tops of the drumsticks too. When you have used half the paste remove your hand, rub the rest all over the bird. Place the chicken on the roasting rack, in the roasting tin and tuck any loose neck skin under the bird. Wash your hands and the board.



Devon Fried Rabbit

imageI came back from running to find four rabbits left by Jim, our neighbour. It’s been a bumper year for rabbits. He had thoughtfully gutted the little beasts but I skinned them with difficulty, (tough bunnies) and decided to fry them. I used the legs and saddle and discarded the rest as the fore feet and ribs are too bony to bother with. To ensure tenderness simmer the pieces in a big pot of salted water with a couple of peeled onions, a stick of leafy celery, and three chopped carrots. After an hour and a half, take them off the heat, let the pot cool and drain the liquid for soup stock.   Rabbits have chunky thighs and the saddle falls from the spine in two meaty chunks so it is simple to de-bone them. Next,  marinate the pieces in –

250g                            Greek yoghurt

1 tablespoon                sweet paprika

1 tablespoons              onion salt

1 teaspoons                 oregano

3 cloves of                   crushed garlic

½ teaspoon                 chilli powder


Leave overnight in the fridge. image

The marinated pieces taste good before frying so if you are really hungry you could reheat them and serve with rice. However, we wanted a fry up.

When ready, prepare two bowls filled with –

3 beaten eggs

A mixture of 250g flour, a handful of rough breadcrumbs and 2 teaspoons of salt.

Using tongs, dredge the pieces, one at a time, in egg followed by breadcrumbs and place on a platter. When finished, wash the tongs to remove the gunk.

Heat a deep, heavy frying pan filled with an inch of vegetable oil until it smokes. Add the coated rabbit pieces with tongs to fill the pan with plenty of room between the pieces. I fried three batches. image

Fry for 1-2 minutes each side or until golden brown.imageRemove with tongs, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm until all the batches are done.
imageSprinkle the finished pieces with more paprika and season to your taste with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Serve with your favourite condiments (zingy yoghurt tzatzigi, green chilli sauce and ketchup, in our household) and a crisp green salad.


Apple Pressing Season


Our four apple trees had a bumper crop this year


Ten boxes, full, like this one and a few more still on the trees.10550991_10152372374521375_6065058142811030555_nYou wash ’em, cut ’em up and

13982_10152372374331375_1921477360589261322_nSCRAT ’em. We don’t have an apple-scratter yet so we utilised our garden shredder which is more usually used to shred up hawthorn hedge cuttings. Uncle Peter is doing the scrunching in this photo and wrote us a wonderful letter thanking us for his ‘enslavement’ afterwards.



Then you press ’em



Result! Delicious apple juice, and real Devon cider for the Summer. What fun a bit of fruit pressing can be. 10702066_10152372373586375_3479498821071662177_n


Apple juice ferments naturally with natural airborn yeast to make cider. To stop it fermenting, so you can keep your apple juice for a long time, you can add campden tablets which are available from brewery shops and some chemists.  We tend to drink it too quickly for that.

Pipers Farm Sunday Lunch

Three years from field to plateIMG_3055-1

And well worth the wait.


Farmers and butchers producing grass-fed meat through sustainable methods of farming in Devon. Isn’t it gratifying when you find the best butcher in town!
What’s more, they deliver http://www.pipersfarm.com/meat-boxes

Pipers Farm Butchers Shop, 57 Magdalen Road, Exeter, EX2 4TA


Saira Hamilton, Bengali MasterChef semi-finalist comes to Powderham Food Festival

??????????????????Saira appeared on TV’s MasterChef 2013, and reached the final four on the strength of her delicious Bengali-inspired food. She was praised for her gifts for spicing and packing flavour into every dish she made, both by John and Gregg and guest chefs such as Atul Kochhar during a day’s masterclass at his Benares restaurant.

At Powderham Food Festival she will be cooking paratha (unleavened flat bread) in the wood fired oven, roasting aubergines on the fire pits to make a smoky dip, and more. She will also be demonstrating her famously more-ish Masala lambs chops with fresh miint and coriander chutney. Yum, why don’t you try making them yourself? Just click on this link –Masala Chops for the recipe.

Saira has been cooking for as long as she can remember, mainly inspired by her mother, Nadira, who had the intuitive ability to take everyday ingredients and create an extraordinarily good meal. She has continued her mother’s traditions and uses the best of British produce combined with the spices and cooking techniques of her Bengali heritage to create fabulous fresh-tasting dishes which are achievable without specialist or hard-to-find ingredients. Her food philosophy is all about keeping it simple and is rooted in her love of good, home-cooked food which is made to be enjoyed and shared with friends and family. 

Meet her at Powderham Food Festival on 4th October at Powderham Castle, Kenton, nr Exeter, Devon.©Shine TV