Wednesday 15 May 2013

I Went South of the River and I Liked It


Making pesto: I pour the olive oil, Rachel mixes.

A couple of months ago, food writer Rachel de Thample emailed me to ask if I’d like to come and demonstrate a few of the projects from Gifts from the Garden to some like-minded souls in Crystal Palace. Rachel is so full of quietly determined Texas charm, it’s impossible to say no to her. Even though speaking in public is pretty new to me and fills me with proper white-knuckle fear.

Stupid, isn’t it? I’m ridiculously old still to be holding onto such terror so I’ve decided to say ‘Yes!’ to everything until I get over it like a proper grown up. My mum, who is undeniably the wisest person on the planet, sounded only mildly irritated when she said to me, ‘Oh for god’s sake, you love telling people what to do’. True.

So I went to Crystal Palace, the car rattling with mixing bowls, graters and knives and smelling deliciously of lavender and lemons. People were kind, no one threw things at my head, they asked interesting questions and nibbled happily on bits of bread topped with spoonfuls of chive and lemon pesto.


Grating ginger into the bathtime ‘tea’, which you infuse in your bathwater.



A relaxing tisane planter.



Making bundles of dried herb and flower tisanes.



Jars of rose and lavender body scrub.

I liked Crystal Palace. It has a busy high street with bakeries, delis and cafés, a good bookshop, and coffee shops where intense and Amishly-bearded young men discuss the optimum water temperature for making the perfect cup (SE19’s Amish say 93.4°C). In fact, it’s so like my dear, beloved Stoke Newington that I think we should have some sort of North-South-of-the-Thames twinning scheme.

That very weekend some of the people who came to my class were afterwards going off to publicise their brand new food market, which was inspired in part by N16’s award-winning Growing Communities. If you live locally, do check it out. It’s every Saturday, 10am to 3pm at Hayes Lane, SE19 3AP,


Joe, dressed as a carrot, to publicise Crystal Palace’s new Saturday food market.


Chive and Lemon Pesto


This recipe is from Gifts from the Garden. Do use its measurements as a template and experiment with other nuts, hard cheeses and herbs.

40g pine nuts
A generous bunch of chives, about 50g, finely chopped
60g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Grated zest of 1 small lemon
1 small garlic clove, minced
4-6 tbsp olive oil, plus a little more for bottling
Salt and pepper

1x190g jar

Warm a dry frying pan over a medium heat and gently toast the pine nuts until just golden and fragrant, rattling the pan frequently to ensure they don’t burn. Cool and bash thoroughly in a pestle and mortar, or pulse a couple of times in a food processor. Combine with the chives, cheese, lemon zest, garlic and just enough oil to get the texture you like. Taste and season if necessary with salt and pepper.

Spoon the pesto into the cold, sterilised jar, pressing down with the back of a spoon to get rid of any air pockets. Ensure that the pesto is completely covered with a thin layer of oil before sealing. Refrigerated, the pesto will keep for 2-3 days.


  1. Yet another beautifully written fizzing post I'm proud of your skills and always so love your generosity and enthusiasms about just about everything. Your not really so wise Mumx

  2. It's so nerve-wracking speaking in public, but i think you are doing the right thing in agreeing to do it. Mostly we don't bite....

  3. Thank you mum, and you really are. X
    Hello PL, Ha! Yes, I am finding this. And, ssshhhh, I am also finding I actually like it.

  4. That sounds a lovely combination. I'll add your link to my Universal pesto recipe (if that's OK)as a new combination for everyone to try :)

    And well done on the public speaking - it's quite a challenge isn't it, but sounds like you were well up to it.

  5. Hello VP, YES! Of course, do add it. It's a great combination and chives grow so plentifully in my garden I make it a lot in the summer as I always have everything else in it in the cupboard. It feels good to be conquering the public speaking thing one little recipe at a time.


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