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Can you believe that summer is almost over? My garden is wild and enthusiastic, my small harvest looms, and my tomatoes are finally turning a glorious red. Autumn is almost here. The sun is bolstered with crisp air, and the evenings are drawing in. The leaves have started to fall off the trees in my garden.

I stayed still for much of this summer. At home, working and writing, progressing things while standing still, for a change. I needed it. I wanted to explore the possibility of a kitchen garden, to focus my energies and deny jet lag. To gather, and I wanted to be in London for a bit. 

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I did bounce out of London occasionally. To cook with fire at Limewood Hotel, and I went to Wilderness. Wilderness is a country side festival with a lot of great food as well as music, and lots of random stuff in between. Packed with urban escapees like myself, Wilderness is one of the best festivals in the UK for food and drink obsessives. I see so many chefs and food writers that I know there. When I go, I spend my time eating lovely food (Quality Chop House and Bubbledogs were favourite this year, after the banquet) and drinking nice wine and cocktails (Nobel Rot and Simspith, hello!), and then I think about the music. 

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I love a banquet. Exuberant and bountiful, the banquets at Wilderness are fun. This year Virgilio Martinez, Skye Gyngell and Raymond Blanc cooked, and I went to Skye’s banquet on the Friday. In a large open sided marquee the banquets are served on long sharing tables. A lively band greeted as we entered and we were served a spring blush in summer, an aperol spritz meets gin fizz with gin, aperol, fern verrow rose & raspberry syrup and sparkling wine. 

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Sourdough bread and tart kefir butter was served with cosmic carrots and radishes.

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An enthusiastic salad of goat’s curd, spinach, crushed broad beans was livened with a tomato and black olive dressing.  

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A platter of spiced quails arrived with slow cooked courgettes, tarragon and a bowl of aioli. These were really good, cooked just so. I had two, a chef eating near me had four. 

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There were two desserts, it was a banquet after all. A blackcurrant summer pudding with creme fraiche, terrific but upstaged by the wonderful tomato and peach ice cream sandwich. Surprising, fruity and tart. And a platter of them to contend with for the table. Joy and summer, in an ice cream sandwich. I love Skye’s approach to food and cooking. Fiercely seasonal and bright with surprising combinations. This was proper cooking served family style.

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Robert Plant was playing that night, and we were excited. We popped to the San Pellegrino bar for aperitivo hour in between. Cocktails and a swing in the sunshine. 

Robert Plant was terrific. But you all knew that, right? Fun times, great food and drinks. That is how to spend a great weekend. But don’t start me on camping… 

With thanks to San Pellegrino, who invited me to Wilderness.

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Niamh

Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.
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