‘Don’t swear, Jerry. And don’t bleed in the sink. I’ve just cleaned it.’

imagesLet’s face it, the real star of The Good Life was Margo, a suburban colossus in a silk kaftan forever gazing over the garden fence in wincing disapproval. But Tom and Barbara were all right I suppose.


Now Sue Perkins and Giles Coren (above) are recreating the sitcom roles played by Felicity Kendall and Richard Briers in BBC2’s Giles and Sue Live The Good Life, it seemed a good excuse not only to talk to Sue about making cheese in old tights and dodging the ‘bum Maltesers’ of goats for The Sunday Telegraph, but to find some real life suburban smallholders – namely Ruth, Jason and their colourful menagerie. So, is it all pigs running amok and knit-your-own jumpers? Let’s see

In a right pickle


Since my garden is the size of a children’s bucket I have become used to dividing every recipe that calls for a home-grown crop by at least five – then phoning the local takeaway an hour later because we’re still hungry. I suspect a lot of grow-your-own types have to do this, and if they don’t then frankly I suspect they’re supplementing their ingredients with Mr Ocado or live on a remote Shetland Island.


But bravado clouded my judgement today. I’m not sure why I suddenly decided I had to pickle my nasturtium seed pods Right Now. Partly it’s because I love the idea of getting more than one use out of every crop I grow – steamed broad bean tips, pea shoots, coriander seeds, potato missiles to lob at the children…  But mainly it’s because I had actual work to do, work that would pay me, hence needing a self-indulgent distraction activity. Once there, the prospect of pickles was so delightfully New Victorian, so domestically aspirational and so flour-siftingly, home-made buntingly wholesome that I was powerless to resist. Especially when horticultural pals on Twitter emailed me a recipe – bad Twitter pals.

And so, undeterred with Twitter comments such as ‘I tried them and they were like wishy-washy capers’, and remembering to avoid the big ones since ‘they taste like cardboard’, I headed out to the garden in the darkening drizzle in my Parka with a Tupperware in my hand and hope in my heart. Only to discover that among this sea of nasturtiums that are clothing every bed, clambering through the kale and strangling the rosemary was 26 seed pods. This may make a tartare sauce for two.

I know, it’s possibly the most exciting thing I’ve ever heard. And I only have to wait a month to try them.

With thanks to Pam Corbin for writing the recipe in her by all accounts fabulous book River Cottage Handbook no2: Preserves… and to Alex and Simon for emailing it to me so I didn’t have to leave the house to go to the shop.

Nasturtium Capers

makes 2x115g jars

15g salt
100g nasturtium seed pods
A few peppercorns (optional)
Herbs, such as dill or tarragon sprigs, or bay leaves (optional)
200ml white wine vinegar

Make a light brine by dissolving the salt in 300ml of water.  Put the nasturtium seed pods into a bowl and cover with the cold brine.  Leave for 24hrs.

Drain the seed pods and dry well.  Pack them into small, sterilised jars with, if you like, a few peppercorns and herbs of your choice.  Leave room for 1cm of vinegar at the top.  Cover the pods with vinegar and seal the jars with vinegar proof lids.  Store in a cool, dark place and leave for a few weeks before eating. Use within a year.

To make nasturtium tartare sauce, simply mix 100g mayonnaise with 2-3 finely chopped spring onions or 30g finely chopped white part of a leek, 1 tbsp coarsely chopped nasturtium capers, 1 heaped tbsp finely chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Boris bigs us up!

boris_thumbs_upStartlingly nice news today that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has given a glowing endorsement of the Greenwich Podcast (wot I present) as ‘part of the new digital media age that is increasingly important in this area and I congratulate everyone involved in it’. See here for more/actual aural evidence in case you don’t believe me. Am currently basking in a pleasant blond floppy-fringed haze.


And you think your garden’s small?

Last summer, while working on my book The Edible Balcony (out April 7 next year published by Kyle Cathie, folks), I discovered a tiny balcony in north London that rather blew my mind. I’ve always thought I had a small garden – 50 foot by about 15 – and constantly whinge about the fact to anyone within earshot, but this 9 x 6 foot ledge is positively Lilliputian. With a heady dash of Heath Robinson thrown in.

As someone who struggles to bend a coat hanger into a different shape sucessfully I find the fact that someone has managed to rig up a self-watering system from their roof via bathroom piping, an old olive oil barrel and floorboards found in skips completely dumbfounding. The micro gardener on high is Mark Ridsdill-Smith and his recent announcement that he’s grown £669-worth of food there seemed bonkers enough to be worth talking to him about. So I coaxed him away from his microgreens for half an hour for this piece in last week’s  The Sunday Telegraph – just don’t mention the runner beans.