Sarah Raven’s First Perch Hill Summer Feast

Wow, wow and wow !  What an incredible weekend I have just had at Sarah Raven’s first (and hopefully not last) summer feast at her beautiful home and gardens, Perch Hill, near Burwash in Sussex.  I went with my dear friend Michelle and we have spent the last 48 hours eating and drinking, learning how to eat and drink and how to grow veggies with 158 other people who were all passionate about food and gardens.

We stayed in a yurt aka a large bell tent.

Tents in garden Which was comfortably furnished with 2 air beds and duvets, fairy lights up the pole and a vase of fresh in tentWhat more could we need?
inside our tent This is the view from the greenhouse looking towards the camping fields.  When we arrived the weather was drizzly and it seemed a long way up to the tents with our bags but there was a group of extremely helpful people to carry our bags for us, including Adam Nicholson himself who proved to be very proficient with a wheelbarrow laden down with lots of luggage.Tents in the Meadow

Having dropped off our bags we headed down to the main marquee for the evenings feast.  We sat at tables of 10  and enjoyed getting to know other people with similar interests.Our table We were greeted by our hosts, Sarah Raven and Adam Nicholson, who had managed to hit himself in the head with a sledgehammer while helping get everything ready !AN and SR Friday night’s dinner was selected by none other then Yotam Ottolenghi, one of my very favourite chefs ever.  He is Israeli born and his cooking style is influenced by the countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Armenia, Iran and Syria.  He chatted about the food we were about to eat and then it was time to get stuck in.Yotam Ottolenghi YO menu The roasted aubergines with Feta and preserved lemons were just divine.  Eaten with crusty bread I could have just eaten that for the rest of the evening.  The beetroot puree was much nicer than I expected and I will be looking up the recipe as I have quite a few beetroots my garden to use up.YO starter The main meal is one of the most delicious meals I have had for a long time.  The lamb was so good I think I had at least 3 helpings, I couldn’t stop myself.  Perfectly cooked, it was pink, tender and moist if you chose a middle bit and very well cooked on the outside and full of spicy flavours.  There was also a Tahini dressing which is not in the picture but it was just amazing.  The three salads were excellent too; tomatoes with pomegranate, new potatoes with peas and little eggs (quails?) and mung  and French beans.  It was perfection on a plate.YO dinner Dessert was pureed blackcurrant with cardamom cream, topped with walnut crumble.  Again, the flavours were all quite strong but they worked brilliantly together.  There is no doubt, the man is a culinary genius.Yotam's pud Having eaten plenty we headed off to the large barn where there was a bar and an excellent live band, The South Downs Way, playing country music which fitted the mood and ambience very well indeed.  The two of us were very happy (and full and inebriated) by the time we tottered off to our tent up the hill for the night.

Apologies for the fuzzy picture but it gives an idea of how lovely it was.  Yotam (we all felt we were on first name terms by then) is standing on the far right; he stayed for almost the entire weekend with his partner and baby.Perch Hill barn Friday eve Saturday morning dawned very hazy but not raining.  Due to the miracle of the digestive process, I was able to eat again in the morning and tucked in to some granola with yogurt and cherries, bacon with chilli jam, delicious raspberry jam and a very treacley brown and  delicious roll with butter.  I was clearly not on a diet this weekend!Perch Hill breakfast 2 The main marquee was festooned with colourful lights, bunting and tablecloths and was a very pleasant place to sit, eat, drink and make new friends.perch hil breakfast 1

I enjoyed a little potter about this beautiful place after breakfast.

seed heads on chair I have greenhouse envy!SR's greenhouse This is the other end of the greenhouse, where people sat, chatting and reading.  Yotam is on the right with his family.YO in greenhouse

There was a choice of activities for the morning and we chose to go on Adam’s guided walk around the farm.  We are so glad we did as we discovered what a very lovely man he is.  Such an intelligent man with a real passion for and understanding of the land and the history of this area.  He is a natural raconteur with a brilliant sense of humour.  An absolute pleasure to spend time with.Adam on the walkTime to gather together again in the main marquee.  Look at this extraordinary vase of flowers which is absolutely HUGE. huge vase of flowers There’s our Shelley Belles, chatting away.M chatting We were then treated to a cookery demonstration by Yotam.YO 3 Did I ever tell you that he is one of my favourite chefs?YO 2 He was great.YO 1 He had a very proficient assistant too.Lucinda and YOLucinda from Cocolicious 🙂
Lucinda prepping After showing us how to cook 3 dishes Yotam signed books but I already have the ones I wanted so didn’t buy any more.YO book signing Lunch time.  I had a quiche with roasted onions, goat’s cheese and anchovies, with a carrot salad and a green salad.lunch at Perch Hill Absolutely delicious.  Followed by meringue, strawberries and cream which I don’t seem to have a photo of so here’s another one of the yummy lunch.lunch at Perch hill 12-7-14

Now I do confess dear reader, that by now I did need a snooze so I missed Sarah’s talk on growing and making salad’s but sometimes, needs must!

I was awake and in the barn in time for a lesson on making cocktails and I certainly tried a few!

cocktail lesson Sitting in the garden in the early evening with a good cocktail and many interesting people to chat to is a splendid way to pass the garden Big thumbs up for the Negroni.Negroni cocktail

Dinner on Saturday was chosen by Hugh F-W who also gave a cookery demo.Hugh F-W He then went for a stroll while Gill cooked for us.  I bumped in to Hugh and he said hello and that he remembered me.  I suspect he was thinking of someone else but I enjoyed my brief encounter with another of my favourite chefs.Hugh walking in garden Gill is Hugh’s assistant.Gill I wonder if these two learnt anything new!

YO and Adam

dinner menu 12-7-14 The lamb’s liver was delicious.liver on flatbread I think this was roasted onions and nuts on courgette slices.onion and nuts on courgetteLabneh (cream cheese) with raspberries and watercress was pleasant.raspberries and cheese New potatoes and roasted beetroot was ok.potato and beetroot saladStrawberry panzanella was disgusting.  It was just wrong and no one liked it on our table or indeed elsewhere, so far as I could determine.  A huge thumbs down and a big yuck.
strawberry panzanella Served with mackerel and gooseberries which was really good.  The mackerel was cooked very well and went well with the gooseberries.dinner 12-7-14 Hugh did make up for what we considered to be, mediocre meal with dessert which was outstanding and better than Yotam’s.  It was a gooseberry posset (like a thick custard with gooseberries underneath) and lemon verbena shortbread.Possett and shortbread Despite all that food and drink, I made it through the night and woke up to a cloudy last day at Perch Hill.Towards perch Hill I wandered through the vegetable gardens.Perch Hill garden 2 The plants are packed so densely.Perch Hill garden

Through the greenhouse where I admired this lovely display.display in greenhouse Breakfast was similar to yesterdays and we then had question time which was very interesting and entertaining.  Sarah joined too but I took the photo before she took her seat.  This morning our chefs were joined by Valentine Warner.question time Adam remained interesting and amusing.  Michelle and I both wanted to take him home as he made us laugh so much but we thought it may seem a bit rude to Sarah 🙂Adam Hugh Yotam Val Warner After a really good Q and A session we went in to the greenhouse to learn how to make headdresses.  We could have learnt how to make bread with the Lighthouse Bakery but opted for some fun with the Flower Appreciation Society instead.Flower Appreciation Society This may be a greenhouse but it has all kinds of interesting things in it.aged terracotta I made quite a simple headdress – they are actually really easy to make.headress This was a frivolous, pretty and fun activity.making head dresses We posed for photos outside amongst the lavendar.Perch Hill lavendar Then back to the main marquee for a cookery demo by Valentine who got in to the headdress spirit 🙂Valentine Warner in head dress I sat here, with the summer sunshine on my back, a breeze and a delightful view, feeling very blessed to be part of such an amazing event.Summer breeze in marquee I hope Sarah was happy with it as it truly was superb.Sarah and Curly The final lunch was delicious; lemon chicken, green salad, beansprout salad, couscous and potato and lentil salad.lunch 13-7-14 Followed by a surprising and totally delicious pudding of jelly and ice cream which was paraded in to a round of very well deserved applause.jellies on a plate Have you ever seen such a pretty jelly?jellies and berries Strawberry and rhubarb jelly with basil ice-cream, summer fruits and a biscuit. Fresh and quite sensational.jelly and ice cream Then it was time for good-byes and thank yous to Sarah’s incredible team of workers.Thanks 2 Everyone worked so hard to create a truly magical and very memorable weekend.Thanks 1

Thank you very much to Sarah and Adam for such an amazing weekend.  We are so happy to have been part of it and definitely felt very blissed.




About Lose Weight and Gain Health

Hi! My name is Zoe and I live in Hastings, East Sussex, with my son Harvey and dog, Milton. I have been fighting the fat for years but this time I am serious. I want to lose weight and gain health. This blog is about how I am changing my lifestyle so I can lose weight but not by just "being on a diet" but by making small changes to our lives so that as I lose weight, I gain health. I want my family to be healthy too and never have to struggle with their weight like I have. In common with many large people, I have gained and lost weight many times over the years. This time, I want to lose it and maintain a healthy low weight. I am interested in eating food that is nutrient dense and delicious and that appeals to children and adults. I do not eat animal products so follow a vegan diet. I try to use locally produced food supplemented with what I can grow myself. I support and try to use local farmers markets and farm shops. Another objective is to add more exercise to our days. It sounds so simple when I write it down :-)
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13 Responses to Sarah Raven’s First Perch Hill Summer Feast

  1. laura1952 says:

    Wow, I feel refreshed just from reading about your weekend. I am so happy for you.

  2. lucy says:

    That’s so funny – whilst you were chatting to Gill I was chatting to his lovely wife Alice in the Uplyme Village stores! It does look like an amazing weekend. Completely fabulous. next year I’ll come with you.xx

    • If she does it again I will definitely be going, it really was incredibly good. I wasn’t chatting to Gill though, just taking a photo. He wasn’t there long but while he was, Hugh did make a very lovely speech about how they have worked together for 10 years now and how much he values him.

  3. suzjones says:

    Wow. Sounds like an awesome weekend. Thanks for sharing it with us. 🙂

  4. clairevwhite says:

    Thank you for such a brilliant record of a simply fabulous weekend, fabulous photos too! I feel very privileged to have been part of it, thank you to everyone involved for all your hard work and amazing generosity of spirit! Blissed indeed!

    • Hi Claire, wasn’t it amazing! I do hope she does it again as it was all so much fun and the food was so delicious. I have been re-inspired to eat healthier and have so many happy memories of the weekend. Thank you for your kind comments.

  5. Iain moody says:

    Ruth and I agree with clairevwhite in all she says. Thankyou and thanks for getting me in to one photo and Ruth in to two

  6. HI Zoe, what lovely photos, thank you ! it was a truly great week-end and so amazing to meet Mr Yotam and work with him, such a privilege. Hope to see you back in Cranbrook again soon.
    Enjoy the summer!

  7. What a lovely write up of the weekend, and such stunning photos! Thanks for sharing.

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