Feeding the artists part 2


It's been a few weeks now since I temporarily abandoned Tim and the kids for a stint in my Mum Annie Herron's kitchen, cooking for the students who come every Autumn and Spring to paint and learn at her residential art classes. And going back through my photos to put together today's post, I am ever-more thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Mum and cook for, eat with and get to know all of the people who came along.  Actually, after such a busy 12 months writing, recipe testing and putting together my book plus keeping up with other commitments - it was heaven to just be in the kitchen and cook whatever I felt like on the day. To work with such beautiful produce and take it wherever my mood, the weather and our guests felt.

Here's my second and final installment of recipes from this experience. And as I mentioned on the first post in this mini-series (!!), there are still a few spots available for the Spring classes and Mum has also just set next year's dates so get in touch if you might like to join us one day at Rydal.

Day four of the five day class is usually, weather-permitting, a picnic. Mum and the students' pack up a basic kit each and they head outdoors to practice a bit of al-fresco sketching and painting. Dad is in charge of setting and tending a little fire for chops and sausages. And I bring down salads, tea things and cake. The above lentil and celeriac salad was my favourite and seemed to go very nicely with the thick sausages Dad cooked over the fire.

Lentil and Celeriac salad

The idea for this recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi's amazing book Plenty. It's such a great side for this time of year and goes particularly well with barbecued venison steaks (but to be honest - what doesn't!). Serves 4

1 cup green 'Puy' style lentils
1 large celeriac, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1cm thick batons
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 bunch baby eschallots or spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp brown sugar

Place the lentils and two cups of water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still keep their shape. Meanwhile, cook the celeriac in a pot of salted, boiling water for about 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and toss with the lentils. Add the almonds, eschallots and parsley. Whisk together the dressing ingredients then gently toss with the lentil salad to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Back at the studio, Mum had the little pot-belly stove going almost constantly, plus a buzz of music and happily-painting-people. The weather wavered from snowy grey days to cool but sunny blue skies so we changed the menu and table setting to suit.

Rhubarb, quince and almond cake

Rich with nuts and full of punchy fruit flavour, this is one of my favourite cakes to make and eat. Here I've used a mixture of poached quince and fresh rhubarb and it was the perfect end to a lunch of soup and salad.

1 cup poached quince, thinly sliced
4 stalks rhubarb, cut into cubes
1 orange
50g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod

For the cake
150g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
180g freshly ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder

For the topping
Finely grated zest of one orange
30g butter
25g brown sugar
1/2 cup slithered almonds
Icing sugar, to dust

Finely grate the rind and squeeze in the juice of the orange. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a cake tin with baking paper. Place the fruit, orange rind and juice and sugar in an ovenproof dish and toss to combine. Bake for 20 minutes and then scrape in the vanilla seeds.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one by one. Fold in the buttermilk, almond meal and baking powder and spread into the prepared cake tin. Push the fruit (with its juices) into and over the cake and bake for 1/2 hour.

For the topping, finely melt the butter and stir in the grated zest and almonds. Spread this over the half-baked cake, lower the heat to 160C and bake for a further 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the tin and then top with the almonds and dusting of icing sugar before serving.

Everyone (except our gluten-intolerant friends!) always falls on a big tray of warm scones with jam and cream with great delight. There's something very indulgent but still comforting about this treat and they do, obviously, make the perfect morning tea. These ones came from Leslie Russel's big scones recipe which appears in the book but here too.

Pan forte

One of the best things, I think, to serve after a big lunch or dinner, pan forte is not too sweet and feels like a very grown-up treat. Especially when cut into little squares and handed around with coffee. Plus, it lasts for ages (so is a great present too) and is very easy to make. Like everything I suppose, there are many different interpretations of pan forte out there and this is mine (though it was originally adapted from one given by baking queen Belinda Jeffrey in Mix and Bake).

Edible rice paper or baking paper, for lining
½ cup plain flour
1/3 cup best quality cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped dried fruit, soaked for at least one hour in verjus (I used a mixture of dried figs, currants and dried apricots)
1/2 cup candied orange peel, roughly chopped
2 cups mixed roasted nuts, coarsely chopped (almonds and hazlenuts are my favourite)
70g butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
200g honey
Icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180C. Then grease and line a 20cm square or round cake tin and line the base and sides with the rice paper or baking paper. Combine the flour, cocoa and spices in a large bowl, then strain the dried fruit and add this to the flour mixture. Add the nuts and mix well.

Combine the butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan on medium and cook until the butter melts and you have a smooth consistency. Bring to the boil and cook for 4 minutes, pour over the flour mixture and stir well. Press mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Cook for about 40 minutes then remove from the oven and let cool in the tin.

Pan forte will last for weeks when wrapped tightly and stored in the fridge.


  1. I love your work Sophie...I think I might have said that before x

    1. Dear Jane, thank you so so much. Your comments always make my day. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your feedback. Hope all is well with you, Sophiex

  2. What a lovely post! I just discovered your blog and it's wonderful! The photos are stunning and the recipes look scrumptious. Wow - your mum's studio looks like such a magical and inspirational place. Her bird sculptures are also very beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. :)

  3. Gosh that looks divine. The food and the workshop !!

  4. Wow! I'd be cooking too if I got to spend time there. What a beautiful studio set up, not to mention the outdoor eye candy of the Australian landscape. More, please!

  5. Hello Sophie and happy new year! This looks like the most magnificent experience. So nice. xo

  6. Love it. keep posting. It is a very useful information with everyone....thanks you
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