I was incredibly fortunate to visit Raymond Blanc’s outstanding two Michelin starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, in Oxford recently.
Not only did I get to sample some of the most exquisite flavours during the five-course taster menu over lunch, but was also taken on a tour of the breathtakingly beautiful kitchen garden.
Strolling through the lavender walkway humming with bees busy at work, which led to the impeccably well-tended two-acre vegetable garden and onto the beautifully manicured beds of herbs (and micro-herbs), I was in my element.
Raymond Blanc is known for his passion for seasonal and organic produce, supplementing the output of his kitchen garden with local produce, ensuring everything is known about its provenance.
And it truly shows.
Something that stuck with me was that every ingredient tasted exactly as it should. Each dish comprised of a few elements, individually packed with flavour, but none overpowering the other, allowing each and every ingredient on the plate to taste fresh and pure.
My favourite dish, apart from the decadent and aptly named ‘100% chocolate texture’ dessert, was the chilled gazpacho we started with. Accompanied with a cherry tomato and an basil infused olive oil jelly, it was so refreshingly light, with such a distinct taste of summer.
As the sun finally ripens the tomatoes on my balcony, my baby cucumbers continue to grow juicier and my lavender looks spectacularly vibrant, albeit not a patch on Le Manoir’s lavender walkway, it seemed appropriate to share my gazpacho.
So here’s my recipe on a taste of summer.
500g vine ripened tomatoes – skin on
1 medium red Romano pepper
½ medium cucumber – skinned
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sherry vinegar
pinch of salt
Cut the tomatoes diagonally across, so you can remove the woody stalk in the centre.
De-seed the Romano pepper and cut into chunks.
Add all ingredients to a liquidiser and blitz to a soup consistency, then drain through a sieve into a bowl.
Add another drizzle of olive oil and a splash more of sherry vinegar if required.
Serve with some thin slivers of cucumber on-top, I also added some thin slices of red pepper as well.