HOW MUCH DO I LOVE FOOD?
Anyone who knows me, knows I am a foodie. I just love great food. Over time, ingredients well as their provenance have become important to me. When I recommend restaurants, the quality and the value for money counts, but more, the alchemy of the chef, that nuanced flavour that transcends the plate. I was brought up on delicious meals, on food often grown in the garden of our rambling childhood home or caught/raised/grown by friends and neighbours and cooked by my mother who was always game for a culinary challenge. My life is a calendar of meal memories! Locally grown and produced food was the norm.
WHAT DREW ME TO HUNTLEY?
When I met Antonia it was the grounds of Huntley that drew me in. They cover 5 acres and are constantly changing and growing with the seasons, offering you wild surprises like orchids mixed up with exotics like Turk’s Heads Lilies. Deepest purple violets proliferate in the Spring. It changes with the wind. Architectural artichokes deliciously dark, intersperse rare Rhododendrons with their small rounded leaves near the juiciest, reddest raspberries to colour your lips.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT HUNTLEY THAT MAKES IT UNIQUE
Each visit to Huntley is unique. This boutique garden gem hosts a myriad of birds who are very well catered for. (Magpies are not so popular as they feast on the candles!) Woodpeckers are regular visitors, grazing at the feeder in the ancient apple tree outside the kitchen along with a cacophony of other birds. On the last Hidden Huntley Tour I spotted a tiny tree creeper, scaling the heights of a Scots Pine, out of the corner of my eye.
WHAT IS A ‘WORKING ORGANIC GARDEN?’
Then the food worked its magic! The working organic garden is where elements of your artisan lunch are grown, raised from the fertile soil under your feet. Antonia is happy to share gardening tips with you (and if you ask nicely, she may even share recipes!). Your host prepares you both homemade and seasonal home-grown favourites from the Huntley garden.
SO, TELL ME ABOUT THE FIGS?
At a September ‘Hidden Huntley‘ we had an impromptu fig tasting. The Tesco’s figs were very tasty but the Huntley fig, which we all shared as it was the last, grown against the wall, tree matured by decades of sunshine, was sublime, juicy and sweet. An exotic accompaniment to the afternoon’s bubbling, sunny conversation. The walled garden nestles next to the stately 19th Century home.
AND THE HOUSE?
A family place since the 1820’s, Huntley’s authentic kitchen (still containing the service bells), is full of well-thumbed cookery books, gathered from Antonia’s many sojourns in different parts of the world.
Her dishes, often adorned with fragile, edible flowers, are imbued with her worldwide influences. She has lived in Moscow, several places in France, West London and Glasgow and travelled to many more destinations. Produce grown in the garden is carefully used in her creative dishes. Once, during our meeting, jars of jam post cooking in the huge copper jam pan, glowed in the evening sunshine on the table between us, vacuums popping as they cooled.
DOES ANTONIA USE EVERYTHING SHE PRODUCES IN THE HUNTLEY GARDEN?
Last week there were 70 jars containing apple, rhubarb and ginger, fig and orange and even foraged rosehip and apple jelly. As soon as the neighbours got a whiff that it was for sale, the jams disappeared like snow off a ditch!
Join me and discover it yourself! Walk it off NI’s ‘Hidden Huntley‘. Wonder why you have never been. Dream when you can come again.