The Lost Orchard – A French chef rediscovers a great British food heritage – Stories and recipes by Raymond Blanc

The Lost Orchard - A French chef rediscovers a great British food heritage - Stories and recipes by Raymond Blanc‘I began to dream about an orchard filled with thousands of fruit trees… Today we have an orchard with over 150 ancient varieties of apple. Each one has its heritage in a village or a county that used to thrive on that particular variety. They tell the story not only of what we have lost in Britain but also what we could regain.’

Synopsis: Over the past seven years, Raymond Blanc has planted an orchard of 2,500 trees in the grounds of his hotel-restaurant Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire. Yielding about 60 tonnes of fruit for his kitchen each year, it is full of ancient and forgotten varieties of British apples and pears, along with quince, medlars, apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, damsons and cherries. A further 600 heritage fruit trees have been added from Raymond’s home in the Franche-Comté region of France.

The Lost Orchard is a love letter to each of these varieties, complete with beautiful illustrations, fascinating information and historical anecdotes, along with a selection of recipes showcasing the best ways of cooking with the fruit. Lacing the whole book together is Raymond’s infectious enthusiasm and passion for his beloved orchard and the precious fruit that lies within. His stories and memories are a delight as he rejoices in the ‘lost orchard’ that he has created in a little corner of the Oxfordshire countryside.

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This beautifully illustrated book is an absolute treasure, there is so much about it to love; it’s like a very special conversation with Raymond Blanc, his passion and enthusiasm shines through on every page. We love the way he thanks his friends for their support including Anne Marie Owens who leads his garden team at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

The really comprehensive content includes sections on Apples, Pears, Quince, Fig and Medlar, Stone Fruits – Apricots, Cherries, Peaches and Plums.
Within each description he includes delightful anecdotes and historical information, here is how he describes one of our all time favourites e.g.

Cox’s Orange Pippin
54 trees in my English orchard
Buckinghamshire 1825
SEASON: Late September
APPEARANCE: greenish gold with orange/red flush
BEST FOR: everything

‘I will never forget the summer’s day, about thirty years ago, when I joined William Sibley at a tasting of heritage apples laid on by The Royal Horticultural Society at Le Manoir. That tasting stays with me for two reasons: first, it inspired me to dream about my beautiful orchard project, and second, one of the apples stood head and shoulders above the rest. Her beauty was not immediately obvious from the outside……. but once I took a bite I knew I was tasting the best apple of my life. I was overwhelmed with a sensory explosion of aromatics, clean, long, complex flavours, which balanced sweetness with acidity and a crisp texture’

For each fruit Raymond gives more information either from a historical perspective or a personal discovery in how he has grown the variety himself, culminating in Tasting and Cooking Notes as well as Growing Notes.

The level of detail is admirable, but written in a fascinating and very accessible style.

In the centre of the book is a delightful chapter about The Beautiful Orchard in which he describes how his orchard has developed focusing on, flavour, beauty and organic principles which begins with a healthy soil. This is supported by full colour photographs.

The book is completed with chapters on How to Grow Your Own Tree, plus advice on the Best Fruit for Growing in a Garden, and finally Recipes from the Lost Orchard which as you would expect, contains the most delicious recipes

This gorgeous book would make an absolutely beautiful Christmas present for people who love cooking with the best of ingredients, but also gardeners too, we cannot recommend it highly enough!

We are delighted to have chosen The Lost Orchard as our Cookery Book of the Year. Very Highly Recommended!