Cook the Books is for everyone who enjoys eating and talking about food. Based in Lewes, East Sussex, we get together for monthly pot-luck suppers and chats as well as 'special edition' author talks and foodie excursions.

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Special Edition: Arlington Bluebell Walk & Picnic – Cook the Books
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Special Edition: Arlington Bluebell Walk & Picnic

I drive to Arlington Bluebell Farm Shop in dazzling sunshine, only to see dark clouds descend just as I approach my destination. Still, only a fool would let a bit of rain spoil a picnic…


Arlington Bluebell Farm Shop at Bates Green Farm is home to Philippa and Michael Vine, a couple who clearly live and breathe what they do. Between them, Philippa and Michael grow, rear and cook their own produce; teach cookery and butchery; and write about food. In fact, I think you’d be okay to call them experts in their field.

Their farm is part of Arlington Bluebell Walk and Farm Trail. This magical place has opened to the public since 1972, offering a fabulous display of bluebells that fill the forest floor for a short season in April and May.

Philippa was really kind to invite Cook the Books’ members to enjoy the bluebells ‘after hours’. It’s my first time here, despite having grown up in Sussex, which is shameful really. These walking trails through Beatons Wood, Park Wood and Primrose Farm attract thousands of visitors each year. This evening we have the woods to ourselves, however, and despite the rain, we are able to enjoy the blooms at their fullest, interleaved by the last of their friends, the white anemones.

Back at the farm shop we sit down for a cosy indoor picnic. Yes, it does feel rather British, but who can complain when your back is against the warmth of the Esse Range Cooker and the last light is shining in the window?

The group really surpassed itself for this one. We had a total feast: salads, quiches, omelette and pastries. Wash that down with a few glasses of chilled Prosecco or some rhubarb juice and you have yourself a very pleasing evening indeed!

THE ESSENTIALS

Arlington Bluebell Walk is open until 14th May this year – do hurry there for a blissful day out. The small entry fee raises money for the local community, charities, and the upkeep of the trail which is beautifully managed and easily accessible for wheelchair users and young children. Philippa and Michael’s farm shop is open year-round. Keep an eye on their website for details of their courses and events.
``Thanks to everyone who took part yesterday, everything was exquisite!`` Luisa

The Venue

Arlington Bluebell Walk
Address
Bates Green Farm, Tye Hill Road, Arlington, Polegate, East Sussex, BN26 6SH
2017 Dates
Sat 8 April every day to Sun 14 May
10am to 5pm.
Prices
Adults £6.00
Seniors £5.50 (60 yrs+)
Children £2.50 (3-16 yrs)
Family £15.00 (2 adults and up to 4 children) and under

The Menu

Hot smoked trout salad and lingonberry vinaigrette
(Signe Johansen)

Chickpea and cherry tomato salad with herbs (Jamie Oliver)
Sussex Charmer and asparagus quiche
Poppy seed pastry tart with tomato and goats cheese
(Sarah Raven)
Spanish tortilla with wild garlic
Chicken tikka salad with raita (Waitrose)
Squash with tomato and feta (Skye Gyngell)
Baked Sambusak with potato and cheese (Dan Lepard)
Salad with chilli and coconut roasted butternut
Pea guacamole (Jenna Zoe)
Brown rice salad with sweet potato and sesame soy dressing
Georgian aubergine and walnut rolls
Lentil and spinach curry (Madhur Jaffrey)
And for desssert… Girelle with apricot

The Books

Picnics & Other Outdoor Feasts, Claudia Roden
Scandilicious, Signe Johansen
Comptoir Libanais, Tony Kitous and Dan Lepard
Indian Cookery, Madhur Jaffrey
A Year in My Kitchen, Skye Gyngell
Super Healthy Snacks and Treats, Jenna Zoe
Entertaining Single Handed, Desmond Briggs

``The woods were the closest I've been to being in a fairytale.`` Karen
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