The rhythm of the seasons in a new garden, built on the foundations of a very old garden, makes fascinating viewing when there's chirpy Michelin-starred chef and a team of world-leading garden experts involved.
In Royal Gardens On A Plate (ais Thursdays at 8.35pm on SBS), Raymond Blanc and the experts at Kew Gardens rediscover the rich heritage of the vegetable garden, building a stunning walled kitchen garden in a corner of the historic 120-hectare site.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are not just one of the world's most famous gardens; they are also the base of a world-famous scientific organisation, with an amazing collection of both plants and experts. Blanc, of course, is the man behind Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, home to both a two-Michelin-star restaurant and a cooking school, as well as award-winning gardens.
In this four-part series, Blanc and fellow host Kate Humble spend a year at Kew Gardens creating a kitchen plot full of heritage produce; Blanc then heads into the kitchen to create dishes that reflect his passion for seasonal, sustainable produce.
Aired 8.35pm Thursday 12 January on SBS. Watch it below or via SBS On Demand here.
Raymond Blanc, together with Kate Humble, has been given the unique opportunity to re-establish the long-lost kitchen gardens that once provided produce for the royal table from George II to Queen Victoria.
It's spring at Kew and after a long, dark winter, nature is coming back to life. Raymond learns about the infamous rhubarb triangle before harvesting his own at Kew to make his sublime version of rhubarb and custard! What better to compliment this dessert than the exotic spice vanilla? Kate finds out how a 12-year-old slave enabled vanilla to become the world's most popular flavour.
Nothing heralds the arrival of spring more than the first fresh asparagus; Raymond plants some crowns at Kew, while domestic historian Ruth Goodman shows Kate an old Roman asparagus recipe.
For his fresh spring spinach and chorizo tortilla, Raymond harvests the first crop of potatoes of the season, while Kate discovers how war with France turned Britain into a nation of potato eaters. She also reveals how a toxic chemical was an ingredient used to brighten the colour of dull green canned peas in Victorian times.
And as the season draws to a close, Kate takes a ride on the Watercress Line where she hears the rags-to-riches story of Eliza James, the Covent Garden 'watercress queen'.
Recipes from the show:
Airs 8.35pm Thursday 19 January on SBS.
Summer has arrived at Kew and everything in Raymond Blanc and Kate Humble's garden is blooming. Butterflies and bees abound and there are new crops to tend, harvest and cook with.
Everyone loves a carrot, particularly the carrot fly, so Raymond must protect his crop to ensure he has a good supply for his summer carrot stew. Meanwhile, Kate goes on a search to find the wild carrot, the ancestor of today's cultivated carrots, and learns how this vegetable was once used as a potent medicine.
Raymond endeavours to grow a tasty strawberry variety at Kew, but sadly a catastrophe awaits his delicious crop of fresh juicy fruits! Kate investigates how strawberry perfume is used to train bees to favour pollination of strawberry flowers over others, and Raymond whips up a perfect treat for a hot summer's day, a frozen strawberry tartlet.
One of the exotics at Kew is cacao and Kate is surprised to discover that one of the most irritating of insects plays a vital role in its pollination. At Hampton Court, food historian Marc Meltonville makes Kate a delicious cup of hot chocolate, just like the Georgians enjoyed.
Kate finds out how bean pottage was made in Tudor times and Raymond makes a vegetable bean chilli, complete with raw cacao. Travelling to the Isle of Wight, Kate discovers how a clandestine wartime operation was responsible for Britain's introduction to a common ingredient we all enjoy today, garlic.
The summer days are getting shorter and Kate travels up north to Egton Bridge, the location of the oldest surviving gooseberry competition. Back at Kew Raymond makes his first ever gooseberry dish, a gooseberry cheesecake.
Recipes from the show (coming soon):
Airs 8.35pm Thursday 26 January on SBS
It's autumn at Kew, and the vegetable garden is set to produce a bumper harvest. Raymond Blanc and Kate Humble grow some of our autumnal favourites and Raymond cooks them up in the Kew kitchen.
Kate finds out why the tomato was once considered to be a deadly poison and how the arrival of ketchup helped convert Britain into a nation of tomato lovers. Over in France, she discovers that the quintessential image of a French onion seller actually has a very British history, and Raymond makes the definitive tomato and onion salad.
For his delicate stir-fried oyster mushroom broth, Raymond sets up a mushroom farm in Kew's old ice house, while Kate examines a particularly special specimen in the aptly-named fungarium. Then she's off in search of the only working pineapple pits in the country to find out how this tropical fruit was grown in Georgian Britain.
Back in the garden, Raymond enlists the help of some local children to harvest some Halloween pumpkins, and it's time for the beetroot to be lifted. Raymond transforms this earthy vegetable into a delicious autumn tart, and Kate investigates how the humble beet transformed the sugar industry.
And with winter on the horizon, it's time for the last crop of the season - the apple. Kate tries her hand at traditional cider making and finds out why apples were once used as a means of payment, and Raymond rounds off the season with a glorious apple charlotte.
Recipes from the show (coming soon):
Heritage tomato and mozzarella salad
Stir-fried oyster mushroom broth
Garden beetroot and Roscoff onion tart
Airs 8.35pm Thursday 4 February on SBS
The end of the year at Kew is fast approaching, winter is setting in, but some crops positively love the cold and Raymond learns how brassicas cope in this frosty season. Kate visits Kew's Millennium Seed Bank to discover the secret to the survival of our winter greens, while Raymond cooks a nutrient-rich kale dish with sweet and sour pork.
At Fishbourne Place, Kate finds out how leeks were considered medicinal in Roman time, but back at Kew disaster has struck! Raymond had planned to make a light leek terrine, but the whole leek crop has been devastated!
The Palm House at Kew holds the UK's largest collection of bananas, but only one variety, the Cavendish, now vulnerable to extinction, tends to be consumed. Kate visits the University of Leicester, where there is a race against time to find a replacement. She also learns how chicory coffee was once a popular British drink, while Raymond tries out the forced chicory grown at Kew in his winter-warming chicory gratin.
Travelling to Gressenhall Farm in Norfolk, Kate reveals how the humble turnip changed the course of farming and helped to double Britain's population. Raymond brings the turnip bang up to date when he makes a variation on traditional sauerkraut - cured and spiced turnip.
Domestic historian Ruth Goodman shows Kate how the once-popular Tudor royal treat quince jellies are made and, as Raymond and Kate's year at Kew draws to an end, the garden is prepared for its next cycle - seeds are saved and soil is mulched. Raymond makes a festive poached quince to celebrate, and they reflect on their - mostly - successful year.
Recipes from the show (coming soon):
Cured spiced turnip and swede
Pressed leek terrine
Kale with sweet-and-sour pork bell and quince puree
Poached quince and winter fruit in spiced wine
Royal Gardens On A Plate starts 8.35pm Thursday 12 January on SBS, then catch it on SBS On Demand.
You may have heard of the saying ‘when it rains pumpkins, make soup and gently sell it’. Well in the same spirit I say when peas are in season, make this salad. It's colourful, super-fresh and really yummy. For maximum flavour, make sure make the peas are at room temperature when you serve the salad.