IDEA 6: Get Your Hands Dirty

In my first post on this blog, I shared this article about how soil works like anti-depressants - it's real science folks, the internet says so. I suspect it is true, however - how else could I have spent an hour and a half yesterday digging a small ditch about 2ft long, 1.5ft wide and less than 1ft deep and come away happy?

Yes, there was an element of disappointment when I discovered that the area of scrub land at the back of the studio that I have earmarked for a forest garden is about 95% compacted builders rubble... but I persevered and hacked away at the lumps of brick, flint and broken tiles until i had just enough space to plant my rather sad looking rosemary bush. I even sieved through the rubble with my hands to rescue the small amount of soil amongst it and dug that back in to the hole with a load of compost. A bit of a rethink is probably necessary now if I am going to be able to get a garden going any time before summer, but what a buzz nonetheless just to get started.

We're so lucky to have outdoor space - even if it is a pile of rubble - but even if you don't have it, you can still get a bit of soil under your fingernails. Don't buy herbs from the supermarket, buy some seeds and plant up your own, then you can make my dish "across chalk grasslands: wild herbs grow and birds’ eggs nestle" which I created for "A Meal over 6 Landscapes" at Delfina Foundation last November (see recipe below). You can plant seeds in just about anything. If you're going to move the seedlings outside eventually, you can even make 'pots' out of newspaper tied with string and plant the whole thing out. If you don't have a garden, try growing thyme, chives and oregano in an old pan on the kitchen table, plant basil and coriander in a loaf tin on a sunny window ledge. Plant up a big pot of mint at your front door and grow chillies in a tea pot in the living room. All you need is drainage (smash that mug you always hated and put the bits in the bottom of your planter), compost, seeds and a good memory or alarm on your phone for watering. Use your bokashi 'tea' as plant feed and stick your finger in the soil occasionally to check it isn't too wet or too dry - it's good for you, remember?

Across chalk grasslands: wild herbs grow and birds’ eggs nestle

from "A Meal over 6 Landscapes" at Delfina Foundation

This dish was part of a narrative meal, a sort of love story for the landscapes of Folkestone.


A selection of eggs, preferably bought from your neighbours - quail, chicken, guinea fowl, duck

All your favourite herbs - wild and homegrown. I used dandelion leaves, mustard leaf, mizuna, alexanders, chives, wild fennel tops, herb robert, mint, chickweed, garlic mustard - depending on the season

2 free-range egg yolks

1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard

500 ml good quality locally produced oil

1-2 tablespoons local cider vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

sea salt


- Boil the selected eggs as you like them (I like the yolks to be very soft, so that's about 6 mins for hens' eggs, 1-2 mins for quails) and then plunge straight into cold water.

- Whilst they cool, make a mayonnaise by whisking the mustard into the egg yolks, then slowly adding the oil, whisking constantly. As it starts to get thick, loosen with the vinegar and then add the rest of the oil as before. Add half of the lemon juice and salt to taste. The mayo should be quite thin, almost pourable - if too thick, stir in the rest of the lemon juice.

- Chop half of the herbs quite finely and stir into the mayonnaise.

- Peel the shells off the eggs and arrange on a plate or board, drizzle with the mayo and scatter the rest of the herbs and salad leaves over the top.

- Serve at a communal table if you can.