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It is forty years ago this spring that the ancient manor house of Great Milton, in Oxfordshire, was reborn as Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. We opened our huge iron gates on 17th March – St Patrick’s Day – in 1984. They’ve remained open ever since.

I still recall my father on a ladder, hard at work, scraping away the rust from the gates before painting them black. Papa was Le Manoir’s handyman – unpaid – and he helped sort out the overgrown, tangled, brambled wilderness that was our garden. From our family home in Franche-Comté he brought seeds for fabulous varieties of vegetables, such as Ratte potatoes, coco and flageolet beans and Marmande tomatoes.

All of these were mostly unknown to British gardeners who also tended to think that, when it came to vegetables, big was best. I lifted spectacular Nantes carrots from the soil, and Richard, the gardener, looked pained. ‘Chef, those carrots aren’t even grown,’ he said. ‘They’re tinier than your little toe…’
Le Manoir’s opening night was not great, I must admit. The service was agonisingly slow and many guests didn’t receive dessert – caramel soufflé – until the early hours of the following day. Et voilà! They laughed, they forgave us, they came back, and I’m still here to tell the tale.

Often I am asked which of the four seasons I prefer. ‘I love them all,’ I say, ‘though spring is very special.’ It is the pick-me-up time for gardeners and cooks as it brings beautiful, colourful, exciting crops and ingredients, with millions of shoots pushing their tiny heads through the soil in search of sunlight. The season of reawakening, a time of new beginnings.


Happy Birthday to Le Manoir!

Searching for the ideal birthday present? Simply Raymond is a collection of my favourite home-cooked recipes. These are dishes that mean the most to me and bring back wonderful memories of family and friends. This is cooking from my heart and my home, with perfect quick-and-easy dishes for your weekly repertoire, and others for special occasions.

I have some exciting suggestions for your spring repertoire …

As this is the season for English asparagus, which I adore, you may wish to try either or both these recipes: grilled asparagus with vegetable crumble; poached asparagus with soft-poached egg and mustard dressing. If you fancy a delicious starter (or a light lunch), please try spring vegetable crudités with fresh green pea vegan dip.

Easy-peasy soup and watercress soup are so simple and quick, while slow-roasted shoulder of spring lamb is perfect for Sundays. Or perhaps you’d prefer chicken with morels – my favourite type of mushroom – with sherry sauce. As for desserts, how about chocolate mousse or lemon tart or rhubarb soufflé?
Have fun in the kitchen following my step-by-step recipes, and bon appétit!

Spring lamb

Slow-roasted shoulder of spring lamb

Melt in the mouth slow-cooked lamb - a guaranteed crowd pleaser!

My Five Seasonal Stars


The spring pea


The spring pea


The spring pea


The spring pea


The spring pea

The spring pea

What's coming up?

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