Come with me on a journey of discovery over the spirited waters of the Solent to the jewel in the crown of the British Isles – the diamond that is the Isle of Wight. Once landed, you will be whisked to a series of scenic settings around the Island – captured in all their glory by the renowned local photographer Ben Wood – as the seasons of the year unfold.
At each location, I invite you to join our informal eating event featuring a menu of specially devised dishes for the occasion, so that you can sample and savour the best of the Island’s bounty of quality produce and ingredients. Whether it’s an early summer picnic on the spectacular, wildflower-strewn Downs perched above a sparkling sea or an elegant Victorian-styled tea party in the shade of a lush garden; a high-summer barbecue down on a sun-toasted sandy beach or a hearty harvest supper in the mellow autumnal sunlight of a walled abbey garden, there are easy yet interesting recipes for light bites and bakes, main dishes including vegetarian, gluten- and dairy-free options, as well as cocktails and coolers.
You will be amazed, as I was, to find that the Island produces practically every category of foodstuff you can think of, many of which have attracted Great Taste Awards and other accolades aplenty. From grass-fed lamb and beef to freshly landed fish and shellfish; superlative milk, cream and yogurt to fine cheeses and gourmet ice cream; the finest tomatoes, asparagus and garlic to luscious cherries, apricots and the Wight’s very own apple varieties; stoneground flours, speciality breads and handmade biscuits to cold-pressed rapeseed oil and marinades, pestos and preserves; local spring water and wine to craft beer, spirits and roasted coffee. There are also many rewarding foraging opportunities to explore, whether for fragrant edible flowers and aromatic herbs, fresh greens, hedgerow berries or chestnuts.
Yet more fun is to be had in sourcing these premium products with the wide variety of retail experiences on offer on the Island, everything from farm shops and delis to specialist seafood suppliers, veg box schemes and quirky wayside vendors – details of which are given in a directory at the end of the book, along with a calendar of events with particular appeal for food lovers.
Get ready to be transported to our magical Isle in order to taste not just its fabulous artisanal food and drink but its unique landscape, lifestyle and atmosphere.
160 pages; 250 x 200mm; 90 recipes; 160 photographs; ISBN 978 1 52620649 7
Back in 1993 as a young photographer’s assistant, I went for an interview at a studio in Bleeding Heart Yard in London. After the trial I was offered the job and I like to think that the client on the day, Jo Richardson, might have put a good word in for me. Fast forward over 20 years and Jo and I have just finished our first book together.
The Isle of Wight Feast of Food and Drink has been a wonderful commission. Shot over one calender year, from October 2015 to September 2016, Jo and I spent a lovely 12 months travelling around the Isle of Wight sourcing ingredients, meeting suppliers, finding locations, cooking in the outdoors and photographing our endeavours. The shoot took in a host of locations from Sturdy houseboat in Bembridge, to the Isle of Wight Festival and Bestival, to the Fishermen’s Feast in Steephill Cove and along to Quarr Abbey for the Harvest Supper. As always the Island delivered. With its unique climate and clear light, the Isle of Wight is a terrific place to photograph. If you get up early enough and stick around late enough you will always be rewarded. Having lived here for over 15 years I’ve got to know the Island pretty well and we certainly relied on some of my favourite locations such as St Helens Duver and Foreland Beach in Bembridge. But what I especially enjoyed was finding new locations such as St Boniface Down in Ventnor and some of the places where the suppliers are hidden away like Adgestone Vineyard and the Delysia Farm shop on Carpenter’s Road, Brading complete with a fish smoker. Proper Isle of Wight!
One of the highlights of the commission were my numerous trips to The Farm Shop in Bembridge High Street where the owner Jane displays the fruit and veg from 8.00am every morning. With its large windows and handwritten signs, the produce looked gorgeous and delicious in the early morning light whatever time of year I dropped by. I’m pleased that so many of these photos made it into the book because the variety and quality of the produce available on the Island was one of the central themes of the project.
Looking through the book I’m also struck by the subtle changes in the light and mood as one season is overtaken by the next. The richness and contrast of the colours in late summer at Steephill Cove are followed a couple of months later by a more mellow and softer hue at the Harvest Supper at Quarr Abbey. Many contemporary food books boast outstanding photography and styling, but if you look closely you can tell that the majority of the images are taken in the studio or a single location. Jo was really keen that for this book we cooked and photographed the food for real “on location” even if that meant lugging all the props and models across St Boniface Down. Steephill Cove is called Steephill for a reason!! I hope the authenticity with which we approached each scenario/location shines through in the photography and a big thank you to Paul Richardson who came to every shoot and helped with all the logistics and heavy lifting.
Which brings me neatly on to Jo. Having known her for such a long time, I was very aware of her skills as an art director and stylist. Her career as a book editor is long and distinguished. What I didn’t realise is what a wonderful cook and author she is! The Isle of Wight Feast of Food and Drink is an ambitious book, which would normally have a large team behind it. It’s a testament to Jo that she’s pulled off large swathes of the book single-handed. She certainly made my role very easy and tasty. I always made sure I’d photographed the delicious food on set before tucking in! Finally, I’d just like to say a general thank you to all the suppliers, shopkeepers and members of my family who helped with the photography and modelling. I’d especially like to thank Esther Bartholomew who was my assistant and “go-to model” throughout the shoot. If Esther had turned up at Bleeding Heart Yard all those years ago, I’m not sure I would have got the job!