Lee Clarke: Finding food inspiration in simple places

The Green Backyard, Peterborough's community growing project.
The Green Backyard, Peterborough's community growing project.
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When I first opened Clarkes on Lincoln Road back in 2011 I remember one of the first people I got to know was Renny from The Green Backyard community allotment project.

Listening to his enthusiasm about this project, about community gardening and growing your own, had me intrigued and excited and after remaining in touch I soon received an invite to take a look for myself.

Columnist Lee Clarke at his Pr�vost restaurant in Priestgate, Peterborough EMN-160413-155518001

Columnist Lee Clarke at his Pr�vost restaurant in Priestgate, Peterborough EMN-160413-155518001

As I walked around The Backyard, off Oundle Road, I understood what Renny had been so passionate about - there were nigella seeds, tomatoes, salad leaves and squashes everywhere.

I’ve been inspired by gardens and allotments like it ever since, and so when I got my own space behind Prévost, I knew exactly what to do with it.

With the help of my friend and garden designer Jenny Cairns, we started my first restaurant garden.

Six weeks in we have rosemary, golden oregano; pea shoots sprouting, strawberries coming through and micro salads, broccoli, asparagus and beans coming in daily.

This garden and these ingredients will drive my menus over the next three to four months.

When looking for new ideas I also took inspiration from local farms; seeing what they were growing at the time so that maybe I could grow my own. Hill Top Farm was particularly great, with its “pick your own” service; a great option for budding cooks with little ones.

So when people ask me where I get my ideas from I tell them about these places and how they help me decide on a dish. I see an ingredient, it sparks an idea and off I go, and with my inspiration now in my own garden I find it much quicker to think of new ideas.

We are lucky to be surrounded by so many great producers locally, miles of hedges full of berries and plenty of parks for foraging mushrooms.

It’s a great time to be a chef in Peterborough, and never too late to start finding inspiration in your own garden or allotment.

About the columnist: Lee Clarke is head chef and owner of Prévost in Priestgate, Peterborough www.prevostpeterborough.co.uk