My favourite places
Kitchen-whizz Gee Cartwright on Johnny Depp, Moroccan street food, truffle hunting in Italy and sweet pineapples.
Muddy Hampshire editor Mary got together with Gee Cartwright, a Prue Leith of our times, who holds inspirational, sell-out cookery demos from her home near Stockbridge, Hants, as well as in Wandsworth in London. But you can also catch her closer to home at Cheltenham Racecourse, which is one of her favourite places! So where else does this food connoisseur like to make a beeline for?
My family have always had a strong connection with horse racing and my grandfather won the Grand National as an amateur jockey in 1946. In my spare time, I work for the British Horse Racing Authority as a raceday steward which I really enjoy. I am also on the panel of stewards at Wincanton and Kempton racecourses – we make sure the rules are adhered to throughout the day. The pinnacle of National Hunt (jump) racing is the Cheltenham Festival and I haven’t missed going for years. The town’s racecourse has an electric atmosphere during Race Week with the best English and Irish horses running — it is where legends are made!
My husband’s family have a holiday house in north Cornwall, in Trebetherick by Daymer Bay; we go down with our three boys every summer and we absolutely love it. Time is spent surfing, sailing, walking, water-skiing, fishing and crabbing, which is my passion. I have a big crab hook and I get into a wetsuit, into very deep rock pools, and hunt for crabs. I catch them, cook them, pick them and eat them! I am also learning to fish, so far I’ve caught mackerel and pollock; sea bass is next on my list.
We are lucky enough to live close to this Hampshire county town and I always say that you don’t need to go anywhere else – you can get your weekly shopping, your hair cut, buy gifts and anything you need for the house. There are excellent cafés and restaurants as well, plus a butcher, fishmonger, green-grocer, chocolate shop, interiors, the list goes on. I particularly love Thyme & Tides for its fish and deli counters. Stockbridge is on the River Test and there are fabulous walks in the water meadows alongside the river.
The Moroccan city is a frantic circus of activity where you can lose yourself in the labyrinthine souk and visit Djemaa el-Fna Square with its fire-eaters and snake charmers. We love eating at the street food stalls, sipping a mint tea on the rooftops, staying in a riad and experiencing this different culture. I love the colours, spices, smells and the carts selling fragrant dishes.
Tanzania & Zanzibar
Africa! Enough said: going on safari; the fabulous coast; the mangoes; never-ending sky; beautiful, wild animals; sundowners; white sand; palm trees and Zanzibar – the spice island. The fruit seems to taste so much better than anything we get here. Apparently, Zanzibar has the sweetest pineapples in the world. I also love visiting the spice plantations with fresh cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper.
The Ned, London
I am a country bumpkin at heart, but I love a bit of London glitz and glam. The Ned is a hotel near Bank; it has nine restaurants and is wonderfully over the top. My husband’s office is nearby so I can meet a friend, have something to eat (my recommendation: Kaia for the fab Asian food), a drink and people-watch before meeting my husband and getting the train home to real life. I bumped into Johnny Depp as I was coming out of the Ladies last time I was there…
I have a husband, three sons, a border terrier and 12 chickens and I like nothing more than spending a lazy, summer Sunday pottering in my garden. I grow a huge amount of fruit and vegetables – potatoes, carrots, spinach, beetroot, French and runner beans, broad beans, chard, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, rhubarb, gooseberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and more. I am big on getting friends and family around a table so love having a very long Sunday lunch with lots of people. The cooking is my domain (you would think I’d want a break) but I will, just about, let my husband BBQ!
The Wallace Collection, London
After uni, I studied history of art and worked in an auction house for a couple of years so, sometimes, I like to think of myself as a bit of an art buff (I am not!). I studied a lot of Baroque and Rococo pieces at The Wallace Collection and it is an absolute gem; I like to go by myself, look at the furniture, paintings and precious works of art — the snuff boxes are fantastic — and then treat myself to a quick lunch in the gorgeous restaurant. Entry is free which is always a bonus!
The Italian countryside
Every couple of years we try and do a shared holiday with my parents and brother’s family. We rent a little house, tucked away in the Italian countryside with not a neighbour in sight, and we spend a relaxed week exploring the area: towns, churches, restaurants and markets where we buy local food and wine to cook back at the house. We had a pizza oven last time, so the children were knee-deep in dough and tomato sauce all week! I also chatted to the gardener and he sold me delicious truffles, found by his truffle dog, which I used to make risotto for 12 — definitely a holiday highlight.
One of my sons is at school in Winchester and it is our local town so we are there a lot. The Cathedral is not only stunning but architecturally interesting, steeped in history and is the city’s most prominent landmark; I really enjoy seeing it flood-lit in the evenings. To have it as your ‘local’ is a privilege, especially when you pass it on your way to buy a sandwich!
Gee runs cookery demonstrations from her home in Hampshire and in different venues across the home counties and London. She also runs private demonstrations for groups on request nationwide and can offer one to one tutorials. Head here for more info.