July sees Thyme’s kitchen garden bursting at the seams with sweet, plump produce.  Thyme’s founder Caryn and her son – Chef Director, Charlie Hibbert are deep in conversation about next year and what they want to add to their wide range of produce in Thyme’s kitchen gardens.

Charlie’s a great one for bitter leaves, chard, kohlrabi and cabbages – Caryn’s planting of fruit bushes over 5 years ago is now yielding multiple benefits – all working their way towards diners’ plates in Thyme’s Ox Barn.  Branches groan under the weight of juicy gooseberries, red and white raspberries, jewelled currants of all varieties and elderflower.  The elders’ pink blooms, in contrast with their coal-coloured leaves, smell fragrant, and Charlie uses them to make pink elderflower cordial.  Next month, they’ll make way for juicy berries.  The line of elder trees marks the boundary between the organised chaos of the kitchen garden, and the wispy, wild habitat of the river Leach, its water meadows and wildlife – both flora and fauna.

Wild and cultivated strawberries, nasturtiums, calendula, chive and borage flowers decorate the floor of the garden with a riot of bright colours.  Eton mess has always been a favourite in the Hibbert household and Charlie’s recipe is no doubt inspired by his mother and grandmother’s recipes for it.  Making your own meringues is much easier than you might think – and so much nicer if you have the time.

Eton mess is a British classic and a perennial favourite of the nation.  Everyone has had one or at least a variation of one.  It crops up at barbecues, family dinners and has featured on every dessert menu… and for good reason… it’s a fabulous and simple dessert. One little tip is that Eton mess is better with drier day-old meringue, so you can work ahead of time without harming the finished product.

Eton Mess

Serves 4


For the meringue

3 large free-range eggs, whites only (120g egg white) – save the yolks to make some mayonnaise

120g caster sugar

For the rest

500g strawberries

3 tbsp of icing sugar

Juice of ½ a lemon

500ml double cream


Preheat the oven to 100°C (normal) | 80°C (fan) | gas mark ¼

Place the egg whites into a mixer and start to beat the whites. When they have reached the soft peak stage, start to add the sugar in a steady stream. Keep whisking until the meringue is stiff and airy. Spoon the meringue onto a lined baking sheet and place into the oven for an hour. When done, turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool in the oven with the door ajar; this will help them dry out (better for Eton mess, but a sin when it comes to a good standalone meringue!).

Hull the strawberries then blitz about 1/3 of them with the sugar and lemon juice to make a purée, and halve the rest. Whip the cream to soft peaks and break the meringue into large pieces into the cream. In your chosen vessel, add a good spoon of the meringue mix, then a few strawberries and the purée. Continue in this vein until all the mix has been used and serve immediately.