Robert Carrier is a man who approaches life on a grand scale. His seven cookbooks are published in 10 languages. He has designed and marketed cooking equipment in five countries, and his British television series may soon be seen on American TV screens.
His London restaurant, Carrier's, serves such good food that the Queen comes to dine and the French have given it honors.
His second restaurant is in the country in an English manor house and he has, this summer, started a cooking school series of seminars on the estate, called Hintlesham Hall.
An American who came to London in 1953 for the coronation, he is now well-known worldwide and is credited with having a definite influence on the eating habits of the English people.
One of his most recent grand projects was to buy and restore a large, falling-down country house which he transformed into his second restaurant and his own very splendid, private living quarters.
A day trip out of London, Hintlesham Hall is a Tudor house with an 18 th-century facade, set in 18 acres of park land. I was invited for dinner, an overnight visit, and a tour of the grounds.
Early in the morning we took the tour, the Suffolk sky misty gray as we walked through the grounds and gardens.
"A waterfall will be put in here with water plants and green shrubs" he said. We went by the orangery, a new small formal pond in front of the house and a tiny lake on one side.
"One day I'd like to have a museum of cookery," he said. "There's about a third of an acre of cellars and I'd like to make use of them.
We came to the wonderful kitchen garden where elegant parterres have been laid out with sandy paths, and a newly planted espalier fruit tree walk. It is based partly on George Washington's garden at Mount Vernon and also on the gardens of the Chateau Villandry on the Loire.
Sheltered on three sides by a clipped beech hedge and on the fourth by an orchard, the vegetables are then bordered with herbs and flowers, chosen for the most exciting combinations of colors and shapes.
In summer, nasturtiums edge a bed of pumpkins, lavender surrounds the tomatoes, marigolds mix with parsley, and lettuce is bordered with chives.
There are dark green wild strawberry plants bordered with silver gray santolina with wigwams of pole beans and tall sweet corn to add height. Borage and purple basil are bordered with dwarf box.
A round bed planted with herbs in contrasting colors includes roquette, a bitter- sweet salad herb; pourprier, a fat-leaved succulent salad herb much used in Provence; mache, also called lamb's lettuce and corn salad; sorrel; tarragon; and a variety of lettuces.
"Mangetouts, snow peas, turnips, carrots, all are harvested when very young and are sown at two- to three-week intervals.
"I grow several different varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, and grapes, both outdoors and under glass.
"I call it a trompe l'oeil garden," he said "because it looks like so much more work than it really is.
"Since everything is planted in small patches I never have to have great long stretches of backbreaking weeding. I can weed or harvest or hoe a complete garden patch in only a few minutes.
"The bottom of the garden is planted with important crops of artichokes, asparagus, and corn. But the most exciting, I think, are the areas of different lettuces, 'wild' salad greens and herbs of old medieval gardens. They make delicious but startlingly different summer salads.
"The garden is designed to provide small harvests of a great variety of herbs and vegetables for my own use and for the two restaurants. All crops are planted successively, after first seeded in small batches in the greenhouse."
At Hintlesham Hall all vegetables are harvested young and cooked al dente. A rack of English lamb baked in pastry crust and served with vegetables is a well-known Hintlesham Hall specialty.
Each summer the kitchen garden is visited by hundreds of people. This is the first year of the school called the Robert Carrier Seminar of Cooking.
Located in the early Stuart coach house adjoining Hintlesham Hall, it has two lecture rooms, a kitchen workshop for practical demonstrations, and two master class kitchens for practical work by students.
Seminars start July 20 and go through December. Titles of the courses of one week each include: The Techniques Workshop, The Carrier Approach, Menus for Entertaining, French Classic Cuisine, French Nouvelle Cuisine, and The Oriental Influence.
Classes are limited to 12 students. Festivities start off with a kitchen buffet party on Sunday evening; there is a five-course gala gourmet banquet every Thursday -- and students join teachers, chefs, and guest chefs for a light lunch every day between morning and evening classes.
For further information about the programs, write the Carrier Seminar of Cooking, Hintlesham Hall, Suffolk, England or call Hintlesham 047-387-523. Tomatoes Provencal 4 tomatoes Salt Freshly ground pepper 8 to 12 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or scallions 4 to 6 tablespoons finely chopped basil leaves 4 to 6 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon leaves 4 to 6 tablespoons finely chopped parsley French dressing (3 to 4 parts olive oil to 1 part wine vinegar)
Wash tomatoes and cut in half horizontally. Arrange cut side up on a serving dish; season generously with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle each half thicky with chopped shallots or scallions. Mix the fresh herbs together and sprinkle each tomato half with a thick green layer of freshly chopped herbs.
Dribble 2 or 3 tablespoons of well-favored French dressing on each tomato half. Serves 4. Summer Corn Puree 1 1/2 to 2 cups corn kernels, stripped from the cob 4 tablespoons chicken stock 4 tablespoons butter 1 large potato, peeled, boiled and quartered 1 egg yolk, beaten 2 or 3 tablespoons heavy cream 1/2 teaspoon sugar Lemon juice Salt Freshly ground pepper
Place corn kernels in saucepan with stock and butter and bring to a boil. Push a sheet of waxed paper down into the pan on top of the corn; reduce heat to moderate and simmer 12 minutes or until tender.
Pour contents of saucepan into food blender or food processor. Add boiled potato and blend 2 minutes, scraping down sides with a spatula.
If food processor is not available use a Mouli grater, food mill, or sieve.
Return puree to saucepan, beat vigorously with a wooden spoon over moderate heat until it is thoroughly hot again, adding beaten egg yolk and enough cream so the puree just holds its shape.
Season with 1/2 level teaspoon sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
To prepare a fresh summer carrot puree substitute 1 1/2 pounds fresh young carrots, peeled and sliced and proceed as for corn. substitute 1 1/2 pound fresh young carrots, peeled and sliced and proceed as for corn.