How Catherine and John Pawson celebrate Easter
The Pawsons adopt old country ways in their inimitable, contemporary style
You might not think of Catherine and John Pawson as traditionalists. Over the past forty years, John has focused on ways of approaching the fundamental challenges of architectural space, proportion, light, and material, creating a series of private homes, art galleries, chapels, stores and museums around the world, which combine minimalism with tasteful restraint. Catherine, meanwhile, studied at the Inchbald School of Design in London and worked at Colefax & Fowler, before embarking on a fruitful long term partnership with fellow interiors specialist Juliet Byrne.
Nevertheless, despite these big-city, contemporary credentials, the couple still like the old ways of doing things. John has overseen a surprisingly high number of ecclesiastical commissions, from a simple German chapel, to a church in St Moritz. His mother was a strict Methodist, and, as he told the Guardian in 2019, his wife Catherine “is Catholic and very keen for me to convert.”
The couple manage to fit in quite a few seasonal traditions at Home Farm, their place in the English countryside. John finished developing this ancient farmhouse and its surrounding outbuildings in 2019, imbuing them with his signature kind of tasteful minimalism.
Their new book, Home Farm Cooking, brings together the kind of recipes they like to cook for themselves as well as family and friends, at the barn, alongside a little context as to when and why they like to prepare and serve certain dishes.
“There is the Easter service at the local medieval village church, which holds its only other services at Christmas and for the harvest festival — opening at other times for the sale of homemade cake and cups of tea to be enjoyed by visitors to the next-door Jacobean house and garden, who sit at tables set amongst the gravestones,” Catherine writes in the new book.
“On Easter Sunday morning we make the short walk to the church, which local volunteers have filled with greenery and daffodils, returning along the lane to Home Farm for a traditional lunch of spring lamb, after which there is the annual Easter quiz, hosted by friends who live nearby, that fills the afternoon with celebratory cheers as teams race around the village, in search of chocolate eggs.”
It all sounds like a perfect monad of English country life, though the Pawsons aren’t hidebound by these church dates. As Catherine goes on to explain, “no particular occasion is required in order for a meal to feel celebratory at this time of year and few things give me greater joy than gathering familiar faces around a table laid with dishes that capture the bright, fresh flavours of spring.”
Why not mark the seasons as the Pawsons do, with their fresh apple, fennel and feta salad? First of all you'll need one tablespoon olive oil; six bacon rashers (slices); 75g/23⁄4oz (1⁄2cup) of chopped walnuts; two Granny Smith apples; one small fennel bulb; 75g/23⁄4oz (1⁄2cup)of green or golden raisins; a small handful of coriander(cilantro) leaves, finely chopped; a 175g/6oz block of feta, cut into four squares; sea salt and black pepper. And for the dressing you'll need the juice of a lemon; one clove of garlic, crushed; four tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of caster (superfine) sugar.
Heat the olive oil In a large,heavy frying pan (skillet) over a high heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp. Drain on paper towels and cut or scrunch into bite-size pieces.
Wipe the pan clean and dry, add the walnuts and cook over a medium heat until just toasted. Remove and set aside.
Core and halve the apples. Cut into thin slices and then into fine matchsticks. Cut the base from the fennel bulb. Use a mandoline or your finest knife skills to cut the fennel into paper-thin slices. Mix The Apple And Fennel With The Raisins ,coriander (cilantro) and half the walnuts. Put the dressing ingredients into a big bowl and whisk until smooth and combined. Pour Over The Salad And Gently Toss.
To try Catherine and John’s many other springtime dishes, order a copy of Home Farm Cooking here.