Ben Thurkettle discusses the dinner he’s cooking for Waddesdon’s star gazers

Twice a year I’m privileged to experience, and play an integral role, in one of my favourite events in the calendar: stargazing at Waddesdon Manor.

The combination of food, and a partnership with Wycombe Astronomical Society (WAS), Waddesdon Manor aims to offer guests an evening of astronomical and gastronomical delights, through wining, dining and stargazing

I can’t deny that the late summer setting adds to my love for this event, especially as the soft light of dusk welcomes guests up the driveway, towards the manor’s impressive façade.

Built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild between 1874 and 1885, Waddesdon was renowned for its legendary weekend house parties which welcomed the great and the good of Victorian society.

While I continue to strive for the same culinary perfection exercised in the late 1800’s, Waddesdon’s kitchen has moved on from the novel techniques they used (think glass tubes to ensure the cylindrical growth of cucumbers, and nets to produce a uniform crop of melons!).

This year, with the help of a skilled team of chefs, I‘ll do my upmost to ensure guests experience an evening that is, while slightly less extravagant, by no means less enjoyable than the historical ‘Baron’s Treat’.

Getting the food right is half the battle, so I’ve chosen carefully. The main course will be a fragrant and fruity affair of spiced Moroccan chicken and golden Mediterranean vegetables, accompanied by couscous with fresh pomegranate and orange. Topped with a cool minted yoghurt dressing, crumbled feta and toasted almonds, this refreshingly light dish is the perfect choice for a balmy August evening.

My team and I will be making the most of vegetables grown in the gardens at Eythrope on the Waddesdon Estate, so for vegetarian diners, I’ve opted for crispy courgette flowers stuffed with ratatouille, alongside a sharp pea puree and sauté potatoes that bring a sought-after saltiness to the dish.

The pièce de résistance will always be the dessert, and I’ve definitely saved the best till last! Ending on a high, we’ll serve up a light but tangy lemon posset, accompanied by sticky blueberry compote and warm vanilla beignets.

A selection of Rothschild wines have been chosen by in-house wine advisor, Peter Tompkins.

With full tummies, guests will be invited to attend a short lecture by local expert Dr Sandy Giles, before venturing out onto the Parterre to explore the cosmos. Experts will be on hand to aid novice and skilled stargazers alike. I can only hope that through combining our culinary and cosmic expertise, guests will enjoy an evening of astronomic and gastronomic wonders that are, quite literally, out of this world.

* The event is on Saturday August 11, £40.

Event information, visit: