“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” (A A Milne)

Despite reasonable planning efforts, my list of guests for Sunday lunch in the Castle does not always quite marry up with the “official” Castle list. Likewise the people I think I may have asked, and the friends I actually see enjoying a drink in the Saloon, are sometimes not quite the same.

Luis and his team are always wonderfully supportive of my enthusiasm and my inventive counting, whilst the kitchen team begin by coping well and can then stray (quite understandably) into exasperated chef mode.

The placement becomes a little chaotic; more chairs needed, less available space and children placed much closer together than is altogether wise. I rush around to put the name cards on the table and find I still have more names than places. Luis, our ever optimistic butler and Banqueting Manager, says “Lady C you have two ‘Kits’” which I mishear as “two kids”. “No Luis”, I say firmly, “five children not two” whilst Luis, equally firmly, repeats “Two Kits, Kits!”  Luis is, of course, quite right and there is only one ‘Kit’ thank goodness, the other one is extraneous.

Thank you David Griffen – great food photos!

My apologetic attempts to shuffle up place settings are kindly appreciated but I am told firmly to go back to my guests. “We can do this Lady C”. I keep apologising, spot yet another person without a name card and rush back into the dining room again. The second ‘Kit’ has now become ‘Tom’ so I leave the place in situ and trot out again.

Luis asks, slightly long suffering, if there might be anyone else as there are now 10 more people than expected so far. I do indeed find two others and we all decide not to tell Chef. I say again how sorry I am as I cannot think how I can be so chaotic.

Sunday Lunch is normally offered “Butler service” but plating the lunch ensures everyone has a portion and is more efficient given the number to be served so we have now moved to that option. Chef has clocked the rapidly increasing numbers and is apparently now in a bit of a state, quite rightly really, but the pork is being carved with utterly delicious crackling and so I steer clear. Geordie remains wholly unaware of the current challenges and asks whether we can go through as it smells delicious. “Nearly” I reply, smiling brightly, hoping that Chef will still be with us tomorrow.

Sunday lunch also includes the red cabbage, roasted beets and yummy cauliflower which were part of  my recipe book. In fact that project  “At Home” – has been a very good bonding exercise between myself and the kitchen. My “A slice of butter” became a much more professional “50g of butter Lady Carnarvon”, “a glug of oil” became “a tablespoon of oil” and “ a large slurp of wine” was patiently renamed “half a glass of dry white wine” .

Part of my interest in food and cooking is to look at what we can eat to help us stay well and healthy. At this time of year I cook red cabbage with red onion, thus including quercetin as well as other minerals to bolster our immune system as well as giving a lovely warm shot of colour to the plate.

The cauliflower contains many phytochemicals (anti-inflammatory compounds) whilst beetroots are good for blood pressure which I am sure is a useful tonic for my husband.

Wine and water poured, plates delivered and conversation flowing, the lovely bubble of chatter and little faces of my nieces and nephew and other friends sitting under the great van Dyck portrait of Charles 1 – absolute perfection! Then pudding followed by coffee and the disappearance of all semblance of formality. The children are playing tag with Luis, their places abandoned; some friends are scurrying back up to London before the traffic gets bad, whilst others join me for a walk around the garden with my collection of happy, waggy-tailed dogs, the puppies tumbling over in their excitement.

Bella, the Grande Dame of my beloved dogs, takes a rest every few steps and ends up sitting like a white sphinx on the lawn until the walking party returns before meandering back with us for tea.