The true taste of Ardèche

Chateau, Jardin, Cuisine: Secret Recipes from the Ardèche by Regina Von Planta is published by Unicorn, £20

Regina von Planta swapped a career in investment management for a life of gardening and cooking in Ardèche. Now she has gathered a collection of regional recipes from her friends, published in a new cookbook. She reveals how she settled in, and offers three recipes

Fifteen years ago, my husband and I, through extraordinary good fortune, found and purchased a beautiful but rundown small farm in a remote region of France.

Soon we set out with a car, stuffed with things we no longer needed in London, plus our two daughters, to spend our first summer in the Ardèche.

Those weeks turned into a year and then two years. As our girls learned a new language and the French way of life, I learned how to live away from the city and traded my high heels for muddy boots and a garden trowel.

It is an adventure that continues to this day and has inspired me in ways I would never have imagined.

It was the neglected land that drew me in: the many terraces descending towards a small river, covered with pine trees, semi-dry water wells and bramble. I dreamt of transforming this dying, overgrown ruin of a farm into a garden.

I made mistake after mistake after mistake. Finally, I learned to respect the land and its terrain, understand the soil and, most importantly how to best use our natural supply of water.

It took a very long time but eventually I lost my romantic illusions and understood what the locals already knew: life on this land can be hard but also very rewarding. Everything people did had a purpose and it was all connected to their land.

My semi-successful efforts to preserve our many crumbling terraces, to prune old fruit ...

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