celebrating colin’s birthday with 2 treats from The Secret Garden Cookbook (+ a giveaway)

♥️ Special thanks to Marian from the Netherlands for inspiring me to write this post. 🙂

“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said. “You remind me of someone else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want,” with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.”  ~  Archibald Craven (Frances Hodgson Burnett’s, The Secret Garden)



Guess who’s turning 60 on September 10?

Hint: he knows how to rock a waistcoat and cravat, is fluent in Italian, plays the guitar to relax, likes to tease fellow actor Gary Oldman about the size of his *ahem* manhood, almost voiced Paddington Bear in the movies, looks good WET (dry, and in-between), and even if you cook blue soup, he likes you just as you are.

Yes, it’s Colin, aka my secret husband (SO secret, even he doesn’t know about it). Fine specimen of a human being, don’t you think? Doesn’t look a day over 39. 🙂


Colin Firth as Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden (2020).


Unless you look at him playing Archibald Craven in the new Secret Garden movie. Have you seen it yet? They were all set for a big UK cinema premiere back in April, followed by the U.S. in August. But of course the pandemic changed everything, so instead, the movie went straight to video on demand beginning August 7, and will now open in UK cinemas October 23.



Colin, Colin, Colin, you’ve never looked so wretched, weary, or downtrodden. But Archibald is, of course, consumed with grief over the loss of his wife, making him inaccessible to his son and unable to properly care for his newly orphaned niece Mary Lennox, who comes to stay at Misselthwaite Manor.


Mrs Medlock (Julie Walters), Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), Colin Craven (Edan Hayhurst), Dickon (Amir Wilson) Archibald Craven (Colin Firth)


This new 2020 version (don’t worry, I promise not to be too spoilerish), is the fourth produced for the big screen, and Colin was attracted to the role because of the lavish garden scenes (which unlike previous films, were not confined to a single, walled-in area, but features an expansive, wide ranging terrain representing Mary’s unbounded imagination), as well as the “design concepts” of the castle, which really became a symbol for Archibald’s state of mind: dark, destructive, depressive. The creepiness of the house is highly atmospheric and underscores the tragic decline of what was once a joyful life.

Colin doesn’t get much screen time in the new movie; this makes sense since the story revolves primarily around the three young people: Mary, Colin Craven, and Dickon. The time period has been moved up to 1947, after WWII, instead of the early 1900’s as the book was originally set, and there is a new “character,” a stray dog named Jemima (later Hector, when his gender is confirmed), who helps lead Mary to the garden wall and gate key along with the robin.


Mary with Hector (this scraggly pup is a scene stealer!)


The spirit remains true to the original — the transformation of sickly, morose, isolated children into happy and healthier souls who blossom and thrive with newfound friendship, fresh air, good and nourishing food, and the magic of making things come alive.

Did you know this was the second time Colin appeared in a Secret Garden adaptation? Thirty-three years ago, when he was just 27, he played an adult Colin Craven in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie that’s told as a flashback from the POV of an adult Mary. Colin only appears at the very end, when he reunites with Mary after the war . . . and there’s romance!


Colin as Colin Craven in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie.


So it seems fated that Colin appear in these films, since there is a ‘Colin’ who has a major role in the novel, and he actually played this Colin years ago. Something else that’s cool about the 1987 version is that it was filmed at Highclere Castle. As a Downton Abbey fan, I enjoyed seeing familiar exteriors and interiors. 🙂

In addition to studio sets, the new 2020 movie was filmed at various gardens around England and North Wales, on location in Yorkshire, and at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire. Knebworth is a cool place all its own, known for hosting awesome rock concerts (Stones, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eric Clapton), and has been a choice setting for many other films, including “Nanny McPhee” and “The King’s Speech.” I imagine Colin feels quite at home there. 🙂


Poor Archibald. He needs some good food to restore his spirits!


The Secret Garden is one of my top three all-time favorite children’s novels, so it’s really icing on the cake to see Colin, however briefly, in two of the movies. Revisiting this classic, whether between the covers or up on a screen, tends to make me hungry because hearty farm-fresh Yorkshire fare helped restore Mary and Colin to optimum health. Okay, time to eat.




Since it’s Colin’s birthday week, and in his role as Archibald Craven he desperately needs cheering up, Mr Cornelius suggested we make two treats from The Secret Garden Cookbook: Inspiring Recipes from the Magical World of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden by Amy Cotler (Harvard Common Press, 2020).

This newly revised edition was published to coincide with the movie’s release this year, and contains 42 recipes inspired by the novel, all true to time and place and updated for the modern kitchen.


Original and revised editions


Like the original 1999 edition published by HarperCollins, it contains wonderful recipe headnotes, excerpts from the novel, as well as fascinating tidbits about Victorian era and Yorkshire regional foods. The recipes are presented in seven chapters, with delectable introductions for each:

  • Yorkshire Breakfasts
  • A Manor Lunch
  • An English Tea
  • From the Kitchen Garden
  • Dickon’s Cottage Food
  • A Taste of India
  • Garden Picnics

I actually like both cookbook editions, as each has its own particular delights. The older edition has a vintage feel to it, with side notes and hand drawn illustrations by Prudence See printed in green. It also has a larger font size, which makes recipe instructions easier to read from a distance.

The revised edition contains all-important color photographs (by Alison Bickel) for most of the recipes, and it lies flat when open for ease of use. Though the recipe list is identical, Cotler has updated several dishes to cater to today’s tastes. Aside from a few very simple recipes (Strawberries and Cream, Cucumber Sandwiches), most are more suitable for children to make with adult supervision. Actually, I would categorize both as ‘literary cookbooks’ rather than children’s cookbooks, since readers of any age who love the novel would enjoy the culinary history and added context, whether they make the recipes or not.

Yorkshire Oatcakes

As you can imagine, Mr Cornelius had a hard time deciding on what to make. After all, when you’re confronted with Currant Buns, Tattie Soup, Toffee Pudding, Jam Roly Poly, Crumpets and Cornish Pasties, you want to make and eat it all.



But clever Cornelius wanted to fortify the birthday boy with oats, as it is a staple in Yorkshire, with some form of it consumed by both rich and poor at the time the story takes place. In fact, one of the first mentions of food in the novel is when Martha serves Mary a bowl of porridge for breakfast.

Dickon is Cornelius’s favorite character, likely because of his gardening smarts and his ability to communicate with wild animals (who seem to love and trust him). So we made Yorkshire Oatcakes from Dickon’s Cottage Food chapter.



You may know there are several variations of oatcakes; some are like pancakes, while others more closely resemble crackers or crispbreads. They can be eaten plain, fresh and hot with butter, or broken up like cereal and served with milk. They were an inexpensive staple for families like Dickon’s (he lived in a four-room cottage with 13 other people).

Susan Sowerby, Dickon’s mother, would have prepared large quantities of inexpensive oatcakes regularly, cooked on a bakestone suspended from a hook over the fire. Afterward, they were propped up to dry on a block of wood, or even hung up like clothes on a line! Once the oatcakes were firm, Mrs. Sowerby would have stored them for months, or even years, in a wooden chest, buried in oatmeal, so they could be pulled out at any time to heat up for eating.

I actually made a version of oatcakes years ago that called for yeast and cooked up like pancakes (for sweet or savory fillings).

The oatcakes recipe from Cotler’s new cookbook is entirely different, and tastes like a not-too-sweet oatmeal cookie. Cotler describes them as “the energy bars of their time.”




In neither case did I prop them up on a block of wood or hang them up on a clothes line to dry. And there certainly weren’t any left over to store in a wooden chest for years. 😀


Good broken up and eaten with milk.


Versatile, filling, portable, and satisfying — it’s easy to see why cottage folk like the Sowerbys ate a lot of oatcakes, along with bread, buns, and gingerbread parkin. Theirs was a simple diet (depending on what they could grow and if they owned any domestic animals), but made from scratch and fresh.


Yorkshire Oatcakes

  • Servings: 16 oatcakes
  • Print


  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup very cold unsalted butter, cut into slices
  • 2 tablespoons very hot water


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  3. Work the butter into the dry ingredients, using your hands, until it looks like very coarse crumbs, with no large pieces. Add the water and mix.
  4. Form into a ball. Press onto a baking sheet with your hands until the dough is an even square about 1/4 inch thick. Using a knife, cut down the middle and across to make 16 squares. Don’t separate them!
  5. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until nicely browned. Break them apart to serve.

~ adapted from The Secret Garden Cookbook (Newly Revised) by Amy Cotler (Harvard Common Press, 2020)



Warm Cranberry Scones with Orange Glaze

In addition to Dickon’s oatcakes, Cornelius wanted to give equal time to something Colin Craven and Mary might enjoy at Misselthwaite Manor. With their privileged backgrounds, they would be well fed, with access to a much wider variety of foods. The manor likely had a large kitchen garden, a greenhouse for out-of-season produce, its own dairy cows, and a flock of chickens. What they couldn’t produce themselves they could purchase from nearby farmers.




Colin and Mary enjoyed their nursery tea, served each afternoon at 4 p.m. They might typically have finger sandwiches, plain sponge cake with jam, and scones. Tea itself has great curative powers and was savored by both classes. Whether a nursery tea or a simple bread-and-jam picnic in the garden with Dickon, it was all good, warming their tummies and lifting their spirits, fortifying them against the bracing Yorkshire weather.

Cotler includes a plain scone recipe in the first cookbook, and jazzed things up in the second with Cranberry Scones with Orange Glaze.



Slightly tart dried cranberries and refreshing orange rind add wonderful flavor to these scones. Oats provide a little more texture, while the yogurt adds richness. Overall, a delicious, satisfying scone perfect for teatime or anytime you crave a special treat. There’s nothing quite like these warm from the oven with a cup of Yorkshire Gold. You’ll be feeling your oats in no time!


Warm Cranberry Scones with Orange Glaze

  • Servings: 8 scones
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print



  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • zest of 1 orange (reserve orange for juice)
  • 1/2 cup plain. yogurt
  • 1/4 cup water

Orange Glaze

  • 1 tablespoon orange juice, or more if needed
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. To make the scones, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. Blend the butter into the dry mixture using your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs and no large pieces remain. Add the oats, cranberries, and orange zest, reserving the orange for the glaze. Lightly combine, then stir in the yogurt and water. Mix lightly to combine again.
  4. Push the dough gently together on floured parchment paper. Knead by pushing the dough away from you with the heels of your hands, then folding toward you. Repeat about 4 times just until it will hold together.
  5. Pat the dough into a circle about 7 inches in diameter. Using a floured knife, cut the dough across its diameter to make 8 equal wedges. Move the parchment with the scones on them to a baking sheet and gently separate the scones.
  6. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until they are lightly browned.
  7. To make the glaze, whisk together the orange juice and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl until combined. It should be thin enough to brush on the scones, so add a touch more orange juice if needed. When the scones are still warm but not piping hot, drizzle or brush them with the glaze. Serve warm.

Tips: Instead of cutting the butter into small pieces, freeze the stick ahead of time, then grate it onto the flour mixture before working it in with your hands.

If using a thicker yogurt (like a Greek yogurt), you may need to add a few drops of water to make it easier for the dough to hold together while kneading.

~ Adapted from The Secret Garden Cookbook (Newly Revised) by Amy Cotler (Harvard Common Press, 2020).




Happy to say Colin loved the treats and his alter ego Mr Craven felt much better after polishing off his share of scones and oatcakes. He also had three cups of milk and 4 cups of tea!




Mr Cornelius was proud to help a grieving man, but hopes that in his next movie, Colin will play a happier character (we both wouldn’t mind another romantic comedy or something). 🙂



While you’re helping yourself to another scone or oatcake, enjoy The Secret Garden movie trailer:




Here’s Colin discussing his role. Talk about disheveled (I really want to brush the hair off his forehead):




And just for fun, here’s Colin’s final scene in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie:











THE SECRET GARDEN COOKBOOK: Inspiring Recipes from the Magical World of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (Newly Revised)
written by Amy Cotler
published by Harvard Common Press, 2020
Literary Cookbook for ages 8+, 112 pp.



For a chance to win a brand new copy of The Secret Garden Cookbook, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) Tuesday, September 22, 2020. You may also enter by sending an email with COLIN in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!




♥️ CODA ♥️


There have been many beautiful editions of The Secret Garden published over the years, illustrated by such notable artists as Tasha Tudor, Charles Robinson, Jessie Willcox Smith, and Inga Moore.

Moore’s might be my favorite; it’s a gift edition first published in 2008. Love her stunning pen and ink and watercolor illustrations. Perfect for diehard SG fans and a magical way of introducing the novel to new readers. What gorgeous detail!

Here’s a peek at some of the art:







Also love this SG greeting card by Tasha Tudor (click to purchase):

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” (Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden)




P.S. Just in case you’re having a few Mr Darcy yearnings, check out this 6-foot tall Mr Darcy cake, created by Michelle Wibowo to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series. The cake took 200 hours to make and was officially unveiled a few days ago at Lyme Park in Cheshire, the setting for Darcy’s Pemberley Estate.

The cake is a Victoria sponge with vanilla buttercream, chocolate ganache and fondant icing on the outside. After unveiling her masterpiece, Michelle took a bite of Mr Darcy’s shoulder. 🙂



Yes, Colin, you really do take the cake!

Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

35 thoughts on “celebrating colin’s birthday with 2 treats from The Secret Garden Cookbook (+ a giveaway)

  1. Jama, what a synchronicity that you made this gorgeous post today! I JUST reread the book last week! It had been over 30 years, can you believe it? I don’t know why I waited so long. I read the Tasha Tudor version which is gorgeous, but I may have to get the Moore one. . . .And, Dickon is, I believe, a true spiritual master! Perhaps St. Francis of Assisi?? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Jama, a delicious post for September, I love seeing the trailers & ‘extras’, but the Mr. Darcy cake, well, takes the cake! I am amazed at people’s creativity! Also, I love scones & dried cranberries so that recipe you chose is one that will be great to try. Thanks much and have a special week ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is amazing what some people can create. Making the cake would be hard enough, but imagine trying to transport it in a van to that location? I wonder if she assembled parts of it on site or finished it at her studio and then took it over there?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely smile he has (I don’t know whether I should call him “Colin” or “Mr. Firth”)! The artwork is wonderful and I love the whole world being a garden. I am a fan of oatcakes, especially Effie’s. And I am 100% in favor of orange glaze for scones. Must try.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so much, Jama, of reminding me of my childhood joy and absolute fascination reading and re-reading this book. Thanks, too, for the notice of the new movie version. And I hope I win a copy of that cookbook :). The scones look particularly delicious! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear you’re a Secret Garden fan too, Penny. I can vouch for the scones, and look forward to trying more recipes from the cookbook.


  5. Jama, this is a nice blog about “dear Colin” again, I’m glad I was a bit of an inspiration for you, woudn’t have missed this one
    I have a lot of reading to do here, but I wish Colin Firth would read this blog and the one you wrote for his 50th Birthday, he would surely laugh a lot and appreciate them both.
    The only thing I can do is welcome him to the club of sixties!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Dear Jama, my comments disappeared due to some distortion in the computer world!. Just to paraphrase. Thank you for this wonderful Colin article! How can Americans access the proper service for movie watching? Be safe and A-L-O-H-A! Li

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry your comment disappeared. Must be the WP gremlins at work. I watched the movie via Prime Video. I think there are some other streaming services showing it too, but not Netflix, as far as I know.


  7. I loved The Secret Garden as a child. My niece who was only 3 years younger and I would pretend that a certain part of our garden in the Bronx was an opening into another world. This new version of the movie looks beautiful. I like that they moved it up to 1947. Thank you, Jama, for sharing.


    1. I liked imagining parts of my grandmother’s yard was a secret garden. It would have been wonderful to see this new movie on a big screen because of all the outdoor scenes they filmed.


  8. Lots of fun information in your post…I didn’t know the 1987 movie was filmed at Highclere Castle! Thanks for the yummy recipes, your blog is delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

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