As the global pandemic of the coronavirus has made it difficult for many people to have access to fresh produce, it is even more important than perhaps ever before to grow it yourself. And with spring underway—it is an excellent time to start planning your own garden.
Steven Titman, Executive Chef at Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant, has shared some of his best tips for growing seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs at home. “At Summer Lodge, we’re very committed to reducing the number of food miles in our cuisine, so growing it ourselves is ideal,” he says. “Also, it means we’re able to grow exactly what we want, when we want it, allowing us to create the best menus possible.”
Titman, knows well how important it is to have access to locally sourced produce as he oversees the award-winning restaurant at the five star hotel that is located in the village of Evershot, which is midway between Dorchester and Yeovil and three hours southwest of London. As a result, the Restaurant at Summer Lodge is known for using superb local ingredients, much of which are grown in its own gardens. “Our kitchen garden may be modest in size compared to others, but it’s particularly special to me because the focus is 100% on quality, seasonal produce that my team can best utilize in our kitchen to produce outstanding dishes,” Titman says.
Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant is part of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, a family-owned hotel company that encompasses such well-known properties as The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, Bushmans Kloof and The Oyster Box in South Africa as well as The Chesterfield Mayfair and Hotel 41 in London and Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland.
All of the properties within The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, including Summer Lodge, are well-known for offering excellent cuisine (see Forbes’ recent article “Experience A Five Star Hotel At Home With These Recipes From The Red Carnation Hotel Collection”) and many grow produce and herbs in their own gardens, which is an emerging trend (read more about this in Forbes’ recent article “The Travel Trend of the Future: Luxury Resorts That Grow Their Own Food”).
How does the produce from the kitchen garden inspire your menu in the restaurant?
“My whole team takes time to keep an eye on the garden throughout the year and be aware of what produce is coming next. As we’re able to see the produce growing, it inspires us to create new dishes using the latest crop. Typically, we get a bounty of cabbage, salad vegetables and herbs in the summer, and root vegetables throughout the winter, and this is reflected in the menu.”
How do you decide what to grow in the kitchen garden?
“We work closely with Summer Lodge’s gardeners to create a plan in advance of how to best use the area we have, and using our experience, we try to grow produce we know will be successful given the British climate.”
Sustainability is a guiding principle at Summer Lodge. How does this manifest itself in the kitchen garden, and how it is maintained?
“We work very hard to limit our carbon footprint in all areas of the hotel and the garden in no exception. Initiatives like our well-tended compost area, which makes use of vegetable waste, tea leaves, egg shells and even coffee grounds. Furthermore, we don’t use pesticides. Instead, we encourage wildlife that eats pests, so we have our own natural pesticides.”
What are your tips for people looking to create their own kitchen garden at home?
“The best tip is to grow produce that you enjoy eating, but bear in mind what produce will be best suited to your climate. For someone who cooks a lot at home, a great place to start is simply growing a selection of herbs. This will not only enhance your food but also save on your food bill as well.”
For anyone looking to start a home kitchen garden, what are the easiest plants to begin with?
“Herbs and Rhubarb would be my tip. Herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme and chives can be grown simply and are a lovely addition to so many dishes. Similarly, rhubarb is hardy, easy to grow and prefers a cool climate.”
Can you give us an easy recipe from Summer Lodge’s kitchen garden?
“One of my favorite springtime recipes is wild garlic soup (seen below). Wild garlic is a popular foraging find, but it’s also easy to grow yourself and this is a super versatile dish that can be served hot or chilled. I love it with a nice piece of steamed Salmon as a main meal, or served with some local Dorset diver harvested scallops—delicious!”
Summer Lodge Wild Garlic Soup
1 White Onion
4 Sticks celery
10 Button Mushrooms
1 Bulb Garlic
1 Large Potato
1 Litre Vegetable Stock (or light chicken stock)
300g Wild Garlic leaves
4 tbsp Crème Fraîche
Roughly chop the onion, celery, leek, mushrooms and 3 cloves of garlic and cook slowly in a pan with the butter. When they are soft and translucent add the stock and bring to the boil. Cut the potato into 6 or 8 pieces and add to the pan, then add the cream. Bring to the boil and simmer until the potato is cooked. Place in a blender and mix on high speed until smooth.
Fill another pan with water, add 4 more garlic cloves and bring to the boil.Quickly cook the wild garlic leaves for a couple of minutes (don’t forget to add some salt to the water). Remove the leaves and cool in ice water then blend until smooth.
Bring the soup base to a boil and then just before serving stir in the garlic puree (this will help keep the soup a nice bright green colour). Season with salt and pepper and crème Fraîche to taste. Serves four to six.