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Plot-to-plate – and beyond at RHS Garden Wisley

Posted by Sara Draycott on 09 Sep 2013 at 05:03 PM

By Laurent Trenga, Taste of Wisley   

One of the great joys working at Wisley is receiving the fresh produce straight from the garden. Not many chefs have access to such an array of ingredients grown a short walk from the kitchen door. I love the smell of the earth on the stems and, no matter whether the harvest is big or small, really believe the fantastic freshly-picked taste of the produce makes all the difference to Taste of Wisley dishes.

Much of last week we were literally up to our elbows in green and yellow courgettes from the Trials Field. They go straight into our delicious Wisley courgette cake (a bit like carrot cake if you’ve never tried it), but as with any glut we have to think about preserving them too. We’ve been making classic bread and butter pickle as well as courgette and apple relish with cumin, paprika and chilli.

         

1. Courgettes                 2. Courgette cake           3. Pickle-making

At home I grow courgettes every year, in pots as well as in the ground. They are such beautiful plants – the foliage and flowers are look wonderful – and they are easy to grow from seeds. I always pick courgettes small, if I can keep up with the plants! Then we eat them simply shaved and dressed with olive oil, parmesan and lemon juice, or I make a frittata from them (which my boys like), using flowers and all.

If I get some large courgettes because I’m distracted or forgetful (to be fair, there are always sneaky ones that manage to hide themselves away then surprise you) I like to cook them as my grandmother did: stuffed with minced pork, onion, tomato and plenty of garlic, then topped with parmesan and breadcrumbs and baked in the oven. For that dish, rosé wine served in glass beakers is de rigueur.

Recent visitors to Wisley will have seen the courgette and halloumi skewers from our Garden Grill menu advertised on our posters. They are so easy to make at home – simply cut the courgettes into bite-sized pieces and thread them onto skewers with similarly-sized pieces of red pepper, red onion, and halloumi cheese. Brush with oil (a flavoured one if you like) and place them on the grill or barbecue. We serve them with mint and yoghurt dressing.

        Recipe - double click to enlarge the image.

This month courgettes are also being used in our décor for the Restaurant, along with agapanthus and other seasonal cut flowers and grasses. Matthew Pottage, Garden Manager (Hardy Ornamental) is the one who ensures the Restaurant is supplied with glorious summer displays of flowers, foliage, seed heads, cones, bark, and so on, and that the Conservatory Café, Glasshouse Café and Coffee Shop have charming tabletop plants too.

Helping us ensure that Wisley-grown produce stars on our menus year-round is Oliver Wilkins, Garden Team Leader, who arranges crop walks for the cooks to review current and upcoming produce. Over the next month we’re expecting more courgettes (!), plus runner beans, green tomatoes and another crop for which Wisley is especially renowned: apples.

If you’d like to hear more about plot-to-plate cooking and how to make the best use of gluts, join us for one of our harvest brunches in the Restaurant this autumn. We’ll be serving a celebratory brunch (10-11.30am) and talking through autumn’s sensational produce and the best ways to cook and preserve it. Brunch is £17.50 per person (excludes garden entry) and advance booking is essential. You can book online via rhs.org.uk/wisley. Our dates are 21, 22, 28, 29 September and 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20 October.


 

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