• Great Dixter in East Sussex, England, photographed by Andrew Montgomery
  • At work on the gardens at Great Dixter, photographed by Andrew Montgomery
  • Pear tart, photographed by Andrew Montgomery
  • Tomato salad with sumac dressing, photographed by Andrew Montgomery
  • Mint and pea soup, photographed by Andrew Montgomery

England is rich with grand manors and palatial estates, but for garden enthusiasts, one in particular comes to mind: Great Dixter, with its vast and lush gardens including a topiary lawn, waterlily pond and wild flower meadow. Originally built in the early 20th century by architect Edwin Lutyens, it was the longtime home of the Lloyd family, whose son Christopher Lloyd gave the gardens their renown; he was an award-winning horticultural writer with 20 books and countless newspaper and magazine columns under his name. Today, Aaron Bertelsen helms the grounds and his recently released book, The Great Dixter Cookbook, gives us an insider look into the famed vegetable garden, with 70 seasonal recipes using its ingredients — including some straight from the Lloyd family notebooks. “The connection between kitchen and the garden is one of the things that makes my job so fascinating,” writes Bertelsen, who also includes helpful entries on crop rotation, composting, pruning and choosing your garden tools. “Both cooking and gardening offer tremendous scope for creativity, whether that is adding finely chopped rosemary to a loaf of bread or growing different varieties of beetroot (beet) in triangles next to each other to create a foliage pattern, or sowing cream-coloured marigolds next to dark-leaved lettuces. As with everything at Great Dixter, neither the vegetable garden nor the kitchen ever stand still.” Here, a recipe from The Great Dixter Cookbook.

Mint & Pea Soup

50 g/2 oz (½ stick) butter
1 onion, chopped
1 litre/1¾ pints (4 cups) Vegetable or Chicken Stock (Broth, recipe included in book)
550 g/1¼ lb (4 cups) shelled fresh peas or thawed frozen peas
300 g/11 oz (2 cups) unpodded peas
Handful each flat-leaf parsley and mint leaves
5 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tablespoons double (heavy) cream
Salt and pepper
Handful mixed fresh herbs, chopped, to garnish

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pan over medium heat, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until it has softened. Pour in half the stock (broth) and bring to a boil.

Add the peas, shelled and unpodded, reduce the heat and simmer gently until tender (no more than 3 minutes for fresh peas, and about 2 minutes for frozen). Remove from the heat, add the parsley, mint and remaining stock. Transfer the mixture to a blender and purée the soup until as smooth as possible (if you like a very smooth soup, you might also want to strain it through a fine-mesh sieve). Season with salt and pepper and let cool, then refrigerate until really cold.

When you are ready to serve, mix the crème fraîche and double (heavy) cream together in a small bowl. Serve the chilled soup topped with a spoonful of the cream mixture and sprinkled with the chopped herbs. Serves 4.

Preparation: 10 minutes, plus chilling
Cooking: 15 minutes

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