All the dishes on the kitchen garden tasting menu use ingredients grown in the surrounding beds. Atkins says: ‘You are eating food from the earth in the centre of our vegetable garden.’ One of the courses on the menu is finished on the open fire. This could be a pre-dessert or an amuse bouche – something that can be held on a stick and popped over the flames.
Plants that grow wild, scattered near the kitchen garden and local village, also feature strongly in the menu, though for Atkins, their use is more practical than fashionable. She says: ‘I always think it’s a bit overdone, this foraging business. I don’t set out in the morning for a wander – I don’t have that sort of time – but there are tons of stuff growing, so when I walk into work there are plants on the way and by the riverbanks.’
The Yorke Arms is in the tiny village of Ramsgill and Atkins told us: ‘Ramsgill means wild garlic, ramsons, so we’re very big on wild garlic here. Last year we pickled the wild garlic seeds from the flowers – that was just amazing. We collected hundreds of wild garlic flowers and then picked out the seeds and put them in a pickle. We’ve just about finished using them. They were like putting little garlic peppercorns on food – it was really, really good fun.’
Preserving nature’s abundance enables Atkins and her team to use plants from the garden and environs all year long. Atkins told us: ‘I’m big into preserving. We make sloe dust, we make pine dust… Everything in the garden is used – we’ve got tons of fennel, so we make a load of fennel pollen and we’ve had oceans of sorrel, so we preserve it somehow or we dry it. Salting and drying are just fantastic things to do because the flavour is so intense... It is these things that makes one’s food stand out because you get such a great taste in your mouth.’