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A day in the life of The Sportsman in Seasalter (and a summer lunch of fresh vegetable tartlets and chilled beetroot soup)

Summer is a time for lounging around and soaking in the sun. But at Stephen Harris's restaurant, things are still all systems go
At Stephen Harris's restaurant in Kent, summer days mean picking, preparing and pastry-making Credit: Andrew Twort & Annie Hudson for The Telegraph

I thought I would describe a typical summer morning here at The Sportsman.

I come down to the bar at about 7am and spend an hour answering emails dealing with people who are chasing me for recipes, stages (essentially, internships), money or something else. Once that is done I try to catch up with any writing I have hanging over me.

Theresa has already been in the kitchen from about 6am making the bread for service. She makes three different types: soda bread, rosemary and red onion focaccia and sourdough.

I make two strong caffè lattes to get me through the morning. Carol the cleaner arrives at 7.20am and tries to engage me in conversation, but all I am good for at this point is a series of caveman grunts.

Dan Flavell, my head chef and friend with whom I have worked for the last 18 years, arrives at about 8am and we sit down and have a talk about the week ahead. Everything moves so fast in the summer months that we have to have a plan for new ingredients that have come into season and any problems that the kitchen is facing.

This is how a seasonal kitchen works: we’d never change the menu for the sake of it

We talk about incorporating new ingredients into the menu. This is how a seasonal kitchen works: we’d never change the menu for the sake of it. We have our dishes and ideas from last year to fall back on, but any new ideas must be discussed and agreed on.

Ronan the gardener arrives next, and, in his gentle Derry accent, tells us what to expect from our two polytunnels. We have just built six cabins for customers to stay in and Ronan, with my brother Philip, has designed the area so that customers will sleep in a wild meadow, punctuated with the ingredients that they will eat.

We think it is beautiful but we have already had a customer loudly declaring that it looks like “an awful mess”. That is another thing that happens in the height of summer – an increase in rude and strange customers. This job requires a thick skin.

Once the rest of the chefs arrive at around 9am, Dan goes into the kitchen to brief them, while sous chef Russel Baker heads out to the tunnels to pick anything that’s to be used today.

Ronan takes the van to collect more fruit and vegetables from the local farms while I head to Canterbury. We are lucky to have a farmers’ market near us which is open all week, called the Goods Shed. It acts as a hub for local farms: I visit often and today I’ll buy a couple of bits to add to our menu.

On my way back to Whitstable I take a route which passes a few fruit stalls and farms. I will check on what they are selling. I especially look forward to the loganberries arriving at the fruit stall at the end of the road.

By the time I get back the kitchen is in full swing. Pastry, stocks, ice creams and sauces are taking shape; chefs are cleaning, butchering and prepping the ingredients that have arrived this morning. One of our six chefs will have been to the beach to pick seaweed and anything else we need from the shore. Another will be making different butters from the raw cream we get from Ottinge Farm every Saturday.

Finally, at noon, we are ready to open our doors and serve the 100 customers who have booked for today’s lunch and dinner, many of them months in advance. The recipes below are the kind of thing we like to serve on a summer lunchtime.

Summer vegetable and goat’s curd tarts

Credit: Andrew Twort & Annie Hudson for The Telegraph

SERVES

Six to eight

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 125g cold butter, diced
  • 60ml double cream
  • 100g thin strips of courgette, removed with a vegetable peeler from small courgettes
  • 100g raw beans, peeled into thin strips
  • 100g selection of summer leaves, such as rocket and butterball lettuce etc
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 50g small fresh peas
  • 50g broad beans, cooked and deskinned
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 200g goat’s curd, at room temperature
  • Edible flowers, such as chive and rocket (optional)
  • Salt

METHOD

  1. Pulse the flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the cream, one tablespoon at a time, while the motor is still running, until the pastry pulls away from the sides.
  3. Remove to a floured surface and knead briefly, by hand, then wrap the pastry in cling film and leave for around 30 minutes in the fridge.
  4. Divide the pastry into four equal pieces and knead each piece into a ball. Leave in the fridge for a further 15 minutes to chill.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
  6. Roll each ball out to around the thickness of a pound coin, and use these to line four 10cm-diameter tart cases.
  7.  Prick the bases with a fork.
  8.  Scrunch up some baking paper and line the pastry cases with this, and then fill them with baking beans. Bake for around 15 minutes. The pastry should be starting to set.
  9. Remove the baking paper and baking beans and return the pastry cases to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.
  10.  Trim the edges and allow to cool, then remove from the tins and set aside.
  11. Put the vegetables into a bowl and dress with the oil, vinegar and a pinch of salt.
  12. Leave for five to 10 minutes.
  13.  Divide the goat’s curd between each tart case, then scrunch up a quarter of the mixed vegetables in your hand and place into each tart.
  14.  Finish with some freshly ground black pepper and edible flowers, if you like. Serve. 

Chilled beetroot soup

Credit: Andrew Twort & Annie Hudson for The Telegraph

SERVES

Four to six

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g beetroot
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 100g cabbage (red if available), finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Lime juice, to taste
  • 100g sour cream
  • Finely chopped chives, to serve

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3½.
  2. Put the beetroot in a small baking tray and cover with tin foil. Cook for 30-45 minutes, until tender to the tip of a sharp knife.
  3. Allow the beetroot to cool, then remove the skin. Cut into small dice and set to one side.
  4. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about three to five minutes. Add the cabbage and cook until soft, two to three minutes. Add the red wine vinegar, and cook until it has evaporated.
  5.  Now add the beetroot to the pan and turn up the heat. Add just enough boiling water to cover the beetroot – remember, you can add water to thin the soup, but not the other way around.
  6. Boil for three to four minutes, then blitz in a blender, in batches if necessary, until smooth. This is the time to adjust the texture, by adding more water if required. Add some salt and lime juice to taste, and then chill in the fridge for at least eight hours.
  7.  When the soup is chilled, taste again and adjust the seasoning. Serve in chilled bowls, with a scoop of sour cream to the top and a sprinkle of chives. Squeeze on a few drops of lime juice. Serve.