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Posts from the ‘Summer’ Category

Broad bean and mozzarella toasts

Broad bean and mozzarella toasts

I’m not one to pick favourites, but if I had to, broad beans would definitely be on my list. Their delicate, fresh green flavour is the epitome of summer to me. They have a wonderful affinity with the fresh lemon zest, fragrant basil and rich creamy buffalo mozzarella in this recipe.

Preparing broad beans is a labour of love. I always, always double-pod mine. For both flavour and aesthetic reasons, I like the bright green inner bean to be completely disrobed. Broad beans lead such a cosseted life,  enveloped in the thick, soft wadding that forms their pod; the vegetable equivalent of a cashmere blanket. The beans inside have a tough white skin which also needs to be removed. I have read many times that if you catch the beans when they are young enough, this white skin is edible, but I’ve never found it to be anything other than slightly bitter and so I remove it as a matter of course. Read more

Apricot and almond tart

apricot and almond tartI cannot resist the abundance of fruit that appears during the brief summer months. My shopping basket is crammed with punnets of nectarines, apricots, raspberries, strawberries, cherries; mostly destined to be devoured by the handful, loitering by the open fridge door.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with apricots. I’ve always found dried apricots to be a total abomination, their flavour resembling that of  shrivelled up cold teabags. And fresh apricots can seldom be caught at that perfect point of ripeness. I am often seduced by a blushing, fresh fruit only to discover that the pretty soft skin is disguising a dry and woolly interior. For me, the magic only truly happens when you cook an apricot. Suddenly they are gloriously transformed into everything you always hoped they would be – fragrant and juicy, with sweet, tender honey flavoured flesh.

Almonds are the perfect partner to so many summer fruits and apricots are no exception. The two combine beautifully in this nutty, moist tart; lovely after dinner with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or stashed in a cake tin for those mid-afternoon munchies. Read more

Caipirinha chicken, yogurt flatbreads, spicy pepper sauce, herb salad

caipririnha chicken, yogurt flatbreadsIt’s virtually impossible to ignore a certain sporting event going on in Brazil at the moment, it’s even invaded my kitchen!

I have fond food memories from my travels in Brazil. Plenty of balmy evenings were spent relaxed in a bar, enjoying the amazing array of snacks and small plates paraded around, tempting you to seize the opportunity before they pass by. Platters piled high with hot coxinhas – delicious gooey croquettes filled with chicken and cheese, pão de queijo, empadinhas, outsized skewers of grilled meats…all ready to be washed down with a cold caipirinha or two.

So back to the balmy-ish days of June in the UK, where a warm summer’s evening brings the inevitable scent of charcoal wafting on the breeze.  I find the lovely long light evenings of June just enchanting, when it is light and warm till nearly 10pm. If the temperature holds up, an evening sat outside in the garden till twilight is a rare treat.

So the combination of a long warm evening, the BBQ out and Brazil on my mind led me to dream up caipirinha chicken. I wouldn’t imagine for a second that this dish has even an inkling of Brazilian authenticity to it, but I liked it anyway. Read more

Prawn, feta and watermelon lettuce wraps

prawn, watermelon and feta wrapsA crisp, crunchy, refreshing light lunch for a hot summer’s day. This is a quick dish to assemble, so minimal risk of the sun disappearing behind a cloud whilst you are in the kitchen.

Sweet, fragrant watermelon is perfect combined with the tangy, salty flavour of feta cheese.  The addition of prawns and a chilli and lime dressing makes for a lunch bursting with flavour. And so pretty too!

I bought a pot of ready-prepared melon rather a whole fruit, although the cubes in the package were a little large for this, so I cut them down into about 1cm pieces. Mix together around 100g of watermelon cubes with about 25g feta, also cut into similar size pieces. Add around 100g ready cooked prawns. Finely slice 2 spring onions and add to the mixture. Spritz over the juice of half a lime, a whoosh of tabasco (or finely sliced red chilli if you have it) and a scant drizzle of light olive oil. A generous hand with some fresh chopped mint and coriander plus a little black pepper finishes it nicely.

prawn watermelon and feta wraps

Pile the mixture on top of little gem lettuce leaves.  Makes around 4 topped leaves which serves 1.

Shopping list: little gem lettuce, pot of watermelon chunks, small block of feta, coriander, mint, 100g prawns, lime, chilli, olive oil, spring onions.

An afternoon of PYO and a blackcurrant arctic roll

Blackcurrant arctic roll

Blackcurrant arctic roll

I absolutely adore blackcurrants. I used to grow them a few years ago – I had a bush that grew quite happily in a pot on the flat roof in my old flat, but when I moved and planted it out into the garden here, it promptly died and I’ve not yet replaced it. I picked a good crop of blackcurrants at the PYO without any particular plans for them. My first thought was a blackcurrant trifle, but R peculiarly objects to whipped cream. But some way of combining the tart fruit with thick cream and sweet soft cake stuck in my mind. A cake wouldn’t do, we wouldn’t eat it fast enough, so I decided to invent a new version of an arctic roll. I’ve not eaten an arctic roll for years. It is ripe for reinvention, there must be so many variations you could do. It must be set for a comeback, I almost can’t believe it’s been out of fashion for so long.

This one is definitely a weekend baking project and I’m afraid a bit washing-up tastic. But worth it. I’m sure there are many ways that this could be simplified, but it’s not complicated, it just needs time. Read more

Mid-summer picnic, including the prettiest salad ever made

One of those hot summer weekends where you have to get outside as much as possible to absorb the sunshine in the hope of storing it up for the long winter months. We had a picnic planned with some friends and luckily our local market was on excellent form, so I was able to pick up plenty of mixed leaves and interesting veg. I settled on making a simple roast vegetable tart and some little cheesecakes, packed into jars for easy transportation.  Read more