Read our latest recipe in the Sherborne Times pages 56-57
The sun is shining and beckons us to linger over a picnic beside the sea or enjoy a lazy ploughman’s lunch in a favourite pub. But there is work to done as soon as we step into the kitchen garden, the summer berries are glistening, ripe for the picking and tempting the pigeons that gather on the lawn. Artichokes and beans of all sorts are tender. Harvest now to serve in salads and preserve some in a chutney to enjoy later in the year.
This is definitely a season of plenty and I hope you will be spoilt for choice.
Enjoy these seasonal treats now –
Full of antioxidants and vitamins C and K these flavoursome berries were first grown in Britain during the 1930’s. Partner them with yoghurt, mascarpone or ricotta to serve with pancakes or dessert. Bake in a pie or add lemon zest for a homemade breakfast muffin which will be enjoyed anytime of the day. Try a compote of berries poached gently in apple juice until their skins are soft and will gently burst with a touch of your fork, releasing their divine purple flesh. Spoon over a compote to serve with ice-cream or granola.
Later in the month when they are plentiful visit a fruit farm to pick your own, we like http://www.dorsetblueberry.co.uk/pyo.html Then return home with a basket full to make jam to spread on toasted sourdough or a freshly baked Victoria sandwich. Or carefully prepare a spiced sauce to bottle and serve with smoked duck.
To me summer has arrived when I see a pile of cherries on the kitchen table displayed in my favourite dish. They rarely get any further than being enjoyed just as they are but if you are inclined, invest in a cherry stoner. Then spend the time to make a clafoutis with a batter of ground almonds and free range eggs. Serve warm from the oven for a Sunday lunch treat and the family will love you even more.
When I lived at my grandparents’ farm it was always my job to pick the runner beans but my grandmother always prepared them. She could slice them so thinly they were almost translucent. They were served at every meal during their season, but with hindsight we were so fortunate to enjoy a ‘cooked dinner’ every day. My grandfather loved them as they were great to soak up the gravy! A few were packed into the freezer for the autumn but I didn’t care much for those and would never bother to freeze beans myself. They would probably languish in the bottom looking sad and unappetising, waiting for that fateful day to be thrown on to the compost.
To enjoy at their best grow a few plants in a sunny corner of your garden or visit a farm shop where you can guarantee they have been picked that morning.
Select the freshest looking pods that have only grown to about 15cm (6” long), prepare them as soon as you can by trimming the top and tail. Remove the string along the sides with a paring knife and then slice as finely as you can on the diagonal.
Serve briefly boiled and topped with dill butter for a delicious light summer supper. Or blanch and refresh to serve with sour cream and toasted hazelnuts for a salad. Make a runner bean piccalilli to serve with cold meats and store ahead for Boxing day or give to a friend.
Although it can be available all year round, lobster is regarded as the ultimate summer treat. As the sea becomes warmer the crustacean tends to wander into the shallow depths so are easier to catch. In severe winter, the weather will limit the amount of days a fisherman is able to safely sail a small boat and haul, check and replace lobster pots. So lobster remains a seasonal treat.
To guarantee freshness the cook should be prepared to select a live lobster and dispatch it yourself. As soon as you get home, store it wrapped in a damp tea-towel in the fridge and cook on the same day. Some chefs plunge the lobster immediately into a large pan of water at a rolling boil. I opt for the method of freezing them at minus 18C for two hours so that they fall asleep. Then kill the crustacean instantly with the point of a sharp knife pushed through the centre of the cross on its head. Cook by boiling in heavily salted water and allow 15 minutes for every 450g (1lb) and then another 10 minutes for any additional 450g (1lb) but no longer than 40 minutes in total.
Once cooked, remove from the pot and as soon as it is cool enough to handle, twist off the claws which can be broken into sections. To remove the flesh you will need to crack these with a clean hammer (or borrow the one from the tool box and wrap it in a clean tea-towel – remembering to return it)!
Then twist the legs to remove from the body and flatten with the back of a knife. Just relax and enjoy the time carefully removing each scrap of meat with a coffee spoon or skewer.
Next, split the lobster in half along its length by inserting a large, sharp knife at right angles to the edge of the head and press down firmly. The body and tail should split in half lengthways.
Finally cut through the head just as you did the body. Separate the two halves.
Discard the stomach sac, the gills and the intestinal thread that runs along the tail.
The tomalley or green liver is often regarded as a delicacy but if you prefer not to eat it then you could add it to the shell and make stock. Remove the roe and set aside.
Carefully scrape out the soft flesh from the shell and remove the meat from the tail. Serve hot with butter or cold with garlic mayonnaise.
Lobster butter – Remove the roe and mix with fresh chopped tarragon or dill, lemon zest and add to softened butter. Roll into a sausage shape and chill in the fridge to serve with the lobster or with pasta.
Cooks tip – Plan ahead and pre-order from your local fishmonger http://www.hartsnaturalseafoods.com/Contact.html
Also make sure there is room in the freezer for chilling and that you have a pot large enough for cooking.
Despite being time consuming to pick, red currants are well worth growing in the kitchen garden. High in pectin they are perfect to marry with rhubarb, blackberries and pears for making jam. Or on their own they make a beautifully clear jelly to serve with lamb or add a fruity note to salad dressings.
Partnered with blackcurrants they are the classic foundation to a Summer Pudding along with a few raspberries and early ripening blackberries.
The leaves of the blackcurrant bush have a more distinctive and pungent aroma and were originally used in a tisane. The currants are rich in Vitamin C and 95% of those grown in Britain are used in cordials. At home try them in a fruit syrup or make a liqueur with vodka. Blackcurrant jelly is an ideal accompaniment with game, or for making jam and a very refreshing sorbet.
Gather the currants on the stalks and then recruit a willing helper at the kitchen table to run a fork along the stem to release the individual currants. Or just pour yourself a coffee and enjoy the peace and quiet whilst you do the job yourself.
If you would like to pick your own currants contact http://www.bakefarmcoombebissett.co.uk/