Updated: Jun 16
My summer calendar, much like yours, is abnormally empty but I'm actually kind of glad about it. I'm strangely looking forward to a long hot summer with nothing much to do except lounge around in my little garden, watching as the tendrils of my peas twist around the canes and the pods swell; cutting fistfuls of fresh salad leaves to have with our dinner each night; waiting for the day when we can dig our first potatoes. I'm looking forward to all the time I will have to cook in a season when I am usually galavanting around here, there and everywhere with a busy work and social schedule. And, of course, I'm really looking forward to beginning to share some of these meals with my friends and family in our garden.
1) Roast Chicken with Lime and Mint
I've been wanting to make this recipe from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries since early March. As soon as we had that first batch of sunny weather back at the beginning of spring I was dreaming of radishes and salads. Now, the radishes from my garden are well and truly at their peak - in fact we have so many we have started leaving little bunches on our neighbours' doorsteps.
There is something so satisfying about pulling a radish. Seeing those little pink shoulders, which look dull at first, tentatively pushing through the mud with its flurry of big green leaves. Then when you pull it to reveal the shocking pink body of the radish and its long wiggly root there's always a moment of doubt where you worry that you have pulled it too soon making the thrill of it even more gripping.
We have grown French Breakfast radishes this year which means that they are long and thin instead of bulbous like most radishes you may see in the shops. They are also intensely peppery so I think they will work perfectly in this dish.
The recipe is: Roast 4 chicken drumsticks with oil, salt and pepper until golden and crisp. Shred the meat into juicy chunks and then make a dressing from the roasting juices, lime juice and fish sauce.
Tear mint leaves, shave the cucumber and radishes and toss with watercress and the shredded chicken and it's nippy dressing.
Doesn't that sound utterly delicious?
Recipe is on page 173 of The Kitchen Diaries III.
Last month at one of my virtual supper clubs, I challenged one of my diners to make their own ricotta and I think it's only fair that I also have a go!
I'm intrigued by the apparent simplicity of it. To make ricotta you heat full fat milk and use acid (either lemon juice of vinegar) to separate the curds and the whey, creating fresh cheese.
Will the reality be as simple as the method sounds, and - more importantly - will the taste be worth it? Watch this space and I'll report back!
3) Macerated Tomatoes with Herby Ricotta
This is a create dish for a lunch - served like a bruschetta- or as an appetiser to a meal. It takes just a few minutes to whip up and tastes so good you'll wish you made a bigger batch. Even my other half, who claims that he doesn't like tomatoes, can't resist this dish. It can be eaten straight away but it's best if you leave the tomatoes at room temperature for at least 20 minutes to macerate.
125g ricotta cheese (approx 1/2 tub)
50g cream cheese
handful soft herbs - chives and mint are my preferred options but basil, dill, parsley or tarragon are delicious too
approx 100g cherry tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
Focaccia or good bread to serve
1) Weigh out the ricotta and cream cheese into a small bowl and mix together.
2) Chop the herbs as roughly or finely as you like and mix them into the cheese. Season with a little salt and pepper then set pop into the fridge to chill.
3) Using your hands, roughly tear and squeeze the tomatoes up into a bowl - this makes them more juicy than cutting them with a knife. Season the tomatoes with the caster sugar, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and some olive oil. Leave them to macerate for around 20 minutes.
4) To serve, daube the cheese across the bottom of a shallow bowl and mound the tomatoes on top, allowing people to dive in with some toasted focaccia or sourdough. Or, assemble as a bruschetta.
4) Really Good Potato Salad
How good are potatoes? My recipe for my Not Quite Dauphinoise Potatoes is one of the most popular recipes on my blog (you can find it here) and I expect that this will be just as much of a hit! Most potato salads call for boiled potatoes but I like to roast them for my version of this dish because it is a truth universally acknowledged that roasting things with olive oil and salt makes them infinitely more delicious.
700g jersey potatoes
2 dessert spoons good quality mayonnaise
2 large gherkins
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp capers
1/4 tsp honey
small bunch chives
approx 1tbsp picked parsley leaves
salt and pepper
1) Preheat the oven to 180c/gas5. Wash the potatoes and place them on a baking tray with some olive oil and salt. Roast for around 20 minutes until the skins are golden and crisp and the flesh is soft.
2) Meanwhile, finely dice the shallot and gherkins. Roughly chop the capers and herbs. Add all of these things to the mayonnaise, along with the mustards, honey and a crack of black pepper. Check the seasoning.
3) When the potatoes are cooked, leave them to cool slightly before adding them to the mayo. This can be served cool but I like it slightly warm.
5) Ice cream
When I'm on holiday I consider it my personal duty to ensure that I have an ice cream every day. I can happily report that I successfully manage to fulfil this duty. So although I may not be jetting off anywhere exotic any time soon, that surely doesn't mean a long hot summer without ice cream?
Now, this might be controversial: I don't like chocolate ice cream. I want to...but then every time I get to the counter and see the deep, voluptuous crimson of the raspberry ice cream, the rich purple blackcurrant ice cream, or the snowy vat of lemon sorbet, I can almost feel the sharp, refreshing sweetness in my mouth and I simply cannot resist. One of my favourite holiday ice creams was a two scoop cone I enjoyed in Bologna back in 2013. One scoop of apple and one scoop of mango. I ate that same ice cream every day we were there.
So, this month I also intend to have a play around with trying to create a holiday treat to enjoy at home.
6) Brown Sugar Meringue with Marinated Strawberries
We made this dish as part of one of my virtual supper clubs a few weeks ago but I love it so much I wanted to share it here too.
60g caster sugar (+1tbsp)
50g light brown sugar
1/2 tsp pink pepper corns (optional)
zest and juice of a lemon
creme fraiche or double cream to serve
1) Preheat the oven to 100c fan/ gas ½ .
2) Separate the eggs and save the yolks for using another day. Put the whites in a large bowl. Weigh out the sugars into another bowl.
3) Using an electric whisk or stand mixer whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks then begin to add the sugar, one teaspoon at a time, whisking until it is fully incorporated. Once all the sugar is added, you should have a glossy, thick, latte coloured meringue.
4) Spoon the mixture into a piping bag, fitted with a large nozzle (if you have one) or cut the bag so that the opening is about the size of a 5p. Make sure you cut it cleanly to ensure that you get a lovely clean finish on your meringue.
5) Line a baking tray with some baking paper. If using a fan oven, dot a little smidge of meringue in each corner of the tray so that the paper doesn’t fly up and mess up the meringue.
6) Pipe lovely big rounds by holding the bag perpendicular to the tray and with the end of the bag about 2cm from the base of the tray. Squeeze the piping bag firmly but carefully to release the meringue. Do not move the bag – the meringue will come up the sides around it that’s ok! Once the meringue is about 5cm tall, stop squeezing and gently lift the bag out. You should get a little flick of meringue at the top of your delightful smooth dome. Repeat three more times (4 meringues in total).
If you don't have a piping bag, they look equally delightful shaped into rustic rounds with a spoon. I like to make a little divot in the centre to hold the strawberries when I shape them this way.
7) Pop them into the preheated oven for 1-1 ½ hours until they are set and lift away from the paper easily.
TIP: I had a little extra meringue left so I piped a baby tester meringue. I can check this one without worrying about breaking it.
8) Take the tops off the strawberries, wash them and quarter them.
9) In a bowl, cover them with 1 tbsp caster sugar, the zest and juice of a lemon, the lightly crushed pink peppercorns and a good twist of freshly cracked black pepper (turn it to a coarse setting if you can). Place into the fridge for later and allow the berries to marinate for at least an hour.
10) Serve the meringues with the berries, spooning over plenty of their pink juice, and a dollop of creme fraiche or cream.