Much as we love a salad the humble lettuce leaf occasionally deserves a change and this easy soup, as delicious hot as it is cold is a great way to use salad leaves and cucumber. A refreshingly iced soup can be very welcome on a hot day and has the advantage of being easily freezable if you don’t want to use it straight away, something that cannot be said of the average salad so a very useful recipe to have if faced with rows of bolting lettuce leaves and in our case, enthusiastic cucumbers.

If you happen to have some nasturtiums growing or see some at a farmers market, pop some of the leaves into the soup and use a flower as a pretty garnish. They are lovely, fantastically easy to grow; the leaves offering a wonderful peppery flavour, while the flowers add a certain style to your salad bowl or as here make a pretty garnish.

I love this with some of that wonderfully mild French goats cheese whipped up with lemon and chives. You can use it as a garnish for the soup or serve separately on toasted sourdough. Either way, it works so well with the delicate soup and makes it a bit more substantial.

This recipe serve four but add and subtract according to what you have available – fennel leaves, courgette, spinach, peas etc will all work well. Mint is surely the ubiquitous summer herb and I use it in everything I possible can during the warmer months. There are so many interesting varieties available to us now – ginger mint is a current favourite that makes a gorgeous restorative tea and I have just planted basil mint which I think is going to be a very promising addition to the kitchen garden.

Spinach is not essential but certainly helps with the colour.

Serves Four

2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 stick celery (not essential!), finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 generous tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil
750ml vegetable stock (I use the non vegan marigold, green pot)
2 or 3 new potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 whole cucumber, chopped with skin
Big double handful of mixed green lettuce/spinach leaves
Handful of nasturtium leaves (optional)
Big handful of chopped garden mint
Four heaped tablespoons natural yoghurt (always green Yeo valley for me!)
Sea salt and black pepper
Lemon, rind and juice
1 tub French goats cheese
Handful of chopped chives
Four nasturtium flowers
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shallot, garlic and celery if using. Sauté gently until softened but not brown. Add the potato and straight away 600ml of the stock. Bring up to a simmer and cook unail the potatoes are soft.

Add the cucumber, simmer for two or so minutes and then add the lettuce, spinach, herbs etc. Season well.

Allow to cool a bit and then whizz with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Add more stock until the co sister is of a thin cream. When most of the heat has gone whisk in the yogurt and lemon juice to taste. Blitz again and if you feel it needs more yoghurt you could add that now.

Put the soup into a fridge to chill for a few hours.

When ready to serve, put the goats cheese into a,bowl and add the rind of the lemon and chopped chives. Whip together with a small whisk until smooth. Season.

Serve the soup in chilled bowls with a quenelle of goats cheese in the centre, garnish with a nasturtium flower and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil.

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A new phenomenom has come to our house….for the first time ever we have an actual glut of something in the vegetable patch. The courgette plants are loving this glorious weather and as long as we are generous with the watering and don’t take too many evenings off we seem to be being rewarded with a constant supply of the most beautiful yellow, green and chartreuse courgettes.

This versatile vegetable is a big favourite in our kitchen – spiralled into courgetti, stir fried with garlic, grated into risotto, eaten raw or cubed in an omelette. It even makes a wonderful cake ingredient; much like carrots or beetroot, courgettes lend themselves incredible well to a bit of baking.

This is a lovely, simple salad recipe that uses the courgette to it’s full advantage in that it is both cooked and raw. It is a natural partner to a soft goats cheese and the addition of broad beans and baby fennel makes a salad that sings of summer and celebrates all that is in season now. Do try it on its own or with a piece of grilled chicken or lamb. I use baby broad beans from the frozen veg section in Waitrose. They are absolutely wonderful and all you need to do is pour some boiling water over them, drain and then spend a few minutes slipping them out of their skins. Well worth the effort. If you have access to yellow courgettes then do use one of those.

Serves Two to Three as a main course, Four as a starter

60g baby broad beans, skinned
2 baby fennel bulbs, very finely chopped
2 medium courgette (about 125g each)
8 baby new potatoes (I love pink fir apple if you have those)
Tablespoon chopped chives
125g soft french goats cheese
Handful of washed salad leaves, any mix you like
Juice of half a large lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
Seasalt
Black pepper

Reserve any fennel fronds you have and finely chop those. Boil a pan of salted water and cook the potatoes until just tender. Drain and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, shave the courgette into fine strips using a potato peeler. Put half of these in a bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil and about a teaspoon of sea salt and grinding of black pepper. Add the fennel, toss to combine and set aside. Taste and add more lemon juice if you think it needs it.

Heat a griddle pan and drizzle it with some of the rapeseed oil. In batches, griddle the remaining courgette so that they have the grill marks on them and are just cooked. Remove these to kitchen paper as you go.

Cut the potato into small 3 cm pieces. Place into a bowl and add all the courgette, the broad beans, fennel and herbs. Toss lightly so that it is well mixed. Add a few salad leaves and finely little blobs of the goats cheese. Add the remaining fennel fronds and check the seasoning.

Pile up on a pretty plate and serve either on its own or as a side dish.

When the weather is hot but you need a little canape to enjoy with a glass of something chilled, this is a great alternative to the more traditional smoked salmon on brown bread. Certainly a little lighter, very pretty in pink with a sprinkling of green chives and quick to make. Just the thing as the temperature rises and you want to keep kitchen time to a minimum. Of course you could use green chicory if red isn’t available.

Makes about 30

200g packet of good quality smoked salmon
Rind and juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
pinch maldon sea salt
4 small heads of red chicory, leaves separated

Chop the salmon up into small pieces and put into a bowl. Add all the other ingredients except the chicory, reserving a few chives and mix well. Check the seasoning and adjust, adding a little more lemon or oil if you think it needs it.

Divide the chicory up into individual leaves. If they are very long then cut the wider end off. Fill with a teaspoon of salmon and place onto a nice serving plate. Sprinkle with the remaining chives.

This is a delicious way to liven up a tender little lamb cutlet and turn it into something special for summer. Peas and mint are a dreamy combination and the vivid green, minty purée, sort of both sweet and savoury all at the same time is a heavenly blanket for the lamb. Add a zing of freshness with the easy bean salad, brightened up with shavings of fresh radish and summer is on the plate. Marinate the lamb in a fragrant bowl of crushed rosemary, lemon rind and olive oil and cook either on a barbeque or under a grill.

Serves Four

4 – 8 tender lamb loin chops
Handful Rosemary, crushed
1 or 2 cloves garlic, pounded to a paste
Rind of a lemon
Sea salt and black pepper

PEA PURÉE

200g petit pois peas
Tablespoon finely chopped mint
Sea salt and black pepper
Knob of butter or tablespoon olive oil
Dash of hot water

SALAD
250g stringless runner beans
4 radishes
100g baby broad beans, defrosted
Juice half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper
Fresh mint and oregano, finely chopped
30g barrel aged feta cheese

First put the rosemary lemon, oil, seasoning and lamb in a bowl and toss together. Leave to marinate for anything from an hour to overnight.

Finely shred the beans. Slip the broad beans out of their skins and put into a bowl. Put the runner beans into a dry saucepan with a,little salt and cook without any water over a gentle heat until hot, tender and cooked through. Put into the bowl with the broad beans. Add the finely sliced radish, lemon juice, olive oil and season. Finely add lots of freshly chopped mint and oregano and crumble in the feta.

Heat the grill or have the barbeque ready. Grill the chops for a few minutes on each side until just cooked but still pink in the centre. Rest for five or ten minutes in a warm place. Whilst cooking boil the peas until tender, drain and then using a hand held blender blitz to a purée with the mint and the oil or butter. Season well.

Serve the chops on the pea purée and salad with some buttered new potatoes. A drizzle of olive oil enhanced with some crushed oregano and a squeeze of lemon, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper finishes this off nicely.

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SERVES SIX

500g pack good quality Scottish Smoked Salmon
1 heaped tablespoon fine capers
75g kalamata olives, stoned and chopped
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bag washed rocket
2 handfuls fresh basil
2 preserved lemons, finely chopped, discarding the flesh
extra virgin olive oil
Sumac
Black pepper

Make the pesto by blending the preserved lemon, garlic, half the bag of rocket, the basil, pumpkin seeds, seasoning and enough olive oil to make it slack. Check the seasoning and set aside.

Lay the salmon out artfully on a serving platter. Scatter over the capers, olives, pesto and finish with the rest of the rocket and a good dusting of sumac.

Serve as a starter or light lunch with some crusty bread.

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Much as I love a pudding I try not to indulge too often for obvious reasons! But there are times when one is called for the as most of us have rather busy lives it can be unrealistic to expect to have the time to spend hours in the kitchen.

Puff pastry is a great friend of the busy cook. It is one of the few things that really is worth buying, rather than making yourself. Just be sure to buy an all butter one, it truly is a time when you get what you pay for.

These little tarts can be made with or without the frangipane but I adore this soft, almond treat that whizzes up quickly in a food processor and partners so well with any sort of fruit and is brilliant with the pastry. It will spread out a bit whilst cooking but that really doesn’t matter. It adds a rather lovely home made, rustic effect and those cruncy edges are so delicious!

Use any good eating apple but I like ones with a red skin as they look very pretty. You want a good, crisp one with a sharp flavour. And in season a good English variety is a must.

Makes Six Tarts

One packet of all butter puff pastry
about 4 red skinned apples
100g softened unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1 large egg, beaten
Vanilla extract or powder
A little melted butter
Extra sugar for dusting

First make your frangipane. Easiest in a small food processor. Put the butter and sugar in and whizz until well blended. Add the egg, whizz again and finally the ground almonds. You could if you like add the rind of a lemon or a dash of vanilla extract.

Take your apples and cut into quarters. Remove the core and slice thinly into half moons. Put in a bowl and squeeze over some lemon juice. Toss so all the apple slices have had lemon juice on them to stop discolouration.

Have ready a large baking sheet and pre-heat the oven to 180c.

Roll out the pastry very thinly and then cut into six even rectangles. Put on the baking tray BEFORE you top them. The length is up to you but the width should be just wider than your apple slices.
Spread a good dollop of frangipane onto each rectangle of pastry and cover with overlapping slices of apple. Brush melted butter over each one and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Bake in the oven for about fifteen minutes or until golden brown and serve hot, warm or cold with some creme anglaise, ice cream or cream.

For the creme anglaise, see my recipe for lemon verbena creme anglaise and replace the lemon verbena with vanilla.

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Pork tenderloin is a brilliant cut for a quick but special supper. So versatile – it spices up wonderfully in a hot asian curry, is a great friend of the stir fry but is equally good with European flavours. Use it as you would a chicken breast. Cook all the way through but only just. It will toughen up if overcooked and should be just very slightly pink in the centre but never rare.

Trim your fillet of any sinew – this will shrink on cooking and is tough so you want to get rid of that with a sharp knife. I love this easy recipe that calls on the very British combination of parsley, sage and lemon, all mashed into some butter that melts in the centre of the pork. I’ve used marsala here (a little Italian coming into the mix) but cider would work beautifully as well.

Serves Four

2 x 350 – 400g pieces of free-range pork tenderloin, trimmed of any sinew
60g unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Rind of two lemons
Sea salt and black pepper
A little rapeseed oil
200ml fresh chicken stock
100ml marsala (dry)
100ml soured cream or creme fraiche
2 teaspoons clear honey
Some more finely chopped sage and parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 180c

Mash the butter and herbs together and add the lemon rind. Season well.

Take your pork and make a slit down the centre. Go about three quarters of the way through. Bat out slightly to even it out. Divide the butter down the centre of each pork tenderloin and then roll the pork around it, securing with a couple of cocktail sticks.

Have a baking tray heating in the oven. Heat a shallow pan with a little rapeseed oil and seal the pork on all sides. Remove and season well. Put into the oven for fifteen to twenty minutes or until slightly pink in the centre. It will carry on cooking whilst it rests in a warm place out of the oven.

While the pork is cooking, clean out the shallow pan if need be with some kitchen roll (only if there are any bits that look burnt) and add the marsala.

Bubble for a few minutes until well reduced and then add the chicken stock. Simmer hard again until reduced and looking syrupy. Make sure you stir in any bits that stick to the side of the pan. Add in the cream/creme fraiche and add the herbs and seasoning. Add the honey and taste to check the seasoning. If the sauce is a little thick you can let it down with a dash of boiling water.

Once the pork has rested for about ten minutes serve with crushed new potatoes or a nice mash. Swiss chard or green beans goes well with this.

Serves Six

30g watercress leaves (removed from the thicker stalks)
10g flat leaf parsley
10g fresh basil
5 – 10g fresh mint
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 heaped teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper
5 cornichons
2 teaspoons small capers
100ml rapeseed oil (or extra virgin or half and half)
Good squeeze lemon juice

You need a mini chopper for this or the smallest bowl in our food processor. Or you can do it by hand in a big pestle and mortar but you will have to finely chop everything first.

Put all the ingredients except the oil and lemon into your chopper. Add a quarter of the oil and whizz to blend. Add more oil and blitz together until you have a good consistency. Check the seasoning and add lemon juice to taste. Finally add the rest of the oil, depending on how thick you like your salsa verde.

Keeps in the fridge in a jar for just under a week as long as you cover the top with a fine layer of oil.

Serve with baked or pan fried trout or salmon. Wonderful with new potatoes, puy lentils or dunk some sourdough in it.

If serving with beef then some sharp little finely chopped shallot would make a nice addition.

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The kitchen can be witness to some miraculous tricks of cookery alchemy. Any souffle, savoury or sweet is one of those dishes that undergoes a magical process once in the oven. As long as you follow a few basic rules and make sure that there is minimal time from oven to plate you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

Souffles should, ideally rise beautifully straight with a traditional ‘top hat’ effect. If it doesn’t exactly work like that it really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that it rises, is gossamer light and packed with flavour. Be generous with the seasoning and hold your nerve. The oven door must remain firmly shut until the pinger goes off. A lovely clean, clear glass door is an asset here as it is useful to be able to see how your golden miracles are progressing.

I am using a good, mature cheddar cheese here. It works beautifully and is wonderful with the addition of the herbs but you could use gruyere, parmesan or even blue cheese.

Serves Four

Four ramekin dishes
Butter
Handful of white breadcrumbs

20g unsalted butter
20g plain flour
150ml whole milk
50g mature cheddar cheese, grated
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon dijon or english mustard
Tablespoon of finely chopped chives
Tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, stripped from their stalks
Sea salt & black pepper

1 small bulb of fennel
1 small red skinned crisp apple
Fennel fronds (from the fennel bulb)
Flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Lemon juice
Rapeseed oil
Sea salt & black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200c and put a baking sheet in it.
Butter the ramekins and toss the breadcrumbs around to stick to the sides.

Make the sauce first. Take a small saucepan and put in the milk, flour and cubed butter. Put on the heat and using a whisk stir constantly until thick and bubbling. Cook for another minute or two and add a good amount of seasoning and the mustard.

Remove from the heat and add in the cheddar cheese and the mustard. Stir until melted and as it all starts to cool add the egg yolks and the herbs, whisking well until you have a very thick and smooth sauce. Transfer this to a bowl and allow to cool.

Whisk the egg whites until the soft peak stage. Once the sauce is not longer hot (it doesn’t have to be very cold). Roughly fold a quarter of the egg whites to loosen it all up and then gently fold in the rest of the egg white. A metal tablespoon is best for this. Once the egg whites are all folded in check the seasoning.

Divide between the ramekin dishes. Run your thumb around the edge to create the ‘top hat’ effect and to help the souffle rise evenly.

Put into the oven and set the timer to 10 minutes.

Make the fennel and apple salad by finely shredding the fennel and slicing the apple very finely and if the pieces are big, cutting in half lengthways. Toss immediately in lemon juice to prevent oxidisation and then add rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil to taste. Season well and add roughly chopped flat leaf parsley and the fennel fronds. Divide between your plates, that you will have ready and waiting.

Once the souffles are well risen and golden brown (they may need an extra couple of minutes but judge through the glass window of the oven) remove from the oven and serve immediately. The will sink fast so speed is of the essence.

If you have some chopped walnuts it would be nice to toast some and add them to the salad.

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Makes 10

225g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
50g unsalted butter
25g caster sugar
1 egg
Approx 100ml milk

Pre-heat the oven to 220c

Measure the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and whisk together.

Cut the cold butter into cubes and add to the flour. Rub in well using your fingertips and keeping it well aerated. The mix will eventually resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the caster sugar.

Whisk the egg in a measuring jug and add milk until you have 150ml. Pour most of it into the flour mixture and using a knife, cut this way and that until you have a soft dough. You will have some milk and egg left over but just use enough until the dough is nice and soft but not too sticky.

Knead briefly on a very lightly floured work surface. Then gently roll out until about 2cm thick. Have a greased baking tray ready. Use a 2″ cutter and cut out rounds of the dough. Place on the tray. Keep the same way up all the time as you will get a much better rise.

Once they are all on the tray, brush the tops with some of the rest of the milk and egg. Bake for ten minutes or until they are golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool on a wire rack if you aren’t eating them straight away, warm! Top with clotted or whipped double cream and your favourite jam.

This recipe is a Mary Berry one and I have never found a better way to make scones.

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