Seasonal eating in June
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If, like me, you sat scratching your head as we went from Arctic winter to Saharan summer in the space of a day, then your fridge may have also been caught unawares; your veg box is probably filled with sweet and normal potatoes, leeks and other hearty fare; you're probably on the last of your frozen tubs of stew and ragu in your freezer. If that's the case - don't fret too much; first of all you can easily lighten up all those heavy starches - potato wedges with a creme fraiche and herb dip are a perfect barbecue accompaniment and all that space in the freezer can quickly be filled with ice-cream - and more importantly ice for those long, refreshing glasses of Pimm's. And while we're restocking, here's a guide to what you should be sticking in your fridge or in your fruit bowl this June...
We normally view the cherry as a continental fruit - something that we buy on holiday in Spain, southern France or Italy - those big, deep, dark, plump beauties bursting with juice. But lots of cherries are seeing a revival in the UK, not grown traditionally on trees, but as small shrubs grown in warm poly-tunnels. Whichever you buy, they're usually delicious and suitable for all manner of sweet treats from sweet/sour cherry pies to a twist on the classic Eton Mess - or in one of my all-time favourites - a zippy cherry ripple ice-cream flecked with vanilla.
Some consider it therapeutic to sit quietly popping broad beans from their pods then whipping the skin off them; others think life is too short and leave the skins on. Do this, though, and you miss the fabulous bright green hue that will instantly turn your salad into a plateful of summer. Crushed with peas, mint and with a little feta folded through, they make a vivid and delicious alternative to the classic tomato topping for bruschetta; the beans'n'cheese combo continues with the celebrated Italian salad in which they are paired with pecorino.
Broad beans pop up in cuisines across the world - the Moroccans love them, calling them 'fava beans' and using them in tagines, dips - and my personal favourite - fried with artichokes and spices.
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Some argue that peas are best flash frozen, but there's something very summery about popping peas from a pod - and weirdly you can actually nibble on their shells for a unique green, super-fresh flavour. Peas, besides being the perfect partner for fish fingers and chips (my guilty pleasure comfort food), make a delicious puree to go with any kind of fish; or perhaps lamb chops, sizzling and pink from the barbecue, eaten with your fingers and dunked into the peas. Boil the little blighters for a minute or so, then drain, tip into a blender (or you can mash them, which gives a rougher finish) and add some creme fraiche, salt, pepper and a few mint leaves; blitz and serve straight away - if you leave the puree, it will start to lose its vivid colour.
Peas also play a part in a favourite Indian dish - keema peas; spiced lamb mince is tossed with hot peas and scooped up with plenty of naan or roti, finely sliced fresh white onion and perhaps a little yoghurt.
There are, though it might not seem that way, seasons beneath the waves just as there are above them and sea trout is bang in season right now. Their flesh lends itself well to the barbecue, so stuff the belly of the fish with fennel, cucumber, dill and slices of lemon - or go Asian and pop some coriander, ginger, chilli, spring onions and lime in there, serving with pillowy jasmine rice.
A brilliant summery way to serve sea trout is to souse it - cook it gently in a spiced vinegar bath before serving cold with either boiled, buttered Jersey Royals and perhaps a dollop of horseradish on the side, or with crusty white bread, lots of butter, a squeeze of lemon and a good grind of fresh black pepper - or if you're feeling like a treat, some lemon and dill mayonnaise.
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The strawberry is synonymous with British summertime. I'd struggle to think of any more delicious fruit when they're eaten straight from a plant hot from the sun. A pavlova spread with a mixture of thick cream and creme fraiche, topped with halved strawberries must be one of the finest summer desserts. Summer pudding would be lost without these little pops of sweetness, and macerated with a little tiny splash of balsamic vinegar and sugar, they are a perfect partner for spooning over vanilla ice-cream.
In the American deep south, strawberries are used in a sherbet - a version of a sorbet made with a little dairy (in this case buttermilk) for a sweet-and-sour icy treat. For me, though, the Rolls Royce of strawberry dishes is when the fruit is used as a scoop in a tub of clotted cream - pure British summer indulgence.
As I finish writing this, the sun seems to have gone on holiday, albeit briefly we hope - but that doesn't mean you shouldn't inject some sunshine into your cooking with June's beautiful, seasonal ingredients.
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My wife bought some tomatoes from Tesco recently. Their origin was in Poland. As tomatoes are in season in this country now (and in fact we are quite near a large tomato-growing region), why have said store decided to import said fruit all the way from Poland? Ah, cheap production costs no doubt. So, Tesco, explain to my why my nearby tomato-growing region uses Polish workers to pick the tomatoes? A rather strange, incongruous anomaly, don't you think?
Ah, I've got it. Is it because the tomato vine was trained up a Pole, perhaps?
Would love to know where you get your figures from ? Re---Pea's are the most popular veg ??
Many restaurants just put peas on the plate and thats the only veg they do > ? so when the surveys are done !! -of course peas come out on top ?????? BUT its not true although I like peas they certainly are not my favourite veg , --- On my prize list - Runner Beans 1ST ---Brussels Sprouts 2nd and joint 3rd -Cabbage - Leeks - Swede - Broccolli --------------------- and last of all peas
Enjoy your lunch