Monday, July 22, 2013

Grilled courgettes with garlic and herbs

Courgettes are one of the real pleasures of summer. I know you can by them year-round, but a fresh English courgette has a sweetness and depth of flavour that the imported, glasshouse-grown kind just can't match up to.

Last week I found some for sale from a garden in East Dean, Sussex. This weekend they came from Kent, via Brixton farmers' market. When buying courgettes, look for smooth, glossy skins (duller ones may be past their best) and go for smaller specimens which have more flavour and are less watery.

Courgettes and garlic are a wonderful combination, and this easy, North African-inspired salad makes the most of that, with the addition of some warmth from the chilli and extra interest from the fresh herbs. Best served at room temperature or just warm, it's become a staple of recent picnics.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A cool green salad for a hot summer's day

It's still hot. The grass is turning beige in the parks, and the roses that looked so fresh and glorious last week are beginning to look faded. Who knew it was possible to have so many warm sunny days in a row?

I think I've enjoyed more picnics already than I had during the whole of last summer. Eating dinner in the sunshine, preferably in an open green space, seems like by far the most attractive option on evenings like these. The trick is to go for two or three dishes with bold flavours, that will travel well but don't require too much labouring over a hot stove, or take valuable time away for your picnic.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Roast Mediterranean vegetable soup

Still recovering from my dental surgery, home-made soup seemed like a good option. The weather demanded something a bit summery, though - something with flavours of the Mediterranean.This soup almost tastes like sunshine.

It's easy to make, too, though not the quickest soup ever due to the fact that you have to roast the vegetables. Sliced courgettes, red peppers, onions and whole cloves of garlic were roasted until soft. Then all that remained was to blend them with some tinned tomatoes, herbs and seasoning. I kept it thick and substantial, but you could add more water if you prefer a thinner stock. It's so full of ripe summery flavours that you don't need stock - water will do fine.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pea 'risotto' with mushrooms and lemon

Some rather painful dental work means that it's soft food for me for the next few days. But I'm not going to view it as being confined to baby food - instead, this is an opportunity for some soothing, comforting, and still delicious meals.

First up was a risotto of sorts. Risotto is probably the most elegant dish that you don't actually have to chew. I was inspired by Nigel Slater's 'green pea rice', in which the rice is swollen with pea soup. I've added pureed vegetables to risotto a few times before - it's a technique that works particularly well with pumpkin or butternut squash, as well as tomato, but I hadn't tried it with peas before.