This week, it finally felt like summer in London. On the few and far between warm, balmy evenings, eating something light and fresh is a must. Fortunately, the farmer’s markets have suddenly stocked up with asparagus, baby cauliflowers and wild garlic, so this week’s post is dedicated to my goodies from the market.
Pesto to me is “dinner in a jar”. Once you have it sitting in the fridge, you can toss together everything from a simple pesto pasta to pan-fried fish with pesto. I made a second batch of wild garlic pesto (there were a few requests for the recipe). In my view, there is no precise recipe for pesto, but there are a few do’s and don’ts that I have written up. Armed with these, you can go forth and make pesto out of greens and reds (red pepper, sundried tomato?) and anything else you fancy.
WHAT WE ATE THIS WEEK
At the risk of droning on about wild garlic, I used some of the leaves and added them to a simple bucatini amatriciana. A simple recipe with pancetta and tomatoes, the addition of wild garlic gave it a fresh flavour. Garnished with the flowers from the wild garlic, it all seemed rather special for a weekday dinner. For accompaniment, some roasted broccoli tossed with rocket did the trick. A light, summery and importantly, a quick fix.
Whilst on the subject of veggies from the farmer’s market, I realised that we often throw away the hard bits of young cauliflowers, when in fact they are perfectly edible. They need to be treated a little differently. The baby cauliflowers I bought were nestled deeply in a lot of leaves, all of which can be treated just like kale. Take off the central hard rib and chop up the rest. With the stems, take off a layer as if you were peeling them, and then thinly slice the insides. Cook these bits for a few minutes, before adding the florets.
Over Easter, we had gone to Hampshire, where we ate at the marvellous Peat Spade Inn. It’s heartening to see your children appreciate good food, and Brat no. 1’s main course of cod with new potatoes, pancetta and mushrooms was a perfectly moreish combination of flavours and textures. Wanting to try something similar at home, I came up with a recipe using asparagus and samphire. It was restaurant-worthy (if I do say so myself) and was the perfect weekend lunch with a glass of crisp white wine (I’m convinced the reason cooks use wine for cooking is that they can drink the rest!).
A few Swedes are still appearing in the market although root vegetables start losing their sweetness at the end of winter (during the cold months they store lots of starch in their roots, and hence the colder it is, the sweeter the roots). Wanting to make something different and fresh with them (rather than the usual soup or as a side), I tried a variation of an Ottolenghi recipe. I also used the last bit of a melting cow/sheep milk from Portugal for this recipe. Ottolenghi stuffs a mix of Swede, cheese and sourdough croutons into peppers, but he makes a fondant of Swede, i.e. cooks it slowly in massive amounts of butter. For a weekday dinner that seemed too lavish, so my version is cooked in a modest amount of butter.
The stuffed peppers served with a simple crisp side salad of lettuce and heirloom tomatoes weren’t heavy and thankfully left plenty of room for dessert (roasted strawberry ice cream, for another blog).
This week wasn’t all virtuous. Cheese, bacon and onion rolls were made to ensure it wasn’t. The boys have been doing a fair bit of sport, and these rolls are a hearty afternoon snack.
Coming on the menu shortly – sea bass with wild garlic pesto.
Love the short-lived summer and cook something fresh and seasonal!