Early summer and the elderflower is in full bloom on the Downs and I have collected some of the big white blossoms. I simmered them in stock syrup, drained, and served the juices with sparkling water and lots of ice to make a delicious elderflower cordial. It also freezes well for later on and tastes so much better than the bought version. They are also good with early gooseberries to make compote to serve with home-made vanilla ice-cream.
As the black bream season comes to an end the summer mackerel are appearing off the coast. Great on the barbecue served with fresh beetroot and chilli relish. At their freshest they are best with the fillets removed and pan fried in a little butter. A couple of minutes on each side are all that is needed.
At this time of year for a quick supper I like to make a basic risotto and then throw in a handful of freshly picked vegetables at the end. Add a few rocket leaves from the garden a twist of peas and baby broad beans (I like to double pod mine) and finish with a nutty pesto made with fresh flat leaf parsley which grows with abundance thought out the year and some shavings of local, Sister Sarah goats cheese and you have a really healthy supper dish.
With long, hot days later on the summer fruits can be amazing. If they last long enough to get into the kitchen my favourite task is to top and tail a few red gooseberries and a handful of ripe and juicy blackcurrants. I add these to stock syrup: equal quantities of water and castor sugar, simmered for a few minutes then chilled in the fridge. I serve this with rich and creamy natural Greek yoghurt
I can get even more enjoyment out of my blackcurrant bushes during their short season with a blackcurrant leaf sorbet. I steep a handful of crushed leaves in the same stock syrup and then either freeze in my ice cream machine or straight into a tub in the freezer stirring every hour until frozen. A hint of summer to come back to me in the long dark nights of winter!
For something to do during the school holiday why not take the children fruit picking. Choose soft fruit such as strawberries or loganberries to make a healthy alternative to ice lollies. Blitz, the fruit then strain and make up to taste with caster sugar or runny honey. Simply pour into lolly moulds and freeze. Whilst you are in the kitchen three leaves of gelatin to one 500ml of fruit juice and 100ml or pink Prosecco popped into your favourite moulds and you have a simple but grown up dessert for a lunch party.
As summer draws to a close there is a glut of beetroot and pointy cabbage in the garden. Rather than let them go to waste (or eat anymore!) I have been making my own fermented vegetables. All you need is a kilner jar that will fit into your fridge, your choice of vegetables water (use filtered not tap due to the chlorine) salt and perhaps a few pickling spices. Bay leaves, juniper and coriander seeds all work well. Thatís it! Left in a cool place for seven days until you get a degree of sourness you are happy with then refrigerate. Not only is this a delicious accompaniment to many dishes (try it on top of a toasted cheese sandwich made with crunchy sourdough and local Sussex Charmer) It is also a great prebiotic for your biome!
Happy Cooking! Jacqui