Fresh produce supplier James Wellock looks ahead to the flavours of June, while British Larder chef and recipe writer Madalene Bonvini-Hamel creates some seasonal delights
June is a time for some truly wonderful seasonal produce, including the universal favourite and star of the season, the strawberry. However, it is worth waiting for the British varieties instead of settling for the inferior year-round offerings from overseas. The Scottish crop is the best – it takes up to 70 days to ripen (compared with 45 days in the south of the country), meaning they take in all that extra flavour. Strawberries are a versatile fruit, but for me they are at their best served with little more than a splash of cream.
They aren’t the only berries that will be coming to the market. Be on the look-out for locally grown blackberries and blueberries, and gooseberries will also be fabulous. These have returned to popularity in recent years, and the demand for local fruit far outstrips the supply, so get your supplier order in quick to make sure you don’t miss out! The berry offering is completed with the Tulameen raspberries from France, which are simply amazing.
June will see the end of the local asparagus season. It ends as abruptly as it starts, but with so many other options, we are spoilt for choice. For example, it’s pea and bean heaven with Yorkshire garden peas and broad beans. Get the freshest you can – the less time between the plant and the plate the better! If you fancy something a bit different, the Italian borlotti bean is an expensive but great alternative.
There has been a move towards traditional British staples, such as standard English cauliflower and broccoli, in recent seasons. New cooking methods have made them an exciting option once again – for me, barbecued cauliflower florets are a great example of this. All sizes and varieties are being used, which is a welcome move away from the regular supermarket spec, meaning more exciting ingredients for chefs and more variety for growers.
A tremendous veg option is the summer Primo cabbage. At less than a pound per serving, there are few vegetables that are such good value for so much taste. The green leaves are perfect shredded and cooked with butter and pepper: mouth-watering.
Root vegetables become really sweet at this time – take a look at carrots, the beetroot selection, leeks and white turnips. And don’t forget the baby vegetables – beetroot, carrots, fennel, leeks and navet are all spectacular, as are the amazing micro-salad onions from Scotland.
A regular on our table in June is the Ulster Prince potato. The beautiful creamy, waxy flesh just melts in your mouth and it has an amazing flavour. The Jersey Royal may be the more well known of the new potatoes but, for me, the Ulster Prince wins hands-down.
Of course, the summer months mean it’s time for salad. Local watercress will develop a lovely dark-green appearance from fresh water and sunshine and the peppery flavour is really pronounced in the British crop. Baby leaves are abundant, and chocolate mint and lovage will complement your herb selection. Flowers will also take an important place on menus, and there is a wide selection, including bean, cucumber, borage and viola blooms.
To go with the salad, there are heritage tomatoes in every shape, size and colour. The seasonal crops are vastly superior to the watery options available at other times of the year. Don’t forget to look at the whole range: datterino baby plum, amore cherry, the beautifully ribbed coeur de boeuf, the green zebra and yellow grape. Served simply with basil and burrata or mozzarella, they can’t be beaten.
Stoned fruits are a classic for summer and apricots are not to be missed. They thrive in hot European countries, but for me the French Provence apricots are the pick of the crop. They are just stunning: juicy, with a deep colour, a perfect texture and, of course, flavour. But don’t just stick to the orange-coloured fruit – try the white, pink and rose apricots too. There’s even a black plum hybrid, which is worth a try for something a bit different. Yellow and white peaches and nectarines are another great choice, but the best are the Paraguayan flat peaches. They are so juicy they are messy to eat, but definitely worth it.
Eating cherries in the summer sunshine is a treat for June. They are all fantastic at this time, but the French Avignon – a massive, crunchy, dark-red cherry – steals the show.
And finally, for something a little bit different, try pheasant eggs. About half the size of a hen’s egg, with larger yolks than quails’ eggs, they can add a twist to some of your favourite dishes. They are best before the end of June.
As always, the summer months will see a huge influx of sensational seasonal produce – make sure you make the most of it.
Garden pea and rocket soup
For the garden pea and rocket soup
- 2tbs olive oil
- 60g potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- 60g onion, finely sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 100ml white wine
- 600ml vegetable stock
- 150g garden peas
- 30g rocket
For the garden pea and rocket pesto
- 30g rocket
- 50g fresh garden peas
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1tsp Dijon mustard
- 10g grated Parmesan cheese
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 20g pine nuts, toasted
- 80ml olive oil
- 1tbs natural yogurt
- Olive oil
For the soup, heat a medium saucepan over a high heat and sauté the sliced potatoes, onion and garlic with the seasoning in the olive oil until golden brown. Add the wine and cook until absorbed.
Add the stock and bring to a gentle simmer over a medium heat. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. Add the peas and simmer for a further five minutes.
Transfer the soup to a blender and add the rocket. Blend until smooth, and taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Chill over ice.
In the meantime, make the pesto. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve the soup either hot or cold, garnished with the natural yogurt and pesto.
Smoked pork belly, mustard-braised breakfast radishes and yellow pepper purée
For the smoked pork belly
- 1kg pork belly
- 200g table salt
- 2 litres cold water
For the radishes and yellow pepper purée
- 2 yellow peppers
- 2tbs rapeseed oil plus 1 tbs extra
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 30 small breakfast radishes
- Salt and pepper
- 1tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp yellow mustard seeds
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 125ml white wine vinegar
- 1tsp caster sugar
- 200ml vegetable stock
- ½ tsp black mustard seeds
- 1tsp unsalted butter
- 2tbs panko breadcrumbs
- Turmeric oil
- Mustard cress
Smoke the pork belly in the Rational using the smoking attachment and maple woodchips. Score the pork belly skin. Make a brine by mixing the salt and water and brine the belly for two hours.
Drain the pork from the brine and place it on a steamer tray. Cold-smoke the belly for half an hour. Leave the smoking attachment in the oven and set the oven to roast at 150°C for 2.5 hours, then increase the temperature to 230°C for a further 15 minutes. Once cooked, press the belly overnight.
For the braised radishes and yellow pepper purée, place the peppers in a preheated oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes, turning a couple of times, to roast and blister the skin. Place the roasted peppers in a container, cover with clingfilm and leave for 10 minutes. Remove the stalk, seeds and skin, roughly dice and set aside.
In the meantime, place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil. Sauté the onions, garlic and radishes with seasoning along with the spices for about eight minutes, stirring regularly. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook until the vinegar is absorbed. Add the stock, place a cartouche on the surface, cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, braise the radishes for 10-12 minutes until tender to the knifepoint. Use tongs to remove the braised radishes and place them in a bowl with the extra tablespoon of oil. Cover and set aside to cool.
Return the pan with the onions to the heat and add the roasted peppers. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes dry and very little liquid is left. Transfer the pepper mix to a blender and blend until smooth, tasting and adjusting the seasoning if needed.
For the breadcrumb garnish, heat a medium non-stick frying pan over medium heat and toast the black mustard seeds for 30 seconds. Add the butter and breadcrumbs, stirring continuously, and cook until golden brown – this will take about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to kitchen paper to cool and drain.
When ready to serve, cut the pressed, smoked pork belly into squares and reheat in a pan with a dash of oil and butter to crisp the skin. In another pan, reheat the yellow pepper purée and the braised radishes.
Serve the purée, radishes and pork on a warm plate, garnished with turmeric oil, black mustard seed crumb and mustard cress.