Summer’s bounty pours out next month, says fresh food produce supplier James Wellock. Meanwhile, British Larder chef-consultant Madalene Bonvini-Hamel cooks up some seasonal recipes
July is a fantastic time of year for produce, and we are spoilt for choice. British growers are being creative and producing some great fruit and vegetables that you wouldn’t normally think of as being grown here. Crops that would usually travel for several days to reach the UK can now be in your kitchen within 24 hours of harvesting.
We have Yorkshire kohlrabi, one of the most underrated vegetables, in part because chefs don’t know enough about it. As it’s local it is exceptionally fresh, which is the key to brilliant food. July is the perfect month to start buying kohlrabi and the season will continue to October. It can be used as an alternative to turnip or radish. Once peeled and thinly sliced, raw kohlrabi has a beautiful, spicy flavour – some chefs use it as part of a coleslaw.
You need to get kohlrabi as soon as possible after harvesting and with the leaf on – this indicates its freshness. If it’s really fresh the leaf can be eaten. When you slice into the bulb, there should be no fibres that look like flecks – the inside should be silky smooth.
Fennel is another root that is being grown locally. Its aniseed flavour comes from anethole, a type of aromatic compound that occurs widely in nature and is the same compound found in anise and star anise. As this is indigenous produce, there’s the added bonus that it doesn’t have to travel tightly packed, which means it will retain its lovely fern top.
We will also have British-grown wet garlic, red and white chicory, corn on the cob and globe, baby and violet artichokes. The chards have been another massive area of improvement in recent years, with the Swiss and rainbow varieties offering both fabulous colours and amazing nutritional value.
From Lincolnshire we have another gem in green garlic – fresh garlic harvested young and eaten whole. The cloves are just beginning to separate inside the bulb and the skins are still soft and tender, so you can eat the lot. It has a mild, sweet, nutty flavour, which can be used cooked or raw. Try wrapping several bulbs in foil with a little salt and a good oil and stick them on the barbecue; just unwrap after cooking and squeeze out a sumptuous purée.
Green and yellow courgettes will be in abundance in July and available in all sizes. If you like to use courgette flowers, now is the time as they will be beautiful and fresh.
You can get cultivated samphire almost all year round, but the real deal is the wild variety, available in July. Other foraged sea vegetables to look for are sea aster and sea purslane.
Last month, the UK berry season was in full swing, with fantastic strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, but you have to wait for July for British raspberries. For me, the Scottish raspberry is the best – it’s bigger and juicier and takes longer to grow so it has more time to develop its outstanding flavour.
You can’t really go wrong with fruit in July. The only things you might consider passing on at the moment are apples and pears – at this time of year they’re from the southern hemisphere, expensive and lack flavour. Save apples and pears for autumn, when the British-grown varieties can shine.
Melons, on the other hand, will be delicious. The Provence Charentais is my favourite, closely followed by piel de sapo. This is similar to a honeydew, but has a striped green skin, earning it the nickname “the frogskin melon”. When ripe it has 14% sugar, making it the sweetest melon available, along with firm flesh. The perfect time to eat them is when the skin turns yellow. It is worth buying them and then storing until the yellow tint appears to guarantee the perfect eating melon. Look out for heavier melons as well – it’s a sign they are full of sweet juice. Frogskin beats the yellow melon hands-down – give it a try!
I mentioned apricots last month, but they really come into their own in July. The Provence climate is perfect for growing them, and as they are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin A and C and pectins, they are as healthy as they are gorgeous to eat.
The French greengage, while in season only briefly, is considered one of the finest dessert plums. It’s a prelude to the UK plum season, and a perfect choice for desserts in July.
Pan-fried and cured red mullet with fennel and salad onions
For the fennel purée
- 250g fennel, finely sliced
- 1tbs unsalted butter
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 200ml vegetable or red mullet stock
- 100ml double cream
For the griddled cucumber and salad onions
- ¼ cucumber, sliced and seeds removed
- 6 salad onions
- 1tbs olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the red mullet
- 12 fresh small red mullet fillets, scaled and pin bones removed
- Sea salt
- ½ bulb of fennel, finely sliced using a mandoline
- Juice of one lemon
- 2tbs olive oil
- 6 bronze fennel fronds (of an even, medium size)
- Crispy onion flakes
- Black salt
- 6 lemon segments, each cut into 3
First prepare the fennel purée. In a small saucepan over a medium heat, sweat the fennel in the butter with seasoning. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, remove the lid, and simmer over a medium heat for a further 10 minutes. Let the stock reduce – you do not want the purée to be too wet. Add the cream, increase the heat and boil for two minutes. Blend the purée until smooth and then pass through a fine sieve. Transfer to a squeeze bottle and set aside. Serve the purée warm, rather than hot or chilled.
To griddle the cucumber and salad onions, coat the cucumber and onions in the oil and season. On a preheated griddle pan, bar-mark the cucumber and salad onions all over – this will take about six to eight minutes, depending on how hot the pan is. Once marked, cut the cucumber and salad onions into smaller pieces and set aside (do not refrigerate) while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Lightly season six red mullet fillets with salt and place in a large vacuum bag. Spread them flat and add the sliced fennel, lemon juice and one tablespoon of the olive oil. Seal the bag on full vacuum and place in the fridge while you complete the dish.
Do not prepare the mullet in this way too far in advance – give it a maximum of 20 minutes. If left too long, the fish will over-cure and become rubbery and dry.
When you are ready to serve, heat a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat with the remaining olive oil. Season the remaining red mullet fillets and pan-fry them, skin-side down, for two minutes until golden brown. Flip them over for 30 seconds and then remove from the pan. Drain the fillets on kitchen paper.
Remove the pickled mullet fillets and fennel from the vacuum bag. Place one cured mullet fillet skin-side down onto each plate, followed by a few slices of the pickled fennel, then place a pan-fried mullet fillet on top. Dot the fennel purée onto the pan-fried mullet skin and garnish with the griddled cucumber and onions, pickled fennel, crispy onion flakes and lemon segments. Lightly season with black salt, place one bronze fennel frond on top of each fish and serve immediately.
Pink peppercorn, marjoram and raspberry friands with raspberry mousse
For the pink peppercorn, marjoram and raspberry friands
- 120g unsalted butter, beurre noisette and cooled
- 100g icing sugar, sifted
- 40g ground almonds
- 40g plain flour
- 60g egg white
- 1tsp clear runny honey
- 6 fresh raspberries, roughly chopped
- Zest of one lime
- 8 pink peppercorns, crushed
- ¼tsp fresh marjoram leaves, finely chopped
- 50g caster sugar
- ¼tsp freeze-dried raspberries
For the raspberry mousse
- 80g caster sugar
- 3 large free-range egg yolks
- 1tbs warm water
- 2 leaves gelatine, bloomed and melted
- 200ml raspberry purée, chilled
- 200ml whipping cream, whipped
- Fresh raspberries
- Small fresh marjoram leaves
- Crushed pink peppercorns
- Freeze-dried raspberries
Make the friand mixture a day in advance or rest for a minimum of six hours. To make the beurre noisette, place the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it starts to foam and the solids become toasted and nutty brown. Take care, as the butter will burn very quickly. Once it is golden brown, immediately pass the beurre noisette through a fine sieve and let it cool completely. After it has cooled down, mix together the beurre noisette with the icing sugar, the ground almonds, plain flour, egg whites and honey. Refrigerate the mixture overnight.
In the meantime, make the raspberry mousse. In a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks and warm water until the mixture is cooked, fluffy and aerated – it should take about eight to 10 minutes. Add the melted gelatine and whisk to incorporate it, and then add the chilled raspberry purée. Mix well and place over ice for eight to 10 minutes to cool but not set. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled raspberry mixture, transfer to a clean container and refrigerate to set completely – about six hours.
The following day, preheat the oven to 180°C and grease with butter 18 pastry rings or moulds measuring 5cm in diameter; then set them aside. Remove the mix from the fridge 20 minutes before use. Mix the chopped raspberries, lime zest, crushed pink peppercorns and chopped marjoram into the
friand mixture and then spoon the mixture into the moulds.
Bake in a preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for five minutes before turning out of the moulds. Mix together the caster sugar and freeze-dried raspberries. Immediately and carefully roll the hot friands in the sugar mixture and set aside to cool on a cooling rack.
To serve, spread a bit of the raspberry mousse onto serving plates, then place one friand and a quenelle of the raspberry mousse on top. Garnish with fresh raspberries, crushed pink peppercorns, freeze-dried raspberries and small marjoram leaves.