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Flavours of July

01 July 2010

At this time of year we have a particularly beautiful selection of ingredients, including lobster, cherries, buckler leaf sorrel, beetroot and artichokes. Madalene Bonvini-Hamel, creator of the recipe diary Britishlarder.co.uk, offers some tempting recipe suggestions.

With summer in full swing and the markets bursting with the summer bounty there are many wonderful ingredients to choose from. It's almost a matter of flicking a coin to see which ingredients should take centre stage this month.

We are celebrating the pleasures that British cherries, courgettes, lobster, English lamb, vine-ripened tomatoes, fennel, beetroot, buckler leaf sorrel and artichokes bring. As a cook you always see and savour the sheer beauty of the raw ingredient, and at this time of year we have a particularly beautiful selection; it's almost a shame to peel or pod them.

British honey is also at its very best as the bees are hard at work and have plenty of flowering fruits and plants to collect their nectar from. The most enjoyable sight is to watch them working away and pollinating the fruits that we will enjoy later on in the season.


BRITISH CHERRIES

British cherries are something special to celebrate and enjoy. On 10-11 July Brogdale Farm in Kent (home of the National Fruit Collection) will be hosting a cherry festival, where visitors can take a tour around the orchards and sample some of the 350 cherry varieties it grows.

National Cherry Day is on 17 July in association with CherryAid - Food Lovers Britain's campaign to save the British cherry. There will be lots of activities and events going on around the country. To find out more go to www.foodloversbritain.com/FoodMatters/FoodLovers-Britain-CherryAid

The campaign highlights why it is so important to save the British cherry. It's reported that in the last 50 years Britain has lost 90% of its cherry orchards and imports 95% of the cherries we eat.

Do your bit for the British cherry - buy British and make the delicious set goat's milk pudding with cherry compote and cherry sherbet dusted doughnut (see page 41).


LOBSTER

There are several groups of crustaceans known as lobsters. However, the most commonly known and used by chefs in the UK is the American or Canadian lobster and the European lobster, with its blue coloured armour.

Classed as a delicacy, with its incredibly high prices, lobster should not be taken for granted. It takes the average lobster about eight years to reach maturity, hence the strict fishing regulations that ensure a caught lobster must measure at least 10cm from the eyes to where the tail is attached to the body.

The above recipe for lavish lobster macaroni cheese requires whole lobsters.


COURGETTES

Courgettes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They require a lot of water, so Britain, with its high summer rainfall, is just the place to grow them. The smaller the courgette, the sweeter and less seedy it is. Large courgettes, with their higher water content, are less tasty.

The courgette flowers are not only pretty but also delicious. Try serving them as a starter, stuffed with crab and steamed, with plenty of lightly dressed summer leaves.

Courgette and buckler sorrel soup is delicious served either hot or chilled and garnished with courgette and garden herb pesto.


FENNEL

Fennel is a highly aromatic and flavoursome herb with brilliant culinary uses and is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Florence fennel is a cultivated variety with a swollen bulb-like stem that is used as a vegetable.

The whole fennel plant is edible and has a wide variety of culinary uses. Fennel pollen is used as a spice - it is very potent and also expensive. The seeds are sold mainly dried, the leaves used as a herb in salads and the bulb served cooked or raw in many different ways such as baked, steamed, sautéed, pan-fried, pickled, or used in soups and purées.

The fennel purée in the oven-roasted British lamb rump, fennel, beet and artichoke recipe (see page 40) is simply cooked in a knob of unsalted butter, white wine and chicken stock. The result is a full flavoured silky purée with a robust flavour, which complements the rump of lamb, with its high fat content.


BEETROOT

Beetroot is another seasonal favourite, incredibly versatile and again easy to grow. The whole plant is edible, the tender, small beetroot leaves make an interesting salad and, if grown larger, they are best lightly sautéed with a touch of butter and seasoned with coarse sea salt.

Beet is a plant from the amaranth family and is best known for its numerous cultivated varieties. The most familiar is the purple beetroot, also known as garden beet. Other cultivated varieties include chard and sugar beet, which is used in the production of sugar.

Beetroot goes well with seafood, meat and poultry and even makes a delicious and interesting chocolate and beetroot cake. Beetroot comes in many colours including yellow, white and candy striped.

It can be steamed, boiled, pickled, grated and or baked. For the oven-roasted British lamb rump, fennel, beet and artichoke dish below, young baby beets were used. The smaller the root, the more tender and sweet they are.


ARTICHOKES

Artichokes make a delicious ingredient and are also beautiful in the garden or in a flower arrangement. They can be difficult to grow and the plants do not normally bear any fruit in the first year. They are plentiful during the summer months along the Devon and Cornwall coastline. Artichokes thrive in soil with a high salt content and it's said that seaweed is the best fertilizer for them.

Globe and baby artichokes (all grown on the same plant) are the fruits of thistle-like plants thought to be native to North Africa, South Asia and the Mediterranean. The cultivated artichoke is a descendant of the wild cardoon.

Preparing artichokes is a time-consuming but rewarding activity. They oxidise as soon as you cut into the flesh and therefore should be dipped in an ice-cold water solution with a high concentrate of citrus or acid such as vitamin C powder. Even lemon juice or white wine vinegar helps to prevent the discoloration. Pop a few ice cubes into the water - it keeps the artichokes crisp and makes it easier to peel them.


BUCKLER LEAF SORREL

Buckler leaf sorrel is a hardy perennial herb that produces small green flowers in the summer and has shield-shaped leaves that taste similarly tart to Granny Smith apples and kiwi fruit. The sharp taste adds a lovely lift to salads and complements fatty meats and fish.

The citric tang of the buckler leaf sorrel lifts the flavour of the chilled courgette and buckler sorrel soup, opposite.

In traditional folk medicine buckler leaf sorrel was used as an antiseptic because of its high vitamin C content and was believed to prevent scurvy. It is also high in vitamin A and is a good source of iron.


ENGLISH LAMB

From May to June English lamb is at its most tender and, as the season progresses, the flavour of the meat develops and it becomes richer.

Once an English lamb is 12 months old it becomes a hogget and once it gets two permanent incisor teeth it becomes mutton.

The sharpness of the buckler leaf sorrel and the potency of the fennel purée works wonderfully with the rich and slightly stronger lamb used in the oven-roasted British lamb rump, fennel, beet and artichoke recipe, below.

To tenderise lamb, keep the meat submerged in sunflower oil infused with garlic, rosemary and thyme and a few crushed white peppercorns. This will ensure a tasty piece of meat.


VINE-RIPENED TOMATOES

Tomatoes are available all year round and are even grown here in Britain all year round, in hothouses. However, there is a huge taste difference between hothouse tomatoes and vine-ripened tomatoes - the latter have a much richer flavour.

There are plenty of tomato varieties available and with the huge interest in growing heirloom tomatoes the older and less well-known varieties such as the yellow, orange, black and white tomatoes are making a comeback. Out with the perfectly round-shaped fruits and in with the odd-shaped tomatoes of yesteryear.

An ideal use for over-ripe tomatoes is in the lobster bisque used in the lavish lobster macaroni cheese recipe on page 39. Garnish the dish with a few semi-dried vine baby plum tomatoes and crispy basil leaves.


JULY'S FLAVOURS

Apricots, artichokes, aubergines, beetroot, blackcurrants, blueberries, broad beans, broccoli, buckler leaf sorrel, cherries, clams, cod, courgettes, crab, cucumbers, Dover sole, English lamb, fennel, garlic, gooseberries, green beans, greengages, grey mullet, haddock, halibut, herring, John Dory, kohlrabi, lemon sole, lobster, loganberries, mackerel, monkfish, mulberries, nectarines, onions, peaches, peas, plaice, plums, potatoes, rabbit, radishes, raspberries, redcurrants, rocket, runner beans, salad leaves, salmon, samphire, sardines, scallops, sea bass, spinach, strawberries, Suffolk sea purslane, tomatoes, wood pigeon

LAVISH LOBSTER MACARONI CHEESE


INGREDIENTS
(Serves four)

For the lobster bisque

• 2 x 1lb lobsters
• 1 tbs olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
• 2 banana shallots, sliced
• ½ bulb of fennel, sliced
• 1 carrot, sliced
• 2 sticks of celery sliced
• 1 bay leaf
• Large handful of herbs such as parsley and thyme
• 1tsp coriander seeds
• 4 white peppercorns
• 6 large very ripe plum tomatoes, roughly diced
• 80g tomato purée
• Pinch of cayenne pepper
• 100ml brandy
• 300ml vermouth
• 1 litre fish stock
• 500ml veal stock
• 200ml double cream
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the lavish lobster macaroni

• 300g macaroni tubes
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• Lobster bisque
• 2 egg yolks
• 2 salad onions
• 2tbs chopped soft herbs such as basil, oregano, chives and chervil
• Cooked lobster claw meat
• Cooked lobster tail
• Fried basil leaves
• 100g grated Parmesan
• 150g mascarpone cheese
• Semi-dried vine cherry tomatoes

METHOD

For the lobster bisque

First cook the lobsters to obtain the meat. Bring a large pan of water to a rapid boil. Put a knife through the brain of the lobster to ensure it's put to sleep humanely. Remove the tails and claws.

First cook the tails for 3 minutes and refresh in ice water. Then cook the claws for at least 7 minutes, depending on the size of the claws, refresh in ice water. Remove the meat from the tails and claws, refrigerate.

Roast the heads along with the rest of the shells at 220°C for 30 minutes, Crush the shells.

Heat the oil in a large stockpot, sauté the shallot, fennel, carrots, celery, garlic, peppercorns and coriander seeds until golden brown. Add the herbs, cayenne pepper, tomato purée, diced tomatoes and roasted crushed lobster carcasses.

Deglaze the pan with the brandy, cook until sticky, add the vermouth and cook until it becomes syrupy.

Add the fish and veal stock, bring the bisque to a gentle simmer for 40 minutes, and remove the impurities as necessary.

Blend the bisque using a Thermomix and pass through a fine sieve.

Bring the bisque to the boil and reduce until it is the correct consistency. Add the cream and adjust the seasoning if needed.

For the lavish lobster macaroni

Cook the macaroni in a large pan of salted boiling water, drain and refresh.

Mix the cooked macaroni with the lobster bisque; you will need to judge how much bisque you require, you will not need it all. Mix in 100g of the mascarpone and add the chopped herbs and lobster claw meat.

To serve

Bake the lobster macaroni until hot and the top has caramelised, heat the lobster tails, slice and arrange on top with the semi-dried tomatoes, fried basil leaves and a lobster claw. Serve immediately.

SET GOAT'S MILK PUDDING WITH CHERRY COMPOTE AND CHERRY SHERBERT DUSTED DOUGHNUT


INGREDIENTS
(Serves six)

For the set goat's milk pudding

• 275ml double cream
• 275ml goat's milk
• 70g caster sugar
• 2½ leaves of gelatine, soaked
• Seeds of 1 vanilla pod

For the cherry compote

• 200g cherries, stoned
• 180g caster sugar
• Juice of half lemon

For the cherry sherbet sugar

• 20g dried cherries
• ¼tsp citric acid (normally used to make elderflower cordial, obtained from pharmacies)
• 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 120g caster sugar

For the doughnuts

• 60g strong bread flour
• 190g plain flour
• 1tsp salt
• 40g caster sugar
• 15g fresh yeast
• 100ml goat's milk
• 2 egg yolks
• 30g unsalted butter
• Sunflower oil for deep frying

For the cherry salad

• 100g cherries, stoned
• Zest of one lemon

METHOD

For the set goat's milk pudding

Choose the serving glasses, wash and polish them, and place them in the fridge to chill.

Split the vanilla pod, and heat it with the cream, sugar and milk. Leave to infuse for 6 minutes. Drain the soaked gelatine, add to the warm milk and stir to dissolve. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve and pour it into the chilled glasses.

For the cherry compote

Place the stoned cherries and sugar in a small saucepan and leave for 30 minutes.

Gently heat the cherries, dissolve the sugar and once it comes to the boil increase the heat and boil rapidly. Remove the impurities and cook the compote until it reaches 102°C. Remove the pan from the heat, add the juice of half a lemon, and leave to cool.

For the cherry sherbet sugar

In a food processor blend the dried cherries, citric acid and bicarbonate of soda to a fine powder. Stir it into the caster sugar, so it's ready for the fried doughnuts.

For the doughnuts

Mix both flours and rub in the fresh yeast so the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Heat the milk, butter, sugar and salt until the butter is melted; leave to cool until it reaches 37°C.

Add the egg yolk to the milk mixture. Make a well in the centre of the flour; pour in the mixture and mix to form dough. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, and leave to prove until double in size. Divide the dough into 15g balls, roll until smooth and leave to prove until double in size.

Heat the oil to 160°C, deep fry the doughnuts until golden brown, drain and roll each in the cherry sherbet sugar and serve immediately.

For the cherry salad

Wash and stone the cherries, cut them into quarters, add the lemon zest and mix.

To serve

Serve the set goat's milk pudding with a spoonful of the cherry compote and cherry salad. Skewer the doughnut, balance it over the pudding and serve immediately.

CHILLED COURGETTE & BUCKLER LEAF SORREL SOUP SALAD


INGREDIENTS
(Serves six)

For the courgette and buckler leaf sorrel soup

• 1.5kg courgettes
• 200g ice cubes
• 500g chilled chicken stock, if frozen it's even better
• 1 banana shallot, sliced
• 1 clove of garlic, crushed
• Juice and zest of one lemon
• Pinch of cayenne pepper
• ½tsp freshly grated nutmeg
• 25g bucker leaf sorrel
• 40g fresh large leaf spinach
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• Crème fraîche for garnish
• Mixture of edible flowers and herbs for garnish

For the courgette and garden herb pesto

• 200g courgette, coarsely grated
• 30g pine nuts
• 20g golden linseeds
• 30g Parmesan cheese, grated
• 30g spinach
• 30g extra virgin olive oil
• 1 small banana shallot, finely diced
• 1 clove of garlic, crushed
• 40g mixed herbs - eg, sorrel, mint, lemon thyme, parsley, basil, oregano
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• Juice of one lemon

METHOD

Wash the courgettes and cut them into quarters. You will end up with roughly 1kg of the green firm part and 500g of the white soft seedy interior. Discard the seed part and keep the green part.

Peel and finely slice the shallot and crush the garlic. Chop the green parts in even-sized pieces, sauté the sliced shallots, crushed garlic and courgettes in a tablespoon of olive oil, cayenne pepper and seasoning until lightly coloured, which will take about two minutes at high heat.

Have the ice cubes ready in a bowl along with the cold or frozen chicken stock. Scatter the sautéed courgettes onto the ice cubes to cool them rapidly.

Add the grated nutmeg, washed spinach and buckler sorrel leaves and lemon juice.

Blend the soup until smooth, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed and chill the soup over ice.

For the courgette and garden herb pesto

Heat a non-stick frying pan and sauté the shallot, garlic and seasoning in 2tbs of the oil for about 4-5 minutes until golden. Add the courgettes and sauté for one minute. Let the mixture cool.

Toast the linseeds and pine nuts and add to the sautéed onion and courgette mixture. Leave to cool.

Place the herbs, spinach, lemon juice, Parmesan and remaining oil in a Thermomix bowl and pulse blend. Keep the pesto chunky.

Add the herb mixture to the cooled sautéed onion, courgette and nut mixture. Adjust the seasoning if needed and let the flavours develop for about 20 minutes.

To serve

Serve the chilled soup with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of crème fraîche and garnish with herbs and edible flowers.

OVEN-ROASTED BRITISH LAMB RUMP, FENNEL, BEET AND ARTICHOKE


INGREDIENTS
(Serves six)

For the artichokes

• 12 baby artichokes
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• 1 lemon
• 25ml olive oil
• 1 banana shallot, sliced
• 1tsp vitamin C powder
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 sprigs of thyme
• 500ml white wine
• 500ml white chicken stock

For the fennel purée

• 500g fennel, sliced
• 50g unsalted butter
• 100ml white wine
• 250ml chicken stock
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the baby beets

• 2 bunches of baby beetroot (about 24 pieces)
• 80ml olive oil
• 25ml sherry vinegar
• 1tsp coriander seeds, crushed
• 1 clove of garlic, crushed
• 1 sprig of thyme
• 1 bay leaf

For the oven-roasted rump of lamb

• 3 rumps of lamb
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• 50g unsalted butter
• 100g podded broad beans
• Baby beet tops
• Buckler sorrel leaves
• Lamb sauce

METHOD

For the artichokes

Turn the baby artichokes; place them in ice-cold water, lemon juice and vitamin C powder to prevent them from discolouring.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and sauté the shallots, garlic and drained turned artichokes until they start to take on some colour. Season and add the herbs.

Deglaze the pan with the wine and add the stock. Cover the artichokes with a cartouche and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the artichokes are tender, remove from the heat and leave to cool in the liquid.

For the fennel purée

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan. Once the butter starts to foam, add the sliced fennel and seasoning, place the lid on top and sweat the fennel until it starts to turn transparent.

Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook until the wine is reduced to syrup. Add the stock and cook until the fennel is tender, then reduce until the stock is completely cooked away.

Purée the fennel until smooth and chill.

Baby beets

Remove the tops of the beetroots and boil them, until tender, in salted water. Once cooked, refresh and peel the beetroots.

Place the beetroots, oil, sherry vinegar, crushed coriander seeds and garlic, thyme and bay leaf in a vacuum bag and seal on hard vacuum. The beetroots are best left to mature for a day before using.

Oven-roasted lamb rump

Heat a frying pan, season the lamb rumps and brown with the butter; place the lamb rumps in a preheated oven at 200e_SDgrC for 8 minutes.

Let the lamb rumps rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes.

To serve

Prepare the artichokes: drain them from the liquid, cut them into quarters and remove the furry bits from the inside. Heat the butter in a frying pan and cook until golden brown, drain.

Heat the baby beetroot, broad beans, lamb sauce and fennel purée.

Arrange the vegetables and purée on the plate and slice the rested lamb and place on the plate. Spoon the hot sauce over, arrange the buckler sorrel leaves and baby beetroot tops. Serve immediately.

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