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Flavours of June

02 June 2010
Flavours of June

The onset of summer brings with it a fabulous selection of ingredients for the coming months. Madalene Bonvini-Hamel, creator of the recipe diary Britishlarder.co.uk, offers up some tempting recipe suggestions.

The arrival of the summer is being welcomed with open arms. The vegetable patches and kitchen gardens are bursting with plenty of wonderful seasonal delights such as peas, broad beans, courgettes and strawberries, while herbs are also doing well and it's pleasing to see the return of summer savory, chocolate and pineapple mint, borage, nasturtium, garlic chives, wild English yarrow, lemon verbena, lemon balm and angelica.

The wild foods in the English countryside are plentiful, with tender young nettles that could add an interesting and delicious twist to a classic British asparagus soup. Elderflowers are blooming and it's time to get your elderflower cordial kit together and source that difficult-to-find citric acid that is a crucial ingredient. Sea purslane is coming into its own, Norfolk samphire is ready to be picked and chickweed and wild watercress can now be found in the dried-out fields that were waterlogged during the winter months.


ELDERFLOWER

This beautiful tree-like shrub is a sign that summer has arrived, with its clusters of white flowers in early summer and the bearer of the elderberry towards early autumn. This hedgerow shrub works very hard and delivers plenty to be preserved for the British larder. The well-known elderflower cordial is great served at the village fete or jazzed up in a fancy cocktail in a city bar. It also makes delicious jellies and works a treat in sorbets and ice-creams. The flower could be dipped in a light tempura batter and fried until crisp to serve as a garnish for added texture. Try this elderflower crème fraîche tart with British strawberries, the combination of strawberries and elderflowers works well and complement each other.

Elderflower Cordial: Make a stock syrup with 900g of caster sugar in 1.1 litres of water, boil for 10 minutes till it becomes a thick syrup. Add 50g citric acid and two lemons and limes cut into quarters. Wash 250g freshly picked elderflowers and add it to the stock syrup, leave to infuse for 48 hours, pass and keep in sterilised bottles.


STRAWBERRIES

Nothing beats the perfume and aroma of a sun-ripened strawberry. The berries require plenty of water and grow best in temperate climes rather than scorching hot sun. There are hundreds of strawberry varieties available from the commercially mass-grown producers but these can taste fairly acidic. The best advice on how to find your favourite strawberry variety is to visit as many "pick your own" strawberry farms in your local area. Speak to the growers as they might have a few unusual varieties hiding in their garden sheds. If you are lucky enough to find alpine strawberries, also known as frais de bois, use them sparingly as they are highly perfumed and also very expensive.

With their unique flavour strawberries make the most delicious jams, compotes, dried strawberry crisps, drinks, soups and desserts. The elderflower crème fraîche tart with British strawberries (above) shows several interesting techniques and uses strawberries in a few different ways such as hydrated strawberry crisps, strawberry sherbet, strawberry pearls set in very cold oil and macerated strawberries in elderflower syrup.


SEA BASS

The bass found in our coastal waters is also known as the European sea bass and is from the family of the Moronidale species with its characteristic two dorsal fins, silver sides and white belly. There have been debates in the past about the origin and technicality of the name sea bass. Even though it's widely recognised and adopted by the restaurant culture, the purist would prefer us to call it bass as there is only one type of bass - ie, there is no river or striped bass.

Sea bass is delicious baked whole en-papilotte, it also has fabulous taste when pan-fried in the Orford-landed sea bass with warm smoked bacon, broad bean and sea purslane salad (opposite). The sea bass is one of the many species that have suffered from intensive fishing and high demands; however, the extensive conservation project that has taken place over the past years has meant that we can now enjoy the return of the locally caught sea bass from our British shores. It's a true delight and fantastic feeling walking along the beaches and harbours of the Suffolk coast - typically at places such as Southwold, Orford and Aldegurgh - and finding freshly landed sea bass, skate and cod, all of which have benefited from the intensive conservation projects.


SEA PURSLANCE (Haliminone portulacoides)

This is a fantastic wild coastal foraging find with its matt green colour and slightly swollen leaves. The taste is interesting and is almost a reminder of salt and vinegar crisps. When the leaves are freshly picked early in the morning they are still crispy with a lovely salty taste of the sea. Sea purslane is mainly found on salt marches, which are flooded at high tide. They are particularly delicious used as an ingredient with seafood dishes served raw or cooked as for the sea bass recipe here. If you are lucky enough to find salt marsh lamb then sea purslane will make a fantastic and interesting ingredient for a spectacular dish.


PEAS

Nothing beats a freshly harvested and podded pea. Its natural sweetness and crispness makes it a fantastic seasonal treat. Frozen peas are available all year round and are the best substitute if you cannot find freshly picked peas. Unfortunately week-old harvested peas will simply not taste as they should when picked and eaten straight away. This is because an enzyme in the pea causes deterioration and taints the taste, which becomes bitter and eliminates the natural sweetness.

Freshly podded peas are delicious eaten either raw or blanched very quickly in rapid boiling salted water as in this delicious Fresh Buffalo Curd Summer Salad (below). The blanched peas are lightly crushed and mixed with a drizzle of lemon oil and a generous helping of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.


BROAD BEANS

Broad beans might be most chefs' worst enemy as it's hard work removing both layers of pod and skin but one is definitely rewarded once the sweet kidney shaped broad bean is revealed. Like peas, broad beans are best eaten as soon as they are harvested. The smaller the beans, the sweeter and more tender they are. Freshly podded and popped broad beans are equally delicious served cooked or served raw in a fresh crisp salad. They go particularly well with lamb, lobster, herrings, mackerel and works in great partnership with ingredients such as sorrel, cucumbers and gooseberries.

ELDERFLOWER CREME FRAICHE TART WITH BRITISH STRAWBERRIES

INGREDIENTS (Serves four)

For the elderflower crème fraîche tart

• 6 egg yolks
• 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
• Zest of 2 limes
• 160g caster sugar
• 100g elderflower syrup or cordial
• 500g crème fraîche, drained weight

For the sweet pastry

• 230g plain all-purpose flour
• 140g unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 60g caster sugar
• 1 egg
• Pinch of salt
• 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out

For the strawberry sorbet

• 500g strawberries, hulled and frozen individually
• 70g caster sugar
• Juice of half a lemon
• 1tbs berry liqueur
• 1 free-range egg white

For the strawberry pearls

• 150g fresh overripe strawberries, hulled
• 20g caster sugar
• 2 leaves of gelatine, soaked
• 500ml peanut or ground nut oil

For the strawberry sherbet

• 20g dried strawberries
• ¼tsp citric acid (normally used to make elderflower cordial, obtained from pharmacies)
• 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 60g sifted icing sugar

For the elderflower macerated strawberry with summer savory

• 4 whole fresh strawberries, hulled
• 20ml elderflower liquor (St Germain)
• 1 sprig of summer savory finely chopped

METHOD

To make the sweet pastry, cream the softened butter, salt, sugar and vanilla seeds until fluffy and pale in colour. Lightly whisk the egg and slowly incorporate, a bit at a time, into the butter mixture. Add the flour and mix until just combined.

Turn the pastry out on to a lightly floured work surface, do not knead the pastry, just push it together into flat square. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for three hours.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface, to about 4mm thick, carefully line the pastry ring, and leave the pastry hanging over the edges. Line a 10cm x 35cm x 2.5cm pastry case with blind baking beans and blind bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 150°C and continue blind baking until the pastry is cooked and crisp without any colour. While the pastry is blind baking, prepare the second stage of the elderflower and crème fraîche filling.

To make the elderflower crème fraîche tart, prepare the crème fraîche one day in advance: weigh 600g crème fraîche into a sieve lined with muslin cloth, leave to drain overnight in the fridge.

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla seeds until light and fluffy, stir in the lime zest, elderflower syrup and weigh 500g drained crème fraiche into the mix, mix well.

Preheat the oven to 110°C.

Once the blind baked pastry case is ready, pour the crème fraiche mixture into the tart case and bake the tart for 45 minutes or until just set. One wobble in the centre is good. Carefully remove the tart from the oven and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

To make the strawberry sorbet, weigh the sugar into the Thermomix bowl, secure the lid and blend on speed 10 for 10 seconds, add the frozen strawberries, lemon juice and liqueur.

Secure the lid and insert the Thermomix spatula, gently turn the speed dial to speed 10 and blend.

Scrape the sides down and repeat this process until the strawberries are smooth. Add the egg white. Blend for 30 seconds on speed 10. Scrape the sides down and insert the butterfly whisk and whisk the sorbet on speed 4 for 30 seconds. Transfer the sorbet in to the cold plastic container and store in freezer until needed.

To make the strawberry pearls, place the oil in the freezer to chill as cold as you possibly can get it.

Soak the gelatine in cold water until soft.

Blend the strawberries with the sugar until smooth, melt the soaked gelatine and add to the strawberry juice and pass it through a fine sieve.

Use a small syringe or pipette and drop small droplets of the strawberry mixture into the cold oil, leave them to set.

Once the pearls are set, carefully transfer them to a small sieve and lightly rinse them under cold running water, leave to drain. Keep the strawberry pearls chilled until needed.

To prepare the strawberry sherbet, weigh 20g of the dried strawberries, citric acid, sifted icing sugar and bicarbonate of soda in a food processor and blend till a fine powder. Keep the sherbet in a clean airtight container of glass jar until needed.

For elderflower macerated strawberry with summer savory, wash and hull the strawberries, pat them dry. Cut the strawberries in half and slice each half keeping it together. Place the sliced strawberries in a small container and splash over the elderflower cordial and sprinkle the chopped savory. Leave to marinate for five minutes.

To serve, cut a 4cm wide slice of the tart and position it on the plate. Position the elderflower macerated strawberry on the one side, spoon the strawberry pearls on the opposite side, place a quenelle of the strawberry sorbet in the middle. Garnish the tart with a dusting of the strawberry sherbet and a few of the elderflowers. Hydrated strawberry crisps are an optional garnish.

FRESH BUFFALO CURD SUMMER SALAD

INGREDIENTS (Serves four)

For the fresh buffalo curd

• 2 litres fresh buffalo milk
• 150ml lemon juice
• 1½ tsp salt

For the summer salad

• 2 fresh new-season courgettes
• 4 British asparagus
• 1 kohlrabi
• Summer micro salad
• 120g shelled fresh peas
• 1tsp wild sumac
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• 2 sprigs of purple thyme

For the lemon oil

• 60ml lemon juice
• 60ml extra virgin olive oil
• Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

METHOD

To make the buffalo curd, rinse a medium saucepan with cold water, measure the fresh buffalo milk, lemon juice and salt into the dampened pan and set aside for 20 minutes.

Over very low heat gently bring the milk to 80°C, stir only if you need to prevent the milk from burning. Do not disturb the milk too much. Once the milk reaches the temperature remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool at room temperature for 3 hours.

Line a chinois with muslin cloth and carefully pour the curdled milk through the muslin, leave to drain naturally for 1 hour. Hang the muslin in the fridge and leave to continue to drain over night.

The following day, discard the whey and transfer the fresh curd cheese to a clean container, the fresh curd is now ready to use. This quantity of milk makes approximately 750g of fresh buffalo curd cheese and will keep for 5 days in the fridge.

For the lemon oil, measure the ingredients into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake vigorously and adjust the seasoning if needed.

To prepare the summer salad, peel the kohlrabi, use a mandolin to finely slice and then cut into 1cm wide strips, dunk the strips in ice water to crisp.

Wash the courgettes and use a vegetable peeler to slice into long ribbons. To slice the asparagus, remove the stalk and use a vegetable peeler to slice into strips.

Blanch the shelled fresh peas and refresh and drain. Place the peas in a small bowl, add a teaspoon of the lemon oil and season to taste and lightly crush the peas.

Wash and drain the micro salad.

To serve, place the strips of drained kohlrabi, courgette and asparagus on a large flat tray, season and drizzle with the lemon oil, leave for 5 minutes to marinate.

Serve a quenelle of the fresh buffalo curd on a spoon, season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, a few drops of the lemon oil and some of the picked purple thyme leaves, position the spoon on the plate.

Arrange the marinated vegetables on the plate; garnish each plate with the micro salad, a few drops of the lemon oil and a dusting of the wild sumac.

ORFORD-LANDED SEA BASS WITH WARM SMOKED BACON, BROAD BEAN AND SEA PURSLANCE SALAD

INGREDIENTS
(Serves four)

For the sea bass

• 4 x 150g sea bass fillets, scaled and pin bones removed
• 2tbs olive oil
• Sea salt
• For the warm smoked bacon, broad bean and sea purslane salad
• 8 new potatoes, washed
• 2 rashers of smoked back bacon
• 2 breakfast radishes, washed
• 20 leaves of sea purslane, washed
• 125g broad beans, shelled and outer skins removed
• 10ml extra virgin live oil
• Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the broad bean and sea purslane tempura

• 50g broad beans, shelled and outer skins removed
• 20 leaves of sea purslane, washed
• 20g cornflour
• 75g self-raising flour
• 125ml sparkling water
• 1 free range egg yolk
• 2 free range egg whites
• Sea salt
• Sunflower oil for deep-frying

For the seaweed vinaigrette

• 40g baby spinach
• 2 Nori sheets
• 10ml mirin
• 10ml warm water
• 60ml peanut oil
• Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

METHOD

To make the seaweed vinaigrette, weigh all the ingredients for the vinaigrette, apart from the oil, and put into a blender. Blend until smooth and then slowly incorporate the oil to form an emulsion. Adjust the seasoning if needed.

For the broad bean and sea purslane tempura, mix the flour, corn flour, salt, egg yolk and sparkling water into a smooth paste. Whip the egg whites until fluffy and stop just before the soft peak stage. Fold the egg whites into the beignet batter and leave to settle for five minutes.

Prepare the broad beans by removing the outer skin, rinse and drain the popped broad beans. Rinse the sea purslane and drain on kitchen paper.

Heat the oil to 160°C. Once it reaches the correct temperature, dip the broad beans and sea purslane in the batter and fry them until golden brown all over. Drain the tempura broad beans and sea purslane on kitchen paper and season immediately with salt and serve.

To make the warm smoked bacon, broad bean and sea purslane salad, cook the new potatoes in salted boiling water until tender, refresh and drain. Peel the potatoes and break them into bite size irregular chunks.

Wash the radishes, remove the leaves and slice the radishes finely using a mandoline.

Blanch and refresh the broad beans and remove the outer skins and finely shred the sea purslane.

Shred the smoked back bacon.

To serve, sauté the salad. When you're ready to serve, heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and sauté the potatoes and shredded bacon until golden brown, add the sea purslane and broad beans, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Pan-fry the sea bass: heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, season the fish with salt only and sauté the sea bass skin side down first for about 2 minutes until golden brown, but it does depend on the thickness of the fillet. Once golden turn the fish over for one minute on the flesh side, drain and gently place the sea bass on top of the warm salad. Garnish the sea bass with the broad bean tempura and the seaweed vinaigrette.

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