During July we’ve had several days of scorching heat, and nights of muggy thunderstorms and lightning, and the rain has left gardens and fields more lush and green than we might normally expect at this time of year.
Perfectly in season for August are the ingredients for ratatouille, a traditional Provencal vegetable dish. One of the simplest ways to make a ratatouille is to saute chopped onion, garlic, mixed peppers, courgette, aubergine and tomatoes in drizzle of olive oil along with some seasonings like salt, pepper and herbs de Provence. Once they have softened, allow the vegetables to cook in a lidded saucepan for around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and you’ll be left with a wonderfully light and fresh vegetable stew which sings of summer. Perfect to enjoy in the garden with some grilled fish or chicken, or even stirred into some cooked pasta and topped with fresh basil.
In August we’re sadly seeing the last of the strawberries, so your perfect pudding might be nothing more elaborate than a large bowl of washed and hulled strawberries with a jug of pouring cream. But if you do want to be a bit more adventurous, then try the Soft Lemon Meringue with Sweet Eve Strawberry Salad recipe, which created by Adam Gray from Great British Chefs in collaboration with Sweet Eve strawberries. Don’t be alarmed by all of the stages as it is not actually too demanding a recipe. And of course if it does seem a bit daunting then you could just make the sorbet or the Sweet Eve strawberry salad for a wonderful summer dessert.
Finally for our August seasonal options, if you’re more tempted by a seasonal cocktail than a seasonal meal, a Bramble cocktail will help you use up the blackberries in the garden or hedgerow. 2 parts gin, 1 part lemon juice, sugar syrup to taste and a dash of blackberry liqueur are mixed, poured over crushed ice, and garnished with a blackberry.
Adam Gray’s soft lemon meringue with Sweet Eve strawberry salad, Serves: 6
Preparation time: 1hr 15 minutes, Cooking time: 2 hours (plus churning and freezing time)
- Sorbet: 500g of Sweet Eve strawberries, washed and hulled; 100g of caster sugar; 30 ml of lemon juice
- Lemon curd: 100g of caster sugar, 100g of unsalter butter, 2 lemons, zested and juiced, 3 egg yolks
- Meringues: 175g of egg whites; 375g of caster sugar
- Sweet Eve strawberry couli: 300g Sweet Eve strawberries, washed and hulled; 40g of icing sugar
- Sweet Eve strawberry salad: 10 Sweet Eve strawberries, hulled and quartered; 8 mint leaves
- 200ml of vanilla custard to serve
Preheat the oven 100°C/gas mark ¼ and first make the Sweet Eve strawberry sorbet: add the Sweet Eve strawberries to a blender with the sugar and lemon juice, blitz until all the sugar is dissolved and the mix is smooth. Pass the strawberry mix through a fine strainer, add the strained liquid to an ice cream maker and churn as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep this frozen until required.
For the lemon curd: add the caster sugar, butter, lemon juice and zest to a bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of boiling water ensuring that the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water. Allow the butter to melt, beat vigorously until the mixture comes together. Beat the egg yolks into the butter, sugar and lemon mixture and continue cooking for a further 15-20 minutes until the curd has thickened, then remove it from the heat and leave to cool at room temperature; you can then place in a sealed container until required.
For the meringue: whisk the eggs whites until it is reaching soft peaks. Slowly add the caster sugar and continue to mix until stiff peaks are forming. Use a piping bag to create 8cm wide domes with the meringue mix, on a greaseproof paper lined baking tray. Place the tray in the preheated oven for 1 hour until the meringues are firm. Remove from the oven and allow the meringues to reach room temperature before serving.
For the strawberry coulis: chop the Sweet Eve strawberries roughly and add to a small saucepan with the icing sugar. Leave the pan on a low-medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, or until the strawberries are very soft and have broken down. While the strawberries are still hot, blend them until smooth. Pass the mixture through a fine strainer. Allow the strained liquid to cool, add to a squeezy bottle until needed.
To serve, mix the quartered Sweet Eve strawberries with a little strawberry coulis. Finely shred the fresh mint and add to the quartered strawberry mix. Gently push the bottom of the meringues to create an indentation, pipe in your lemon curd mixture into the meringues. Add a circular portion of the Sweet Eve strawberry salad onto each serving plate, put the meringues on top. Spoon a little of the fresh custard behind the meringue and some Sweet Eve strawberry sorbet on top. Serve immediately.