Warming up

Categories: Reflections and opinions

Ahead of her inaugural demo, food writer and author Felicity Cloake talks about the joys of warmer, lighter days, and the bounty of fresh produce that arrive with them

June is my favourite month, and not just because my birthday falls at the end. It’s the joy of the sun on your skin after the freshness of a British spring and the sudden happy surprise of plenty after months of not quite enough—a time to gorge yourself silly on sun-warmed tomatoes and sweet little peas straight from the pod, to enjoy the simple pleasures of pencil-slim courgettes and to eat asparagus like it’s going out of fashion, which of course it is: the homegrown season ends this month.

In fact, the fresh produce tastes so extraordinarily good that it can be hard to summon up the will to do anything at all with it, but once the initial excitement has worn off, this is a glorious time of year for the cook, not least because the sheer quality of raw ingredients makes it hard to go wrong. But it’s not a month to dally in the kitchen, however much you love the quiet, meditative rhythm of chopping and simmering—these are the days to be out in the sunshine, enjoying life.

The dishes I’ll be making in my upcoming demo, some of my favourites for these long, light evenings, are designed with this in mind—none should take you more than 20 minutes at the most, and all but the noodles can be made in advance, perfect for relaxed entertaining of the kind that suits the warmer weather so perfectly.

A wonderful dip
The tomato and almond pesto, inspired by a traditional Sicilian recipe, makes a wonderful dip for crunchy baby vegetables, and the freshness of the mint is lovely with barbecued fish or vegetables.

If you’re serving meat, particularly chargrilled chicken or lamb, then give the cauliflower tabbouleh a try; packed with punchy herbs and juicy buttered fruit, it’s a world away from the bland, watery grains sometimes served up as cauliflower ‘rice’. It’s lighter than a traditional tabbouleh too, which is not to say I have anything against carbs—especially when they come in shocking pink, like the beetroot noodles, which never fail to make me smile. (You can pull the same trick with other juices—carrot also works well.)

Summer fruit is the one thing I find hard to resist eating before it gets anywhere near the kitchen, but a little patience can be well rewarded. It’s rarely served in a savoury context, but this salad, which pits the round acidity of a ripe peach against the milky richness of fresh mozzarella, offset by the aromatic bitterness of flash-fried lemon zest, is one of my favourite things to eat in really hot weather.

Simple charms
Perhaps no dish, however, so perfectly celebrates the simple charms of British summer produce as a fool: lightly stewed fruit, preferably of the tangy variety, folded into billowing folds of delicate whipped cream. This month rhubarb, next month gooseberries, then currants of all colours… and so on until the autumn blackberries arrive. I hope it, and the summer itself, brings you as much pleasure. Happy cooking!

Join Felicity for tips, tastings and recipes on Friday 2nd June in the Market Hall, 12:30-2pm