Great British Produce In Season For June
June is a wonderful month as lots of really great exciting ingredients arrive from British soil and waters. Some of my favourite ingredients including beetroot and mackerel are a big feature in my weekly lunch and dinner plans. Walking round the farmers market last Saturday I noticed many of them on the stalls.
One of my favourite vegetables packed with B vitamins and one I always buy fresh, it just tastes so much better than the dreaded pickled stuff or the precooked ones in vacuum packs. It is great simply grated raw in a salad, particularly one accompanied with goats cheese, and don’t forget to use the leaves and stalks too which can be treated just like spinach. If I’m cooking it I find the quickest and really tasty way to do it is to roast them. I leave the skin on, just give the beets a good wash and remove any hair bits then slice thickly. I drizzle them with a little olive oil, honey and sea salt, wrap them in tinfoil placed on a baking tray in a hot oven around 180 degrees Celsius for twenty mins. By keeping cooking time a minimum you preserve more of the nutrients. I bought some at the market to go with my mackerel salad, just delicious! Apparently the ones that are sized at around a golf ball size are tastiest. Although beetroot is available most of the year round and stores well, it is the new crop which arrives in May/June.
I can’t encourage you to try and eat more mackerel enough, it’s cheap to buy in comparison to other fish and because it is an oily fish ever so good for you loaded with many omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. I just love the look of these fishes, they have such a pretty silvery tiger pattern to their skin and I also love how they taste. I love to have them raw in sushi or pepper smoked in a salad. My mother in-law has also past on a fantastic recipe for mackerel pate which is smoked mackerel broken into pieces mixed with natural yogurt, whole grain mustard, lemon juice and a little salt and pepper. It’s just fantastic and much better than anything you can buy in the supermarket. They are also nice baked or grilled served with a sharp sauce such as gooseberry or rhubarb which are said to pair very well with it. Freshness is key when buying any fish, if you are buying it whole look for ones with bright eyes, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about where, when and how it was caught. Although mackerel are available through out most of the year, the summer time is when they come inshore and move north. You are more likely to be able to find line caught fish in the summer months which is better for the environment compared to winter when they are caught mainly by trawlers.
I recall gooseberries growing in the garden when I was growing up, they thrive where many berries don’t and seem to prefer cooler climates being common in the North of England and Scotland. They have even been found flourishing in the arctic circle! The gooseberry is rather tart and so not really suitable for eating on their own. They can be nice stewed with sugar and made into a pie or used in sauces as an accompaniment with meat and fish such as goose or mackerel.
I have an Elderflower tree growing in my own garden which is in full bloom at the moment. This fragrant flower is a wonderful place to start if you would like to use flowers in your cooking. The flowers are mainly used to enhance flavour to dishes and to drinks. It goes very well with gooseberries which are in season at the same time and is just delicious in champagne. If you have an Elderflower tree do spare some flower heads for the Autumn when the berries will arrive.
The first new-season hill lambs from Wales will be hitting the market around about now with Northern England and Scottish lambs following. I grew up on a hill farm raising sheep and cattle so I remember the lambing season well and raising the orphaned ones on bottled milk. Being in Scotland our outdoor born lambs would not be ready until around September time. Some early lambs would be ready sooner, having been born indoors around February / March with outdoor grazing as the warmer weather arrived. The best tasting lamb are those that have had outdoor grazing and munched on some real grass which is the only way it should be in my opinion. Lamb is usually sent to slaughter when they are 4 months to 1 year old. The younger lambs are more succulent and pink, while the mature lamb boasts character and great depth of flavour. Shoulder is cheaper than leg being fattier but somehow more succulent. Roast joints in the oven with garlic and rosemary and serve with new potatoes, carrots and peas or perhaps some in season turnip.
The early small turnips that are available at this time of year now really are worth a go. I must admit it’s not a vegetable I have eaten much myself and should not be confused with neeps, which are the orange-fleshed swede, a close relative. I will however make a point to seek out some small young turnips and I think I will braise them them and glaze them with a little sugar. They can of course just simply be boiled too. Don’t forget to make use of the lovely tops whose leaves can be used instead of spring greens. The Italians in fact consider them a delicacy calling them Cime di rapa, meaning turnip tops.
It’s about now that you will see fresh peas in their pods being sold in food stores and at markets. Like asparagus peas deteriorate very quickly as their sugars start converting to starch upon picking, so eating them as soon after picking as possible is vital. This is why frozen peas are actually the best way to buy peas as they are picked packed and frozen with hours stopping dead the conversion process. It is big business for Britain, providing more frozen peas than anywhere else in Europe. However I do love a good raw pea straight form the pod, they are quite delicious. If buying them look for pods which are bright green and they should be juicy on opening. Or try growing some of your own. They provide a very important part in crop rotation and release atmospheric nitrogen into the soil creating fertile conditions the likes of cabbages and broccoli.
A short mention to garlic which although is available in it’s dried bulbs all year round, it is June when wet garlic can be bought from farmers markets and greengrocers. Although France is better known for the quality of it’s garlic it does indeed grow here in Britain too so much so that the Isle of Wight has a festival in it’s honour. Fresh wet garlic is milder and sweeter and can be eaten raw in a salad or roasted. Leaving the cloves whole actually releases less of it’s pungent flavour for which it is well known and can be eaten without fear of smelly breath. It’s only when it is crushed that it becomes pungent. You should aim to include lots of garlic in your diet as it has many very beneficial health properties including anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities as well as acting against clotting of the blood.
Look out for all of these great new arrivals for the month of June and for next months run down on What is in Season in Britain during July.