British Food In Season In July
Summer is in full swing now and bringing with it many wonderful fruits and vegetables. Look out for pick your own fields to gather some juicy red strawberries and nice fat blueberries. Towards the end of the month we will start to some early British apple varieties such as Beauty of Bath and George Cave arriving on the scene. I am also very excited about the arrival of British cherries, I just love their rich flavour and luxurious colour. Blackcurrants and redcurrants are also ready for picking this month. On the savoury front we have globe artichokes, broad beans and cucumbers all ripe and ready for the kitchen table along side some extravagant lobster .
If you are one of those folks that love to work hard for your food then you will love globe artichokes! They need little doing to them, just boil until the leaves come away easily with tongs and serve straight or with a little herb butter. If you are a newbie to artichokes, the main eating part is the heart which you get to by peeling away the outer leaves. There is some soft flesh on the inside of the leaves which can scraped off and eaten as well. They have a lovely delicate flavour and when grown in the garden display a very attractive bloom if the heads are left unharvested.
I do rather love broad beans podded from their blankety beds, they make a great addition to a salad after blanching and pair well with bacon. they are also great in a risotto As with peas, freshness is key due to the fast deterioration once picked. If you have a garden you can also experience the young broad beans which can be eaten whole and in the pod like a runner bean.
I spotted the first of the outdoor grown cucumbers at the farmers market today. They are uglier than the greenhouse counterparts, with spiny dark green skin but they do taste better. They are mainly grown in the southern parts of Britain as they prefer hotter climates. Cucumbers make a great addition to a jug of pimms and you can’t beat some posh cucumber sandwiches in the height of summer. I do also like to cut them into sticks as a healthy alternative to crisps served with dips, or make a raita to cool down a hot curry.
The most lavish and expensive delicacy of the sea has got to be the lobster. In particular Scottish lobster of which it’s reputation precedes it, so much so that most of our stocks are snapped up by the lorry load from Spain and other European continents. Sadly as with much of our food from the sea lobster numbers are in decline, although efforts are being made to encourage number growth with minimum catch sizes, allowing egg laying females to release their young and grow through a system called v-notching as well as operating hatcheries in Cornwall, Orkney and Angelsey to bolster wild stocks. Lobster are speckled blue-black with shells only turning red/orange after cooking. It’s best to buy a lobster live so then comes the difficult task of killing it humanely before cooking. Many chefs throw them straight into boiling water or start hacking them apart live which I find to be rather cruel. Alternatively you can place them in the freezer at -18 degrees centigrade for two hours until they fall asleep before giving up the ghost. The best simplest way to cook the lobster is to boil it in salted water, enough salt to make an egg float, for 15 min for the first 500g then 10 mins for each subsequent 500g. Serve with butter and lemon. If you’re not serving it whole, smaller parts can be used in a lobster bisque reserving shells for stock and flavouring.
Blackcurrants and Redcurrants
Wonderful berries from which to make summer puddings, these berries are quite hardy and grow happily in cooler Northern climates. I recall there being hoards of these bushes in our Scottish farm garden. Redcurrents I always found a little more tart and make great jellies and jams. Blackcurrants packing loads of vitamin C used to be a medicine back in days of old, with the juice being used to sooth sore throats and the leaves used to improve teas. Today it is a popular choice for flavouring soft drinks but they are also great raw served in puddings and make great jams, jellies, ice cream and sorbets.
Another excellent addition to summer puddings, pies and tarts. They are also particularly good in muffins and pancakes as the berry explodes in the mix while it is cooking spreading it’s wonderful berry flavour throughout. They also have notable health properties being known for their antioxidant properties and are thought to help improve short term memory.
One of my summer favourites, the season sadly is very short for the British cherry, so I always make the most of their appearance. Mainly grown in the South East where the climate tends to be a bit warmer, so if you are looking for a pick your own site this would be the best area to find them. They make a great bakewell tart or pie and are also delicious to simply eat raw. Just look out for the centre stone, which can be removed if preferred with a cherry stoner which can also be used on your olives.
Most associated with the summer Wimbledon tennis season and served with cream. Strawberries are a delicious sweet fruit although they really are best grown outside in their proper season which runs from late June through to early autumn. I often find out of season strawberries to be watery and tasteless, so I never buy them. The best ones are ones which have ripened naturally and can be sourced from farmers markets, local suppliers and pick your own sites. Look out for wild strawberries in woodland from June through to August, they are a real delight. Keep strawberries at summer room temperature to experience their full flavour and transport carefully as they bruise easily.