This article appeared in this last weekend’s Financial Times of London’s Weekend. It has interesting news about fruit in another part of the world and some great recipes.
The fruits of a long hot summer
By Peter Gordon
Published: August 7 2010 00:39 | Last updated: August 7 2010 00:39
August is a lovely month in the kitchen as the summer heat ripens blackberries and bilberries, apricots, greengages and plums, as well as tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. The flavours tend towards the sweet and rich – whether it be hedgerow fruit or the slight bitterness of rich purple aubergines. Lightly cooked and lightly handled is my motto at this time.
I am on a brief trip to New Zealand and was reading in the newspapers that the relentless summer heat in Italy has cut the tomato crop there by 20 per cent. This is terrible news for the Italians – with their dairy production dropping at a similar rate, will mozzarella and tomato salad soon seem a luxury?
But in Britain and northern Europe, the hot summer has tomato vines bursting at the seams and brambles dripping with juice. Next weekend brings the start of the British game season, so before grouse starts to make itself regularly known on your table, make the most of the last of the summer goodies.
Peter Gordon is the chef at Providores in London, www.theprovidores.co.uk
Tomato and aubergine salad
This is great served under pan-fried mackerel fillets or with a poached chicken breast – just add a lemon wedge and salad greens. Serves four.
6-8 large vine-ripened tomatoes
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced into rings
The juice of 1 large lemon (you may need more)
1 large handful flat parsley leaves
1 handful basil leaves
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
● Score the tomatoes with a cross in the stem end and plunge into boiling water for 15 seconds, then in iced water. Peel the skin from them, cut into very thin wedges and mix with the shallots and lemon juice.
● Cut the stem from the aubergine and slice lengthwise 1cm thick. Brush with vegetable oil and griddle or pan-fry until coloured and softened. Cut crossways into “fingers” and mix into the tomato.
● Add the parsley, basil and olive oil and season. It may need more lemon juice. Leave for one to two hours, stir and it’s ready.
Greengage and blackberry fool
Greengages are a subtle but richly flavoured relative to the plum, and they’ve been making a revival in recent years. They’re lovely poached and bottled for winter crumbles, or split, stones removed, and frozen on trays for adding at the last minute to chicken and pumpkin curry, or even lightly pickled with ginger and cloves to be served with cold meats at Christmas. In summer, it is best to cook them gently and fold them into a custard-rich fool with a juicy blackberry topping. Serves six to eight.
400g greengages: remove stems and wipe with a damp cloth
120g unrefined caster sugar
¼ vanilla bean, split lengthways
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp icing sugar
400ml double cream
● Place the greengages in a pot with half the sugar and a few tablespoons of water and bring to a simmer. Put the lid on and slowly cook until they’ve burst from their skins and the mixture becomes pulpy – stir frequently.
● Make your custard by bringing the remaining sugar, the vanilla and milk to a simmer. Whisk the egg yolks until foamy then whisk in half the hot milk mixture. Return to pan and cook over moderate heat, stirring until it coats the back of a spoon. Tip into a clean bowl and gently whisk for 20 seconds to help cool it. Cool, then chill in the fridge.
● Remove the stones from the cooled fruit and put in the fridge. Mix together the blackberries and icing sugar and place in the fridge.
● An hour before you want to eat the fool, lightly whip the cream to soft peaks. Beat in the cold custard until firmer peaks, then fold in the fruit, rippling it in. Place in a bowl – a glass one is best – and drizzle the blackberries on top. Top with toasted almonds or pistachios.