This week, I thought I would pick just three glorious summer fruits and share some of my favourite recipes.
I love cherries, but mostly I love to eat them fresh, rather than cooked. That’s unless of course one can find morello cherries which make the most delicious pies. They are smaller and far more tart but cook deliciously with a bittersweet flavour.
I hate cheesecake with a passion but try this irresistible version with a crunchy kataifi base and a tumble of stoned cherries scattered over the creamy mascarpone topping with lots of fresh mint and coarsely chopped Iranian pistachios.
Cheesecake will never be the same again. I’m indebted to Sarit and Itamar from Honey and Co for introducing me to this concept, one can vary the fruit on top.
How about tossing some stoned cherries into a ‘green’ salad, cherries also add a delicious pop of sweetness to savoury dishes.
I like to keep a beautiful organic watermelon as a standby in the fridge all summer long, what could be more versatile – a cool, super refreshing dessert in a twinkling or a juicy addition to both sweet and savoury salads. We also love watermelon lemonade or a crystally granita. This combination of watermelon with tomatoes and radishes, a little red onion and lots of fresh herbs is also super delicious and a few added cherries wouldn’t hurt.
All these fruits are standby desserts during the high summer days. What’s not to love about a big bowl of cherries – no need for any further embellishment.
And how about ripe raspberries piled high with a little bowl of caster sugar and a jug of rich, yellow Jersey cream.
As ever, I urge you to think about planting some of your own fruit and can you imagine the joy of picking cherries from your very own cherry tree.
We are super fortunate to have lots of grandchildren living close by, one of my greatest summer joys is to watch and sometimes join them when they are deliriously picking berries straight off the bushes, what wonderful childhood memories they will have…
It’s worth planting some raspberry canes or fruit trees just for the sheer joy of watching their delight, not to mention learning where their food comes from – direct from Mother Nature rather than just a supermarket shelf…
Beetroot, Raspberry, Honey and Mint Salad
This is a surprising but delicious combination of raspberries and beetroot that I first came across in a restaurant in London. Now we use this bizarre sounding duo in several salads and in ice cream to rave reviews. My brother Rory likes to add a few teaspoons of thick yogurt or labneh when serving.
2 cooked beetroots, peeled and very thinly
sliced on a mandolin
mixed flower honey
freshly squeezed lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil
16 small mint leaves
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Divide the sliced beetroot among 4 white plates.
Cut some of the raspberries in half lengthways and some in cross section slices, and scatter over the beets. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Dress the salads with a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle on the mint leaves and serve.
How to cook beetroot
Leave 5cm leaf stalks on
top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off
the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise,
the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little
salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an
oven, for 15-20 minutes (in May/June when they are young) depending on size
(they can take 1-2 hours in late Autumn and Winter when they are tough).
Beetroot is usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when
pressed with a finger. If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a
Morello Cherry and Pistachio Slice
A gorgeous slice that makes a yummy pud as well as an irresistible treat to nibble with a cup of tea or coffee. I like to leave the stalks on some of the cherries, but you may need to warm your guests to look out for stones. The combination of pistachio and cherries is a very happy one.
175g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
2 organic eggs
150g self-raising flour
25g ground almonds
450g fresh morello cherries, stoned
50g pistachios, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.
Line a 25.5 x 18cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving an overhanging piece at each end.
Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, self-raising flour and ground almonds into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the prepared tin.
Sprinkle the cherries over the top, allowing a little space between the fruit. I like to leave some whole with their strings on, but one could stone them all. Sprinkle some pistachios between the cherries.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and well risen. Cut into squares.
Top tip for removing cherry stones.
Find a paper clip, insert into the stalk end of the cherry, rotate and
lift out the pip. You can also do this by pushing up with a straw from
the base. If you do it over the top of a bottle, the pips will fall into
the bottle. The latter is a little more wasteful but also works well.
A Crunchy Cheesecake with Cherries and Lemon Verbena
This version will win over even the most virulent cheesecake haters.
Kataifi is an amazing and fun pastry – it is made out of tiny thin shreds of filo that you bake with butter and sugar. You’ll find it in a Middle Eastern grocery store. Brilliant for stress-free entertaining.
If you can’t source kadaifi, just use a base of sweet shortcrust pastry. It’ll still be delicious. For extra oomph, sprinkle a few tiny pink rose petals over the top of each one.
Makes a generous 4 portions
50g melted butter
110g kataifi pastry (or shredded filo)
1 tbsp caster sugar
80g full fat cream cheese
50ml extra thick double cream
12g icing sugar
25g local runny honey, raw honey if available
25g smooth, creamy feta
seeds from ¼ vanilla pod (or ½ tsp vanilla extract)
a few fresh mint and marjoram leaves
25g pistachios, roughly chopped
12-20 fresh cherries, halved and stoned (3-5 halves per cheesecake depending on size)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 (160°C fan).
Put the pastry and sugar into a bowl. Drizzle with melted butter. Fluff the pastry by pulling it and loosening the shreds with your hands until it’s evenly coated with the sugar and butter. Divide into 4 equal amounts, pulling each clump of pastry out of the mass like a little ball of wool. Lay on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. They should resemble ‘birds’ nests, each about the size of a drink’s coaster. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool and keep in an airtight container until ready to serve. The pastry nests will keep for 2-3 days, so you can prepare them well in advance.
Put all the cheesecake cream ingredients into a large bowl, mix gently with a spatula or a large spoon, using circular folding motions until the mixture thickens and starts to hold the swirls. Don’t use a whisk. Check that it is sufficiently thick by scooping some onto a spoon and turning it upside-down: it should stay where it is. If it is still too soft, mix it some more. You can prepare the cheesecake cream in advance (up to 48 hours before serving) and keep it covered in the fridge until it is time to assemble the dessert.
When you come to assemble the dessert, place a
pastry nest on each plate and top with
a generous scoop of the cheesecake mix. Sprinkle over the chopped nuts,
add a generous scattering of fresh stoned cherries. If you want to be
super-luxurious, drizzle with some raw honey as well. Decorate with shredded lemon verbena, if
unavailable, use mint leaves and maybe a few pale, pink rose petals.
Pan-grilled Chicken Breast with Watermelon Salsa
4 chicken breasts, free-range and organic (fillets removed – skin on unless you’d prefer otherwise)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
225g (8oz) watermelon, seeded and diced
2 tbsp red onion, chopped
2-3 tbsp coriander leaves, freshly chopped
1 tbsp jalapeno pepper, diced
½ tsp salt
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
First make the salsa.
Put all the ingredients into a stainless steel bowl. Taste and allow to stand while you cook the chicken breast.
Heat a cast iron grill pan until quite hot. Brush each chicken breast with oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the chicken breasts on the hot grill-pan skin side down and allow to become golden brown on both sides. The grill pan may now be transferred to a preheated moderate oven 180°C/Gas Mark 4. If you are not putting it in the oven – be careful not to burn it. The chicken can take up to 15 minutes to cook depending on size.
Serve on hot plates with watermelon salsa.
Salad of Watermelon, Radish, Tomato and Summer Herbs
A delicious starter or summer lunch.
a thick slice of good bread, sourdough or pan loaf, 150g approx.
a large chunk of watermelon, about 750g with rind (¼ melon approx.)
8 ripe tomatoes (850g)
flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
6 radishes (100g)
4-6 spring onions (50g)
1 fistful fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1 fistful flat parsley sprigs
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chardonnay vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp runny honey
flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Preheat a grill.
Tear the bread into uneven chunks, 2cm approx. Toast the bread under the grill, toss and continue until crispy all over.
Remove the rind from the watermelon, cut into uneven chunks and put into a bowl. Cut the tomatoes into biggish chunks, season with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Halve or quarter the radishes and add. Trim and slice both the white and green parts of the spring onions at an angle and sprinkle over the other ingredients. Add the radish leaves if fresh.
To make the dressing.
Whisk the olive oil, vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice, honey and seasoning in a bowl.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss, add the crusty bread. Sprinkle on the freshly chopped mint and parsley sprigs. Toss again. Taste and correct the seasoning. Pile up on a serving dish. Scatter with a few more sprigs of mint and serve as soon as possible.