WHAT’S IN SEASON… JUNE

June is one of my favourite months. It signals the beginning of summer, plus my birthday is in June and, as much as I seem to choke when I have to say my age these days, I love my birthday celebrations and getting all my friends together. This year we’re all going to Amsterdam for a long weekend and I can’t wait!

Anyway, back to food. June is usually, fingers crossed, packed with sunshine and what’s in season reflects that. This year the weather looked promising, with a 2 week heat-wave at the end of May, but as soon as we got to June, the sun disappeared and the grey skies and rain returned. How typically British!

Weather aside, to me, June means one thing…strawberries.


I love strawberries. They make me think of lazy days lying in the park, or watching Wimbledon. What’s more delicious than a ripe strawberry picked straight from the plant on a hot summer’s day? When I was a little girl, my mum used to take my brothers and I fruit picking. Although I did more eating than anything else. One year, after a full day of fruit picking, we arrived at the scales to weigh what we’d picked, and the man, who saw the strawberry-red stains all around my mouth, promptly picked me up and placed me on the scales instead of my half-filled bowl! Whoops!

British strawberries are perfect in June, with their alluring sweet scent and their succulent juiciness. I don’t think there are many things better than strawberries sprinkled with a little caster sugar and dipped into thick whipped cream. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

This is also the season for gooseberries.


Gooseberries aren’t as fashionable as they were in the 19th century when gooseberry wine, tarts, fools, pies and puddings were all common place. The gooseberry was once a much celebrated fruit but nowadays the gooseberry has become a much forgotten wonder of the past, which is a shame.

As well as the more traditional uses for gooseberries like pies, tarts and fools they can be used in more adventurous ways, such as cooking them down with some sugar and serving them with a pork chops/roast instead of apple puree/sauce. Delicious!

Early in the season they are bright green, with a veined effect on the skin, and quite hard and tart - they are best for cooking with, in particular to make the classic English pudding, gooseberry fool. Later on, softer, sweeter varieties become available, often yellow or red coloured - and these are lovely eaten raw.

And onto one of my favourite foods….tomatoes.


I adore tomatoes and eat a punnet of cherry tomatoes a day. I always have them on my desk at work and eat them like sweets! Tomatoes are technically, (botanically) a fruit, but their affinity for other savoury ingredients means that they are usually classed as a vegetable.

Tomatoes vary in size from the huge beefsteak to tiny cherry tomatoes, but most have a sweet, gently tangy flavour and are good both raw and cooked. The sooner you eat a ripe tomato after it’s been picked, the better it will taste, so try to seek out locally grown tomatoes if possible.

Tomatoes are probably one of the most versatile ingredients. You can do so much with them. The type of tomato you buy depends on what you intend to do with it. Here’s a run-down of some of the most common types….

Beefsteak: these are the biggest tomatoes, and have a meaty texture with a sweet, mellow flavour. They are good for salads, grilling or stuffing.

Salad (or round): this is the traditional British tomato - it’s a good all rounder, but really needs to be ripe to get the best flavour.

Cherry: small and very sweet, cherry tomatoes are pricier than salad tomatoes but their intense flavour is worth the extra cash. They are good in salads, pasta sauces or roasted.

Plum: Available as a baby or full-grown tomato, plum tomatoes have an oval shape, with a rich flavour and comparatively few seeds. Good for making sauces and stews.

Green: there are two types of green tomato. One is unripe, and is quite tart but good for chutneys, or fried. The other is a variety that stays green when ripe, has a tangy flavour and is good in salads or, again, fried.

Yellow: these ripen to a golden yellow colour, and are good in salads, salsas and chutneys.

NEVER keep tomatoes in the fridge. The cold temperature dulls the flavour so they should be stored at room temperature.

Also coming into season are broad beans.


Broad Beans, or fava beans as they’re known in the US, are a great source of protein and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins A, B1 and B2.

Buy broad beans as fresh as possible, when the pods are firm and crisp. They are beautiful steamed or boiled and served with a sprinkling of sea salt. Once they are cooked, simply slit each pod along its seam and run your thumb along the furry inside to push the beans out.

Alternatively you can mash them and serve them on crusty bread, or serve as a side dish. Or you can add them to soups. They are so versatile there are countless ways you can work with them.

VEGETABLES
Asparagus, broad beans, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, new potatoes, peas, radishes, rocket, sorrel, spring onions, watercress.

FRUIT
Strawberries, elderflowers, cherries, gooseberries, redcurrants, rhubarb.

MEAT & GAME
Beef, chicken, guinea fowl, lamb, pork, quail, wood pigeon.

FISH
Crab, crayfish, Dover sole, grey mullet, halibut, herring, lemon sole, mackerel, plaice, pollack, sea bass, sea trout.

Please try to eat seasonally if you can. Foods in season contain the nutrients and minerals that our bodies need at particular times of the year. Its also a great way to support British farmers and it keeps the carbon footprint down. Plus, the foods should also be cheaper.

This video is shocking. How can children know so little about the food they eat??

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day will go to support food education through Jamie’s foundation projects in the UK, US and Australia.

If we can arm people with the tools to make better food choices through better food education it can mean a better life.

www.foodrevolutionday.com

WHAT’S IN SEASON…MAY

Well, April certainly lived up to its reputation this year. After an lovely warm March, the government issued a hosepipe ban and then of course, April came and it proceeded to rain almost every single day! It was actually the wettest April for over 100 years and reports of flood warnings were in the news almost daily. Oddly though, the hosepipe ban remains in place.

Thankfully, May is here, and although the rain hasn’t quite eased off yet, British seasonal produce is really coming into its own.


Three cheers for asparagus which really gets going in May. Its at its best for the next 6-8 weeks so make the most of it while you can. British asparagus is grown slower than its continental cousins, which means the spears develop a fuller flavour and a better texture. But asparagus doesn’t keep very well, so to experience it at its best, eat as soon after picking as possible.

I prefer my asparagus simple…lightly steamed and tossed in a little butter. Or I like to wrap three spears of asparagus with prosciutto and griddle them. Lovely!

May is the perfect time to get healthy since many salad ingredients are at their very best…rocket, spinach, lettuce, watercress and radishes.


Also, Jersey Royal potatoes are in season. Early season potatoes (April) are smaller and particularly tender, whereas the later season ones are larger (June). Waxy in texture, Jersey Royals hold their shape well when cooked and have a subtle and delicate taste - ideal for salads.

I love to steam them, then toss them in butter and garnish with a little mint.


Since Spring lamb is at its most tender this month, it’s the perfect time for lamb roasts. Its best roasted simply with garlic and rosemary. Absolutely delicious.

VEGETABLES
Asparagus, Cabbages, Spinach, Carrots, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Radishes, Rocket, Watercress, Purple Sprouting Broccoli,Jersey Royal Potatoes, Morel mushroom

HERBS
Rosemary, Chives, Mint, Parsley, Sorrel

FRUIT
Rhubarb

MEAT & GAME
Spring Lamb, Wood Pigeon, Duck

FISH
Pollack, Salmon, Sea Trout, Dover Sole, Skate, Plaice, Lobster, Brown Crab, Haddock,

Its always best to try to eat seasonal fruit and vegetables, if you can. Foods in season contain the nutrients and minerals that our bodies need at particular times of the year. Plus its a great way to support British farmers and it keeps the carbon footprint down. It should also be cheaper.

As I’m typing this, it has just started to rain. I think I’m going to head to the supermarket to buy some lamb to make a nice lamb roast tonight. There’s nothing quite so comforting on a miserable rainy day, than to have a roast lamb to look forward to!

Pollença food market, Pollença, Mallorca.

Beautiful vegetables at Borough Market, London.

VEGETABLE SOUP

I bought a great book a few years ago called Super Foods To Boost Your Mood which is full of delicious recipes that are healthy, give you energy and generally make you feel great.

One of the recipes in the book that I have made time and time again is the vegetable soup. Its so easy to make, tastes delicious, its healthy and packed full of vitamins.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g/12oz diced vegetables (such as broccoli, peppers, leeks, carrots, celery, sweet potato)
400g/12oz jar of passata
300ml/10fl oz stock (I use Bouillon)
Pinch of dried oregano

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion. Stir for a minute or two until the onion is soft, not brown.


Add the garlic and diced vegetables and stir.


Cover and leave to sweat for a couple of minutes. Add the passata, stock, oregano and season then simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.


Then serve!


When I make this I usually have a bowl there and then, then I divide it into portions, freeze some then pop the rest in the fridge. It doesn’t last long! Try it out!

Tapas at Stay restaurant, Puerto Pollença.

Padrón peppers, garlic mushrooms and fried, breaded slices of aubergine. Delicious!


www.stayrestaurant.com/

So I’m back from two weeks in Mallorca and I had a wonderful time. It was a really relaxing holiday full of lying on the beach, reading and eating. Oh and becoming completely obsessed with the Food Network! (more on that at a later date)

Every Sunday there is a market in Pollença, a town in the North of the island. This is my happy place. I love Pollença at the best of times but the Sunday market is amazing. Yes, there are too many tourists but there is food…and lots of it! Beautiful vegetables, sweet fragrant fruits, incredible meats, mouthwatering olives, delicious cheeses…its heaven!

I love the hustle and bustle of the market, everyone calling out to each other in Spanish, the smells, the vibrant colours…it makes you feel alive!