We should all consider seasonal ingredients as this is when food is at its best. There has been a great turn around in the way we think about food as more of us care about what we put on our plates. Supermarkets and grocers now stock seasonal ingredients in greater amounts than have been seen in a long time. Good quality local seasonal food is now leading the way in what we eat.
Spring and summer has meant that August is a month with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. While the sea provides us with a great variety of fish and shellfish. Meat is also on the agenda, with a greater volume of local lamb resulting in lower prices and August 12th sees the beginning of the game season with grouse hitting the restaurants, markets and stores in the final weeks of August.
The sea brings us an amazing selection of seafood perfect for holiday cooking. Sea Bassflesh is tasty and is often best cooked simply. Try steaming, baking or barbecuing whole sea bass. Flat fish become plumper in August, plaice fillets make excellent crumbed gojouns, a good change from commercial fish fingers for children. A tasty way to prepare Dover Sole is "Sole a la Meanuire" (pan fried), simply pan fry whole dover sole in plenty of hot butter for about 5 minutes on each side, remove it from the pan and place on a warm serving plate. Add a little lemon juice to the pan and cook until the butter is slightly brown, pour over the dover sole, sprinkle over finely chopped parsley and serve. Pan fried red mullet fillets in a little olive oil with marjoram, tomato and olives, makes a simple but delicious meal. Tuna and halibutsteaks are both excellent fish for the barbecue as their flesh is firm and the smoky flavour from the barbecue intensifies their flavour.
Clams, cockles, whelks and winkles are all good. For something different why not try our fusion recipe 'Thai Clam and Cockle Risotto'.Langoustine, crabs and lobstersare also good. Be careful when choosing live crustaceans make sure that they are active and all their claws are intact to insure their freshness. Freshly bought live lobster is great cooked on the barbecue.
Lamb is now more reasonably priced and of the highest quality. Legs of lamb are delicious when cooked slowly on the barbecue, see our recipe for "Barbecued Middle Eastern Lamb" or simply place lamb chops under the grill and serve with mint butter.
The 12th of August marks the start of the game season with grouse. One of the best ways of cooking young grouse is roasting it and serving it with plenty of game chips (see this months recipe). Rabbit is sold in many butchers in August as they are plumper and the wild ones fatter from stolen grain, rabbit makes an excellent terrine, a great accompaniment to a picnic (see recipe). Hare is also available, it is much stronger and richer in flavour than rabbit and is excellent in stews making it more suitable for colder weather. While young pigeon makes tasty lighter dishes, try char grilled or smoked breast of pigeon in a salad.
Beans are now available in all shapes and sizes from peas and broad beans, to runner beans and sugar snaps. Fresh broad beans and peas have a fabulous sweet flavor. Its worth taking the time to peel broad beans out of their rubbery grey skins to bring out the lovely green bean. This is time consuming, but gratifying; a great job for a sunny Sunday afternoon in the garden. The best way to do this is to pour boiling water over the beans leave them for a couple of minutes and then refresh them in cold water and proceed to peel them. When buying peas and broad beans in their pods buy peas at double the weight you need and broad beans at 4 times the weight needed depodded and skinned. Runner beans are also good, serve them with lamb and seafood, or try them in stir-fries or tempura. String beans are always good in a salad niscoise. Beans also marry well with mint, a puree of peas or broad beans with a little mint and creme fraiche and yoghurt makes a great accompaniment to lamb, scallops and prawns.
Scottish girolles (also known as chanterelle) are excellent and plentiful this month. Unfortunately most of the countries girolles are imported to Europe. These mushrooms need longer cooking than most varieties of fungi's due to their firmness, when cooked they have a mild aroma and a slightly peppery taste. Girolles make an excellent warm salad, sauteed in olive oil and garlic, tossed with rocket or baby spinach leaves, chopped toasted walnuts, a little stilton scattered over the top, a squeeze of lemon juice, and truffle oil drizzled over the top. Of course they make an excellent pasta sauce or use in a wild mushroom risotto.
Fresh cauliflower and broccoli are excellent in August. Summer cauliflower is so good it is best eaten raw. Try our recipe for vegetable batons with humus and artichoke dip.
Just right for light summer eating are Augusts selection of salad leaves. Rocket makes an excellent salad, simply serve with a few shaving of parmesan, dressed with Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin alive oil. Watercress is great in a salad, try a salad of watercress, crumbled blue cheese, walnuts and slices of pears. Watercress also makes a good accompaniment to char grilled steaks, lamb and poached salmon.
Tomatoes are now full of flavour and perfect for eating in the warm weather. There is an abundant selection of tomatoes to choose from including green and yellow ones. The best way to choose tomatoes is by smelling them, the aroma should be strong of tomatoes not chemicals. To enjoy them at there best eat them when they are ripe and full of flavour, at room temperature. Ripe plum tomatoes appear in countless Italian recipes accompanied with basil. Why not try our seasonal recipe for "Fried Green Tomatoes".
With a great drop in the price of corn we can enjoy one of the best crops in summer. Corn is a Native American cereal crop that originated in prehistoric Mexico. The Aztec, Mayans and Incas considered it the 'magic plant', and it had a major part in there staple diet. So it comes as no surprise that it features in many American recipes such as homity grits and popcorn. Corn is sold soon after it is picked in America and then cooked fresh as it deteriorates after being picked, in a matter of hours the kernels turn to starch and lose their sweetness. Being a warm weather crop, it grows well in my country of origin Australia and has been a regular part of my diet but in the UK it is not surprising that it has only become a recent addition to their menu. One of the best ways to enjoy corn is simply boiled and served with plenty of butter, why not try flavouring the butter with some mixed herbs and spices. Corn is also good added to soups, try making Mussel chowder using fresh corn kernels, or simply add cooked kernels to stir fries or salads. The easiest way I find to remove the kernels is by cutting them down the sides with a sharp knife.
Fresh Herbsfrom the garden should still be growing well in August with marjoram, basil and coriander seeing their peak for the year. Try experimenting with different mixtures of herbs, remember in a couple of months there will be little choice.
Vegetables that are also good in August includefennel, radishes, the first of the marrows, pak choi, chanterelles, kale, and from the wild samphire.
August is the best month for stone fruits these include plums, apricots, nectarines and peaches. These fruits all have a thin skin, soft flesh and a woody stone in their centre. Stone fruits need to be handled with care as they will easily bruise. Once ripened at room temperature store in the fridge for up to a week. The stone is discarded in most cases, accept peach stones are sometimes used in cooking. To remove the stone in plums, peaches and nectarines, slice them in half around the indentation, twist them with both hands, pull apart and remove the stone by scooping it out with a knife. My favourite stone fruit is red fleshed plums that my mother used to purchase by the tray full during my summer holidays. They are messy to eat and have a slightly bitter sweet flavour that I love. Red fleshed plums also make the most spectacular sorbet (see our recipe index).
Scottishraspberries from Perthshire become widely available in the UK in August and they are so reasonably priced for the most tasty berry. Wild raspberries can be found when walking along river banks and wastelands. Raspberries are excellent on their own or with a little icing sugar and cream. A perfect example of this is this months recipe for "Raspberry Shortcakes". The rest of the summer berries are still with us so why not make a simple summer pudding or serve a selection of them with homemade or shop bought sorbet. A simple but indulgent way to enjoy strawberries is serving them with a little cointreau and black pepper.
August is the month for melons with all types hitting our supermarkets and grocers. Slices of watermelon make a refreshing treat on hot summer days or make our watermelon daiquiri.
This month also sees the first of the apples with the early discovery apples bringing promises of more for later months.
Eating outdoors is very much a seasonal thing with August providing the last opportunity to truly enjoy the longer warmer days. Remember if you have a garden there is really no reason why you can't take any meal outdoors on a warm evening.