Summer brings us long days and warm weather, fabulous for alfresco dining, from a simple picnic to a gourmet barbecue. With the best of spring and early summer produce supermarket shelves begin to swell with fresh ingredients.
Salmon is good value in summer, BBQ whole with a little sweet chilli sauce and olive oil or poach for a special picnic or buffet party. Native lobster and crab are both excellent, BBQ lobster and prepare crabs in a Thai salad or in a souffle. Langoustine and scallops are widely available. Also good monkfish
June is when the lamb season really begins just in time for barbecuing. Prices are more reasonable than in spring with more availability. Marinate racks of lamb in a tandoori paste, barbecue and serve with pilau rice and barbecued naan bread. Grilling cuts of beef become expensive as more of us eat alfresco while stewing beef is really reasonably so why not make a tasty curry for those cooler days.
French beans, runner beans, broad beans, peas and mange tout are all at a peak. Small young broad beans can simply be shelled and eaten raw or cooked while larger ones will need to shelled and skinned
Salad Leaves are plentiful, including watercress, gem lettuce, lambs lettuce, iceberg and cos lettuce fabulous for simple outdoor meals, for something different make a Caesar Salads prepared with the addition of slices of char-grilled chicken or tuna. Summer brings a huge selection of fresh herbs, my herb pots are overflowing (especially with mint, a great accompaniment to lamb, Thai salads fresh berries and of course in pimms). Make a herb quiche or individual herb frittata's cooked in muffin tins or make summer risotto with fresh peas, mange tout and lots of fresh herbs.
At their peak are beetroots, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, broccoli and famous Jersey Royal potatoes along with other varieties of new potatoes delicious served hot and cold (best eaten fresh so only buy as much as you need). Also good are salad onions also known as spring onions, tomatoes, cauliflowers, outdoor grown spinach and courgettes.
It's your last chance for British asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli Good British asparagus season is short so make the most of it while you can, simply steam or try tempura asparagus it also makes the most tasty risotto or prepare a salad of young broad beans, peas, asparagus and rocket.British tomatoes and courgettes should be plentiful by the end of the month.
Also good: Outdoor grown spinach, sorrel, sweet corn, marrows, globe artichokes, cauliflower, cabbages and samphire(an excellent accompaniment to seafood dishes) try this months recipe for Barbecued Sea bass on Samphire.
British Strawberries from Hampshire and the Cheddar Gorge are available in early June with Kent strawberries coming to market from mid-June (a true sign that summer is here). Always serve strawberries at room temperature to bring out their flavour. Try making a simple fool with pureed strawberries folded into sweetened whipped cream or make some yummy strawberry jam or try my one of my favourite desserts strawberries with cointreau and a little black pepper. Why not take the family out strawberry picking this summer.
Late June offers us British cherries, the beginning of the apricot and raspberry season and plenty of gooseberries. Cherries should be picked when ripe and should have plenty of green stems the skin should be unbroken without any brown patches, store fresh cherries in the fridge. June gooseberries are green and hard, they are well suited to pies, crumbles, cobblers and puddings. The Northern Europeans traditionally used gooseberries as an accompaniment to duck, veal and goose.
Elderflowers are found all over Britain in June. Avoid picking them from areas subjected to car fumes. Rinse them in cold water and dry on kitchen paper. Steep them in sugar syrup as a base for sorbets and jellies (a cheats way of doing this is by using an elderflower cordial. Also good are British white, red and black currants.
Imported peaches and nectarines from Italy, and plums, and melons from Spain are all tasty in June.
Goats Cheese is at its best from spring goats milk.