As one seasonal crop after another makes its brief appearance over the summer months the usual dilemma of what to cook today is replaced with a concern to ensure that I don’t miss out on any of the seasonal treats that make a perfect summer. Many of these are linked with eating al fresco, thereby further reducing the opportunities.
There can’t be many households in Britain for whom giving and attending a barbeque is not an essential summer ritual. The Great British Banger has once again become great, but our barbeque repertoire grows ever more ambitious.
And what about the plethora of festivals, whether they be of music, food, sport or literature? Surely these are enhanced by judiciously chosen picnic fare? Or perhaps a picnic becomes the main purpose of an outing, in a beautiful spot, followed by a game of rounders?
The summer also provides plenty of opportunity for even city dwellers to get in touch with how and where their food is produced. A trip to a Pick-your-own farm is perhaps not quite as popular as it may once have been but a couple of hours spent this way means that everyone can experience soft fruits in the sort of abundance, and at an appropriate price, that enables such classics as a Summer Pudding to be made. If you relied on tiny punnets of fruit from a supermarket this much loved dessert would be consigned to the history books. Pick enough to make jam too so that you can produce a delicious cream tea when the weather is right.
Eating fish in sight of the sea is another of my great summer pleasures. Simple “shacks” have sprung up all around our coast providing freshly caught shellfish, a gourmet delight at reasonable prices. Better still, you should really take the opportunity to catch your own, whether crabbing off a pier or mackerel fishing from a boat in the bay this is fishing that anyone can manage. The lazy might settle just for a crab sandwich or fish and chips, but they should be of the finest quality and again, eaten within sight of the sea.
Whilst on the subject of fishing, a wild salmon still marks the pinnacle of achievement both in fishing and eating terms, but this is perhaps largely a sign of its rarity. I do however have an expectation of eating the equally delicious but thankfully still more available Sea Trout at least once each summer.
What about wild foods? There is a growing interest in seashore foraging, particularly for seaweeds, at which I am still rather a novice myself. But bilberries, the wild relation of cultivated blueberries, are, after wild fungi, top of my list of must have foraged ingredients. Few people know that raspberries also grow in the wild, and whilst they do contain more pips than the cultivated varieties, if rubbed through a sieve to remove the pips, they are just as delicious.
Finally, everyone should grow something themselves during the summer months, even if it is only on a windowsill or balcony. Herbs, chillies and cut-and-come-again salad leaves are all possible in limited spaces, whilst if you have more of a garden the very British runner bean can really only be properly enjoyed when freshly picked, ditto courgette flowers, which are wonderful deep fried and served with a pre-dinner Pimms.
Top Five Summer Eating Pleasures
- Pick-your-own Raspberries. Make Summer Pudding and Raspberry Jam for Cream Tea.
- Go fishing. Eat fish within sight of the sea.
- Pack a picnic. Include Scotch eggs or Potted Shrimps.
- Forage for wild food – seashore or inland. Make Tarte aux Savages Myrtilles.
- Grow your own. Serve an old-fashioned Grand Sallet for lunch in the garden.