Springing into Spring… and Summer
By Linda Parker
Well, I started off with the best of intentions to view the latest series of the Great British Menu (which started last night and which will be a banquet to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day) however, I think I am getting fine-dining-recipe-fatigue.
I found it all a little too intense (and don’t even get me started on Master Chef!) and with Easter and bank holidays rushing towards us my overwhelming feeling was that life’s too short to make a jus, and I’d really rather just rustle up some easy dishes that will please everyone over the up-coming holidays.
Needless to say I dipped back into Mary Berry’s series, as it was the Summer Lunch Party episode. These are mouth-watering salmon, salad, ham and summer pudding recipes that will not only look impressive, they can genuinely be prepared ahead, taste outstanding and will appeal to all age groups.
I’m assuming that the weather is going to be lovely and that it’s going to be too sunny to be thinking about complex recipes for the foreseeable future. Simplicity is the watchword for the next few months! I will be using the crushed, roasted garlic and mustard mayonnaise recipe, a perfect fancy-schmancy addition to any cold meat or fish dish, and the Fiery Red Rice and Carrot salad also looks daring and tastes amazing.
Mary Berry’s recommendation of using the English herb sorrel is also on my follow-up list, as part of my healthy-eating self-assignment and the intention to stay away from the salt and try different home-grown, fresh, summery herbs instead.
For another simple-yet-stunning recipe, it’s worth looking back a-while to the lovely James Martin (Saturday Kitchen) offerings. I went on a cooking day with James a couple of years ago and think that the Filet of Beef in Cling Film recipe is well worth passing on for a Easter, spring or summer lunch party. It’s difficult to believe that it works, but it does, I’ve seen it, tried it and tasted it.
For the full recipe, see here but in a nutshell, (and just for the weights and timings for the beef) sear and season your filet of beef, let it cool, wrap it tightly in heatproof cling film, and roast for 30 minutes at 140 deg F, which is enough to time to prepare the salads and vegetables…. Job done, guests happy.
Thankfully I’m not a coffee addict, so despite getting to try out lots of amazing coffee machines (including some built-in ones) I haven’t yet been tempted to splash out upwards of £1000 to have freshly ground and brewed coffee ‘on tap’ so to speak. Viewing Coffee Shop Hotshots I learned that the average customer spends £420 a year, and many spend up to £2,000 a year on their twice-daily lattes, cappuccinos, and frappe-mocha-choca-doo-dahs.
A sobering thought!
Those super-duper coffee machines sound like a huge extravagance but it wouldn’t take very long at all to claw back the spend! Having said that, I’m happy to stick to sipping tea…
…I’ve just tried the Tea Control by finum from ICTC, it looks elegant, brews excellent tea, whether you’re using a tea bag, loose-leaf PG tips or something delicate and posh from Fortnum’s. The brew-stop filter stops tea over-brewing and becoming too strong and/or bitter.
The other pieces of equipment I’m very keen on at the moment are the Instant Pot one-pot multi-cooker…
…which is a Pressure Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté Pan, Porridge Maker and warmer and Slow Cooker all in one go. The makers claim that it uses up to 70% less energy and cooks 70% faster than standard cooking processes. Which has to be good news for energy-efficient and time-poor homes, and a good idea for when you’d really like to feed the family a casserole or roast, but can’t face having the oven on for hours. It’s around £109, check out the finer details here.
For a real spring-summer treat…
…why not try the Fro-Fru from Judge. It’s a very easy way of making home-made sorbet, which, to my mind, is a nice alternative to a smoothie, which aren’t always as ‘healthy’ as they should be, and which can sometimes be a bit glutinous and gloopy. A frozen fruit sorbet still counts towards your however-many a day, and is far less wasteful. Simply stock up on in-season fruit, bag it up in portions and pop it in the freezer. It’s around £62.50, see it here.
And my final recommendation and a must-have for the spring and summer entertaining season is the Staub Loaf pan…
…yes it will help produce perfect cakes, loaves and terrines, but it’s also the perfect shape for a Summer Pudding … There are lots of versions of Summer Pudding recipes around, my favourite is probably Mary Berry’s, but Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s version is also fab. The loaf pan and lid is just the right shape, and if the pudding won’t ‘turn out’ of the pan, just leave it in there and serve as it comes, or use to serve and store. The Staub Loaf pan is around £110 by Zwilling, a perfect addition to your summer kitchen kit that will be useful all-year round.
Linda Parker, Food Fan and Freelance Interiors Journalist