When I started writing this post we were basking in sunny weather now it’s a tad cooler and damp…I’m not complaining we have had lots of sunshine in Cumbria this year. I’m planning to enjoy some summery food and this homemade basil pesto really is a taste of summer.
It takes me back to sunny Italian holidays where beautiful food and eating together were really at the heart of family life. Here the homemade pasta itself was very important and was served with just a tiny amount of sauce rather than being flooded with sauce as is more the case here. Indeed it was often just served with oil and parmesan. The key was good quality pasta either fresh or a superior variety. Here we can buy better quality ones such as Barilla or De Cecco made from the finest durum wheat. For some strange reason I’ve often found this in bargain shops such as Poundland, so if you see it you can stock up!
Cook the pasta in lots of salty water in a big pan and don’t overcook it, it should be served ‘al dente’ -with a bit of bite when you test it. to You do need a lot of basil so, if you have a greenhouse, you could make a mental note to grow your own next year. Traditionally the pesto is made in a mortar and pestle but I am using a food processor for ease.
Give it a go and I promise that you too will be transported to sunnier climes.
My veg patch is still producing salad leaves, spicy rocket, peppery mustard and frilly lettuce. Plus the beans are just starting to produce, picked when tiny-an ‘unbuyable’ late summer treat. These ‘White Lady’ runner beans are delicious and the white flowers very pretty, behind them you can just catch a glimpse of the sultry, dark ‘Purple Cascade’ French beans. Another good looker for the plot. Hmm..now what to make?
This fresh salmon nicoise would be lovely for a late summer evening perfect eaten in the garden with a glass of something cold and fizzy. Ok I know I’m getting carried away here. It is highly unlikely that this will take place in Cumbria in September but perhaps we really will get an Indian summer.
This is easily put together and then whipped out to impress.
FRESH SALMON NICOISE
Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as main course with crusty bread.
I’m writing this in the nearest thing that we get to a heatwave here in West Cumbria…better make the most of it then. Heatwaves (or even just a few tiny rays) in summertime and my thoughts turn to homemade, dairy ice cream. Not just the synthetic, overly sweet commercial ice cream but proper, homemade, dairy ice cream, made with double cream. You can’t make proper ice cream without cream it’s as simple as that….sorry to the healthy eating brigade but I will concede that you shouldn’t eat too much in any one sitting. If it doesn’t say ‘dairy’ on the box it is not ‘dairy ice cream…just a synthetic concoction of skimmed milk products and lots of other stuff.
I am basically lazy and it is too much effort to get out that ice-cream maker that has been languishing in a kitchen cupboard for…..probably years and too I’m too impatient to leave the bowl to freeze first anyway! If you want to make the effort and you have an ice cream maker lying around it does give a creamy result but I think this method makes pretty creamy ice cream too.
Everything goes in together and then pour it into a plastic box and pop into the freezer. Once it starts to freeze around the edges you take it out and beat vigourously, this help to break down the ice crystals you can repeat this again if you are feeling energetic but it’s not really necessaryl. As a summer bonus for you I have made three different ice creams; Fresh RaspberrySwirl,Velvety Madagascan vanilla ice cream (cleverly sugar free) and a family favourite Crunchy Malteser ice cream.
It is officially summer time (in Cumbria at least) although it must have been summer time elsewhere for some time, we are always a tad behind. The hedgerows are full of billowing clouds of elderflowers with their sweet smell and I am looking forward to gathering them for a summer treat -ambrosial elderflower cordial . Here is a very simple recipe, just a compilation of ingredients really but there are just a few things to bear in mind before you dash out into the countryside: gather the flowers on a sunny day and look for ones that are fully out, they should have a distinct flowery smell. Also don’t pick those along the roadsides which may be contaminated with car fumes etc. Avoid actually washing them if you can, choose clean ones.
For a delicously summery drink add the cordial to Prosecco or for a non-alcholic version dilute with tonic water and serve with lots of ice, lemon slices and fresh mint. Ideally you should be drinking this in the sunshine in a beautiful summer garden or beside a babbling brook in the shade…………………………………………..but it tastes just as lovely anywhere.
You can reduce the cordial to make it more syrupy and then pour this over ice cream or use to flavour cakes and biscuits. It is beautiful with that other fleeting summer treat, gooseberries. Lightly cook them (just until they burst and no more) in a tiny amount of water. Add sugar and cordial and liquidise (reserving a few for the tip). When cold fold into creme fraiche or greek yoghurt and serve with a drizzle or the more concentrated syrup, the reserved gooseberries and a few elder flowers.