I wanted a pudding. I wanted something sharp rather than sweet – but then other people become involved and they want sweet over sharp, and so it goes on. There is a balance to be struck and it’s with a lovely tarte au citron. My local farmers shop has some wonderfully large, ripe and juicy lemons that were crying out for use and so they came to the rescue. Here it is, a tart for the close of summer; one to use before the darker night and heavier puddings of autumn arrive.
So sometimes something cold, even at this time of year, can be very rewarding. A dish that has about it something of the Mediterranean with the couscous, dill, olive oil and lemon mix – but that smell and flavour of chunks of smoked salmon just scream out more a summer time plate. I love this, it easily feeds two very well or four with a few side dishes. You can mix it up – add cucumber, other peppers, pitta bread even – but really you don’t need much on the side, this dish pretty much does it all.
This is only a guide to seasonal fruit and vegetables generally available.
Of course, many are available all the time because of imports, and some are now grown for most of the year and they are included on these lists. Supporting local farmers and producers is by far the best way of eating good food, and helping local agriculture or fishermen; but the best person to ask what is in season is your greengrocer, fishmonger or butcher.
Oh, window cleaners arriving first thing tomorrow and there are no biscuits in the house to go with their pots of tea. The nearest shop is closed, so it’s a rummage through the cupboard to see what can be baked. It is these: quickly put together, moulded, cooled in the fridge and then baked for about 10-15 minutes. A biscuit with a cinnamon and mixed spice flavour. I know they go well with tea – there were none left after the window cleaners finished their last cup. Makes about 12 thick biscuits, or 18 thinner ones.
So Spring has sprung. Yet the problem is that the weather can be so variable. Yes, I want to move (ok with some resistance) away from the heavier and warming foods of winter, but I am not yet willing to embrace the light dishes of summer; and anyway not everything is in fully in season. So, something must replace the intensity of flavours I am giving up if I am to embrace the change. Here it is. Mackerel. I love this oily fish, the rich, deep flavour, and it needs something equal to its weight and that is a wrapping of thin rashers of smoked bacon with a balanced side-salad as a (not so) welcome nod to the new year. Actually, you could look at this as a deconstructed BLT – but there is a reason why those flavours work so well and why that sandwich is such a hit. Anyway, this is something akin to that, but without the need of bread. It will serve two as good main course, or four as a starter.
I don’t know what it was that made me want to make these, but it has been a long term plan. I had some delicious croquettes at Fino the then sister restaurant to Barrafina in London: crisp outside, with that delicious melting interior made for a memorable occasion. These can be a larger starter dish, or made well in advance and smaller rounds dropped into hot oil to go with drinks in the evening. The key is to put them them in the fridge to firm up and hold together when being fried. I like to make a simple mix of mustard and mayonnaise as a side dip.
I have a harvest of walnuts and pecans in the cupboard. Don’t ask me why, I suppose I just kept buying them for some reason. Some I have used some to make granola, and now I decided to bake a loaf cake. I just wanted something to remind me of walking to work when I lived in the US: a lovely, sweet, cinnamon fragrance I recall wafting around (along with the smell of fresh coffee) and this cake does exactly that. It has a sweetness to it, holds its place but retains a moisture. It tastes even better on day two and will keep fresh in a cake tin for some time – if it lasts that long. I bake it in a loaf tin (hence the name) but it is really a cake – and a lovely cake at that.