High Summer Eating
The last two weeks in London have been extraordinary; a genuine high summer. What do you eat when it’s too hot to cook, your fruit over ripens in seconds and you chase the sun and the shade simultaneously? Mostly inappropriate things, that’s what:
Gin tonic with sage and juniper. I had a bit of a hiatus over the last six months (with the exception of a week in Spain) in favour of wine, vodka and vermouth and soda. But I’m back on the gin-wagon now. And I think what I liked most about the addition of the sage, was that the glass was anointed with sage before the gin was poured. Who couldn’t be obsessed by ritualistic drink making?
An insane glut of sausages from the butcher. Nothing so Good Life as a glut of ‘oh-my-runner-beans-came-up-all-at-once’, rather a ‘we’re going to a barbecue, we need sausages. Oh wait, do we even like that person? No? Shit, sausages for days then’. I made Nigel Slater’s sausage in mustard cream with chives and hid in the terrace shade to scoff with a baguette. Not sure if I added too much salt or the rivers of sweat pouring down my face at the stove made it a little over salty, but not a problem — it was essential salt-replacement after sweating in the 100 degree celsius tube.
Roast chicken. This was a genuinely a mistake in 28 degrees. My kitchen is a greenhouse hellhole on super hot days (I love it really, but I think the weather sent our resident mouse Winston mad. He’s stopped eating crumbs, and started eating the lid of the vegetable oil. Madness or suicide, I haven’t seen him or his poo since his episode). Anyway, I roasted an absolutely beautiful yellow skinned Fosse Meadows chicken, just with chunks of butter and salt on the skin, covered in foil, then uncovered for the last 25 minutes. Served roast potatoes and gravy. I gave up on vegetables because by this point I’d practically roasted myself. After a restorative stiff drink and a sit down in the shade, I made stock*. Viva summer Fridays.
*Stock options: after you’ve devoured your whole chicken at nando’s, take the carcass home for peri-peri spiced stock.
Asian salads. More specifically:
- Mandalay carrot salad from Naomi Duguid’s Rivers of Flavour
- Vietnamese salad / bun cha inspired: a packet of vermicelli noodles and some Tesco Metro lettuce, mint, coriander, lime, cucumber and red chillies. Bonus points if I remember the fish sauce/palm sugar/chilli dipping sauce or have any leftover meat.
The ongoing quest for mamak-level nasi goreng. The leftover chicken was still amazing, and shredded into the fried rice, it was just about everything. I been obsessing about a really non-traditional version of nasi goreng after eating something unintentionally different at a small stall next to a Chinese temple in Penang. Something, I assume the ever-burning incense, infuses her fried rice with a sweet kind of fragrance and a deep smokiness. So I add additional fresh turmeric, pounded galangal and ginger for fragrant (and taste) effect. Full report back on achieving smokiness, and full recipe, sometime soon.
(Side note: I do also love the gorgeous and more classic versions like this Rasa Malaysia one)
Peaches over the sink (I can’t be trusted) and French apricots for breakfast (with black coffee and a croissant). I like strawberries, but I don’t worship them. They are not gods. Although I did see a Diana Henry recipe for strawberry and tomato salad which makes me want to merge it with my strawberry salad and make a strawberry and burrata super salad. Instead, tonight is Felicity Cloake’s peach, lemon zest and mozzarella salad.
Arroz con patatas caldoso (rice and potato soup) aka sick soup. So this was a totally new one for me, and now the weather has cooled down, wasn’t too bad to make. Plus it was a great use of the chicken stock. I made it with arborio rice and sweet paprika. I was so intensely hungover that I had to keep sitting down during the process. At one point I think I did actually weep. I tend to eat more intense flavours than bland ones, but it was nice to taste delicacy again, especially as I was beyond any normal hangover cure.
Fish. So high summer was a tale of two fish. First were disappointing fish in nice restaurants — over salted, undercooked, what the fuck is that sauce? (Choose lamb, always lamb). But the second was the phenomenal sardine curry made by my brother in law. I didn’t take a photo because it was a family dinner, and in my family pausing is a sign of weakness. It was a dark, intense flavour; the sort that makes itself at home in your food memory. Serve it with rice, sambal and cold steamed broccoli.
Also published on Medium.