In Season this Month… June
The arrival of June means that summer is quickly approaching, even if the weather isn’t on board with that idea the produce coming from vegetable patches and British farms are!
Highlights in June
A lot of us tend to buy frozen peas (if you ever stand in the freezer aisle getting cold while trying to decide between garden peas and petit pois it is useful to know that petit pois are just young garden peas that are picked and shelled when they are still small which can make them more tender). But from the start of June to the end of July fresh British garden peas are in season!
Peas are not only delicious but they are packed with protein – in fact a cup of peas contains more protein than an entire egg!
Of course peas are famous for being a great accompaniment to fish and chips on a Friday. But they offer a fantastic alternative to the classic smashed avocado on toast with poached eggs. Next time you are making brunch try smashing some freshly boiled peas (2-3 minute to cook from frozen) with lemon zest (1/2 a lemon), a handful of freshly chopped mint leaves, a teaspoon of olive oil and a crumbling of feta cheese. Then pile onto your toast of choice (I would recommend a sourdough) and top with a poached egg or two.
Known in the USA as fava beans, broad beans are a great stable of the British summer growing season – in fact, they are the first bean crop of the summer season.
If you simply pod them from their shells and boil them in water for 3-5 minutes then they are ready to be added to a salad or accompany some lamb. Broad peans have a thin skin that covers each individual bean, it is perfectly safe to each, but I like to take that skin off to pop out the bright green bean inside!
Broad beans go really well with peas – you could add some broad beans to your morning pea smash or if you fancy getting your broad bean hit later in the day you could make a green risotto with broad beans, peas, asparagus, courgettes and maybe even some chicken.
You can find strawberries on the supermarket shelves all year round thanks to imports. But these strawberries are chosen for their ability to withstand transportation rather than taste. So the British strawberries that started appearing on the supermarket shelves at the start of June will provide a much more enjoyable and juicy strawberry experience.
Of course you can do the Wimbledon classic and have your strawberries with a side of fresh cream. However, if you fancy doing something a bit different strawberries try adding them to a salad! They work particularly well with chicory, arugula (or other greenery of your choice), avocado, asparagus, chicken, red onion (I like it cooked) and a vinaigrette to finish it off.
Historically elder trees were believed to have magic powers which helped to ward off evil forces such as witches, nowadays when people think of elderflower they tend to think of cordial.
Elder trees are commonly found in woods and along hedgerows in the UK, and from late May you’ll see masses of tiny white flowers hanging in sprays – you can use these flowers to try making your own cordial at home. In order to make it you will need 40 or so large elderflower heads, 1.2kg of white sugar (granulated or caster), 4 unwaxed lemons, 4 unwaxed limes and 65g of citric acid. Once you have assembled the ingredients you need to put the sugar in a large enamel, glass or ceramic bowl and add 1.75 litres boiling water. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then allow to cool to blood temperature (about 37C). While it is cooling, thinly slice the lemons and limes and add to the sugar solution, along with the elderflowers (make sure you just add the flowers and not the stalks). Once everything is added cover and leave in a cool dark place for 24-36 hours, after that time strain twice then decant into a sterilised bottle and keep in a cool dark place for up to 6 months. Once you’ve opened a bottle it needs to go in the fridge and be used within a month!
British Sandwich Week
This week is British Sandwich Week – so in celebration of the iconic British culinary invention, I wanted to share with you some top sandwich facts and sandwiches to tuck into.
A Quick Overview of Sandwich History
The sandwich as we know it was popularised in England in 1762 by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Legend has it, that Montagu had a gambling problem which meant he spent hours sitting at the card table. During a particularly long card session, he asked the house cook to bring him something he could eat without getting up from his seat – cold beef between slices of toast, to be precise – and the sandwich was born.
The first packaged sandwich didn’t hit retailers shelves till Marks and Spencers launched them in 1985. Nowadays, nearly 12 billion sandwiches are eaten in the UK every year with 4 billion sandwiches of these being purchased from UK catering or retail outlets (like M&S) and as a country the UK spends over £8 billion a year on sandwiches.
The UK’s Most Popular Sandwiches
Last year Warburtons did a survey of 2,000 Britons to find out the ten most popular sandwich fillings in the UK, the results were surprisingly unexciting:
- Ham and Cheese
- Ham Salad
- Cheese and Onion
- Egg Mayonnaise
- Tuna Mayonnaise
- Chicken Salad
- Chicken Mayonnaise
- Cheese and Pickle
With this in mind I wanted to share some more exciting Sandwiches for you to try at home:
- The BLT (Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato).
- Salty, crispy bacon, sweet and juicy tomato slices and crisp, refreshing lettuce. It doesn’t get much better than a BLT! We like ours served on lightly toasted bread with a spread of light mayo and a dollop of ketchup on the side.
- If you fancy jazzing it up add some avocado and you’ve got yourself a BLAT!
- Or you can take it one step above a BLT with a Club Sandwich. This adds in some chicken, and doubles the amount of filling to give you a two layered sandwich monster. Check out my recipe with includes a fried egg here http://www.samstern.co.uk/recipe/club-sandwich/
- A Classic Bacon or Sausage Sarnie – a breakfast favourite.
- Chip Butty – a great British Friday classic!
- Pick up a portion from your favourite chippy (we like ours with a golden, freshly fried finish, not a bland, beige and anaemic chip!) and pile onto soft white bread that’s had a light smear of good quality salted butter. Add a liberal squeeze of ketchup or mayonnaise for dunking!
- Fish Finger Sandwich – another Friday classic!
- Cook your fish fingers until they’re crisp and golden, cut open a large crusty bap and spoon in some tangy tartar sauce, add a handful of rocket and enjoy!
- And last but not least – how could there not be a dessert sandwich on offer.
In Season this Month… May
Much of Spring is referred to as the ‘hungry gap’ as between January and May there is little to no fresh produce available to harvest – in fact April is the leanest month of the year for UK’s Farmers.
However, May has finally arrived, which marks the end of this period, signalling the advent of a new season of produce that has the added bonus of bringing with it vibrant colour as a lovely ‘pick me up’ as well as great taste.
Highlights in May
May is the best month for British asparagus (which is widely regarded as the best in the world) – asparagus has a very short window so don’t miss out otherwise you’ll end up eating asparagus with much less flavour!
The beauty of asparagus is that cooking it takes very little effort, it can be enjoyed simply steamed al dente (it takes 5 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus) with hollandaise under your poached eggs in the morning or grilled (for 3-4 until nicely marked) and thrown into a salad.
Jersey Royals are the best known varieties of new potatoes – they started making an appearance in late April so make the most of them while they are around.
New potatoes have thin, wispy skins and a crisp texture, they are young potatoes so unlike their fully grown counterparts they keep their shape once cooked and cut. They are also sweeter than standard potatoes because their sugar has not been converted into starch when picked at this stage.
This makes them well suited to salads, an accompaniment to any protein you might fancy or even throw them into a frittata with some asparagus for a double dose of seasonality.
Rhubarb is the first seasonal fruit of the British calendar year, it is more intense in flavour than the forced rhubarb you find in winter and it works perfectly for a classic crumble. You could even try it in a cake, or as a rhubarb and ginger cheesecake.
But you don’t need to restrict rhubarb to dessert, you can make a compote and put it on your morning porridge or even pair it with roast pork or duck for a savoury option and an alternative to classic apple and plum sauces.
Spring lamb, or early summer lamb is usually 3 to 5 months old – this means that the meat is super tender and the prefect choice for Spring Roast Dinners – such as a rack of lamb with new potatoes, mint and chilli. Or if a Roast feels too much in the warmer weather you can think about giving it a Mediterranean twist and make spiced lamb with couscous salad.