Summer cooking

Summer Bounty

By | summer | 2 Comments

With August you are just beginning to realise how wonderful summer is. I had bounty of gooseberries, a good crop of raspberries and not so many red currants that have all come to an end. Gooseberries went into pie, were gently poached to serve with lots of cream and there so many I’ve also tucked them into the freezer to cheer up mid-winter evenings.  Most of my raspberries along with the red currants became summer pudding. I’m on my third one and I’ve also have one in the freezer.

This year, for the first time I made raspberry jam, just four jar because my friend Ilze had so many they were dropping to the ground faster than she could pick them. The recipe I followed Christine Ferber’s recipe, and it’s so delicious I’m going to have trouble keeping it until winter.

There is one fruit in my garden that is still going strong and will continue into the autumn, my wild strawberries or fraises de bois. I love these intensely flavoured fruit that are all the more precious because I can never gather more than a small handful at a time. Enough to top an individual tart but I don’t bother, I simply eat them warm and juicy from the sun.

Gin & Gooseberries

By | Gin, Gooseberries, summer | 5 Comments
It’s an exceptional summer in Toronto. The heat began early and by the time I returned mid-June it was very hot and humid. I love the heat, but the humidity can drain all your energy, so that by the afternoon all you want to do is snooze in a chair. The upside of all this heat is that it’s perfect weather for gin and tonic, my preference is Hendricks gin with sliced cucumber.
The heat has also made all the fruit in my urban garden ripen more quickly than usual. I managed to harvest some green gooseberries, the green ones have good acidity, which makes them a perfect foil for oily fish.
Most of my gooseberries changed colour before I could harvest them. This means my gooseberries are sweeter and softer than I like them but they can be eaten without cooking and make good desserts.
Instead of making ice cream, I prefer ice cream when it’s cold, yes it’s a quirk, that I can’t explain, but I do like ices and sorbets when it’s hot. I’ve been tinkering with this recipe since I first made it. Just gently cook 450 g / 1 pound gooseberries with 125 g / 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring from time to time until soft and tender. Let everything cool slightly and then pass it through the fine grill of a food mill. Chill overnight before churning it in an ice cream machine.
You can make this recipe with green gooseberries, just check the sweetness and it will turn a paler shade of pink.

Dinner for a hot night

By | Summer cooking | No Comments
This is only my second post for August. I blame the weather. I’m not complaining about it, the heat is better than the cold, even when it’s humid. However, by mid-afternoon my brain turns to mush and I find it difficult to focus. I end up dozing, which doesn’t improve my mental powers, or playing sudoku which can help but usually just frustrates. So that’s my excuse.

The heat not only muddles the mind, it dampens the appetite. Luckily the abundance of fresh vegetables at my local farmers markets inspires. Simple quickly cooked meals, laden with vegetables will lure me into my non air-conditioned kitchen on the hottest days.

Usually I start with bacon, duck fat or olive oil, add chopped shallot or onion then whatever I’ve bought at the market. Broad beans or favas, depending where you live, diced red pepper and a little vegetable stock. Cooked orecchiette were added to the mix and a little pecorino grated over the top. Then out  on my deck with a chilled rosé, a perfect summer meal.

Morels and peas have reappeared in my market. The morels  from British Columbia are too beautiful to resist and the peas and baby potatoes are local. I’ve been making a stock with the pods. Simply simmer the pods with a little onion for a light, flavourful, and very useful stock. I was inspired by a recipe from my friend Annie Wayte’s Keep It Seasonal: Soups, Salads, And Sandwiches.

Same method, cook the potatoes separately in that stock then add them to the mushrooms and peas. No cheese here, but if you have any truffle oil a few drops will enhance this dish.

Gooseberries again

By | Gooseberries | No Comments

I’m obviously going through a green phase. Looking back on recent posts I can see a lot of green. Perhaps it’s a reaction to Toronto’s stifling heat and humidity? Green is such a cooling colour. This photo of my gooseberry bush is a few weeks old. I have stripped it of all its fruit because I like my gooseberries tart. If you leave the fruit on the bush it will start to turn a maroon colour and loose its acidity. Gooseberries are not a giving fruit; the thorns are large, sharp and numerous and it’s not a fruit you eat straight from the bush, their sharp edge needs to be tempered with sugar.

One of my favourite ways to eat gooseberries is in pie. but you have to top and tail the berries first, a tedious task. Use a lard pastry and if you need a recipe see here. Sometimes I make fool, cooked gooseberry purée stirred into whipped cream. That way I can skip the topping and tailing simply passing as the cooked berries through a food mill. With my harvest of berries I spent several evenings watching television, to prepare all my berries. I made a pie, and froze the rest. Gooseberries freeze very well. Then I discovered there were still some berries that I’d missed in the deeper reaches of my bush. So despite the heat, I put on a long sleeved shirt and wrestled them into my bowl. I’d had it with topping and tailing so my first thought was to turn them into ice cream. However,  it seems to be my summer of ices so I went against my natural instinct and made gooseberry ice instead.

Now if you have never cooked gooseberries, you may not know that they turn pink when they are cooked, yes even the green ones. The ice is simple – 500g of berries gently simmered with 250 ml water until very soft.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and stir in 100g sugar until dissolved. Chill then churn. The resulting ice is a pretty pink and divinely tart and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer’s night.



By | Sorrel, Summer cooking | 6 Comments

I love the refreshing lemon taste of sorrel. You can buy small bunches in gourmet stores, but anyone who has cooked sorrel knows you need more than a bunch.
In Riga, Latvia you can buy sorrel by weight and I made my first sorrel soup using smoked bacon and thick, rich sour cream. My friend Ilze, who has serious Latvian credentials, told me if I got sorrel started in my garden it would grow like wildfire, so I went searching for seeds. No luck.

Then my friends Bruno and Karen, who live in Poitiers, France and keep a patch of stinging nettles just so they can make pasta, sent me French sorrel seeds, which I planted at the end of last summer. Now I have two flourishing plots of sorrel, one in my deck planter and the other in my garden, where so far it has only been attacked by a few slugs as passersby fail to recognize it.

Sorrel is delicious with bacon, a natural with eggs, in a salad, or melt the leaves in butter to create a creamy purée.  Now that the heat has arrived I am  making cold sorrel soup, which has a wonderfully refreshing lemon acidity. My recipe is an adaption of Margaret Costa’s. You might be tempted to use chicken stock, but I think it overpowers the soup, so I use a vegetable stock made from simmering pea pods and mint.

Cook a chopped onion in butter, then add 250g of peeled, diced potato (about 2) and 1 litre of vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a pinch of sugar. Simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are cooked then remove from the heat.

Add 250g of sorrel leaves, having removed any thick stems and stir in. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. (It is a good idea to cook this soup in a deep pot so you don’t end up wearing it). Add more salt to taste, I add about 1 1/2 teaspoons, chill the soup until you want to serve it, but don’t serve it ice cold.