Here we are, a couple of days away from June, and finally the weather has decided to be summery after a month which felt akin to March rather than May. It had a brief flirtation with summer a month or so ago, but since then we’ve had endless days of rain and unpredictable weather and it’s been too cold to sit outside with a coffee, let alone a meal. But suddenly it changed and summer spread its wings revealing a beautiful blue sky, a warm sun – and a need to search for the suncream. It was time to think about summer food and chilled wine. Yesterday I played it easy; it was barely cooking. Salad leaves were put into a bowl, small boiled Jersey Royals – a summer treat – placed on top. Slices of avocado and ripe tomato laid on next. Then gorgeous smoked salmon and soft-boiled eggs. Not just any eggs but eggs my daughter brought down last week, laid by her own hens in Worcestershire (click here) with their glorious deep yellow yolks and wonderful flavour. A dressing of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and some wholegrain mustard drizzled over the top. A glass of chilled Bacchus wine – an excellent English white wine from Kent – completed the picture. I ate in the warmth of the evening and really there’s nothing quite like it for soothing the soul and even in these turbulent times feeling at one with the world.
Today, after a chilly start, summer delighted us with its appearance again. It’s Sunday and I thought I’d make a little more effort with my meal (even though yesterday’s simple meal was fabulously delicious!). I had some gorgeous loin of lamb chops I’d bought in Whole Foods. With the family away for the half term week, barbecuing wasn’t an option; well not for me. I never barbecue; I prepare food for a barbecue and let my son do the cooking. And anyway, does anyone barbecue for one? But a griddle is a good alternative; not the same but good.
I thought I’d marinate the lamb in some olive oil, lemon juice, seasoning and chopped fresh rosemary picked from the bush in my garden. I did this a couple of hours ahead of eating, turning it a couple of times.
I decided to make a freaked salad to go with it, adding some courgette (click here for a recipe). I didn’t add nuts as I’ve done before, just some cooked freekeh, diced courgettes fried in some olive oil until tender but not browning, lots of chopped flat-leaf parsley, grated lemon zest and lemon juice, seasoning and lots of extra virgin olive oil. This was also made in advance so all the flavours could come together well. I left it out to be served at room temperature but if made well in advance, keep in the fridge but take out a while before eating so it’s not fridge cold.
Then the pesto, a similar version of which I’ve done before on this blog (click here). Mint is such a classic accompaniment to lamb. When I was growing up my mother always cooked a roast dinner on Sunday, as was common at the time, and mint sauce unfailing came with roast lamb. It was a rather vinegary concoction, the base coming from a jar and malt vinegar added – not the kind of thing I’d serve now, but typical of the sixties. But mint pesto was what I wanted and I just love making pesto. I always use a mortar and pestle, never an electric mixer. This is partly because I just like doing it! But also I feel I have more control over the flavour, which I can check as I go, and the texture, which I like quite rough rather than a smooth sauce. I didn’t toast my pine nuts as I’ve always done before. This was because I recently watched Jamie Oliver make pesto on TV and he said a chef in Italy had taught him to make it without roasting the pine nuts for a creamier consistency and flavour. Well, it saves roasting those nuts! So it was a few pine nuts, a very small clove of garlic, a pinch of sea salt, all pounded together. Then fresh mint leaves from my garden were added and pounded before adding some extra virgin olive oil slowly. I’ve realised writing this I never added the Parmesan, so I guess this is more salsa verde than pesto! Whatever you call it, it was very good with the lamb!
I had everything ready to go when I wanted to eat. I was expecting a FaceTime call from my lovely friend Linda in Spain early evening and so having food that was prepared and quickly cooked was perfect. The final cooking took only minutes, putting the lamb chop on a hot griddle. I added some sliced avocado simply because I had half left over from the salad yesterday and they don’t last long once cut into.
It was all delicious and really very summery indeed. The lamb was fantastic; I’ve been buying excellent meat at Whole Foods and this was gorgeously tender and tasty. The accompanying salad and mint pesto added a touch of something special for a Sunday meal and just a little bit of effort transported me to a slightly celebratory, holiday-type feeling. Sometimes a small amount of effort pays big dividends.