An explosion of summer in three dishes

Simplicity and summer’s plentiful go hand in hand – savour it

Summer Berry Pavlova

Summer Berry Pavlova

 

While the weather may always leave us with a lot to be desired, summer’s bounty is plentiful and now is the time to savour it.

I often recommend that even the most dire tomatoes to be found in the depths of winter can be transformed into sweet little gems by roasting them in the oven.

Just as the method can transform little red bullets, you can imagine the results using some of the summer’s finest fare – perfect for the tartine recipe provided here. If I’m honest, with the right tomatoes, the process of roasting them may not even be necessary, in fact, diced and served with cool, creamy ricotta they can be a simple treat.

However the process of roasting will only intensify their sweetness, as the sugars caramelise in the oven, leaving you with tender tomatoes ready to be eaten as they are or turned into the most glorious and rich tomato sauce or soup you could ever dream up.

The versatility of the tomatoes that emerge from the oven is key and I often cite them as one of my core make-ahead ingredients. Once stored in extra virgin olive, they keep for weeks and can be added to pastas, used as sandwich fillings or blitzed into a smooth roast tomato pesto.

In this recipe, though, they are the star and sit proudly atop a summer tartine that relies solely on simplicity.

Many of my favourite summer dishes, especially those cooked over an open flame, rely on punchy sauces and marinades to emphasis their al fresco flair. The pleasures of piri piri sauce, a Portuguese classic, go far beyond the realms of fast-food chicken joints – the homemade variety provides the kick required to amplify the smokey tastes of the barbecue seafood platter here. Make a decent batch and it will last quite happily in the fridge until your next edible outdoor adventure.

As summer desserts go, only one can really be crowned king and in my view that will always be the mighty pavlova. The meringue recipe I use is a slightly different one, in that it doesn’t require the slow addition of sugar once the egg whites are foamy, instead rather satisfyingly, the egg whites are instead whisked on high with icing sugar until a glossy stiff shaving-foam-like mixture is formed, creating the perfect base for many flavour variations.

It was passed down from my aunt Erica, who, knowing just how popular they were with younger family members, would always make an extra batch for family get-togethers. A crunchy yet chewy white crown piled with perfectly whipped cream and adorned with the best of summer berries – if that’s not summer eating I don’t know what is!

Tomato, ricotta & thyme tartines

Tomato, ricotta & thyme tartines
Tomato, ricotta & thyme tartines

Although this recipe is short in ingredients and easy in it’s method, the results are spectacular. Try to seek out interestingly shaped tomatoes and different varieties, they will make a difference to the end result.

Serves 4

500g tomatoes, a few different varieties, sliced in half lengthways

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

8 sprigs of thyme

1 garlic clove, peeled

250g ricotta cheese

Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Sea salt & ground black pepper

4 slices sour dough bread, toasted

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and gently toss to coat.

Transfer the tomatoes to a large roasting tin that allows for space between each tomato.

Place in the oven to roast for 30 minutes or until sweet and caramelised.

When the sour dough is toasted, rub with garlic, drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

Assemble the tartines by spreading each one with ricotta and topping with the roast tomatoes.

Season before serving and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

BBQ seafood platter with piri piri sauce

BBQ seafood platter with piri piri sauce
BBQ seafood platter with piri piri sauce

Whether you choose to use a variety of seafood or just fish fillets, this same method works every time. Simple, fresh flavours that are brought to life once they hit that hot grill. The piri piri sauce here can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to a week or two but be sure to cover the top with a slick of extra virgin olive to seal it before covering with a lid. Scallops, crab claws are also a nice addition here.

Serves 4

For the seafood:

5 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic, finely grated

1 red chilli, finely chopped

A good handful of parsley, finely chopped

A good handful of coriander, finely chopped

300g clams, cleaned and prepared

250g mussels, cleaned and prepared

8 prawns

8 langoustines

6 baby squid, cleaned and prepared

Juice of 1 lemon

Sourdough bread, to serve

For the piri piri sauce:

1 large red onion, peeled and sliced in half

2 vine-ripened tomatoes, halved

3 garlic cloves

4 long fresh chillies

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for griddling

2 thyme sprigs

1 tsp smoked paprika

To make the piri piri sauce: Place a griddle pan over a high heat while you toss the onion, tomatoes, garlic and chillies in a little oil. When the pan is smoking hot, add the vegetables and char on all sides until softened and caramelised. Transfer to a food processor along with the vinegar, olive oil, thyme and paprika and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, garlic, chilli & half the chopped herbs. Add the seafood and toss to combine.

With a hot griddle pan or over a high heat on the BBQ, cook the marinated seafood. Cook for 2-3 minutes either side or until cooked all the way through and the mussel and clam shells have opened completely. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with the piri piri sauce and sourdough bread.

Summer berry pavlova

Summer Berry Pavlova
Summer Berry Pavlova

A showstopping, fruity summer dessert, which can easily be prepared ahead of time and assembled just before you are ready to serve.

250g icing sugar

4 egg whites

2 tsp cornflour

1 tsp white wine vinegar

500ml double cream, whipped

250g mixed berries

Small handful of mint sprigs, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F), Gas Mark 2.

Line two baking trays with baking parchment and draw a large 25cm diameter circle on each piece of baking parchment.

Put the icing sugar and egg whites into a standing food mixer (or use an electric hand-held mixer in a bowl) and whisk on high for 10 minutes until glossy white peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold in the cornflour and the white wine vinegar.

Divide the meringue mixture between the two baking trays and, using a tablespoon, form two large meringue discs. Bake for 45 minutes; then allow the meringues to cool in the oven.

Assemble the pavlova by spooning half the cream on to the first layer of meringue, then adding half the berries and topping with the other meringue layer, remaining cream and berries. Lastly, decorate with the mint sprigs and serve.

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