WITH THE school holidays upon us and the sporting calendar well and truly under way, it must be summer. Spending time outside after work, or at weekends, is such a joy. For many of us it’s a time of year to relax and slow down a bit.
I love summer and especially spending time in my garden. There’s nothing quite like those few precious weeks of the year. The feel of bare feet on a freshly-mown lawn, the waft of charcoal from the barbecue, the distant cries of children having water-fights. All those great memories from summers in my childhood come flooding back.
On my rare days off, I want to spend as much time as I can outside – I definitely don’t want to be slaving over a hot stove while everyone else is having fun – so I keep my summer cooking as simple as possible.
This week’s recipes are short, sweet and easy. With the abundance of truly great ingredients in Scotland, there really is no reason for any of us to be spending hours in the kitchen.
My herring recipe is ridiculously simple. I’ve shared a similar recipe in the past but it’s worth reminding you of this wonderful fish. The season is short while stocks recover, not like in days gone by when the herring industry had to support generations.
And it just wouldn’t be summer without strawberries and cream, so my easy pudding recipe leaves you plenty of time to share those precious moments with your friends and loved ones outside.
CHICKEN TERRINE WITH ARRAN MUSTARD
This easy dish has a heavenly flavour with the addition of Arran mustard lending it a slight sweetness. It’s a wonderful slice of chickeny goodness. I buy Grierson’s organic chickens from the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market, but you can order them online. They have that “proper” chicken taste. And remember to keep the carcass to make a stock.
1 whole chicken (around 1.4kg), giblets removed
1 tbsp Arran mustard
1 spring onion, chopped
A handful of chopped herbs – parsley and tarragon are good
125g butter, meted
Salt and pepper
Some chutney or pickles, to serve
1 Heat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6. Rub a few pinches of good salt and some pepper over the chicken and roast in the oven for about an hour until the juices run clear.
2 Rest the chicken for around half an hour, or until it’s cool enough to touch. Then flake the meat into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and add the Arran mustard, spring onion, herbs and the melted butter with some of the juices from the roasting tray (the best bit).
3 Check the seasoning, then pack this mixture into a cling-film-lined terrine mould. Place a weight on top and leave in the fridge overnight.
4 To serve, slice the terrine and serve with a few salad leaves and some chutney or pickles.
HERRING IN OATMEAL
Great friends of mine get so excited about the arrival of the herring season that they buy as much as they can and eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner – pickled, kippered, soused and grilled. A simple fillet fried in butter and oats is my favourite method. And herring’s health benefits are not to be scoffed at. As a nation we should champion these old, but now scarce, treats when in season.
4 fillets of fresh herring
A squirt of cold-pressed rapeseed oil
A knob of butter
1 large handful of medium oats (I use porridge oats)
100g butter, melted
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
a handful of salad leaves (I like watercress), to serve
1 lemon, to serve
1 On the hob, heat a pan to a moderate temperature and add the rapeseed oil and a knob of butter.
2 Dip the herring fillets in the melted butter, then in the oats.
3 Place the fillets into the hot pan skin-side down and cook for a few minutes on both sides until golden. Season with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice as you cook.
4 To serve, simply plate the fish with some leaves and a wedge of lemon.
STRAWBERRIES AND CRÈME CHANTILLY
Last year I had cherry tomatoes growing in hanging baskets at the front of the restaurant. This year it’s strawberries. They’re cheap as chips when in season, so haggle at your market or farm shops for the less attractive berries to make your own jam. The smell of jam in the making is the best way to fill any home.
1 punnet Scottish strawberries
20 elderflower heads
Zest and juice of 3
1kg unrefined caster sugar
200ml double cream (Graham’s Gold is my favourite)
1 vanilla pod
2 tbsp icing sugar a few fronds of sweet cicely, to garnish
1 To make cordial, place the elderflower heads in a pot and add 1.5 litres of boiling water and the lemon zests. Leave for 12 hours before warming the mixture slightly and adding the lemon juice and sugar. Ensure all the sugar has dissolved before straining through muslin or a fine sieve. Leave to chill in the fridge.
2 To make the crème Chantilly, whip the cream until just thick and incorporate the seeds from the vanilla pod and the icing sugar.
3 To serve, wash the strawberries and cut in half. Divide among four serving glasses and douse with elderflower cordial.
4 Top each glass with some cream and garnish with sweet cicely. Serve immediately.