FRESHLY picked produce lights up the summer for Carina Contini – as long as the squirrels don’t get there first
Summer is here and our kitchen garden is a-blooming. Our resident gardener Kerry has been spending hours weeding all those monstrous roots that seem to pop up even faster than the good things we are trying to grow. There are strawberries everywhere. We’ve got a huge bed at the back of the garden and the runners we took from here last year have been planted in vertical pallets at the end of the rhubarb bed. The polytunnel variety of marshmallow strawberries has ripened first and looks truly stunning – so big and bright they almost appear fake. They taste so good that I’ve been worried the children would sneak in and eat them all.
However, it wasn’t them I should have been worried about. Instead we have a very naughty squirrel that has sneaked into the polytunnel and stripped every single strawberry from the raised bed. And believe you me, there were loads. So if you see a fat, rosy-cheeked squirrel with red juicy lips – he’s mine. If he doesn’t watch out, I’ll be looking at Victorian cookbooks for a recipe to sort him out.
This is a classic Italian-style omelette, which is perfect picnic food when served cold.
Serves 4 hungry (or 6 not so hungry) people
• 500g waxy new potatoes
• 5-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 large onion, sliced thinly
• 12 free range eggs
• 50g flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
• 50g mint leaves, chopped
• Freshly ground black pepper
Scrub the potatoes and put in a pan with salt and cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender. Drain, then cut into slices. Set aside.
Heat 2-3 tbsp of the oil in a deep 30cm non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and fry gently until soft and slightly golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Beat the eggs together in a large bowl, then add the potatoes, parsley, mint and fried onions. Season with a generous pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Mix well.
Add the remaining oil to the frying pan to coat the bottom and set over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add a little of the egg mixture; when it starts to bubble, add the rest. Reduce the heat slightly. Using a wooden spoon, occasionally draw the egg mixture from the edges of the pan to the middle, moving the pan gently every so often to prevent any sticking. Continue until the egg mixture has almost all cooked, which should take about 7-10 minutes. At this point you can place the frying pan under a hot grill to finish cooking the egg, or you can be clever and flip it on to a large board or plate, then return it to the pan to cook the other side. This can be messy so it’s best to do it over a sink. The omelette is cooked when you can place a stick into the centre and it comes out clean.
The last of the British asparagus is still available, so enjoy it while you can.
• 50g asparagus, trimmed
• 50g baby radishes
• 200g new-season broad beans, podded weight, blanched and skinned
• 15g mint leaves
• 1 heaped tbsp small capers, rinsed and drained
• 5-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tsp Dijon mustard
• zest and juice of ½ unwaxed lemon
• 100g Parmigiano Reggiano
Blanch the asparagus by plunging it in boiling salted water for a few minutes until tender but not overcooked. Refresh under cold running water, cut into quills and set aside.
Top, tail and slice the radishes thinly so you can see as much of their lovely red skins as possible.
Arrange the asparagus, broad beans and radishes on a large platter and sprinkle with the mint leaves and capers. Mix the olive oil, mustard and zest and juice of the lemon together in a jug, then drizzle over the vegetables and coarsely shave Parmigiano on top.
PAVLOVA WITH FRESH SCOTTISH STRAWBERRIES
Freshly picked strawberries, still warm from the summer sun, can’t be beaten and we’re in the heart of picking time. Strawberry pavlova surely is a sweet trolley superstar.
• 6 egg whites
• 375g caster sugar
• 1 tsp red wine vinegar
• 2 tsp cornflour
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 800g strawberries, hulled and halved
• 1 tbsp Fragolino liquor (optional)
• 2-3 tbsp icing sugar
• 600ml double cream
• A dozen edible pansies for decoration
Heat the oven to 150C, 130C (fan oven) or Gas Mark 2. Lightly oil a 30cm fluted ceramic flan dish.
Whisk the egg whites with a hand mixer until they form stiff peaks, then whisk in the caster sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, until the meringue looks glossy. Whisk in the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla extract.
Generously spoon the meringue into the dish, piling more around the edges than in the middle. Bake for 1 hour, then turn off the heat and let the pavlova cool completely inside the oven. Then remove and cool.
Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and spoon gently on top of the pavlova.
Cut the stalks from the strawberries and then slice them all into quarters. Sieve a tablespoon of icing sugar over the strawberries and add a tablespoon of Fragolino liquor, if you have it.
Spoon the strawberries on to the cream. Shake a little icing sugar over the top for added effect and scatter the pansies on top.
This can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for up to four hours until you need to serve.