Summer with Mark
As the weather gets warmer and the whole of the U.K prepares to spend the next few months complaining that its too hot, we chefs are drawn towards some fantastic produce. I always look forward to nettles, a fantastic substitute for spinach and of course they are free, available readily in over grown areas (just ensure you pick them wearing marigolds so as to not get stung, and wash well- you never know what may have watered them before you got there!)
I like to make a soup at home and make a puree in my kitchens. They go well with earthy flavours such as pigeon, and liver
Then there is asparagus.
Nowadays it is available in a variety of colors and sizes from the thick white spears, grown in the dark so as to not develop chlorofil (the substance that makes green plant green) and purple which is interesting to look at but can somewhat lack in flavour, but I like plain old fresh as can be green asparagus. In recent years I have taken to cooking it in a vacuum pouch so as to retain its wonderfully green color and not lose any flavours or nutrients to the boiling water.
More recently however I have started barbequing it. It gives it a depth of flavor that is a little more interesting and is of course a lot healthier than smothering in butter, as is the usual tradition!
I have to confess my absolute favorite is they strawberry, excellent just on its own, and versatile enough to be used in an endless number of preparations- summer pudding, ice cream, parfait, mousse, jelly, trifle, juiced, daquiri to name but a few.
I always used to enjoy going to ‘pick your own’ farms as a boy with my father and brother and sister when all the summer fruits come into season and never will forget the taste of a strawberry, fresh off the bush. The Wirral Way near my home in Parkgate was a constant source of fresh, free blackberries as a boy and we would return home with bags full of them, ready to be turned into pies!
More recently, I have been able to do this at my restaurant Allium in Tattenhall near Chester, as we grow a variety of summer fruits in our Kitchen Garden- strawberries, raspberries, logan berries, rowan berries all make fantastic additions to any dessert and despite the versatility, can not be beaten eaten as they are, although in late summer, a pie is a close second!
One of my favorite preparations in the summer, delicious eaten hot or cold
1000g Nettle leaves, picked from the stalks and washed well
500g Potato, peeled washed and diced
1 onion, large, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 litre vegetable stock
Add the potato to a hot pan with a little olive oil and a good pinch of salt and cook gently over a low heat with a ladle of the stock. Add the onion and the garlic and continue to sweat. Until the onions become translucent. Add the rest of the stock and the thyme leaves and cook over a medium heat until very soft.
Add the nettles and cook until they turn dark green and wilt. Blend in batches in a blender and check the seasoning. Add some pepper and salt to taste and some fresh nutmeg. Eat immediately or chill and serve cold
Easy Strawberry Daquiri
An easy and quick refreshing drink, perfect with or without the rum on a hot summers day!
250g Punnet of fresh strawberries, hulled
Juice 1 lime, fresh
1tbsp lemon juice, fresh
150 ml white rum
200g stock syrup
In a high- speed blender, blend the strawberries and the stock syrup to a puree. Add ice cubes as required and blend on pulse to make a slush. Remove to a cocktail shaker and add the juices and shake well. Serve in chilled, sugared glasses
Allium by Mark Ellis