Fish and chips on the beach, chilled glasses of rosè, garden pizza, raspberry pavlova, warm artichokes drizzled with olive oil and rosemary… All foods that I associate with warm weather, the smell of suncream and a flip flop tan.
Summer is, in my opinion the best of the seasons. The combination of sunny days and warm evenings with the fresh, ripe produce available is unbeatable – the whole lot goes hand in hand with barbeques, outdoor eating, picnics* and an Aperol spritz in the sunshine.
For the months of June, July and August, the seasonal bounty available to us lucky folks in this part of the world includes: Courgettes, cod, rocket, lamb, gooseberries (who remembers being forced to pick these as kids!), raspberries, crab, watercress and radishes, peaches, cherries, rabbit, fennel, blueberries, lettuce and lobster, beetroot, monkfish, kohlrabi, plums, blackberries, broadbeans, chard and sole. Phew! – and there are so many more.
So, these are my top ten summer foods…
I know, I know – It’s not even a food for gods sake. BUT. June is officially rosè month and let’s be honest, how often do we drink it through the winter? I like mine as pale as possible or full of bubbles and this sparkling rosè from Pebblebed is a tough one to beat.
I love these all year round, but this recipe from Jamie Oliver using globe artichokes is a brilliant side dish for barbecues and always goes down well with guests.
Raspberries, strawberries and blueberries all come into their own at this time of year – sprinkle or smother over pancakes, pavlovas, roasted peaches and pastries. Plus they also add interest to home made ice lollies.
You can’t have a top ten summer list and not mention ice-cream. It wouldn’t be right. Not just for the good old vanilla cornet with a flake (and a dollop of clotted cream if you’re as greedy as I am) but for its versatility too. Semifreddo, frozen in an attractive mould has made me look like a much more proficient cook than I really am more than once. Especially when my ice-cream making skills are more than a little lacking! Worth noting – Exeter Cookery school runs a half day course on ice-cream making here but if you do just want to sit in the garden, tub and spoon in hand – Otter Valley’s Salted caramel with chocolate brownie gets my vote every time
My kids get really excited when they see one of these on the kitchen side and I have to admit, the fragrance of freshly cut melon is gorgeously summery and something I never get tired of.
We live on the coast, there is a readily available supply on our doorstep AND we are privileged as a county to be home to many of the top seafood restaurants and chefs in the country – Mark Hix and Mitch Tonks are perfect examples and I have both of their books in my collection. For a slightly different dining experience – you’ll need to book up early, but my favourite place for seafood in the summer is the River Exe Cafe – as much for the atmosphere as the fantastic food.
As a rub for slow roasted pork belly, roasted with parmesan, garlic and cream, or as the main ingredient in Bill Granger’s fennel slaw (my favourite), fennel is a proper all rounder and goes beautifully with meat and fish alike.
Hasselback with a sprinkling of parmesan, roasted whole with garlic and rosemary, boiled with butter and dill or in a potato salad with chives, the super versatile new potato is a regular and welcome guest this time of year in veg boxes. Riverford’s recipe page is full of suggestions but I particularly like this one for easy eating after a busy day.
Often overlooked for being just a bagged salad, rocket’s peppery flavour has the ability to add life to most dishes – under scallops with chorizo, as a pesto in place of basil, shredded and mixed with warm cous cous, artichokes and sun-dried tomatos or used in these deliciously simple fishcakes.
Salad is, in my opinion the backbone of british summer food. When the weather is blisteringly hot, cold crisp baby gem leaves served with ripe tomatoes, cold meats/seafood, slaw, tabbouleh and other pleasingly chilled additions make a welcome meal. However, for the days when the weather feels distinctly more british, finer leaves can be added to spinach, mixed with freshly cooked orzo, strips of marinated pepper and prosciutto before being drizzled with warm oils to make a slightly more comforting meal. Brilliantly, there are no limits, rules or wrongs when it comes to salad – which also makes it an amazing weekday staple. If we throw the remnants of our winter veg boxes into stews in the colder months, then I like to think of salad as being a good way to do the same during the summer.
So there we have it, my top ten summer foods, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I like them in the form of easy meals for when it’s too hot to cook, as a collection of dishes on a table for people to share, eaten cold as leftovers, or to prop up long boozy lunches. I’d love to know what your favourite summer foods and recipes are.
* I realised whilst writing this that picnics deserve a topic all of their own – keep an eye out on the East Devon Eats pages for a series on picnics this July.