The 50 Best: Here Comes The Real Taste Of Summer

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Summer is the very best time to cook. This week, in the first of a two part series, The Independent's award-winning food-writer Simon Hopkinson shows why. He has chosen 50 of his own recipes which make the most of the season's

abundance of fresh ingredients. This week, he concentrates on light starters, meat and poultry main courses, and vegetable dishes to serve every purpose

Recipe photographs by Jason Lowe

1. SALADE NICOISE

I feel that tuna is redundant in a salade Nicoise; I just don't think cooked tuna is anything to write home about. So, as long as the anchovies are of superior quality, I say up the quantity of those and ditch the tuna. I would also ask that green pepper is not included, and that green beans are cooked through, so they don't squeak when you bite them.

4 eggs

1 round or Little Gem lettuce

8 small cooked artichoke hearts (such as those sold in jars from Italy)

a handful of fine green beans, topped & tailed, boiled briefly, refreshed & drained

12 small new potatoes, scraped, boiled & drained

4 very ripe tomatoes, skinned & quartered

16 black olives

1 heaped tbsp capers, drained

1 small red onion, peeled & thinly sliced

1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves coarsely chopped

anchovies (at least 5 per person)

sea salt & black pepper

For the dressing:

2 tbsp red-wine vinegar

a generous pinch of sea salt

black pepper

2 garlic cloves, peeled & finely chopped

175ml/6 fl oz extra-virgin olive oil

For the dressing, mix together the vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic. Whisk well, then pour in the oil in a thin stream. Set aside. Put the eggs in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 5 mins. Refresh under cold running water for 5 mins, then peel and quarter lengthways. Arrange the salad ingredients on a bed of the lettuce in a round, shallow porcelain or terracotta dish. I think the two final ingredients should be scattered parsley and anchovies in a criss-cross pattern on top. Season discriminately with salt and generously with pepper. Give the dressing a final whisk, and spoon over the surface. Eat immediately with crusty bread.

2. DELICES D'ARGENTEUIL

The Argenteuil region, outside Paris, is famous for its asparagus. This pancake dish, with its perfect combination of flavours is one that I recall from my days at the Normandie restaurant in Birtle, Lancs. If ever there were any pancakes left over at the end of service, I would whip them home and make my own hollandaise to go with them: three delices make an excellent midnight snack.

4 thin slices of prosciutto, halved

16 cooked asparagus spears

For the pancakes:

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

250ml/8 fl oz milk

2 tbsp melted butter

salt & pepper

90g/31/2oz plain flour

a little extra melted butter for cooking

For the hollandaise sauce:

3 egg yolks

225g/8oz of butter, melted

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt & white pepper

First, make the pancake batter. Mix the eggs, egg yolk, milk, melted butter and seasoning together in a blender, then turn the motor to slow and add the flour in a thin stream. Pass through a sieve into a jug, and leave to rest for at least 1 hour. (This recipe will make more pancakes than you need. Why not use some for breakfast the next day?)

For the sauce, whisk the egg yolks with a splash of water until thick. Use a small stainless-steel pan over a thread of heat, or a bowl over barely simmering water. Add the melted butter in a thin stream, whisking all the time until the sauce has the consistency of mayonnaise. Add the lemon juice, season, and keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C/Gas Mark 5, and also the grill. Heat a small frying pan, brush with melted butter, and pour in enough pancake batter just to cover the bottom. Cook until the underside is golden, then toss or turn and cook until the second side is golden. Repeat to make eight pancakes. Lay them all out. Place a piece of prosciutto and two asparagus spears on each, and roll them up. Lightly butter a baking dish, and put the pancake rolls in it, leaving a little space between each one. Heat through in the oven for 10 mins, then remove them and divide between four cold plates. Spoon hollandaise carefully along the length of each pancake, then flash each plate under a hot grill for a few seconds or until the sauce is lightly glazed.

3. BAKED AUBERGINE WITH TOMATO, ONIONS, GARLIC & OLIVE OIL

Here is a really nice little vegetable dish that everyone will enjoy (above right). Serves 3

2 medium onions, peeled & sliced

4 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced

4 small aubergines, with stalks

8 ripe small tomatoes

6 tbsp olive oil

Maldon sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

10-12 basil leaves, torn into pieces

a generous splash of dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4. Mix the onions with the garlic, and scrunch together with your hands in a large bowl. Set aside. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways, slicing right through the stalk. Then, starting to cut from just below the stalk and continuing towards the bulbous end and right through, slice the halves lengthways in four or five neat cuts, creating a sort of fan effect. Remove the cores of the tomatoes, cut them in half vertically, cut them into thickish slices, and then cut each one to make a half-circle. Now, on a work surface, sit each aubergine half cut-side down. In each of the aubergine gaps, push the tomato half-circles (rounded side up) up towards the stalk until all the tomato pieces have been used. You should now have eight halves of aubergine with three lines of tomato slices poking out of each.

Smear 2 tbsp of olive oil into the bottom of an ovenproof dish, pile in half of the onion and garlic mixture, and spread out flat. Add a little seasoning and half the basil. With a fish slice or similar, place the aubergines on top, skin side up, being careful not to let the tomatoes fall out. Over the top, sprinkle the rest of the basil, and spread the remaining onion-and-garlic mixture. Give the dish a final seasoning, spoon over the remaining olive oil, and douse with the white wine. Cover with foil, and bake in the oven for 40 mins to 1 hour, or until the aubergines are very soft and the onions completely wilted. Serve at room temperature with good bread.

4. PIEDMONTESE PEPPERS

Roasted peppers create such a marvellous smell that you almost wish you could bottle it. They are best cooked over a wood fire or a barbecue, the juices collecting inside while the skin blackens and blisters. Red peppers are the finest and sweetest, yellow second best, and, for me, green, white and purple frankly not worth the bother. The only time I ever use green peppers is for gazpacho.

4 red peppers

salt & pepper

4 garlic cloves, peeled

8 ripe tomatoes, skinned & deseeded

100ml/4 fl oz olive oil

16 tinned anchovies, drained

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C/Gas Mark 7. Split the peppers in half lengthways, and remove the cores and seeds. Season the insides lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Slice each garlic clove thickly, and distribute between the four peppers. Put a tomato in each pepper half, again season with pepper and a little salt. Place in a roasting tin, pour the olive oil over each pepper, and roast in the oven for 30 mins. Lower the oven temperature to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4, and cook for about another 45 mins or until the edges of the peppers are slightly burnt and somewhat collapsed. Remove the peppers from the oven, and allow to cool before placing the anchovies in a criss-cross pattern on each one. Place on a plain white serving dish and spoon the juices over the top. It is essential to serve some good crusty bread for mopping-up purposes.

5. WARM & SLOPPY GREEN SUMMER VEGETABLE SOUP

There is nothing nicer, when celebrating prime summer vegetables, than to leave them to themselves. That is what this soup is all about. Smart restaurants may give it the misnomer "ragout". Well it isn't. It's a slop, and a very delicious slop. Serves 6

50g butter

450g courgettes, peeled & cut into small chunks (not diced)

250g cucumber, peeled & cut into small chunks (not diced)

450 g fresh peas, podded (keep the pods)

1 litre vegetable stock (the Swiss powdered stock called "Marigold" is perfect here)

1kg broad beans, podded & then blanched in boiling water, skins slipped off with your fingers

350g new potatoes, peeled & cut into small chunks

1 cos lettuce, trimmed of outside dark green leaves & then shredded

10g spring onions, trimmed & finely chopped (don't add too much of the green parts)

Maldon sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

2 level tbsp chopped mint

6 tsp good-quality white-wine vinegar

Melt the butter in a roomy pot, and gently sweat the courgettes and cucumber until soft. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the pea pods and add to the stock. Boil it for about 15 mins, then strain into the courgettes and cucumber. Discard the pods. Add the beans, peas and potato, and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 20 mins, then add the lettuce and spring onions. Check seasoning, and cook for a further 5 mins. Stir in the mint. Remove from the heat, cover, and allow to cool to lukewarm before eating. Dribble a teaspoon of the vinegar over each serving.

6. JOAN STIRLING'S COLD CURRIED APPLE SOUP

I first came across this exceptionally good cold soup while working at the Hat and Feather restaurant in Knutsford, Cheshire, some 20 years ago. It is a rare combination; sweet yet savoury, elusive, seductive, and perfectly English.

25g butter

1 onion, peeled & chopped

1 tbsp Madras curry powder

900ml light chicken stock (I have made it very successfully using cubes)

450g dessert apples & 450g Granny Smiths, peeled, cored & chopped

Maldon sea salt

juice of 1/2 a large & juicy lemon, or more, if a sharper-tasting soup is desired

200ml whipping cream

chopped mint (apple mint is best)

cayenne pepper

Melt the butter in a roomy pan, and fry the onion gently until pale golden. Add the curry powder, and cook over a very gentle heat for a couple of minutes. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, and add the apples and a little salt. Turn down to a simmer, and cook for about 30 mins, stirring occasionally; the apples must be completely soft and pulpy. Liquidise in batches until very smooth, and pass through a fine sieve. Allow to cool, stir in the lemon juice, and whisk in the cream. Check for seasoning and chill well in the fridge. Pour into cold soup bowls, sprinkle with chopped mint, and dust with a little cayenne pepper.

7. PATE AUX HERBES

I remembered this pate (pictured, right) from the days when Hintlesham Hall in Suffolk was Robert Carrier's country seat to his acclaimed Islington restaurant in Camden Passage. I eventually found the recipe in his book Food, Wine and Friends, and have taken the liberty of making a couple of very minor changes. As I personally find the rosemary in the original recipe too assertive, this has been substiuted with tarragon. And in place of the 2 tbsp of powdered gelatine, I have instead used four leaves of leaf gelatine, which is now easily available and better quality than powdered. I have to wonder, however, whether it is actually necessary to use gelatine at all, as the minced pork and four eggs shoud set the thing with ease. Serves 8-10

1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped

65g butter

500g spinach, stalks removed, washed & dried thoroughly

500g lean pork, minced twice

200g fresh chicken livers

100g cooked ham, cut into small cubes

100g piece of flat pancetta or good quality streaky bacon, skinned & cut into small cubes

100g pork back fat, cut into small cubes

100g cooked ox tongue, cut into small cubes

2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped

2 tbsp chopped basil

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped chervil

1 tbsp chopped tarragon

4 eggs, beaten

Maldon sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

freshly grated nutmeg

4 sheets of leaf gelatine, soaked in cold water until floppy

150ml double cream

very thin strips of pork back fat, or equally thin rashers of pancetta, for lining the pate dish

In a large pot, fry the onion in 40g of the butter until soft. Stir in the spinach, and cook until wilted. Drain in a colander over another pan to collect any juices. Allow to cool, then squeeze out all excess liquid with the back of a wooden spoon. Strain, then simmer this liquid until it measures no more than about 2 tbsp, and leave to cool. Puree the squeezed spinach/onion mixture with the reduced liquid in a food processor until smooth. Add the minced pork to it, but only process to mix rather than puree the minced meat further. Tip into a roomy bowl.

Trim the chicken livers of any sinew and green stains, and quickly fry in the remaining butter until just coloured but very pink within: bouncy to the touch. Tip onto a plate to cool.

Now, mix in the ham, pancetta or bacon, pork fat and ox tongue with a wooden spoon, together with the garlic and herbs. Beat in the eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cut the cooled chicken livers into small dice and add these to the mixture. Melt the gelatine over a low heat with 1 tbsp of water, and stir in, along with the cream.

Preheat the oven to 325 F/160 C/Gas Mark 3. Line a 1-litre-capacity pate dish with the pork back fat or pancetta, leaving a generous over- hang around the rim. Fill with the pate mixture, and give the dish a few sharp taps on a chopping board to settle the filling and disperse air bubbles. Fold the over-hang onto the surface, and smooth off with a spatula. Cover with foil, or put on the lid if the dish has one, and place in a deep roasting tin. Fill with hot water to come to at least three-quarters of the way up the outside of the pate. Bake in the oven for 30 mins, then reduce the heat to 300F/150C/Gas Mark 2. Cook for a further 35- 40 mins, or until when a skewer inserted into the middle of the pate is hot when touched to the lips.

Remove from the roasting tin, and tip away the water. Return the pate to the empty tin, and allow it to cool for 10 mins. Cut a piece of thick cardboard to fit the shape of the pate's surface, and wrap in foil twice. Place on top of the pate, and weight down with two or three tins. Leave like this until completely cold, then store in the fridge.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of the pate and tip out onto a board. Cut in slices and serve with hot buttered toast and cornichons.

8. RISI E BISI

The recipe for this comes from Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook. I have always followed the directions exactly, and it performs beautifully. Hazan says, "Risi e Bisi is not risotto with peas. It is a soup, although a very thick one." She is, as usual, spot on here. I adore this dish.

half an onion, peeled & chopped

50g butter

1kg fresh peas (unshelled weight), shelled

Maldon sea salt

1 litre light chicken broth

200g Arborio rice

2 tbsp chopped parsley

50g freshly grated Parmesan

Put the onion in a pan with the butter, and fry over a medium heat until pale gold. Add the peas and salt, and gently cook for 2 mins, stirring frequently. Add 700ml of the broth, cover, and cook at a very moderate boil for 10 mins. Add the rice, parsley and the remaining broth, stir, cover, and cook at a slow boil for 15 mins, or until the rice is tender but al dente - firm to the bite.

Stir from time to time while cooking, and taste and check for salt. Just prior to serving, add the cheese, mixing it into the soup.

9. TAGLIARINI CON ZUCCHINI

Any green vegetable can be cooked with pasta, but the beauty of this one (pictured right) is that as courgettes cook so quickly, they can simply be cooked in the same frying pan as the pasta, once it has been boiled.

Tagliarini, which is a thinner version of tagliatelle, is aesthetically the right one to use in this dish, as it will hold the strips of courgettes better than the more string-like spaghetti; shapes and dimensions are very important when it comes to cooking with pasta. Serves 2

200g dried tagliarini

4 medium courgettes, coarsely grated

2-3 tbsp virgin olive oil

Maldon sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped

freshly grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain thoroughly in a colander, and rinse with warm water. Next, briefly fry the courgettes in 2 tbsp of the oil, with some seasoning and the garlic, in a roomy frying pan until they are wilted and lightly coloured. Tip in the tagliarini with the remaining oil, and turn and toss together until the ingredients are well mixed, and until the pasta has also taken on some colou. Turn it out onto very hot plates, and sprinkle with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

10. GRILLED BREAST OF CHICKEN WITH PROVENCAL VEGETABLES & AIOLI

Grilling small joints or spatchcocked chickens is a delightful alternative to roasting and poaching, particularly on a barbecue after marinading with herbs,garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or what you will. If it is not outdoor weather, then it is worth investing in one of those cast-iron ribbed grills; without one it just isn't possible to achieve the searing heat that crisps and scorches the skin or flesh and gives it that distinctive taste and, or course, fabulous smell.

4 chicken breasts

a few sprigs of thyme

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp olive oil

salt & pepper

4 lemon wedges

watercress or parsley, to garnish (optional)

For the aioli:

2 egg yolks

2 large garlic cloves, peeled & crushed

salt & pepper

300-450ml/1/2-3/4 pint olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

For the vegetables:

1 large aubergine, sliced into rings

2 red peppers, peeled & deseeded

2 large courgettes, sliced diagonally

2 red onions, peeled & thickly sliced into rings

2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced

salt & pepper

olive oil

Put the chicken breasts in a shallow dish with the thyme, lemon juice, olive oil and pepper.

To make the aioli, start with all the ingredients at room temperature. Traditionally, aioli is made in a pestle and mortar, but a bowl and whisk or an electric mixer will do. But no blender or whole eggs, please. Beat together the yolks and garlic with a little salt until thick. Start adding the olive oil in a thin stream, beating continuously. Add a little of the lemon juice, and then some more oil. Continue beating, adding alternately more lemon juice and more oil until both are used up and you have a thick mayonnaise. Adjust the salt, and add plenty of pepper. Cover and keep at room temperature.

To grill the vegetables and chicken, you need a cast-iron ribbed grill on the hob. This dish cannot be achieved with an overhead radiant grill.

Put all the vegetables in a deep bowl. Season well, and douse with olive oil. With your hands, mix all the vegetables together until evenly coated. It doesn't matter in what order you grill the vegetables. Fennel takes the longest and needs to be charred more as this brings out its aniseed flavour. All the vegetables should be grilled on both sides and blackened with criss-cross stripes from the grill. As each vegetable is cooked, move it to another bowl; no matter if they are warm or cold, they taste just as good either way. Check seasoning, and remoisten with a little more olive oil.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, and season with salt on the skin- side only (to help the skin crisp). Grill, skin-side down, for a few minutes, then turn through 45 degrees and grill for a further few minutes. Turn over, and cook for a few minutes more until bouncy to the touch and not quite cooked. Transfer to a hot plate and invert another plate on top to allow the meat to steam for about 10 mins until it is cooked through.

Assemble the vegetables in the middle of a large white oval platter, and arrange the chicken breasts with the lemon wedges. Pour over any remaining juices from the chicken and vegetable dishes. Serve the aioli separately. You can pop bunches of watercress or parsley here and there for added colour.

11. WARM SALAD OF BROAD BEANS, BACON & SPINACH

This is the perfect vegetable salad to make after the first of the summer broad beans have passed their blush of youth. It is a big-boy bean salad, savoury and filling.

4 handfuls of small, young & very fresh spinach leaves, washed & drained

10-12 very thin slices rindless streaky bacon, grilled until very crisp & brittle when cooled

2 sprigs tarragon, leaves only

6-8 sprigs flat-leafed parsley, leaves only

1 slice of white bread from a large loaf, cut into small cubes & fried in olive oil to make croutons

1.4-1.8kg butch broad beans, podded

4-5 tbsp virgin olive oil

1 small clove garlic, peeled & finely chopped

1 small lemon, halved

1 large shallot, peeled & finely chopped

coarsely ground black pepper

a little flaky Maldon sea salt

a pan of well-salted boiling water on the go

Strew a shallow white dish with a single layer of spinach leaves. Break up the bacon into small pieces and scatter over the spinach. Now, strew with the tarragon and parsley, then with the croutons.

Tip the beans into the boiling water. Boil fiercely for 2-3 mins. Drain well and, while still warm, squeeze between thumb and first finger so that the inner bright-green bean halves pop out. Distribute over the spinach.

Mix the olive oil and garlic in a small bowl, and spoon over the salad. Squeeze the lemon halves over everything, and season with the shallot, pepper and a little salt. Serve immediately, but only toss the salad once it has reached the table.

12. MARINATED & GRILLED LAMB CUTLETS WITH HUMMUS

A while back, in a Greek restaurant, my charcoal-grilled lamb kebab arrived while I was finishing off my hummus. I dipped one into the other, with some pickled chillies, and the combination was every bit as good as the more traditional lamb chops with mint sauce.

12 lamb cutlets, nicely trimmed

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

3 dried chillies, crumbled

1 tsp crushed coriander seeds

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground ginger

juice of 1 lemon

pepper

1 red onion, peeled & cut into rings

For the hummus:

275g/10oz tin of chickpeas, drained & rinsed

juice of 1 lemon

1 large garlic clove, peeled & crushed

1 tbsp tahini (sesame-seed paste)

about 100 ml/4 fl oz olive oil

salt

Tabasco sauce

1/2 tsp ground cumin

For the garnish:

a small bunch of fresh coriander

olive oil

cayenne

lemon wedges

Put the lamb cutlets in a shallow dish. Mix together all the other ingredients, except the red onion, and pour over the cutlets, turning them around so they are evenly coated. Tuck in the onion rings, cover with clingfilm, and marinate for at least 12 hours.

For the hummus, blend the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, tahini and a little water to form a paste. Pour in the olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt, Tabasco and cumin, spoon into a bowl and set aside.

Season the cutlets and cook fiercely on a cast-iron ribbed grill or in a hot frying pan until well charred, slightly burnt, but still pink in the middle.

Put a swirl of hummus in the middle of four hot plates, and arrange three cutlets on top of each. Tuck in sprigs of coriander, drizzle with olive oil, dust with cayenne, and serve with lemon wedges.

13. ROAST PIGEON WITH BRAISED LETTUCE, PEAS & BACON

In France, the corn-fed variety of pigeon is the highly prized pigeonneau. It is very tender, due, in part, to cosseted breeding that produces a fine layer of fat and a rich flavour. It is not gamy, and bears no resemblance to the wood pigeon, tasting more like a well-fatted young red-legged partridge.

4 corn-fed pigeons

salt & pepper

4 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed

8 smoked streaky bacon rashers

1 glass of dry white wine

50g/2oz butter

24 button onions, peeled

8 Little Gem lettuce hearts

225g/8oz fresh or frozen peas

1 tsp thyme leaves

2 tbsp rich, jellied chicken stock

1 bunch of watercress, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 450F/230C/ Gas Mark 8. Season the pigeons inside and out with salt and pepper. Put a clove of garlic in each cavity, and wrap each bird in two rashers of bacon. Roast in the oven for 5 mins, then reduce the temperature to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6 and roast for 10 mins more. Remove the pigeons from the roasting tin, take off the bacon (and reserve), and keep the birds warm.

Pour the wine into the roasting tin, and scrape up any crusty bits. Place the tin over a brisk heat, and boil to reduce by three quarters. Add butter and button onions, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, while the wine reduces further and the onions turn golden. Add the lettuce hearts, peas, thyme and stock, then the bacon, cut into slivers. Cover the tin with foil, and cook in the oven for about 20 mins. Remove, and turn the oven back up to 450F/230C/ Gas Mark 8. Take off the foil, put the pigeons on top of the vegetables, and return to the oven for 5 mins to reheat and crisp the skins. Transfer to a white oval dish, and garnish with watercress. Serve with buttery new potatoes.

14. PROSCIUTTO WITH WARM WILTED GREENS

This recipe comes from Chez Panisse Cooking by Paul Bertolli and Alice Waters. The greens can be young spinach, rocket, frisee or Chinese greens such as bok choy.

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp red-wine vinegar

1 large shallot, peeled & finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled & very finely chopped

pepper

4 tbsp olive oil

3 large handfuls of greens (about 250g/9oz), washed & dried

12 very thin slices of prosciutto

Dissolve the salt in the vinegar, stir in the shallot and garlic, add pepper to taste, and stir in the olive oil. Put the vinaigrette in a stainless-steel bowl or wok large enough to hold the greens comfortably, and place over a low heat. Add the greens, toss them continually with a pair of tongs or two forks for about 1 min or until slightly wilted but not entirely limp. Remove from the heat, and, working directly from the bowl, place a small mixture of greens loosely on each prosciutto slice. Roll up and serve while still warm.

15. RABBIT TERRINE

Rabbit makes a tasty terrine that is not too gamy or too nondescript. Take time to hand-chop the ingredients for terrines, as this produces a nice chunky texture, and allows each ingredient to speak for itself.

1 small rabbit with its liver & heart, boned to give about 225g/8oz meat

110g/4oz pork back fat

250g/9oz skinless belly pork

75g/3 oz pork fillet

4 rindless streaky bacon rashers

1 onion, peeled & finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled & finely chopped

50g/2oz butter

1 egg

1 heaped tsp herbes de Provence

2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs

1/2 small wine glass of Cognac

salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 325F/170C/ Gas Mark 3. Finely dice the rabbit (with its liver and heart), pork back fat, belly, fillet and bacon. Put it all together in the middle of a large chopping board. With a heavy knife, mix and chop all the meats together to form a cohesive mass. Tip into a mixing bowl. Fry the onion and garlic in the butter, and add to the rabbit mixture with all the other ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Pack into a terrine of 700ml/11/4 pint capacity, press down well, cover with foil or butter paper, and bake in a bain-marie for 1-11/2 hours.

The cooked terrine will have shrunk away from the edges and be surrounded by clear fat. Press with a light weight if you want a dense, firm terrine, and leave to cool. Serve from the dish with some gherkins.

16. CHICKEN LIVERS IN PEPPERCORN JELLY

In essence, this is simply a chicken stock set with the gelatine from pigs' trotters as they cook. The result is a joy to behold (pictured, below).

For the jelly:

500g chicken wings

1 pig's trotter split lengthways

1 litre water

275ml dry white wine

1 onion, peeled & chopped

1 carrot, peeled & chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

3 cloves

3-4 thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

1/2 chicken stock cube

350g fresh chicken livers, cleaned of all green stains & sinewy bits

For the clarification:

200g raw, skinless chicken meat, chopped

110g trimmed & cleaned chicken livers

2 large egg whites

1 onion, peeled & chopped

1 carrot, peeled & chopped

4-5 sprigs parsley

75ml Madeira or medium sherry

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

To finish:

1 tsp white & 1 tsp black peppercorns, coarsely crushed & sieved to remove excess pepper powder

Put all the jelly ingredients in a large pan and bring gently to the boil, removing scum as it forms. Cook at the gentlest simmer for 2 hours. Drain in a large colander set over another large pan. Lift out the pieces of chicken and the trotters and discard. Once the stock has settled after draining, lift off fat from the surface with kitchen paper. Put a few ladles of the stock into a separate pan. Bring to a simmer, and poach the chicken livers for a couple of minutes, till bouncy, but not firm. Lift out and allow to cool completely on a plate. Return the liver-poaching stock to the original liquid.

In a food processor, puree all the clarification ingredients, then mix into the cooled stock, preferably with your hands, mulching the clarification thoroughly into the liquid. Set onto a low heat, and bring very slowly to a simmer. When the first signs of froth and scum appear, and the clarification mush is starting to solidify, a trickle of stock will come up through the mess. Allow this to happen in various places, then turn off the heat. Leave for a few minutes, then repeat the process twice more. Now, set onto the lowest possible flame, and leave to percolate for 40 mins. Switch off the heat and leave to settle for 10 mins. Wet a scrupulously clean tea towel or muslin and use it to line a sieve. Suspend over a roomy bowl or pan. Using a slotted spoon, remove a portion of the mulchy meat raft from the surface, and discard. Take a ladle, and through the hole you have made - resembling a perforation in a frozen lake - transfer the now clarified stock from underneath into the lined sieve. Allow to drip through, but under no circumstances press any solid matter that might collect, as this will cloud the jelly.

Set the clear jelly in a bowl over another one filled with ice. Stirring from time to time, allow the jelly to become syrupy. Once this starts to happen, lift the jelly from the ice and stir in the peppercorns. Dice the poached, cooled chicken livers, and put into small ramekins or one larger shallow dish. Spoon over the jelly to completely cover the livers, and put into the fridge to set for at least 3 hours. Serve with crisp buttered toast and cornichons.

17. VITELLO TONNATO

This Italian favourite is often slapdash in the making, and some methods that I have read are a bit rum, to say the least. Carefully made, and not from leftovers, vitello tonnato is one of the very best cold-meat dishes around. Serves 10-12

4-5 tbsp olive oil

Maldon sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

2-2.5kg boned, rolled & tied rump of veal

1 glass white wine

1 glass water

2 sprigs rosemary

2 cloves garlic, peeled & lightly crushed

For the sauce:

a 200g can olive-oil-packed tuna

two 50g tins anchovies

juice of 1 large lemon

a few squirts of Tabasco

275ml light, pure olive oil (not extra-virgin)

a little Maldon sea salt (if needed)

2 tbsp capers, drained & squeezed dry

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

watercress

Preheat the oven to 300F/150C/ Gas Mark 2. In a heavy-bottomed, cast- iron casserole dish with a lid, heat the olive oil until gently smoking. Season the meat lightly with salt, and brown on all sides in the oil. Tip out excess fat and pour in the wine and water. Bring to a simmer, and add the rosemary and garlic. Cover, and place in the oven for 20 mins. Turn the veal over, and cook for a further 20 mins. Take out and tweak with your fingers. The meat should feel tight and bouncy. If it is still slack, put it back for another 10 mins or so. Once out of the oven, leave the lid on and put in a cool place for 20 mins. Transfer the meat to a large plate, allow to rest and cool completely, then put in the fridge. Strain the resultant juices through a fine sieve into a clean pan, and lift off surface fat with kitchen paper. Reduce by half, but taste as you go for excessive saltiness. Pour into a bowl, cool, then put in the fridge.

For the sauce, blend the tuna, anchovies, lemon juice and Tabasco in a liquidiser till very smooth. Start to add the olive oil in a thin stream. When the mixture begins to thicken, add some of the meat juices, a little at a time, to loosen the mixture. Play around a bit: oil, meat juices, perhaps a little water, oil, meat juices, etc. The final consistency should be just pourable.

Remove the string from the cold veal, and slice thinly (it should be pink). Overlap the slices on a large, white, oval dish or plate, and carefully spoon over the sauce. Sprinkle over the capers evenly and, in a willy- nilly way, finally drizzle over the extra-virgin olive oil. Decorate with cool watercress.

18. SPICED LAMB MEATBALLS WITH TOMATO & MINT, & CUCUMBER SALAD

Essentially, this is an Indian kofta curry served with a cool, creamy cucumber salad - or raita. The perfect TV dinner; only a fork is necessary and, perhaps, a cold glass of beer or two.

For the cucumber salad:

1/2 cucumber, peeled, deseeded & coarsely grated

a pinch of ground cumin

150ml plain yogurt

a little Maldon sea salt

For the meatballs:

4 onions, peeled & finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped

4 tbsp vegetable oil

700g minced lamb

2 tbsp coriander seeds & 1 tbsp cumin seeds, dry roasted together in a frying pan till fragrant, then ground in a pestle & mortar or coffee grinder

2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp garam masala

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp chopped mint

1 small beaten egg

1 tbsp plain flour

50g butter

1/2 stick cinnamon

4 cloves

4 ripe tomatoes, peeled & chopped

juice of 1 lemon or lime

Maldon sea salt

To make the cucumber salad, mix all the ingredients together, put into a bowl and chill in the fridge.

For the meatballs, fry the onions and garlic in the oil till golden brown. Cool on a plate. Mix into the lamb together with the spices, salt, 1 tbsp mint and egg. Form into walnut-sized balls, roll in the flour, and fry in butter in a shallow pan till golden all over. Add the cloves and cinnamon, and fry for a minute with the meat. Now add the tomatoes and stew with the meatballs for 20 mins, till softened and pulpy. Add lemon or lime juice, the remaining mint, and a little salt. Serve at once with plain boiled rice and the cucumber salad.

19. SLICED PINK COLD ROAST LAMB, AUBERGINE SALAD & CREAMED GOAT'S CHEESE

The salad is loosely based on Imam Bayeldi, a Middle Eastern aubergine dish that caused the eponymous mythical sultan to faint with pleasure - or overeating. Either way, it is the most delicious of preparations for what many people think of as a "difficult vegetable". This is a really special combination of flavours and textures, and, although I have given directions for cooking the lamb from scratch, it is a good way to use up leftover cold roast lamb. Serves 8-10

a 2.5kg leg of lamb, boned, rolled & tied for easy slicing once cooked

6 large garlic cloves, peeled & sliced into three lengthways

2 tbsp olive oil

Maldon sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the aubergine salad:

500g aubergine, cut in 2.5cm cubes

2 medium onions, peeled & finely chopped

75ml olive oil

1 level tbsp salt

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

8 large tomatoes, peeled & chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped

1 tbsp currants

2 tbsp chopped flat-leafed parsley

bunches of watercress

For the creamed goat's cheese:

300g firm goat's cheese

100g soured cream or creme fraiche

100ml yogurt

a scraping of nutmeg

Maldon sea salt (if necessary) & a good shake of Tabasco

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C/ Gas Mark 7. Make small, deep incisions into the lamb, and force the garlic into the holes with your little finger. Smear the joint with olive oil, and season liberally. Roast for 20 mins in the preheated oven, then turn the temperature down to 325F/160C/ Gas Mark 3. Cook for a further hour, then turn the oven off. Leave the door ajar, and allow the meat to rest here for 20 mins before removing from the oven. Place on a serving platter, and pour any resultant juices around the meat. Leave the lamb to cool down completely, at room temperature.

Mix the aubergine with salt, and leave to soak for 30 mins. Fry the onions in 2 tbsp of olive oil until softened and pale gold. Add salt and spices, and cook for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes. Stew for about 10 mins over a gentle heat, adding the garlic for the last 3 mins. Now, stir in the currants. Rinse the aubergine in plenty of water, and pat thoroughly dry in a clean tea towel. Heat the remaining olive oil in a non-stick frying pan till very hot, and briskly fry the aubergine till lightly browned. Tip into the onion-and-tomato mulch, and carefully stir in, with the parsley. Check for seasoning. Spoon into a bowl, and cool to room temperature.

Force the goat's cheese through the finest blade of a mouli-legumes, or a sieve, into a bowl. Add the yogurt, soured cream or creme fraiche, salt (if needed) and Tabasco, and beat well together. Pile into a serving dish, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge to firm up.

To serve, tuck bunches of watercress around the lamb before sending it to table with the aubergine and creamed goat's cheese. I think the lamb is best sliced thinly here, rather than in great doorsteps.

20. GAMMON & SPINACH

After roast chicken cooked with butter, this dish of ham and creamed spinach runs a very close second as one of my favourite things to eat. Serves 6

900g piece of boneless gammon or shoulder

2 carrots, peeled & diced

2 onions, peeled & chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

2 bay leaves

3-4 sprigs thyme

12 peppercorns

275ml milk

2 cloves

1 small onion, peeled & chopped

Maldon sea salt

50g butter

50g plain flour

75ml single cream

freshly grated nutmeg

pepper

1.5kg washed spinach

Put the ham in a large pan and cover with cold water. Bring just to the boil, and drain into a colander. Discard the water, and rinse the ham under cold running water. Put the ham back into the pan, just cover with cold water, then add the vegetables, herbs and peppercorns. Bring to a simmer, and gently cook for about 11/2 hours. The meat is ready when tender enough to be pierced through with a skewer. Keep warm in this cooking water.

Heat together the milk, cloves, onion and a little salt. Simmer for a few minutes, cover, and allow the flavours to mingle off the heat for about 30 mins. In another pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Make a roux, and gently cook the butter and flour together for a minute or two. Strain the milk into the roux, and whisk until smooth. On the lowest heat, set the sauce to cook. You may think that it is very thick, but it needs body to hold the chopped spinach in suspension. Do not cover the sauce. Stir from time to time with a wooden spoon, and cook for about 15 mins. Meanwhile, briefly blanch the spinach in salted boiling water, drain, refresh in very cold running water, squeeze out with your hands till completely dry, then finely chop it. Add the cream, nutmeg, pepper and spinach to the sauce, mix in thoroughly, check for seasoning and heat through for a few minutes.

Lift the skin from the ham, and slice thickly onto a hot platter. Serve the creamed spinach in a handsome bowl, and perhaps with buttered new potatoes.

21. GRILLED ASPARAGUS WITH PARMESAN

I have come to the conclusion that eggs are asparagus's best companion: try them with buttery scrambled eggs or eggs baked en cocotte with cream and tarragon, or use asparagus spears as "soldiers" for soft-boiled or poached eggs. Here, it is served with hard-boiled and chopped eggs, Parmesan and olive oil.

24 large cooked asparagus spears

extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt & black pepper

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled & chopped

75-110g/3-4oz Parmesan cheese, in a piece

lemon wedges, to serve

Heat a ribbed cast-iron grill. Brush the asparagus spears with some of the oil, and cook until nicely charred on all sides. Transfer to a large white dish, season lightly with salt and plenty of pepper, and sprinkle with the chopped egg. Using a potato peeler, shave slivers of Parmesan over the surface, drizzle with more olive oil, and serve with the lemon wedges.

22. ROULADE OF PEPPERS & AUBERGINES

This clever dish came to me via a chef who used to work for Gay Bilson at Berowra Waters Inn in Sydney. In the past, I have accompanied it with fresh mozzarella, creamed and pureed goat's cheese, and even garlic mayonnaise. Toasted bread works well, spread perhaps with pureed anchovy, tapenade or sundried tomato.

4 red peppers

2 large aubergines, stalks removed

olive oil

salt & pepper

30 basil leaves, torn into bits

3 garlic cloves, peeled & thinly sliced

balsamic vinegar

Put the peppers under a hot grill, turning occasionally until blackened all over, then peel, core and deseed. Slice the aubergines lengthways as thinly as possible. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan to a depth of 0.5cm/1/4 inch till very hot but not smoking. Fry the aubergine slices till golden brown on both sides. Add more oil if necessary. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.

Lay out a large sheet of clingfilm. In the middle, make a rectangle with the aubergine slices, overlapping them slightly. Season lightly, then distribute the basil leaves and garlic over the top. Add a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, and cover with the pieces of pepper.

Lift the edge of the clingfilm, and carefully form the ingredients into the shape of a swiss roll, without trapping the clingfilm inside. Tuck the leading edge of the film under the formed roll, twist the ends together like a Christmas cracker, and turn in opposite directions to tighten and firm up the roll. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

To serve, take a sharp serrated knife and cut, clingfilm intact, into slices at least 2.5cm/1 inch thick. Carefully transfer each slice to individual serving plates. Only now should you remove the clingfilm.

23. ROAST POTATOES WITH OLIVE OIL, ROSEMARY & GARLIC

The secret of this is to parboil the potatoes as far as you dare, and to use enough olive oil for the potato to "oven-fry" rather than roast.

900g/2lb floury potatoes, peeled & cut into 2.5cm/l inch chunks

salt & pepper

2 heads of garlic, broken into cloves, unpeeled & bruised

300ml/1/2 pint pure olive oil (not virgin)

a few rosemary sprigs

1 tbsp red-wine vinegar

Parboil the potatoes in salted water until pretty much cooked through. Drain carefully by lifting them out with a slotted spoon onto a tray. Preheat the oven to 450F/230C/ Gas Mark 8. If necessary, dry the potatoes in the oven before roasting. Meanwhile, blanch the garlic cloves in boiling water for 10 mins, and drain.

Heat a heavy-bottomed ovenproof dish or large frying pan with a metal handle that will fit in the oven. Pour in the olive oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Add the potatoes and season. Allow them to soak up and be coated with the oil, but give them the minimum of handling. Add the garlic and tuck in sprigs of rosemary. Then roast for around 30-40 mins, turning the potatoes over occasionally. The end result should be golden brown nuggets of crunch with gooey potato inside; the garlic cloves will have puffed up, with a crisp skin, and be equally gooey. Drain the potatoes in a colander, and leave to allow the excess oil to seep out. Tip them into a hot serving dish and spoon over the vinegar.

24. BEETROOTS IN PARSLEY SAUCE

There are a few dedicated cooks who know how to make beetroots with parsley sauce or a nice borscht, for instance, neither of which actually require a great deal of toil and trouble. Here is the parsley-sauce combo (pictured, right). Do not leave the sauce with the beetroots for too long before serving, as they bleed horribly quickly.

16 (approx) small raw beetroots

Maldon sea salt

For the parsley sauce:

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley

500ml milk

1 small onion, peeled & chopped

3 pieces of pithless lemon zest

2 cloves

1 sprig of thyme

1 bay leaf

50g butter

50g plain flour

100ml double cream

freshly grated nutmeg

Maldon sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Wash the beets well, snip off roots and tops, put in a pan and cover with water. Add a little salt and bring to the boil. Simmer, uncovered, till the beets are tender when pierced with a small knife, about 40 mins.

Meanwhile, pick the leaves off the parsley, and set aside. Coarsely chop the stalks, and put in a sauce-pan. Add the milk, onion, lemon zest, cloves, thyme and bay leaf. Heat together and bring up to a simmer. Cook very gently for 5 mins, switch off the heat, put a lid on, and leave to infuse for 30 mins. By now, the beets should be cooked. Drain, peel while still warm (the skins will just slip away in your fingers), and put into a serving dish. Cover with foil and keep hot in a low oven.

Melt the butter in another pan (preferably with a thick base) and stir in the flour to make a roux. Strain the flavoured milk onto this, stirring constantly, and once more bring to a simmer, using a heat-diffuser pad if possible. Set the pan onto this, and allow to cook ever so gently over a thread of heat for about 10 mins. Chop the parsley leaves very finely, and add to the sauce, together with the cream and nutmeg. Simmer for a further 5 mins so that the parsley flavours the sauce, check for seasoning, and pour over the hot beetroots. Serve at once. Very good with roast lamb and mint sauce for Sunday lunch.

25. RISOTTO PRIMAVERA

"Primavera" means spring. Well, this risotto is just that: the first peas, broad beans, courgettes; a little chopped young spinach leaf, perhaps some sliced green beans; always a fresh green herb such as basil, tarragon or mint (my favourite choice). The origins of this dish are associated with Harry's Bar in Venice.

1 litre light chicken stock, home-made, with a glass or two of white wine as well as water

100g each of tiny new potatoes, cut in half, & sweet young carrots, washed & sliced into three, both cooked until tender in a little of the chicken stock

2 onions

50g butter

200g best Arborio rice

75g each of peas, green beans (cut small), broad beans & small courgettes (thinly sliced), all briefly blanched in salted, boiling water, & rinsed in a colander under very cold water from the tap

mint, tarragon, basil or flat-leaf parsley

a handful of young raw spinach leaves, stalks removed, & coarsely sliced

Maldon sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

freshly grated Parmesan

Have the stock nearby, at the merest simmer. Fry the onions in the butter until lightly golden. Add the rice, and gently cook with the onions until well coated with the butter and frothing slightly. Add a ladle of the stock to the rice. Allow to seethe, turn the heat down low, and stir gently, until the liquid has been absorbed. Only now add some more stock, and repeat the process until it is used up. Taste the rice from time to time. When it is close to being ready - still with a little hardness to the centre of the grain - add all the vegetables, herbs and raw spinach, and stir in to heat through as the risotto finishes cooking. Season if necessary. If the rice is cooked before you finish the stock, don't worry; or if you think you need more liquid, add a little hot water. A good risotto should be of a lava-like consistency: oozing, and taking a few seconds to settle on the plate. Traditionally, the Parmesan is stirred into risotto before serving, but I like to serve it separately. More butter can also be added for a richer consistency.

Next week, part II: fish, salads & puddings.

THE RECIPES

All the recipes printed here are taken from two of Simon Hopkinson's books, `Gammon & Spinach' (Macmillan, pounds 25) and `Roast Chicken and Other Stories' (Ebury Press, pounds 10.99). They all serve four, unless otherwise stated.

Comments