Cold Food

As I was sweltering in the intense heat of the beginning of Wimbledon fortnight, all that came to mind in the way of sustenance, if any, was a plate of something cold. The thought of a hot soup, a grilled pork chop or one of those hot fruit pies of a cou ple of weeks ago, could not have appealed less. I can quite happily eat cold food at any time of the year. I also can be quite piggy over left-over cold food. Have your ever tried a few slices of stiff and cold gratin-Dauphinois the following morning? Or cold chicken curry even (Coronation Chicken bei ng one of my all time favourites)? And, of course, cold Sunday roast, together with all the bits, is almost better than when it is hot: the semi-congealed crusted fat and meat jelly around the bottom of the plate, a nugget of cold roast potato smeared wi th fresh horseradish; a slice of cold pork with crackling and apple sauce, and, one of the best, a slather of cold bread sauce on a piece of brown turkey meat. Oh Lordy... But if it is summertime cold food that appeals to you just now, and there are to be dishes specifically cooked in that way, then look no further.

Vitello Tonnato (cold sliced veal in tuna sauce)

serves 10-12

Carefully made, purely for the purpose (not from left-overs), vitello tonnato is, quite simply, one of the very best cold meat dishes it is possible to eat. Try and find a selective butcher who will purchase good veal in the first place. I have found tha t a small rump of veal, bonded, rolled and tied up is the best cut for this dish. 4-5 tbs olive oil (not extra virgin) salt and pepper 1.8-2.3 kg/4-5 lb boned and tied rump of veal 1 glass of white wine 1 glass of water 2 sprigs of rosemary 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed and unpeeled

For the sauce 200g/7oz can olive oil-packed tuna 2 x 50g/2oz tin anchovies 275mls/1/2 pint light, pure olive oil (not extra virgin) juice of one large lemon a few squirts of Tabasco

To serve 2 tbs capers, drained and squeezed dry 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil watercress

Pre-heat the oven to 300F/150C/gas mark 2 Using a heavy-bottomed, cast-iron casserole dish with a lid (Le Creuset is best), heat the olive oil until lightly smoking. Season the meat (go lightly with the salt) and brown it on all sides in the oil. Carefully tip out any excess fat and pour inthe wine and water. Bring up to a simmer and pop in the rosemary and garlic. Put on the lid and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and turn the veal over. Cook for a further 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and tweak with your fingers. It should feel l ight and bouncy. However, if the meat still has a slackness about it, put it back for another ten minutes or so. Once removed from the oven, leave the lid on and put in a cool place for a further 20 minutes. Lift out the piece of meat, put on a large pl ate, allow to rest and cool completely. Then put in the fridge. Meanwhile, strain the resultant juices through a fine sieve into a clean pan and lift off any surface fat with kitchen paper. Reduce by half, but keep tasting as you go for excessive saltine ss. Pour in a bowl and cool, then put in the fridge.

Tip the tuna and anchovies into a liquidizer. Blend until very smooth with the lemon juice and Tabasco. Start to add the olive oil in a thin stream, as if you were making mayonnaise. When the mixture starts to thicken, add - a little at a time - some of the meat juices to loosen the mixture. Play around a bit: oil/meat juices/perhaps a little water/oil/meat juices, etc. The final consistency should be one of thickish salad cream; just pourable.

Remove the string from the veal when it is cold and cut into thin slices (it should be pink). Take a large, preferably white, oval dish or plate. Lay the slices in an overlapping arrangement and carefully spoon over the sauce. Sprinkle over the capers ev enly and, in a willy-nilly way, finally drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil. Decorate with some cool and sprightly watercress.

Cold pea and rice salad serves 10 - 12

The ideal rice for this is an Italian pre-fluffed rice that is usually to be found near the true Arborio rice, in Italian delicatessens. It is not as stubby as Arborio and is a smooth, shiny grain, almost polished and sort of yellowish in colour. Itcook s very easily, remains separate after cooking and has a good flavour.

4 tbs olive oil (not extra virgin) 550g/1.25 lbs rice 1 litre/1.75 pints light chicken stock 2kg/4 lb 6oz fresh peas in the pod, then shelled, or 700g/1.5 lbs frozen peas 3-4 sprigs of mint salt and pepper

8 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped grated rind 2 lemons 15 - 20 mint leaves, chopped salt and pepper 4-5 tbs extra virgin olive oil 10-12 lemon wedges

Pre-heat the oven to 325 F/170 C/gas mark 3 Take a large lidded casserole that will sit on a flame and be able to go in the oven too. Heat the olive oil and gently fry the rice in it until well coated with oil. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, stir in the peas and drop in the mint sprigs. Bri ng back to a simmer and put on the lid. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Take out and leave the lid on for at least 20 minutes. No peeking! The rice should now be dry and loose. Tip onto a large oven tray and remove the mint sprigs. Fluff the rice and p eas up and around with a couple of forks to aerate and cool them quickly. Whilst doing this, also mix in the spring onions, lemon rind, chopped mint, salt, pepper and olive oil. Leave on the tray until completely cold. To serve, pile the salad into a sui table dish and arrange the lemon wedges around the edges. The idea is to give each person a small plate of pea and rice salad, along with their own piece of lemon , so that each and everyone can sharpen their own serving; adding lemon juice earlier would discolour the peas.

Courgette Terrine

feeds 4-6

If there is one dish of the last 15 years or so that gives me the willies, it is the vegetable terrine. I know I am not alone in this hatred of, let's face it, a fairly harmless dish. I just can't see the point of it, those little bits of vegetable set i nto a chicken (or ham) mousse. I mean, it's not even fit for veggies. But there have been some shockers, sitting in their pools of lurid tomato coulis. Sadly, it became a dish you just "had to have been seen to have a go at". Anyway, this charming little courgette thingy is not like that at all. It's all harmonious: eggs, a little cream, a pertinent herb and the courgettes themselves. And if you must serve it with a coulis, then you can jolly well look elsewhere for a recipe.

900g/2 lbs very fresh and firm courgettes, trimmed 1 level tsp salt 50g/2oz butter pepper 4 eggs 275mls/1/2 pint double cream 1 level tbsp chopped dill or tarragon

Pre-heat the oven to 325F/170C/gas mark 3 Coarsely grate the courgettes. Mix with the salt and put in a colander. Leave to drain for 1 hour. Squeeze dry in a tea towel until no more excess juice drips out. Gently fry the courgettes in the butter for five to ten minutes with some freshly ground w hite pepper. Do not allow it to colour. Tip onto a plate and cool. Thoroughly mix together the eggs, cream and chosen herb, but do not whisk too much: if the custard is too light and airy, it will only sink back after cooking and cooling. Stir the courge ttes into the custard and check seasoning. Pour the mixture into a 1.1 litre/2 pint loaf tin (preferably non-stick), the base lined with a sheet of grease-proof paper. Put into a roasting tin filled with enough water to come at least 3/4 of the way up th e sides of the loaf tin. Cover with foil and cook for about 1 - 1.25 hours. The terrine is ready when it feels firm to the touch and a bit bouncy. Remove from the water and leave to cool for ten minutes before carefully turning out. Cool, then chillin t he fridge before serving.

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