Last weekend we did a workshop at the nursery with the Australian food writer Stephanie Alexander, whose new book is called Kitchen Garden Companion (Quadrille, £30). It was a fascinating few days, and it inspired me to put together these three simple dishes – perfect for this time of year, using ingredients that can be grown in any back garden.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com
This is one of my very favourite summer dishes – I love to spoon young goat's curd over the cooked peppers.
8 ripe tomatoes
4 red peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out
1 generous bunch of basil, leaves only
8 good-quality tinned anchovies, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into fine slivers
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
A little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Place a pot of water on to boil. Make a small incision at the base of the tomatoes in the shape of a cross, then plunge into the boiling water and remove with a slotted spoon almost immediately. Allow the tomatoes to cool slightly then peel off the skin; it will come away very easily. Slice in half and scoop out the seeds.
Lay the peppers skin-side down on a roasting tray, roughly chop the tomatoes and distribute evenly in the cavities of the halved peppers, then simply nestle in all the other ingredients, drizzle over the oil, and add seasoning to taste.
Place on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for 15 minutes before lowering the heat to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and cooking for a further 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
Strawberry and rhubarb cordial
Home-made fruit cordial is a charming drink to serve in the summer – lovely to sip outside in the dappled shade of a warm day. Almost any summer fruit will do – cherries, nectarines and plums all work beautifully. Just stick to the recipe and swap the fruit as you see fit.
Makes approx 1 litre/1¾ pints
300g/10oz ripe strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
4 sticks of rhubarb, washed and chopped into one-inch batons
320g/11oz caster sugar
1 litre/1.75 pints water
1 tbsp rose syrup
Tip the fruit into a heavy-based pan and pour over the sugar. Turn the heat on to very low and simmer the fruit gently for 10 minutes or until it has just begun to soften. Pour over the water and turn the heat up slightly. Cook for a further 15 minutes then remove from the heat and allow the syrup to cool completely. Strain the fruit and, pressing down well, stir in the rose syrup. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. Dilute as you prefer with either still or sparkling water. Pour over plenty of ice and serve.
Garden vegetables with aioli
There is nothing finer than young vegetables plucked from the garden, rinsed and served with a thick, garlicky aioli. I first ate this simple combination many years ago in the South of France.
A selection of sweet young vegetables, such as peas, broad beans, fennel, young carrots and radishes
For the aioli
3 egg yolks
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
The juice of a lemon
A good pinch of sea salt
200ml/7fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
Start by putting the egg yolks in a small food processor, then add the garlic, lemon juice and salt. Turn the motor on and pour the oil in as slowly as possible through the funnel in the top – drip by drip at first then in a slow, steady trickle. Once the oil is finished, you will have a glossy, unctuous aioli. Place in a bowl in the fridge to bring out just before serving .
Wash all your vegetables thoroughly, pat dry with a clean cloth and arrange prettily on a plate or in a basket. Serve with the aioli alongside for dipping.