The time is ripe: Skye Gyngell reveals how to cook with the freshest English produce in the simplest ways

From tomatoes and lovage grown in the garden to salmon plucked from the river...
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Indy Lifestyle Online

This is perhaps the best time of year for English produce, so I suggest we enjoy it while we can – lovely fruit such as early cherries, raspberries and strawberries, asparagus, broad beans and peas; lamb is at its most tender and we are seeing the first of the wild salmon. It's a very nice time to keep things as simple as possible – nothing much more is needed apart from the produce simply placed on a plate, allowing the ingredients to shine through and to be showcased at their best.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627,

Tomatoes on toast with basil oil and fromage blanc

Home-grown tomatoes properly ripened in the sun, plucked when warm and sweet, are one of my favourite of all things that are available at this time of year. I have three or four varieties growing this year in my garden but there are so many more to choose from. This is a good quick lunch.

Serves 4

For the basil oil

1 large bunch of basil
200ml/7fl oz mild extra-virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt

Break off the leaves of the basil and discard the stalks. Place in a food processor and pour the olive oil over. Pulse until almost smooth. Season with the salt and set aside.

4 one-inch slices of crusty, peasant-style bread
1 whole clove of garlic peeled
1 tbsp peppery olive oil

Grill the bread until golden-brown, rub gently with the garlic, drizzle over the oil and season with a little salt.

6 ripe tomatoes of any variety
4 tbsp fromage blanc or any light young cheese

Slice the tomatoes, and arrange on top of the toast. Spoon over the basil oil and arrange the young cheese (and a few black olives if you fancy) on top. Serve.

Wild salmon with salsa verde and samphire

If you prefer, use farmed salmon, but it has none of the flavour of wild. The conservation of wild salmon stock is important, so it really needs to be eaten rarely and only as a treat.

Serves 4

2 tbsp mild olive oil
200g/7oz salmon per person
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g/7oz samphire
40g/1 oz unsalted butter

For the salsa verde

1 small bunch of mint, leaves only
1 small bunch of basil, leaves only
A handful of rocket, well rinsed
A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
3 anchovy fillets
1 tbsp capers, well rinsed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp good-quality red-wine or white-wine vinegar
250ml/8fl oz olive oil

Start by making the salsa verde. Chop all the herbs finely and place in a bowl. Chop the anchovies and capers and add. Stir well to combine then add the mustard and vinegar, season generously with pepper and stir in the oil. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas6, then place a large, non-stick pan over a high heat, and add the oil. Season the salmon generously on the skin-side only and, once the pan is really hot, add the salmon skin-side down. Cook for 3 minutes without turning, then place in the oven and cook for a further 5 minutes.

While the salmon is cooking, pick over the samphire, removing any woody bits, and rinse well. Put a large pot of water on to boil and, once boiling, drop in the samphire and allow the water to just come back to the boil. Remove from the stove, drain in a colander, place in a bowl and stir through the butter. Season with a little pepper but very little salt.

To serve, arrange the samphire on warm plates and lay the salmon alongside. Spoon over a little of the salsa verde or pass around separately if you prefer.

Loin of lamb with asparagus and lovage

Lovage grows here in the garden at Petersham; it tastes of very peppery celery and grows abundantly and quickly. A little is enough as its flavour can easily overwhelm. Loin of lamb is as tender as butter; it is more expensive than the other cuts but really worth eating from time to time. Asparagus is the perfect accompaniment – produce that falls in the same season has a natural affinity.

Serves 4

4 loins of lamb – weighing about 200g/7oz each, well trimmed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 bunches of asparagus – roughly 5 stalks per person
40g/1 oz unsalted butter
4 sprigs of lovage, well washed – you can leave this out if difficult to find

Season the lamb generously all over. Place a large, flat pan on top of a high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the oil; allow to heat through, then lay the loins in the pan, spaced well apart. Cook without turning for 4 minutes– you are looking for a crust on the meat – then turn and cook for another 4-5 minutes on the underside. Remove from the pan and place in a warm spot to rest for at least 10 minutes. This will give you lamb that is pink through but in no way rare.

Place a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the wooden ends. Once the water has boiled, plunge in the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes, drain and stir in the butter. Season with a little salt and a generous grinding of pepper.

To serve, slice each loin into 3 slices, divide among warm plates and arrange the asparagus and lovage alongside.