The English summer is a short burst of intense flavours so make the most of it. Soft fruits, berries and vegetables that invoke the Mediterranean are reaching their best. Now is an ideal time for grilled fish with caponata, roast vegetable salads, and deserts involving cream and fresh berries.
With the sun being so fickle and ripe fruit having such a short shelf life it is best to buy in small quantities and from small suppliers. Large companies have too much produce to shift to allow them to put flavour first. I once spent a month picking tomatoes for a large farm in Bunderberg, in the North East of Australia. Everyday we hand picked thousands of hard green tomatoes, which were stored in cold rooms to prevent further ripening. When ready for shipment they were gassed with ethylene to turn them red. Because they were still hard and unripe they were cheaper to transport and had a much longer shelf life. The consumer, however, paid the true cost of this method, for although relatively cheap they were not worth eating.
So, if like me, you prefer your tomatoes fat and juicy, your best bet is your local farmers market or a good green grocer. The produce might cost a little more but you are dealing with people a lot closer to the source. Blackheath and Brockley both have good farmers markets offering organic meat, specialist ingredients and lots of fantastic seasonal produce. You should be able to pick up some gorgeous fruit for a Pavlova, summer pudding or a Peach Melba. Finally, when buying peaches & melons don’t be afraid to use your nose, a melon will taste as sweet as it smells.
Pavlova with English Berries, Whipped Cream & Passion Fruit Coulis – serves 6
- Heat the oven to 100c.
- Whisk 3 egg whites until stiff, then slowly whisk in 190g of caster sugar. When it is very stiff whisk in 2 tablespoons of corn flour and a drop of white wine vinegar. Spoon into six mounds on to a flat tray covered with greaseproof paper. Cook on the top shelf for about 1 hour or until the meringues are crispy underneath. Cool on a rack.
- Scoop out the flesh from 3 passion fruit and heat with a splash of water and a few pinches of sugar.
- Mix a handful of raspberries with a teaspoon of icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and push this through a sieve.
- Finally whip some cream.
- Open the top of the Pavlova and scoop out some of the soft centre.
- Place a dollop of cream in the Pavlova.
- Scatter over some whole raspberries, strawberries & blackberries.
- Place the top back on and put on a plate with a drizzle of passion fruit coulis, more berries and some raspberry coulis.