Forever Summer? Now wouldn’t that just be the ticket? As I look out of my kitchen window at a cold, wet and rainy landscape I can’t help thinking we have been just a little bit short-changed here in the UK when it comes to summer. I was lucky enough to escape to Ibiza for a week in August which was wonderful, even though we were blessed with rain and thunderstorms when we were there. But it wouldn’t be a British Bank Holiday if it wasn’t raining would it?
When I came back from Ibiza I was determined to hold on to the concept of summer. I am definitely a Spring and Summer person. I have much more energy and get up and go when the sun is out. To me, summer is a time when I can open up the patio doors, sit out with a drink and my cross stitch and to relax. Being a teacher in my day, this relaxation is very important to me in the school holidays when I’m not rushing around after my teenagers. To me, summer is also a time when you can eat simple but delicious food or even get the BBQ out. Though to be honest we have only had about 3 BBQs this year. The last one was nearly cancelled as the heavens opened when my husband pulled the BBQ out and got it set up!
Another thing I tend to do when I have more time is to cook from recipe books I’ve bought but not had time to do anything with. I love Nigella and use her recipes a lot but there’s one book on my shelf of hers that I’ve hardly used. To be honest it’s my brother’s book which I’m borrowing off him. He lives in Canada but he’d left two of his Nigella books at my mum’s house! So Paul if you’re reading this I hope you don’t mind, I’m looking after them for you and making good use of them! One of the books is Nigella’s “Forever Summer” and upon reading it you are immediately transported into a world of dinners and BBQs on a terrace, with the blazing sun pouring down as you chat and sip on a delicious cocktail. Instead I’m thinking it’s more like bangers and mash weather than bangers on the BBQ here.
But it is a shame that the UK climate and all our wishes of a gorgeous hot summer were dampened down this year. I’m determined to still enjoy some yummy food though. Over the last few days I have enjoyed testing out a couple of the recipes from Forever Summer in the vain hope that we might get some better weather to take us into September.
Last weekend we had a quiet Bank Holiday weekend at home and when it is like this you want to enjoy good food and great company of family and friends. For Sunday I attempted some Mint Chocolate Mousse which is one of the delicious dessert recipes in Forever Summer. Nigella says it “tastes best when made with the best quality mint chocolate”. I tend to use Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense bars as they have mint pieces and oil in it rather than a soft fondant. But when I was out meeting my friend for coffee we went to a local farm shop which didn’t sell any mint chocolate bars. There were some other gorgeous ones to choose from but I had my heart set on a mint mousse. In the end I bought good quality chocolate buttons and added some peppermint extract that I already had at home.
I was a bit nervous about making chocolate mousse as it involves separating eggs which I always muck up. Then I had to whisk egg whites. I managed though and the mousse turned out much better than expected. Shared out equally and spooned into rather retro looking sundae dishes, this pudding turned out to be a lovely decadent treat.
For Bank Holiday Monday I wanted to create a Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake. The picture in the book showed a mouthwatering sandwich cake. Each layer had the sponge cake and was then topped with a layer of chewy meringue and finished off with a sprinkling of flaked almonds. Well, it serves me right for not reading the recipe right. I did separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl. But that’s where it ended. Instead of keeping the meringue separate, I wasn’t concentrating and threw the egg whites in with the rest of the sponge. That wasn’t meant to happen! So in the end I was left with a flatter version of a Victoria Sponge! I didn’t have any flaked almonds in either, so I sprinkled on some icing sugar hoping that it might make the cake half decent! We were far too full up after our gammon. and pineapple so the cake went in the fridge to eat during the week. It tasted ok and a small slice was very welcome when I got in from work absolutely exhausted after a long day.
For our Bank Holiday dinner I cooked a gammon joint. I usually boil gammon in a large pot on my hob so it takes all the salt out of it. This time I tried it in my slow cooker which didn’t turn out too well. It was still very salty and the meat instead of coming out in slices, fell apart like pulled pork! I attempted to make the accompanying pineapple salsa. None of my family liked it though, which was disappointing.
For me, summer conjures up beautiful coloured and tasty salads. One of my favourite salads is a well made Greek Salad so I was keen to try the version in Nigella’s book. Her version includes fennel though which I can’t stand as I don’t like anything with an aniseed flavour. I left it out. This version also includes some finely sliced red onion which was marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar and sprinkled with black pepper. The salad was absolutely delicious, the feta cheese and olives were just delicious, a mixture of creaminess and saltiness in the same dish.
I have really enjoyed cooking from Forever Summer over the past few days. There are a lot of recipes in the book which my family won’t touch with a bargepole but I’m keen to dip in and out of it. Let’s hope we have a decent summer next year!
Love Sam xx