It’s not always possible to find a decent tomato in the north of Scotland. Even in the height of summer, homegrown ones can be insipid and have an odd chalky texture. And raw tomatoes are one thing I’m very fussy about. They have to be good or they have to be cooked.
There will be no turning my nose up at tomatoes this summer, however. There are beautiful, ripe, flavoursome specimens to be found everywhere and I’m eating them at most meals.
This was today’s breakfast.
The tomatoes need to be ripe, the olive oil needs to be good and the flavours need some time to fuse.
Chop or slice a handful of ripe tomatoes and place in a dish. Season with flaky sea salt and black pepper. Pour over about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of cider vinegar. Stir and leave to sit for half an hour.
Toast a bagel (or other bready item) lightly. Use a spoon to gather up the tomato-infused oil at the bottom of the bowl and drizzle evenly over bagel. Top with the tomatoes, another sprinkling of seasoning and, if you fancy, some shaved Parmesan cheese.
Also good with balsamic vinegar rather than cider vinegar.
Summer came to North Kessock for a few days and it was glorious. It may return, it may not. We can at least be happy knowing that we made the most of it whilst it was here. We lived outside, basking in the morning sun, watching the roof tiles steam and the bees buzzing in the clover. There were long lazy bike rides in the afternoons and a few half hearted attempts at gardening. With the evening came reading (me) and PacMan (D) on the patio with white wine (me) and local ales (D). And interspersing all of this were as many barbecues as we could possibly fit into those lovely sun drenched days.
‘Twas grand. 🙂
If you are thinking of doing a spot of outdoor cooking/eating, can I warmly recommend the following dessert. It’s very nice indeed and ridiculously easy if you buy the ice cream from the shop. If you want a dessert that makes you moan expletives, however, make the ice cream yourself. I used the wonderful David Lebovitz’s recipe (here) but replaced half the double/heavy cream with coconut milk.
It’s also a perfect recipe for the end of a BBQ meal as the pineapple cooks perfectly over cooling coals, meaning you can cook it slowly whilst you enjoy your main meal.
Grilled Pineapple with Coconut Ice Cream
Coconut Ice Cream (Bought or this recipe replacing half the cream for coconut milk)
- Cut the pineapple into 2cm rounds then cut into semi circles. You may want to cut off the skin first – it’s easier to eat this way but less pretty.
- Squeeze a little lime juice over each slice, both sides and rub with a little brown sugar. Maybe 1/4 tspn per semi circle.
- Place on BBQ over low heat for 20 mins, turning occasionally. If your BBQ is hotter, turn more frequently and reduce cooking time.
- Serve warm with a scoop of coconut ice cream and some torn mint leaves.
Summer in Scotland has, thus far, looked like this.
My vegetable garden is protesting. So much so, there is only one thing growing successfully: rocket. It’s a hardy wee bugger. The other plants are hunched and shrivelled and staring sulkily at the cold, grey sky; the rocket, though, is just getting on with the job of being all green and tasty.
Well done, rocket, well done. Take centre stage for once…
Rocket and Walnut Pesto
60 g walnuts, toasted briefly
60g parmesan cheese, grated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, chopped (Not two, David. Not two!)
Extra virgin olive oil
- Whizz together the walnuts and chopped garlic in a food processor. Remove to a bowl.7
- Add the rocket and a good glug of olive oil. Whiz until just chopped. Add the walnuts, garlic, cheese and lemon juice. Whizz until it looks like pesto.
- Stir in salt, pepper and possibly some more lemon juice to taste.
(Spot the ‘deliberate’ mistake.)
2014 was always going to be busy. Wonderfully so. My plans were to run the London Marathon in April (4 hours 11 minutes!), get married in July and go to America to teach a Scottish cookery course in September. All fabulous but all requiring a lot of preparation. It was do-able though. Then I got a new job. It’s also fabulous but the time and energy I’ve been devoting to it on top of the time and energy spent on the wedding etc has left me with little time or energy for my usual pastimes of experimenting in the kitchen, taking pictures and blogging. I haven’t even been reading much!
Today I decided to have a wee holiday and do nothing. By nothing, I mean I went for a long walk with Marco in the woods; I baked some bread and a lovely batch of shortbread; I read for a few hours in the sun and I took a picture of my lunch. That’s it in the picture below. It was a simple lunch but it was lovely. Perfect for a sunny lazy day.
Avocado & Goats Cheese Spread
(enough to spread on two English muffins)
1 perfectly ripe avocado (don’t even bother with a hard fruit)
2 tblspns soft goats cheese
A squeeze of lemon juice
Dried chilli flakes
Sea salt flakes
- Simply mash the avocado and goats cheese together along with the lemon juice.
- Spread on crusty bread or crackers or (my favourites) a toasted English muffin and sprinkle with chilli flakes and sea salt.
Good grief, it’s lovely here right now. You know, I’ve always preferred the colours of autumn, the signs of spring and the sharpness of winter but this year… Well, this year summer has completely won me over.