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.
After 10 days in Italy we returned home to Scotland to blue skies, balmy breezes and a garden which had exploded with flowers and berries and green, green, green. Temperatures have been consistently above 20 oC and we’ve had a BBQ every other night. Marco and I walk in a field of wild flowers first thing in the morning then in the cool woods in the early evening. After many years of wet, windy and grey summers, we are finally getting a summery summer. Well done, July. Well done!
The best BBQ meal we’ve had so far was lamb koftas, grilled aubergine and a colourful, tart Lebanese salad, fattoush. The fattoush recipe is below. Not 100% happy with the kofta recipe so I’ll wait until I’ve tried that again before I post it. It won’t be long though. Looking forward to having this meal again soon!
1 large cucumber
3 pitta breads
6 medium perfectly ripe tomatoes
2 handfuls of parsley, chopped finely
1 handful of mint, chopped finely
3 spring onions
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 heaped tspn sumac
- Cut the cucumber into 2 cm chunks and place in a colander. Sprinkle salt over the cucumber and leave. After 30 mins, shake the cucumber to remove moisture and pat dry (no need to be thorough) with a clean teatowel.
- Meanwhile, peel and deseed the tomatoes then chop roughly.
- Toast the pitta under a hot grill until crisp and leave to cool.
- Slice the radishes finely and chop the spring onion.
- Mix the dressing together by putting the ingredients in a clean jar then shake vigorously.
- Break the toasted pitta into bite sized chunks and toss with all the vegetables. Drizzle with the dressing (you may not need all of it) and toss gently.
- Serve immediately so the pitta retains some of its crispness.
What sunny Sundays were made for…
In a parallel universe there is a Wendy who regularly sits in her garden enjoying the last of the evening sun whilst having barbeque after barbeque after barbeque. In this reality, however, summer has been monumentally disappointing in terms of temperature and sun-appearance and this Wendy has managed to have one barbeque in two months. And I had to wear two jumpers.
Not to worry. In every other respect the summer has been fantastic and burgers can, after all, be cooked inside. Recently we’ve been eating them topped with this rather lovely, chunky tomato relish.
Tomato Relish – Two Jars
(Adapted from Made at Home Preserves by Dick and James Strawbridge – lovely wee book)
125g brown sugar
200ml white wine vinegar
500g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 tspn dried chilli flakes
1 tblspn onion seeds
1 tspn paprika
1/2 tspn ground ginger
3 tblspn capers
Approx. 4 medium gherkins, chopped finely
- Warm the vinegar and sugar in a pan over a medium heat until sugar dissolves.
- Add the tomatoes, chopped onion and spices to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat immediately and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Add the capers and gherkins and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour into sterilised jars.
- Will keep in the fridge for at least six months.