South Leigh Seasonal Recipes

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Summer 2013

Sunshine at last, and the gardens are finally in full flush. This simple summer menu will help use up the gluts of spinach, courgettes and tomatoes as well as all those luscious soft summer fruits. Usually the elderflowers are over by the time this summer recipes page is published but this year everything is a couple of weeks late and so the elderflowers are perfect right now for making refreshing elderflower cordial. E.L.

Spinach Soup (Serves 6)

The secret when making any green soup is to add the green vegetable to the already boiling stock. This will keep the soup a fresh green colour. Serve hot, or chill for several hours and serve ice cold.

1lb / 450g spinach, washed
1 tblsp vegetable oil
knob of butter
2 medium-sized onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium-sized floury potatoes, peeled and roughly cubed
1 - 1.5 litres good chicken or vegetable stock
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and black pepper
300ml single cream
crème fraîche, to serve

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over a moderate heat. Gently fry the onion and potato until the onion is slightly softened then pour over the stock and simmer until the potato is completely cooked and soft. Bring the soup to a rapid boil and add the spinach. Lower the heat and stir until the spinach is completely wilted.

Blitz with a hand-held blender or transfer to a food processor or liquidiser and process until smooth. Return the soup to the pan and season with lots of freshly grated nutmeg and black pepper, adding salt if necessary. Stir in the single cream. Serve hot or chilled, finished with a little crème fraîche.

Chicken with goat’s cheese and lemon thyme (Serves 6)

6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
salt and black pepper
200g soft English goat’s cheese
2 tsps fresh lemon thyme leaves
12 rashers rindless streaky bacon, thinly sliced
3 small courgettes, thinly sliced
3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
olive oil

Heat oven to 200°C / Gas 6. Cut along the long side of each chicken breast, so that you can open each piece of chicken like a book. Cover with cling film then, using a rolling pin, bash them out a little. Spread a quarter of the goat’s cheese onto each piece of chicken and sprinkle with the thyme leaves and seasoning. Fold the chicken over to enclose the cheese, then wrap each one in two slices of the bacon.

Arrange rows of courgettes and tomatoes in a gratin dish. Sit the chicken on top. Drizzle with olive oil and season with pepper and more thyme sprigs. Bake for 25-30 mins until the bacon is crisp and golden and the courgettes are tender.

Summer Pudding (Serves 6)

Use a day old white sandwich loaf cut into 1cm thick slices with the crusts removed. The types and proportions of summer fruits that you use is up to you. I like to use mostly raspberries with some strawberries, cherries and a few red and blackcurrants - though not too many blackcurrants as they have a very dominant flavour. This pudding freezes really well.

6-8 slices bread
700g /1½ lbs soft fruits
100g caster sugar
Double cream and extra caster sugar, to serve

Top and tail the fruit and stone as necessary. Put the fruit and sugar in a large pan and bring to the boil over a very low heat. Cook for only a few minutes, until the sugar melts and the juices begin to run. Remove from the heat and strain off the juice into a wide dish. Reserve the fruit.

Carefully line an 850ml / 1½ pint pudding basin with the bread by dipping each slice of bread into the strained fruit juice and then pressing it gently, juice side down, to the base and sides of the basin. Fitting the slices closely together.

Spoon the reserved fruit into the lined dish then cover with the remaining bread and pour over the rest of the juice. Cover with cling film and a small plate or saucer that fits the top of the dish snugly. Put a heavy weight on top and leave the pudding in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

To serve, remove the weights and cling film and gently slide a thin knife around the edges of the pudding. Place a plate or shallow dish over the pudding and - carefully - turn out the pudding. Serve, cut into wedges with a jug of double cream and a little extra caster sugar to dredge, if necessary.

Elderflower Cordial (Makes approx. 3 wine bottles-full)

On a dry, sunny day, pick about 30 elderflower heads. Remove the thick green stalks and place the flower heads in a large mixing bowl. Add 1.5kg (3lbs) granulated sugar, the zest and juice of 3 lemons, and 50g (2 oz) citric acid (available from chemists). Pour over 1.5 litres (2½ pints) boiling water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Cover and leave in a cool place for 2-3 days. Strain well and bottle. The cordial will last for several weeks if stored in the fridge. Alternatively freeze in plastic containers and defrost as needed.

Serve the cordial, diluted with ice-cold sparkling or still water, as a summer refresher - or mix with sparkling wine or Champagne! Add a splash or two, undiluted, to fruit salads or anything with gooseberries - or dilute one part cordial to two parts water for fragrant ice lollies.