Simon Rimmer’s Summer Seasonal Picks

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Eating seasonally provides you with fruit, vegetables and meat that is at its peak in terms of flavour, texture and nutrients. This can also be a healthier, more economic and environmentally friendly way of sourcing produce, to gain your daily recommended amount of 2 fruits, 5 vegetables and 56 grams of protein. Seasonal food can also be cheaper, rather than being cultivated out of season and traveling long distances from warmer climates.

Here we look at Simon Rimmer’s seasonal picks and how to keep these ingredients at their best at home.

Strawberries

British strawberries are available for a short period during the summertime but year-round when imported from warmer climates. However, imported strawberries are chosen for their ability to withstand transportation rather than for their texture which can result in a less tender berry. To enjoy strawberries at their most fragrant, juicy and flavourful it’s worth waiting for the British season.

Availability

British season runs from May to September, but imports are available all year round.

Choose the best

When buying a punnet, make sure the underside isn’t stained as this means that the lower level of the berries have been crushed. Large strawberries tend to have a higher water content, containing less flavour, so go for a small to medium-sized berry.

For a sweet aroma look for plump, shiny, tender berries preferably with their leafy green calyx and stalk attached – avoid any that are mushy or mouldy.

Elsanta is one of the most common strawberries available in the UK has a high-water content which gives a crisp texture and sweet taste. If you are looking for a soft texture look out for other British varieties, such as Ava, Florence, Alice and Rhapsody.

Preparation

Strawberries can become mushy quickly on contact with water, so wash briefly, hull (remove the calyx and stalk – on a ripe strawberries this can be pulled out quite easily or you can use a small, sharp knife to cut it out). Then serve whole, halved or quartered as required.

Storage

To prevent the strawberries from crushing each other, place them on a plate lined with a layer of kitchen paper and store them in the fridge. Never wash the fruit before refrigeration, as they will go soggy. Take them out of the fridge one hour before eating so they are room temperature and eat within a couple of days of buying or picking.

Cook

Best eaten raw with cream and ice cream or sprinkled with balsamic vinegar. Try adding to fruit salads or make into a jam.  

Fennel

From the herb and seed family of the same name, fennel is known for its strong aniseed taste. When eaten raw, the texture is crisp and the flavour is quite assertive – cooked, it’s softer and works beautifully in Italian cookery.

Availability

 At its best from the start of June to the end of September. Choose the best Go for a smaller, young bulb where possible as these are more tender. They should look white, with no blemishes and feel heavy for its size. The green tops should be bright and fresh, with no yellowing.

Preparation

After washing the vegetable, trim the green tops (this can be used as a garnish). Slice off the roots and remove the tough outer layer (if the bulb is younger and tender you can leave this layer on). To cook whole, cut out the central core from the bottom, leaving a cavity. Alternatively slice or chop into quarters and remove the core from each (not too much, or the quarters will fall apart).

Storage

Freshly cut fennel should be wrapped in damp kitchen paper and placed in a perforated bag stored in the fridge. This will keep fresh for three days.

Cook

Boil or steam up to 20 minutes for a whole bulb, 12 minutes for quarters, or roast between 40-50 minutes. 

Salt Marsh Lamb

Salt Marsh lamb has become a culinary speciality for its distinctive flavour and meltingly tender consistency, making the meat stand out compared to other lamb. The succulent meat is also much darker than mountain reared lamb, containing less fat. The lambs graze on the estuary salt marshes and coastal pastures that are flooded by the spring tides and drenched by sea water. They feed on a rich variety of vegetation and reserves growing in the salt marshes, which give the meat a gentle hint of coastal flora and fauna, such as glasswort, samphire and sea lavender.

Availability

Comes into season in July but is available throughout the summer and autumn. Choose the best When it comes to lamb, you should always buy from a source you can trust. Salt marsh lamb is fully traceable and are born on the farms where they live and spend most of their lives grazing on salt marsh. Many cuts of lamb are available – which you buy is dependant on how you cook it. For roasts, the ideal cuts include leg, breast, shoulder, saddle or rump.

Preparation

To get the best of the beautiful flavour it is important to cook the meat until it is pink and not overcooked. Roasting with rosemary and garlic works well with the meat, however if you want to taste the sweetness of the lamb keep the use of these to a minimum.

Storage

Unless the lamb is vacuum-packed, remove the packaging (making a note of any use-by dates) and store the lamb at the bottom of the fridge in a large dish covered with cling film to contain any drips (vacuum-packed lamb should be kept in its packaging). Ensure the lamb doesn't touch any cooked foods or anything that will be eaten raw. Any cuts that are bought loose will keep for up to 2-4 days and larger cuts for roasting will keep up to 5 days.

Cook

If you like your lamb pink, roast for 1 hour 15 minutes or 1 hour 30 minutes if you prefer well done. Once cooked, remove from the oven, cover with foil and rest for 15 minutes before serving with potatoes. Sounds tasty!

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