Monday, January 24

Pork and Watermelon, Chicken and Cherries: Sweet and Sour Summer Recipes from Nigel Slater | Summer food and drink

TO deep bowl of roasted chicken salad with pea sprouts and cherries; another of pork seasoned with slices of watermelon, very cold from the refrigerator. A chilled platter of marinated mackerel with soft green leaves and a dessert of baked apricots with sugar and white wine. The summer kitchen, it seems, is here.

There’s so much to celebrate: bunches of white tip radishes in little ice bowls; Fat and buttery lettuces to calm the spiciness of watercress or arugula. There are crisp cucumbers and hearty bunches of mint for summer drinks, and the first summer fruit is here too.

When I go out to the stores, my first thought is always: “What’s in season?” But now there is more spring in my step than at any other time of the year. I could go home with few fruits and vegetables in my bag, the offerings are so rich, but how good those vegetables are when eaten in the company of roast chicken or grilled fish.

This month’s recipes are simple. Nothing needs to be served the moment it’s ready, none of them are especially picky about the cook’s time. These are recipes that fit comfortably with the long and quiet days of summer that lie ahead, days in which to celebrate the richness of the ingredients at your fingertips.

Grilled chicken salad with lentils and cherries

The recipe suggests grilling the chicken from scratch, but you can also use the leftover chicken from the Sunday roast. If you go that route, keep the chicken pieces as big and juicy as possible. I use thighs because brown meat is much tastier than white breast meat, but use it if that’s what you have.

For 4 people
chicken thighs 1 kg, skin
small green lentils 125g
pea sprouts 50 grams
cherries 350g

For the dressing
red wine vinegar 3 tablespoons
Dijon mustard ½ teaspoon
olive oil 5 tbsp
Salt ½ teaspoon
parsley 2 tablespoons, chopped

Set the oven to 180C fan / gas mark 6. Place the chicken thighs, not too tight, in a roasting pan. Pour in some oil, then season with salt and black pepper and roast for 35-40 minutes until crisp and cooked through to the bone. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, cook the lentils in deep, slightly salted boiling water for about 25 minutes until firm but tender.

Make the dressing. In a small bowl, combine the red wine vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt, and several black pepper grounds. Add the parsley and reserve. (I often put the ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake it vigorously.)

Wash the pea sprouts and leave them in a bowl with ice water for 25 minutes (they will come out a little more crisp than when they came in). Cut the cherries in half and pit and add them to the dressing. Drain the lentils in a colander, then add them to the cherries and the dressing and stir gently to coat them lightly with the dressing.

Cut the chicken off the bone into generous, juicy chunks large enough to require a knife and fork. Add the chicken to the cherries. Drain the pea sprouts and dry them in a salad spinner or by shaking them in a colander. Combine with chicken and serve.

Pork with watermelon and mint

Pork with watermelon and mint.
Pork with watermelon and mint. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin / The Observer

A substantial salad – a wonderful contrast between fresh and spicy, hot and cold. What really works for me here is the refreshing cold watermelon slices with the slightly spicy, molasses-like juices from the pork. I leave the cantaloupe in the fridge overnight so the fruit is really cold when it meets the sticky pieces of pork, fresh out of the oven.

For 4 people
pork belly 1 kg, with bone, skin scratched
light soy sauce 4 tablespoons
rice vinegar 2 tablespoons
Fish sauce 2 tablespoons
Dear 3 tablespoons
watermelon 500g
cucumber 200g
sprigs of parsley 10g
sprigs of mint 15g

Set the oven to 160C fan / gas mark 4. Bring the kettle to a boil. Pour hot water from the kettle into a deep roasting pan, just enough to reach halfway down the side of the can. Place a rack over the can and place the pork with the striped skin seasoned with sea salt, side up. Cover the meat and rack loosely with kitchen paper, then carefully place in the preheated oven and leave for 2 hours. The pork will cook in its own steam.

In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and honey, and stir over moderate heat for a couple of minutes until the honey has dissolved. Take the pork out of the oven and remove the aluminum foil. Turn on the oven at 180C fan / gas mark 6.

Place the meat on a cutting board. Using a large knife, cut into approximately 3cm cubes, removing the bones as you go. Discard the water in the can, you’ve done your job, although you can use it as a base for the broth if you like, then return the meat to the empty can. Pour the soy mixture over the meat, stir well, and return to the oven. Broil for 25-30 minutes, closely monitoring your progress. The sauce should be dark and bubbly, the meat shiny, but be careful not to burn.

While the pork is roasting, remove the skin and seeds from the watermelon. Cut the meat into large chunks, roughly the same size as the pork, and place them in a bowl. Peel the cucumber and cut it into slightly smaller pieces, then add it to the melon. Remove the parsley and mint leaves, chop finely and mix with the watermelon and cucumber.

Remove pork from oven, add to salad, toss gently, and transfer to serving plate.

Marinated mackerel

Marinated mackerel.
Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin / The Observer

The fish is filleted and grilled first, then briefly marinated in a spicy dressing, in the style of a classic pickle. The onion adds a spicy touch (you can use shallots if you don’t have a red onion) and the star anise adds a note of anise. I like a few slices of thin, dark rye bread with this one, the kind that is molasses in color and almost sticky to the touch.

For 3 people
White wine vinegar 75ml
lemon juice 120 ml
carrot 1, small
Red onion 1, small
Garlic 1 tooth
Red pepper 1
star anise two
coriander seeds 1 tsp
Peppercorns 10
powdered sugar 1 tsp
Salt ½ teaspoon

mackerel 3, filleted
olive oil 3 tablespoons

Pour the wine vinegar and lemon juice into a stainless steel saucepan. Cut the carrot into thin slices. Peel and finely chop the red onion, then add both to the skillet. Peel and crush the garlic clove and finely chop the chilli, removing the seeds if desired, then add both to the pan and bring to a boil over moderate heat.

Add the star anise and coriander seeds, then the peppercorns. Add the sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. Once the onion has softened a bit, remove from the pan from the heat.

Cover a grill pan with aluminum foil and then place the mackerel skin side down on the aluminum foil. Brush lightly with a little olive oil and cook on a hot grill until lightly browned. Flip and continue cooking until the skin is tinted golden and brown, then transfer to a shallow dish. Pour the warm marinade over the fish, drip with the remaining olive oil, cover with cling film or a lid and cool, then chill for an hour or so in the fridge.

Serve the steaks with some of the marinade juices.

Apricots with fresh pistachio cream

Apricots with fresh pistachio cream.
Apricots with fresh pistachio cream. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin / The Observer

As the apricots are baked with the sugar and wine, they turn sweet and sweet, a perfect accompaniment to the tart and the crème fraiche. A crunchy cracker would be a lovely thing to offer with these, too, a plate of curly brandy kabobs or a crunchy, sugary tuile.

For 4 people
apricots 12
powdered sugar 2 tablespoons
White wine 2 tablespoons vermouth

For him pistachio creme fresh
vanilla 1 pod
creme fresh 200g
shelled pistachios 2 tablespoons

Set the oven to 180C fan / gas mark 6. Cut the apricots in half and remove the stones. Place fruit, cut side up, in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and then drip the wine or vermouth over the fruit, soaking the sugar.

Bake for about 20 minutes until fruit is soft and tender and wine and sugar have formed a sticky sauce in roasting pan.

Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using the tip of a knife, scrape the vanilla seeds into a mixing bowl, then pour in the fresh cream. Finely chop the pistachios, then gently toss them with the fresh cream and vanilla seeds.

Serve the hot, sticky apricots from the roasting pan, with their syrup and a tablespoon or two of the pistachio cream.

Zucchini and lemon tart

Zucchini and lemon tart.
Zucchini and lemon tart. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin / The Observer

The zucchini chunks brighten the cake and pair especially well with the lemon frosting. This is a useful recipe for those who, for the next few weeks, will be besieged with gifts of their home-grown zucchini plants.

For 12 people
eggs 3
flour with yeast 250g
baking powder 1 tsp
ground cinnamon 1 tsp
Salt a pinch
sunflower oil 200ml
powdered sugar 125g
light muscovado 125g
zucchini 400g
lemon finely grated zest of 1

For the icing
powdered sugar 250g
lemon juice 5-6 tablespoons

Set the oven to 160C fan / gas mark 4. Line a 20cm square cake pan with parchment paper.

Separate the eggs. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Using a food mixer, mix the oil and sugars until thickened, then add the egg yolks, one at a time. Grate the zucchini into large pieces, without peeling them. Add the zucchini strips to the egg and sugar mixture.

Add lemon zest and flour and spice mixture to cake mix. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until almost stiff, then gently fold them into the mixture with a large metal spoon. Transfer to the lined cake pan, then bake for 30-35 minutes until slightly firm. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Remove cake from pan and place on cooling rack on baking sheet. Make the frosting by mixing the sugar and lemon juice until smooth, then pour over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Let stand before cutting into 12 small rectangles.

The Guardian aims to publish sustainable fish recipes. For qualifications in your region, see: UK; Australia; U.S

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