Strawberry Granita (or sorbet)

Strawberry Granita

For me this granita is summer in a glass.  Unadulterated strawberry flavour, no frills or furbelows, cream* or meringues – just that intense heady fragrance that says Wimbledon, Henley and lunch in the garden.   We have been having a fabulous summer so far, lots of long hot sunny days interspersed with cool swims and trips to the beach.  On occasion we have needed something chilled and delicious to temper the heat and this is just the job.  A matter of minutes to make and then you have the most perfect summer pudding or simple afternoon refresher.

If you have an ice cream machine then a few minutes churning will make this into a smooth tangy sorbet.  I am just as happy with a granita, even easier and the seeds don’t bother me in the icy rubble whereas in a sorbet I employ the sieving step.  Do make this whilst our own fabulous British strawberries are still around.

Strawberry Granita 2

Strawberry Granita

If you leave the granita too long in the freezer without mixing just leave the container out for 15 minutes and then scratch it all up and freeze until you are ready to serve.  I haven’t given you much of a serving suggestion in the pictures but the colour was so vibrant and glorious I wanted to show it off.  Serve this in small glasses either on its own or *you could try it with a big blob of lightly whipped cream on top – see, strawberries and cream.

450g strawberries

150g golden caster sugar

500ml water

Juice of 1 lemon

Whizz all the ingredients in a blender.  If the seeds bother you sieve it then pour into a plastic box with a lid.  Freeze for an hour then remove and stir the slushy mixture around.  Repeat this step several times scratching it all up into gorgeous icy crystals.  Alternatively pour into an ice cream machine and churn for sorbet.  Keep frozen and serve in small glasses.  Serves 6 with seconds.

If, like me, you love a granita then why not try my Iced Tea Granita (July 2013) or Blood Orange Granita (February 2013) as well.

Camp Fajitas

camp fajitas 2

I only have to hear Van McCoy’s The Hustle and I am transported back to Yorkshire that hot summer of 1976.  The fair came to our local town, Ripon and one evening, as a treat, we went to check it out.  The market square was full dodgems, waltzers and even a big wheel.  The air was heady with excitement, the music and the residual heat of the day.  Girls in their cheesecloth tops and cut off jeans hot pants and the boys watchful with their James Hunt hairdo’s and a packet of JPS tucked casually into capped t shirt sleeves.   The memory stays with me and reminds me of that long dusty hot summer with the school holidays reaching ahead for weeks. Without any internet or electronic games we had to amuse ourselves and there was a lot of playing in the garden, den building, making camps followed by general milling around.

These summer holidays have started off promisingly warm and I am keen for my children to fill their time as I did, mucking about outside, splashing in the river and climbing trees.  One way I’ve found to keep them busy is to get them to cook and campfire cooking has got to be up there as the best kind.  Even the most bored or bolshy child desperate to get onto their phone can usually be tempted by the thrill of the fire and ensuing feast.

These fajitas are perfect for a camp cook out, a doddle to make and seem to keep everyone happy.   You can cut up the vegetables and chicken or depending on their age, get your little darlings to do it for you, I am all for a bit of delegation/child labour.  We made the flatbreads you see in the picture and they could not be easier but by all means buy some if that is a step too far.   Much to my childrens’ disapproval I like to add lettuce to my wraps and if you are particularly carb-phobic you could dispense with the bread all together and fold your chicken and peppers into a large lettuce leaf.

camp fajitas

There are all manner of goodies you can add to your wraps.  I don’t add too much chilli when cooking to keep these family friendly so a drop of two of sriracha is mandatory for me and we always have sour cream or greek yogurt.   I might make a chunky guacamole or my quick pickled onions (August 2014) which add fabulous crunch and tang – the point is that the children love making these to their own specifications.  If you make the bread dough first then this can rise whilst you get on with the chicken and vegetables.  I use my usual bread recipe but on this occasion it only needs one rise before rolling them out.  If you are dong these on a camp fire I find a paella pan or large frying pan the best option.  Cook the filling first then put it on a plate to one side whilst you cook the flatbreads, they only take a few minutes each and this way you can use just one pan.

Camp Fajitas

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, peeled and sliced

3 large peppers, cored and sliced

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

2 large chicken breasts, sliced into fairly small pieces

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

A pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you want it a little more spicy)

Salt and pepper

500g strong white bread flour plus a bit extra for rolling out

10g fast action yeast

10g fine salt

300ml lukewarm water

Mix the flour, yeast and salt with the water and combine to a dough.  If you are at home and have a stand mixer use this otherwise knead by hand for about 10 minutes then leave the dough covered for an hour to prove.  Put the oil into your large pan (see intro) and cook the onions and peppers with a good pinch of salt over a medium heat until soft, probably around 20 minutes.  Towards the end of this time add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Put the peppers and onions on a plate and cook the chicken in the same pan, you shouldn’t need anymore oil but add a bit if necessary.  Once golden add the spices and a pinch of salt, cook for a few more minutes then add around 100ml of water to create a bit of sauce, check for seasoning.  Put all this onto the plate with the peppers and onions and wipe the pan with a bit of kitchen roll but don’t bother washing it.

Take balls of the bread dough about the size of a satsuma and roll out in a little flour until the size of a large side plate.  Keeping the pan on the heat cook these for a couple of minutes either side until slightly puffed up and browning at the edges.  Put each flatbread into a folded tea towel to keep warm and soft while you do the rest  – you should get about 8 to 10.   Bung the filling back into the pan if it needs warming through and then tuck in along with any extra bits and pieces you have decided on (see intro).


Gooseberry, Strawberry and Elderflower Eton Mess

Gooseberry and strawberry fool 2

My Granny had a kitchen garden, a big old walled space which I thought was heaven.  I adored it and spent hours there as a child wandering between the rows of vegetables, marvelling at the artichokes taller than me, rubbing my fingers on the fennel fronds to release their aniseed scent.  Inspecting the asparagus, picking baskets of peas and snacking on apples and pears when the mood took me.   It has always been a deep held wish to have such a garden and we moved house last year we were lucky enough to find one tucked away.   Overgrown and wild it was but the bones were there nonetheless and I had visions of recreating my Grandmothers remarkable garden.  Ha!  After a mass of reading and learning, a weekend of rotavating and what feels like endless weeding I have planted and planted.  Seeds have been started off on the kitchen windowsill or in the green house or planted direct, seedlings bought where my own efforts have failed and donations of little vegetable plants and dahlias gratefully received.

I am delighted with it all and spend hours trying to keep up with the weeds (impossible) and planting various rows of salad leaves to follow on from the ones we are eating now (I believe that is what you do…).  My battle with the slugs is another story altogether.  It is considerably harder work than I anticipated but supremely rewarding.  The first spear of asparagus, eating the first herby green salad with a variety of leaves all grown by us.  There are three tiny plums on a new plum tree, pea pods, baby beetroots, courgettes and beans on their way.

The first fruit picked so far have been wild strawberries and some gooseberries which immediately went towards the fool in this pudding.   With local strawberries winking at me and last weeks elderflower cordial to hand I decided to combine these flavours, the very essence of summer.  The tang of the gooseberries along with the sweetness of the strawberries and floral hit of elderflower are a winning combination and a bit of scrunched up meringue adds texture.

Gooseberry, Strawberry and Elderflower Eton Mess

Of course you can just make the gooseberry fool to have on its own in which case I would use 4 tablespoons of sugar as you won’t have any added sweetness from the meringue.  Taste the gooseberry puree before you add though and remember the later in the season the sweeter these berries will be.

400g gooseberries, topped and tailed

3 tablespoons golden caster sugar

300ml double cream

2 tablespoons elderflower cordial

1 punnet of strawberries halved or quartered depending on size

Meringue (as per the recipe for World Cup Meringue Cake, November 2013 but don’t bother with 3 layers, 1 will do or indeed individual meringues as you are going to break them up anyway).

Put the gooseberries in a pan with the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and simmer gently until completely broken down.  Leave to cool and then add 1 tablespoon of elderflower cordial.  Put the cut strawberries into a bowl, add the other tablespoon of elderflower cordial, turn them gently and leave to macerate while you get on.  Whip the cream until it just holds its shape and then fold into the gooseberry puree.  Break up the meringues and then mix them with the gooseberry fool followed by the strawberries.  This would fill six glasses similar to the ones you see here but I just filled four and we had seconds…..




Tomato Bruschetta (summer on toast)

Anna May everyday Tomato bruschetta

Is this the taste of Summer?  I think it might be.  It is also one of the simplest and most rewarding.  All you need is a loaf of sourdough (or similar), a pile of tip top, super ripe, full of sun juicy tomatoes, some really good olive oil, garlic and a few herbs if you have them.

My family love these and we eat them several times a week when the tomatoes are on top form.  I toast the bread, chop the tomatoes and then set up a production line – a plate full of these bruschetta are always greeted with delight and never hang around.

I urge you to make these.  The toms in my garden are still a little small and green but the ones at my local farm shop are perfect right now (Washingpool Farm Shop in case you are near the coast on the Dorset/Devon border this summer, superb shop and worth a visit).

Surprisingly these also work for a picnic, just toast the bread at home and then take the tomato mixture in a tub.  When you get where you are going rub some garlic over the toasts (undressed sourdough stays crispy for ages) then top with tomatoes and drizzle with a little of the oil.  Tuck in with your toes in the grass or better still the sand and remind yourself what summer tastes like.

Anna May everyday Tomatoes

Tomato Bruschetta

It is difficult to be exact as I don’t know the size of your sourdough but this is a guide.  This amount would serve 4 with drinks before lunch or dinner but I bet they will want more.

1/2 loaf sourdough

Tomatoes, around 300g

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove of garlic peeled and halved

A splash of red wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Fresh marjoram or basil of you have some to hand

Slice and toast the sourdough.  Finely chop the tomatoes and put in a bowl with the oil, vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and some black pepper if you like, stir.  Rub the toasts with a cut side of garlic, top with the tomato mixture.  Pour over any remaining oil and sprinkle with the herbs.