The exceptional dry spell during June and July in the UK has been a challenge for growers on the watering front but many crops have thrived in the summer heat. The English Cherry harvest in particular has been outstanding.
And now, in August, we have much to look forward to. Here is the key short-season produce you can expect to find at Puntarelle & Co this month along with all the usual staples:
Runner Beans are with us already. Remember to buy them early in the season when they’re at their most tasty and tender. Towards the end of their harvest they become tougher and need more trimming.
Bobbi Beans are starting to come in too, a good alternative to French Beans.
English-grown Sweetcorn is in, too, and tasting deliciously sweet and juicy thanks to all these long hot days.
The English Plum season has got off to an early start on the Kent farm we buy them from. Crimson and gold Victorias and Opals will be followed, soon, by bloomy, red-purple Marjorie Seedlings.
From the farm, too, now come plump, juicy Blackberries.
This is proving to be a wonderful year for Blackcurrants and we expect to have them well into August. This year we are using them in our London Fermentary Blackcurrant Water Kefir and are delighted with the results. The drink is not only good for your gut health but is packed with Vitamin C and tastes delicious.
August is the month when we will be keeping our eyes open for English grown Aubergines.
Various varieties of Potatoes will be coming in from Kent during the month and we will continue to have Norfolk Scrapers.
Summer Squash, including Courgettes and Patty Pan are arriving now.
Later in August we should see the first of the English Apple crop coming though our doors. The sweetly-perfumed Discovery Apple is always the first to arrive.
We may also see some Kent Cobnuts late in the month.
Reine Claude (Greengage) Plums are arriving from France and are sweet and honeyed already.
Last week the first of the fresh Coco de Paimpol (Coco Beans) arrived. We expect to have these right through August.
Good French Blood Peaches and Nectarines are here too. Their touch of sharpness marks these stone fruits out from the non-blood varieties.
Borlotti Beans are in peak season now. The beautifully red and cream podded beans cook down to a lovely softness in around 30 minutes. They also preserve extremely well, either by drying the podded beans or by storing them in your freezer (no hassle of re-hydrating them later).
The summer Tomatoes from Italy are wonderfully meaty, juicy and full of flavour right now.
The fantastically aromatic Fragola Grape has arrived and we expect to be receiving them into early autumn. We will be using them in our London Fermentary Water Kefirs again, as this proved to be a very popular flavour last year.
Italian Peaches are exceptional now. We have crates of White, Yellow and Percoca Peaches as well as Nectarines coming in from Fondi food market on Italy’s west coast.
We continue to have fragrant Honey Moon Melons and refreshing Watermelons also, from Fondi market.
Aubergines and Peppers continue to arrive in great shape.
We also have a limited amount of fantastic Garlic from a small grower in Sicily.
As mentioned, we have wonderful French Bergeron Apricots this week and, as the weather is heating up again, I can think of no better recipe to offer you than this one from Kitty Travers’ (link to La Grotta Ices Tumblr site http://lagrottaices.tumblr.com ) newly published book La Grotta Ices. It’s lusciously fruity and creamy with a slight bitter marzipan flavour. And isn’t ice cream just what we all need right now? Kitty Travers has been a customer of ours for years. Some Saturdays you will find her selling her incredible ice creams and sorbets from her little Piaggio Ape van outside the Puntarelle & Co arch. I can’t recommend her book highly enough, both for the recipes and the evocative writing. Here’s a taster.
Apricot Noyau Ice Cream – recipe by kind permission of Square Peg and Kitty Travers
(makes approx. 1 litre or 10 good scoops)
About 375g fresh apricots
170ml whole milk
170ml double cream
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
To prepare the ice cream: slice the apricots in half and remove the stones; keep these to one side. Cook the apricot halves very lightly just until the fruit collapses. If using a microwave, place the fruit in a heatproof bowl with a tablespoon of water. Cover the bowl with cling film and cook on high for 2-3 minutes until tender. Otherwise simmer the apricot halves gently in a non-reactive pan, just until they are cooked through and piping hot (do not boil). Cool in a sink of iced water then cover and chill in the fridge.
Place a clean tea towel on a hard surface, then line the apricot stones up along the middle of the towel. Fold the tea towel in half over the apricot stones to cover them and then firmly crack each stone with a rolling pin (the tea towel prevents bits of the shell from flying all over the kitchen). Try to hit hard enough to crack the shell, but not so energetically that you completely obliterate it - you want to be able to rescue the kernels from inside the shell afterwards.
Pick the tiny kernel from each shell then grind them in a pestle and mortar with 20g of the sugar.
Heat the milk, cream and the ground kernel mix in a pan, stirring often with a whisk or silicone spatula to prevent it catching. As soon as the milk is hot and steaming, whisk the yolks with the remaining sugar and honey (if using) until combined.
Pour the hot liquid over the yolk mix in a thin stream, whisking constantly as you do so, then return all the mix to the pan. Cook gently over a low heat, stirring all the time, until the mix reaches 82°C. As soon as your digital thermometer says 82°C, remove the pan from the heat and set it in a sink full of iced water to cool – you can speed up the process by stirring it every so often. Once entirely cold, pour the custard into a clean container, cover and chill in the fridge.
To make the ice cream: the following day, use a spatula to scrape the chilled apricots into the custard then blend together with a stick blender until very smooth – blitz for at least 2 minutes, or until there are only small flecks of apricot skin visible in the mix. Using a small ladle, push the apricot custard through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois into a clean container, squeezing hard to extract as much smooth custard mix as possible. Discard the bits of skin and kernel.
Pour the custard into an ice cream machine and churn according to the machine’s instructions, usually about 20-25 minutes, or until frozen and the texture of whipped cream.
Transfer the ice cream to a suitable lidded container. Top with a piece of waxed paper to limit exposure to air, cover and freeze until ready to serve.