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Nigel Slaters high summer recipes

Make the most of bright summer produce with saffron and yogurt grilled chicken, tomato and roast pepper bruschetta and cherry jelly with orange cream

You come back from the shops with cherries, their skins tight and bright, the colour of beaujolais. Green-shouldered tomatoes too, fat red peppers and a bunch of basil, its leaves as big as bay. A heavy wedge of watermelon perhaps, a cool cucumber and spiky bunches of hot rocket. Summer shopping is frustrating. Peaches or nectarines? Peas in the pod or broad beans? Should we buy radishes and artichokes? We need food for the grill, something to marinade, and yet we still want something of substance. (Seafood for a potato-topped pie, chicken for the barbecue.) From now till late autumn there is almost too much from which to choose. We should make the most of it.

Watermelon, salted ricotta and pumpkin seeds

A halved watermelon becomes a fixture in the fridge from now till early autumn. Its ruby flesh chilled and waiting to become part of a salad or cut thick and brought out on a plate of crushed ice to finish a garden lunch. A watermelon laughs loudest when it is matched with chilli as it is so often in Mexico, but also when in the company of salty cheeses such as feta or ricotta salata.

In deepest summer, I soak iceberg lettuce, bunches of thick-stemmed watercress and white-nippled radishes for 20 minutes in a bowl of ice and water to crisp and refresh. The watermelon needs a good hour or two in the fridge before slicing. The marriage of ice-cold melon, salty cheese and chilli is dazzling. Tweak the amount of chilli flakes to suit your own taste. The batch I have at the moment is fiercely hot, so I proceed with caution, a pinch at a time.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish
watercress 1 bunch
red chicory leaves 100g
radishes 200g
coriander seeds 2 tsp
olive oil 4 tbsp
pumpkin seeds 45g
fennel seeds 1 tsp
chilli flakes a pinch
watermelon 1kg
mint 10 leaves
salted ricotta 50g

Wash the watercress, discarding any tough stems or less than perfect leaves then submerge in a large bowl of ice and water. Separate the chicory leaves, halve the radishes, then add both to the bowl. Leave them for 20 minutes to crisp and curl.

Use a pestle and mortar or spice mill to grind the coriander seeds to a coarse powder. Warm the olive oil in a shallow pan, then add the coriander, pumpkin and fennel seeds, moving them around for a minute or two until they are warm and fragrant. Add the chilli flakes, continue cooking for a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Peel the watermelon, cut into thick slices and then into large chunks into a bowl, removing the seeds as you go.

Finely chop the mint leaves, add to the melon then crumble or coarsely grate the ricotta over them. Drain the watercress, chicory and radish and add them to the bowl.

Tip the seeds, spices and their oil over the watermelon and tumble everything together gently then transfer to a serving dish and bring to the table.

Grilled chicken with saffron and yogurt

Grilled
Grilled chicken with saffron and yogurt. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

A spice-speckled yogurt marinade is something I use a lot with chicken I plan to grill. It must be said that it does have a habit of sticking to the bars of the grill and the smoke that ensues sets off the fire alarm, so I have taken to browning the marinated chicken under an overhead grill in the oven. The meat shouldnt be too close to the heat, lest the skin brown before the flesh is cooked through. I move the oven rack closer to the heat towards the end of cooking, to encourage a crisp skin. I think a little charring here and there is to be positively encouraged.

Serves 3
saffron a pinch
hot water 80ml
chillies 3 small, hot, assorted colours
garlic 3 cloves
natural yogurt 200ml
chicken thighs 6
rocket 150g
cucumbers 2 small
parsley a generous handful
olive oil 2 tbsp
white wine vinegar 1 tbsp

Grind the saffron to a powder, tip it into a small bowl then pour the hot water over and leave for 10 minutes.

Finely chop the chillies and put them into a large mixing bowl. Peel the garlic, finely chop and add to the chillies, then stir in the yogurt and the saffron liquid and set aside.

Place a chicken thigh skin-side down on a chopping board then cut out the bone with a sharp knife. Open each boned thigh flat, skin side down, then bat out with a heavy weight such as a rolling pin or cutlet bat, till the meat is about cm thick. Submerge the meat in the yogurt marinade and set aside for a good hour.

Put the rocket leaves into a large bowl of ice and water and leave for 15 minutes. Peel the cucumber, then cut into large diagonal chunks. Pick the parsley leaves from the stalks and add to the cucumber, then drain and shake the rocket dry and toss with the cucumber, olive oil and white wine vinegar. (No salt or pepper is needed here.)

Heat an overhead (oven) grill. Line a grill pan or oven tray with foil, lay the pieces of chicken on it skin-side down and cook, a good 15-20cm from the heat source, for 8-10 minutes, then turn over and cook the other side. Check the flesh is cooked right through and adjust the proximity of the oven shelf to the heat as necessary. The chicken should be nicely browned, cooked all the way through, its skin patchily gold and dark brown.

Serve the chicken hot with the cucumber salad.

Hake and prawn pie with a potato crust

Hake
Hake and prawn pie with a potato crust. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Prawn shells make a light but flavoursome stock. Stuff the usual aromatics in with them bay, peppercorns, parsley stalks but not carrots, which can introduce too much sweetness. I used hake, which was snow-white, cheap and sustainable, but haddock or cod are suitable too, especially if the fillets are thick.

I prefer a filling that is mostly fish, but the recipe lends itself to some improvisation. You could cut down on the fish and add instead a couple of handfuls of lightly cooked and skinned broad beans or a large leek sliced and softened in butter.

Serves 4
raw prawns 500g large
bay leaves 3
black peppercorn 10
water 600ml
floury potatoes such as maris piper 850g
olive oil 5 tbsp
hake 700g
spring onions 3
butter 50g
plain flour 50g
double cream 100ml

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Peel the prawns, putting the shells into a medium-sized saucepan and returning the prawns to the fridge. Add the bay, peppercorns and water to the pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, partially cover with a lid, then leave to simmer for 30 minutes before removing from the heat.

Peel the potatoes then coarsely grate them. Warm the olive oil in a shallow pan over a moderate heat, add the potatoes and let them sizzle for a few minutes until pale gold. Using a draining spoon or fish slice, transfer them from the pan to a piece of kitchen paper.

Strain the stock and discard the prawn shells and aromatics. Skin the hake and cut into thick pieces about 4cm in length. Roughly chop the spring onions.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, add the flour and cook over a moderate heat, stirring constantly till you have a smooth paste. Pour in the prawn stock, stirring with a wooden spoon until you have smooth sauce. As it bubbles, stir in the cream and a few grinds of salt and pepper. Add the hake, pushing the fish under the surface. Leave them for three or four minutes then add the prawns and the chopped spring onions.

Transfer the filling to a pie dish, scatter the fried potato over the surface, leaving a few gaps here and there. Bake for 30 minutes till the sauce is bubbling up through the crust.

Tomato and roast pepper bruschetta

A scarlet slice with which to start dinner; a light garden lunch or a weekend breakfast, there is almost no stage on a summers day when this tomato toast isnt appropriate. The roast vegetables, sweet-sour and smoky, will keep in the fridge for a day or two. A useful sauce in which to toss bucatini or perhaps gnocchi that you have fried in a little olive oil till crisp.

Roast
Tomato and roast pepper bruschetta. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Serves 4
shallots 3 medium-sized
red peppers 2 large
cherry tomatoes 1kg
olive oil 6 tbsp, plus a little extra
pine kernels 4 tbsp
beefsteak tomatoes 2
fresh basil 20g
ciabatta 1 large

Set the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Peel and roughly chop the shallots. Halve, seed and roughly chop the peppers. Put the peppers, shallots and the whole cherry tomatoes snugly in a roasting tin, pour over the 6 tablespoons of olive oil and roast for an hour until all is soft and the skins are blackened here and there.

Toast the pine kernels in a dry, shallow pan till golden, shaking them now and again, so they colour evenly. Cut the beefsteak tomatoes into large pieces, put them in a bowl then tip in the pine kernels. Tear the basil leaves from their stems and add them to the tomatoes together with a little salt and a splash of olive oil.

Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally. Toast the cut sides until golden and lightly crisp, then place on a serving board or plate. Crush the roast vegetables to a rough puree with a fork, or in a blender or food processor, and spread generously over the toasted bread. Pile the chopped tomatoes and basil on the toast, cut each piece into four slices and serve.

Cherry jelly

Cherry
Cherry jelly. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Jelly and cream was one of the most looked-forward-to desserts of my childhood, albeit orange jelly from a packet and tinned cream. Dont even think of juicing your own cherries for the recipe that follows. Better I think is to find a brand of bottled cherry juice without added sugar. (Health food stores are a good hunting ground.) I like a soft, barely set jelly that glows in the glass and shimmers on the spoon rather than one you can set in a mould and turn out. Put a spoonful of the cherry cream on top of the jelly and dig deep for a little of both the sweet, orange-scented cream and sour garnet red jelly.

Enough for 6 large wine glasses or 12 small ones
gelatine 7 sheets
cherries 200g
cherry juice 1 litre

For the cream
cherries 150g
caster sugar 3 tbsp
orange finely grated zest of 1 small
double cream 250ml

Place the gelatine in a bowl of cold water and leave for a few minutes to soften. Halve and stone the 250g of cherries for the jelly and divide them between your glasses.

Warm 250ml of the cherry juice in a small pan without letting it boil. Lift the softened gelatine from the water and stir into the warmed cherry juice. When the gelatine has dissolved, stir in the remaining juice and pour into the wine glasses. Place in the fridge and leave for five hours or until lightly set.

Make the cherry cream. Shortly before serving the jellies, halve and stone the 150g of cherries. Put the sugar and orange zest into the bowl of a food processor, and process briefly until the sugar has turned a pale lemon colour.

Pour the cream into a chilled bowl and whisk until it will sit in soft folds (stop before it is stiff enough to stand in peaks). Fold the cherries and most of the orange sugar into the whipped cream. Do this lightly, without further whipping the cream.

Serve the cherry cream with the jellies. I like to pile a spoonful of cream on each jelly at the table and a sprinkling of the remaining sugar over the top.

The Guardian and Observer aim to publish recipes for sustainable fish. For ratings in your region, check: UK; Australia; US

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/jul/15/nigel-slater-high-summer-recipes-saffron-chicken-cherry-jelly

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