With summer upon us and temperatures rising (well…let’s hope so), our appetite changes somewhat and we tend to crave lighter foods such as fresh fruits, salads and healthier dishes. This is the ideal time to get creative, spend less time cooking and more time assembling simple dishes with fresh ingredients. Preparing a sharing plate like this this fig salad is such a simple and delicious way to celebrate wonderfully ripe figs, salty cured ham, full flavoured curd cheese and fragrant honey. This is the perfect recipe to serve any time of the day, whether it be for brunch, lunch or starter. And if you’re planning a trip out to pick your own strawberries or, like me, you automatically add them to your shopping list as soon as the British season starts, then why not serve them with this amazing cashew cream. It’s lower in saturated fat than dairy cream, high in calcium and zinc, which are great for your immune system and skin. This healthier twist to the classic British dessert of strawberries and cream will go down a treat with all the family. Enjoy and have a great summer!
FIG, SERRANO AND CURD CHEESE SALAD WITH HONEY DRESSING
• 12-16 figs, depending on their size
• 12-16 slices Serrano ham
• 200g sheep’s curd cheese, or ricotta if unavailable
• 2 sprigs fresh oregano
• 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• juice of ½ lemon
• 1 tbsp honey
(try a flavoured one such as thyme, lavender or orange blossom)
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/ Cut the figs in quarters and sit onto plates. Lay slices of ham in between the figs. Spoon the curd cheese into the middle.
2/ To make the dressing, strip the leaves off the oregano stalks and roughly chop. Place half in a bowl and mix with the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and season with salt and pepper.
3/ Drizzle the dressing over the top of the salad, scatter over the remaining oregano and serve.
PADRÓN PEPPERS (PIMIENTOS DE PADRÓN)
These are traditionally Spanish, though widely available everywhere now, particularly during the summer months. The thing I love about these little green peppers is that, every so often, you come across a fiery one, making it like a game of Russian Roulette when you eat them. Cook as a tasty pre-dinner nibble or part of a tapas selection.
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 bag of Padron peppers
• sea salt
1/ Heat a frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Add the oil.
2/ Add the peppers and fry over a medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, tossing and shaking the pan every once in a while, until you see the skin of the peppers blister and they appear to be shrinking.
3/ Sprinkle fairly generously with sea salt and serve hot. Grab them by the stalk, take a bite and see if you’ve a feisty one or not. Either way, they are simply delicious.
STRAWBERRIES WITH VANILLA CASHEW CREAM
PREPARATION TIME 5 minutes + 2 hours soaking
• 400g / 14oz ripe strawberries
• freshly ground black pepper
• a few basil leaves, finely shredded (optional)
• juice of ½ lime
• ice cubes, to serve (optional)
For the vanilla cashew cream
• 150g / 5.oz / ¼ cups cashew nuts
• seeds from 1 vanilla pod/bean
• 2 tbsp maple syrup
1/ To make the cashew cream, put the cashews in a bowl and cover with water.Leave to soak for about 2 hours to soften.
2/ Drain the softened cashews and put them in a food processor with 125ml / 4fl oz/ ½ cup cold water. Blend until completely smooth, adding up to 125ml / 4fl oz / ½ cup more water, as necessary, until it is smooth and creamy, and you have a cream as thick or loose as you like. Add the vanilla seeds and maple syrup and briefly blitz to combine.
3/ Prepare the strawberries as you like, whether you want to serve them whole or cut up. Add a twist of pepper and scatter over the basil, if using. Serve with the vanilla cashew cream.