Tuesday, 19 June 2007

A Bowlful of Summer

Despite the monsoon of the past week trying to remind us that we still live in the United Kingdom, and doing its best to make us wet and miserable, there was still a lot of sunshine to be found in some of the delicious vegetables available at the moment.

After the depressing dirge of the post-winter roots; sad, overgrown and fibrous monsters of the earth; our vegetables suddenly take a remarkable turn for the better at this time of the year. Some of the sweetest tasting beautiful veggies appear in abundance and it gets me excited in the knowledge that a plateful of my favourites will do me for a simple supper. Runner and broad beans, asparagus, spring and pearl onions, peas, sugar snaps, baby courgettes, fennel, leeks and carrots. It is almost as if somebody has been playing a bad trick on us by withholding these gems for a couple of months, then all of a sudden saying, ‘Off you go little veggies’, and providing us with more choice than we could ask for. Happy days indeed.

A plate of summer vegetables is a treat you should give yourself at this time of the year to finally convince you that summer is actually here, no matter what the weather. Even the most hardcore of carnivores would fail to admit that a mound of sensational tasting and looking vegetables, dressed in nothing more than a little lemon and oil and perhaps some herbs, are a joy to behold. Choose your favourites, pod and slice away and before you know it you have a simple supper made for Kings and Queens on your plate. This also works as the perfect accompaniment to a piece of fish or meat. But try them as they are and you may just banish the rain from your life no matter how hard it bangs on your window. As The Undertones once sang, ‘Here Come The Summer!’. And I could not agree more.

Summer Vegetables with Lemon and Herbs
Serves 2

100g Broad beans, podded
100g Runner beans, stringed and sliced into diagonal slices
100g Baby carrots
100g peas, fresh or frozen
A small bunch of asparagus, woody stems removed
A small bunch of spring onions, trimmed
1 baby fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced thinly

For the dressing
Juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp extra virgin or rapeseed oil
A handful of fresh herbs such as mint, parsley, dill and tarragon
Salt and pepper

1 - Pod your broad beans and place into a bowl. Pour on boiling water, leave for 2 minutes then cool under running cold water. Nick the top of each bean with your fingernails then squeeze into a bowl. This is optional, but the glowing green of the vibrant bean looks amazing.
2 -Bring a pan of water to the boil and tip in your carrots, asparagus and runner beans. Simmer for 2 minutes only. Cool immediately in running cold water then tip into the bowl with the broad beans.
3 - Tip in the peas, spring onions and fennel and set aside.
4 - Prepare a simple dressing using the juice of 1 lemon, 6 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil, chopped fresh herbs and seasoning. Mix thoroughly.
5 - When ready to serve, gently warm up your dressing in a pan and add the vegetables. Warm through for 1-2 minutes, mix in the freshly chopped herbs and serve.

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