Here’s a handful of ingredients we’re really looking forward to seeing in our kitchens and on our menus in the next few months. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to put them in your shopping basket or pick them off our menu.
Tomatoes are simple to grow, even if you’re married to the city. A suntrap spot on a balcony and a fat grow-bag, seeded just after the last frost, is all you need. While most people at home are busy growing the standard varieties, our friends at Nutbourne Nursery specialise in tomatoes of all shapes and sizes. They’re expert growers of heritage tomatoes – fruits with character – ridges, bumps, yellow ones, pink ones and some with stripes. They’re sweeter than those you’ll find lurking on the supermarket shelf and that’s why we like them. Choose a Coeur de Boeuf, a Derby Striped or a Tiger, and cut them into juicy chunks. Mix with onion, herbs, garlic and white wine vinegar until they’re slightly cured. Pile the rainbow colours onto a plate and serve surrounded by the torn pieces of a good buffalo mozzarella.
Mackerel used to be considered a humble fish, the ‘cheaper’ option. These days, it’s hard to remember a time when mackerel was ever overshadowed by its peers. It’s good summertime fare because, although rich in oils, it never feels too heavy and the meaty texture is perfect for barbecues. It’s a fleeting moment in the British calendar but if you’re quick enough, you just might experience the joy of smothering a whole mackerel in olive oil and thyme, and watching it turn crisp on an outside grill. Once cooked, share it with friends and take it in turns to peel away slivers of creamy, white flesh. Add a good Sauvignon Blanc into the equation and the warmer months have most definitely arrived.
The gooseberry season is short and it’s almost a crime to miss it, so get them while you can. These beautiful green berries are viciously tart when raw, yet with cooking and a touch of sugar, they become mild and delicious. They’re probably best known for making an excellent fool but they’re even better in a crumble. Though some would baulk at the idea of replacing rhubarb, the sight of myriad green gooseberries underneath a sweet golden crumb is a rare treat. That said, if you can take or leave your puddings, a gooseberry chutney with cheese might be just the thing you’re looking for.
Often viewed as just another novelty veg, purple carrots have been around a lot longer than their orange cousins. The showy colour comes from anthocyanins – the superfood pigment also found in blueberries and aubergines. This vegetable doesn’t taste like either of those, however. In fact, the purple carrot tastes a little bit like beetroot and turns a deep plum colour when roasted. Slice your carrots on the slant before sending them off for 40 minutes in the oven. Then toss with shards of fried bacon and warm green beans. Add a crumbling of barrel-aged feta and watch as the purple juices bleed into the other ingredients while you eat. They’ll infuse everything with a summery sweetness.