The Summer Wardrobe: Lemon Salsa

As a Brit I find food and cooking more of a challenge in the summer than throughout the rest of the year, mainly because, just as hot-weather clothes are rarely needed in this country, so is hot-weather food. But this year we’ve had an exceptionally lovely summer in London and it’s still going. I have made gazpacho a lot (either this one or this one) and salads, such as watermelon and feta, tabbouleh and every variation on green leaves possible then, when I get tired of those, I light the barbecue and grill something. That, to be honest, is about as much effort as I can bear, when it’s sweltering. However, I still like to dress up barbecued meat or fish a little, usually with a salsa or mojo: this year, chimichurri has featured quite highly and so has this, a lemon salsa from a little book called, simply, Lemons.

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The Summer Wardrobe: Parmesan Shortbread

My summer wardrobe began with a cocktail: refreshing, lovely and Spanish-inspired. But, on its own, a drink is not half as much fun as it could be. For that first drink of the evening, particularly in hot weather, I also want something salty to go with it. Not crisps. Not nuts. Something a bit, you know, dressed up. Something to say, especially if you’re drinking with friends, that you’ve made a bit of an effort.

These biscuits, a bit like the black and red skirt that I bought from Target ten years ago, come out every summer. And winter. Oh and the rest of the year. They were the poster child for my Kickstarter campaign for The French Home Cookbook two years ago and still remind me of the brilliance of that book which will, one day, get beyond a file folder on my computer. But mostly, they remind me of how brilliant a simple recipe can be and how much pleasure it can bring to lots of people, including me. Continue reading

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The Summer Wardrobe: Watermelon Gazpacho

On a hot, hot August day, do your thoughts turn to…soup? No, didn’t think so though, if you looked in branches of the various lunch chains, where hot soup is usually the only one on offer, you would imagine that it’s very much in demand. But soup doesn’t have to be hot. In fact, chilled soup (a much better description than ‘cold’, I think, since the latter sounds accidental) is a lovely thing, and perfectly suited to proper hot weather. And, in the context of having a set of recipes for every season, I think everyone should have a chilled soup recipe, for the days when salad seems too dull, when you want something to serve as a starter or for the days when a cool liquid is all you can face. It is, in my view, the ideal antidote to a hot commute: fast to prepare, immensely healthy and gloriously refreshing. Continue reading

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The Summer Wardrobe: Rebujito

Apparently there is such a thing as a summer, or holiday, or even, my least favourite, capsule wardrobe. Not surprisingly, it consists of things you might wear in the sun, or on holiday. Women’s magazines (and newspapers; shame on them) are full of pictures of how to combine a kaftan and a bikini 15 ways so that you don’t need to pack anything else for a two-week holiday, and everyone will think you effortlessly chic and well dressed and not notice at all that you are only wearing three things.

Me, I don’t have such a wardrobe. Apart from anything, I rarely go on beach holidays, wouldn’t be seen dead in a kaftan (or, as I rapidly approach the end of my fifth decade far above my ‘target’ weight, a bikini…) and would rather pack a few extra things than learn how to tie yet another knot in a piece of fringed batik to make it into a skirt. What’s more, as a freelancer, I spend most of my summer at my desk, because it’s the busiest time in publishing and, this year, I have spent precisely £21 on one dress, no kaftans or bikinis in sight, and even then I only bought that so that I don’t go into the office wearing yet another item with holes in it.

However, though I roll my eyes every time I see an artfully laid-out spread in the middle of a magazine, showing me how a necklace is going to cover all ills on said overworn kaftan, I do appreciate the desire for a kit that works in all circumstances. In my case, though, it is kitchen kit. Continue reading

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Hake with pimentón

Hake is a fish that is not often found on menus, or in shops in Britain, but in Spain it is both everyday and special. In the fish markets in Andalucia, it is possibly one of the most common species you will see displayed, and everyone seems to be buying it in great quantities, but it is also one of the few that is sold as a speciality: some stalls sell only hake (merluza) and make a virtue of putting just one or two gorgeous specimens out at a time, their red gills displayed to show off their freshness. Continue reading

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How Europe educated my palate and why it matters

I had a post all ready for this weekend, I was planning to upload it on Friday and then, well, then we know what happened. I don’t think I have ever been more shocked by a piece of news since my dad died. That may sound melodramatic, and maybe it is, but, then, as now, it feels as if I have walked through a door from one world into the next and there is no going back.

Like most people of my generation, I have gained an awful lot from being part of Europe, more perhaps than I can describe. When I started learning French aged 11, I had no sense that this would enable me to live in France for 2½ years, or that it would give me lifelong friends in another country. It was just another subject. I learnt German for the same reason, then Italian, neither of which I managed to keep up. Then, as an adult, long past exams, I lived in North America and, via friends I made there, who inspired me to go and visit, I discovered Spain and Spanish, both of which I’ve flirted with for years. Continue reading

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Diana Henry’s chicken with morcilla

After our choir trip to Sevilla and Córdoba a month ago, with a side trip to Jerez, I have been somewhat obsessed with all things Spanish: sherry, coffee in glasses, pan con tomate. It’s not helped by the fact that I have been working very closely on the Brindisa cookbook, due out in the autumn, which is adding delicious fuel to my already rather greedy fire.

So it’s not surprising that the first dish that I cooked from Diana Henry’s wonderfully comprehensive A Bird in the Hand, a book all about chicken, was chicken with sherry and morcilla (Spanish black pudding), a fine example of shove-it-in-one-pan cooking that gives much more than it asks of you. Continue reading

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