Recipe: Martin Griffiths Summer Treats Fresh From the Fields

PUBLISHED: 14:53 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013

Local lamb joint coated in butter, garlic and herbs.

Local lamb joint coated in butter, garlic and herbs.

Martin Griffiths visits the county's farmers' markets and food fairs and returns home with bags of local produce to create delicious summer treats.

Martin Griffiths visits the county's farmers' markets and food fairs and returns home with bags of local produce to create delicious summer treats.

I've always loved going to the food markets. It's partly because I was brought up on a small farm in Suckley, near the Herefordshire borders and grew up in a family where the summers were dominated by the fruit picking seasons. For some, summer is the sound of willow on leather or another brave, yet ultimately unsuccessful tilt at the windmill that is Wimbledon. For me it will always be the smell and taste of freshly picked fruit and vegetables that brings back childhood summers - and all the hours the family spent picking, weighing and delivering fruit.

Farmers' markets are such a great way of staying in touch with the people who actually produce the food. The food miles are minimal, the food is local and seasonal and the farmers, often working on a small scale, get a better return on their goods. Buying food at a farmers' market or food fair is therefore not only good for the county's farmers and the countryside, it also means you get the chance to cook and eat delicious seasonal produce.

Asparagus

One of my absolute early summer favourites is asparagus. It's a highly versatile vegetable and benefits from being low in fat and packed full of vitamins. One of my favourite ways of eating it is simply steamed for three to four minutes, with a poached egg and knobs of butter just gently melting over the tips. Look out at the Herefordshire Farmers' Markets for Sue Fletcher of Eye Game Larder of Luston, Leominster, who sells wonderful duck eggs for an even bigger yolk.

Producing a more substantial meal is easy. Try adding a good grind of black pepper, some smoked bacon strips and toast and you have a great easy lunch. Alternatively, you could add some smoked salmon or a few shavings of hard cheese. There's no need to buy Italian Parmesan when local cheese maker Lightwood Cheese of Lower Broadheath makes a ewe's cheese called Little Urn. This can be found at the markets and makes a wonderful alternative.

Asparagus can also be grilled, griddled or baked and is delicious wrapped in some of bacon from Gordon Tudge at Richards Castle and pan fried for a few minutes before being popping into the oven or grill for 10 minutes.

As an ingredient in a summer quiche or salad, asparagus adds taste, crunch and shape. Cream of asparagus soup is also delicious.

For a great warm summer salad try this simple combination:

Warm Summer Salad

Serves 4

1lb Herefordshire new potatoes

4oz Gordon Tudge's bacon cut into strips

10oz asparagus from Court Farm at Tillington

4oz spring onions

4oz salad leaves

4oz fresh peas / broad beans

Boil potatoes for 20 mins and drain

Dry fry the bacon strips for 3-4 minutes before adding the asparagus tips and spring onion. Continue cooking for another 5 mins

Boil peas / beans for 3-4 minutes and drain

Add all the ingredients together, season and toss with some dill and mustard sauce from Three Counties Gourmet, Ledbury

Lamb

At the Herefordshire Farmers' market you would expect to find some excellent butchers and you certainly won't be disappointed. I often pick up some lamb at this time of year and thread the delicate chunks of meat onto

skewers made out of rosemary twigs - great on the barbecue or in the oven if the weather turns inclement. Another tasty alternative is to pick up a whole joint of meat and cover it with a sticky coating of lemon, garlic, rosemary and oil or make up some herby pesto butter, freeze it and then allow it to melt into some lean lamb chump steaks during cooking.

Lamb Parcels with Herbs and Spices

5oz lamb chop per person

Mix 4oz butter with 4oz spicy aubergine pickle from KK Ventures from Ross-on-Wye or chilli sauce from Three Counties Gourmet and pop it into the freezer

Place your chops on a foil sheet. Place a good wedge of the frozen butter on top of each chop Wrap loosely in foil and put into a pre-heated oven (190c) for around 20 minutes or place on top of your hot barbecue having sealed the

meat first

Cooking the meat in this way infuses it with herby flavours, keeps it beautifully moist and it produces its own sauce. A tasty way of using local seasonal meat with an added touch of herbs and spices!

Strawberries

Of course the quintessential taste of summer must be the strawberry. We grew acres of them when I was growing up and I never quite tired of eating them even then. Today you will find an abundance of them at the markets during June and July or at your local pick-your-own. There is some uncertainty over the origin of the name strawberry but it is likely that the straw could refer to the 15th century practice of manuring the cultivated plants with straw dung. The French name of 'fraise' is derived from 'fragans' and refers to its sweet smell.

It doesn't really take much work to produce an excellent pudding with strawberries. Simply add sugar and cream and you have a ready-made super pudding. (37 calories per 3.5 oz portion and full of vitamin C and anti-oxidants). The calories pop up when you melt some good quality chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and dip the tips in. (However, chocolate and strawberries do make a sexy combination).

Strawberries are wonderfully versatile, make the most superb jam and are just scrummy in tarts. I still rather like them with cream or added to a slightly boozy jelly. Whether you are going to make jam, ice cream or a tart it's always best to use the freshest strawberries you can find locally. Treat your strawberries kindly; (for they bruise easily), and create some super treats this summer.

Sparkling Rose Wine Jellies

Serves 6

500ml of lemonade/elderflower press

250 ml ros wine (try St Anne's Vineyard wines of Oxenhall, Newent. Any wine not used in this recipe is best chilled and drunk!)

150gm strawberries/summer fruits

75gm caster sugar

7 sheets of gelatine

Soak gelatine in a little cold water for 5 minutes

Gently heat the wine, lemonade and sugar in a pan until the sugar is dissolved

Squeeze out the gelatine and add to the warmed wine and stir until dissolved

Pour mixture into glasses or moulds (paper cups are rather good and make great fruit jelly towers) and add the fruit

Chill for 4 hours to set

Wine jellies make a great fun fruit-packed dinner party treat and (depending on alcohol content), are great puddings for children. You can try substituting perry for the wine as a very local alternative.

Summer Fruit Syllabub

Serves 6

300ml double cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 lemon zest and juice

90 ml medium white wine (Frome Valley Vineyards of Bishops Frome sell excellent fruity wines ideal for this)

350 gms of summer fruits

Combine the cream, wine and sugar and beat vigorously until the mixture holds its shape. (As you are about to eat lots of cream, try doing this by hand and help hold your own shape!)

Create alternative layers of cream and fruit and serve in tall elegant wine glasses.

Serve outside on a sunny summer evening with a glass of fragrant sparkling wine from Broadfield Court, Bodenham. It's close to bliss.

Panna Cotta

Serves 6

This easy to make recipe is also rich in cream (ok, go and have a game of tennis or dig the garden afterwards!) but is also delicious served with some mashed and sieved summer fruits made into a sauce.

80ml milk

5 gelatine leaves

600ml cream

100gm caster sugar

Seeds of a vanilla pod (or vanilla essence)

Pour milk over gelatine to soak for 5 mins

Put cream, sugar and vanilla into a pan over a low heat until warmed through

Add milk and gelatine mixture to the pan and stir until all ingredients are dissolved

Pour into moulds, refrigerate for 4 hours

To release from the moulds simply stand in a bowl of warm water for a minute and carefully tip out onto your dish. (Plastic cups make great moulds for individual servings)

If this is a touch heavy on the cream you could always use some yogurt or make some simple iced fruit yogurt.

Iced Fruit Yogurt

Serves 6

500 gm summer fruits

2 tablespoons caster sugar

6 tablespoons honey.

500ml plain yogurt

Put fruit and yogurt into a blender/smoothie maker

Sieve to remove seeds

Add honey and stir well

Pour the mixture into a freezer proof container and pop it into the freezer.

After one hour remove the container and mash up with a fork. Return to freezer until ready to use.

Place container in the fridge for 30 mins before serving to soften a little.

A great tasting healthy alternative to ice cream although you could also look out for Damson and gin ice cream from Just Rachel Quality Desserts of Bromsberrow at the Ledbury markets. Equally delicious and ideal for a summer treat.

The Herefordshire Farmers' Market meets regularly in Hereford, Leominster and Ross while Ledbury has recently run its inaugural food fair. Farm shops can be found throughout the county. Visiting yours helps your local producers and gives you great seasonal produce to cook and eat this summer.

Visit: www.hfmg.org for dates, details and addresses.


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