I had been going to start the menu last night with chard and coconut soup - already in the freezer, but the weather has been so glorious and hot that I changed tack and we had a kind of 'mezze' (I like to think) mixture, consumed al fresco - such a treat for it still to have been just about warm enough. The Husband made the garden look lovely with candles, and we had:
Hugh FW's beetroot & walnut hummus (River Cottage Everyday) (although I burnt the first lot of toasted walnuts, and didn't have enough to do a full lot second time round so it was beetroot, walnut and pecan hummus)
Yottam Ottolenghi's squash spread which was in the Saturday Guardian mag a few weeks ago (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/series/thenewvegetarian). We kept the recipe, because like courgette, I do end up getting a bit stuck for ideas with the squash from the garden because the kids aren't hugely keen (whatever Annabel Karmel might have said about weaning children, mine never liked the butternut squash mushes) and there's only so much soup you can eat.
Nigella's Moonblush tomatoes (from Express)
parma ham (from Sainsburys(!))
Pitta chips which I found online from Sainsburys too
Home made bread
The dip/hummuses (or is that hummi) were dead easy to make, although Hugh's has a bit of faffing with toasting nuts and cumin seeds. Because I used the rarified stripy pink beetroot from the Husband's veg patch, instead of the vivid purple ones, the colour was more like putty, but that's where the al fresco bit came into its own. The moonblush tomoatoes are just lush, and so dead easy - halve cherry tomatoes, sprinkle on some thyme and sugar and salt and whack them into a hot oven which you then immediately turn off and leave the to cool overnight.
I was pretty pleased with how it all turned out, and having cooked it all in advance it was just a bit of an assembly job to get it all on the table. In view of the enormous jugs of mojito, I was even more grateful that I could just bung some plates on the table and enjoy a bit of a chat before sorting out mains.
It was getting chilly so we moved inside for mains - Darina Allen's "Gutsy One Pot" from a Good Food magazine. Allotment Junkie gave me a copy, laminated, singing its praises, although she now denies all knowledge, but it's essentially a cassoulet style (i.e. it has beans in it!) pork casserole, using shoulder of pork, bacon, ham hock and chorizo. It has carrots, peppers and tomatoes in too, so no need to do extra veg. The serving suggestion is just crusty bread, but I thought it probably needed something else so did some rice too. I've cooked it before, and last time the meat did fall apart a bit, but this time, when I cooked it on Thursday evening, I didn't give it the full 2.5 hrs cooking time so it could finish off cooking when I heated it back up. It definitely worked better this time round.
I meant to take a photo of the pudding complete in all its glory, but unfortunately the mojitos had kicked in and I forgot. In fact, I guess I should have taken pics of everything, for your delight and delectation, but frankly, sometimes, life is too short - I just wanted to eat! But back to pudding. It was massive - almost obscenely so - hazelnut meringues filled with lemon curd folded into whipped double cream, topped with more cream and raspberries. It was so big that 10 of us couldn't finish it, although there was one taker for seconds. This means of course that there is a lovely big bit left for supper this evening:
The recipe is from Thomasina Miers' book 'Cook'. It's actually a variation suggested by her on a winter chestnut meringue cake, but given the weather, I'm glad I went with the summer version.
As it took 8 egg whites to make the meringue, I will confess to making the lemon curd, using a recipe in Hugh FW's Family Cook Book - which is a great book - it's about cooking things with kids, although slightly older kids - and 'proper' food rather than just bakling. Not that there's anything wrong with baking with kids - I do it all the time, but this book approaches it a little more like grown up projects, and he's got lots of good explaining in a non-patronising way. The whole egg thin gwas a bit of a disaster because our chickens are moulting and not laying so well. It took me all week to amass the 8 eggs for the meringue, then I needed to get some emergency eggs from my lovely neighbour to finish the lemon curd, because as well as the yolks, it needs whole eggs too. Anyway, the only thing I will say about the lemon curd is that I managed to avoid lemony scrambled eggs, but it always takes longer than I think it's going to. But the time it takes to make lemon curd is ALWAYS worth it.
I've used up for more of the egg yolks making ice cream today with Iona (another Hugh FW recipe from the Family Cookbook), 3 more to go. As I obviously had a headrush and ordered far more cream than I could ever possibly have needed, I guess it will be spaghetti carbonara for dinner tomorrow. Tonight though, it's nice easy sausage tray bake that I think I've seen in a magazine somewhere - using up some of the left over pumpkin that didn't go in the squash spread and some red onions. I can't remember where I saw the recipe, but I'm sure it will turn out just fine if I chuck it all in the oven. Frankly, that's all I can manage just now...