Deep summer, but I still want a Sunday roast. That said, my roast will be lighter and accompanied by little more than a salad of leaves and herbs. It may be a whole fish, its belly stuffed with spinach and young courgettes; a leg of lamb cooked with thyme and lemon; or a platter of roast peppers with lentils, a dressing of its roasting juices and cream. On the side will be my beloved roast potatoes (it’s not a roast without potatoes), but served with a bright dressing of yogurt and crisp summer roots. And while the oven is on, I might bake some apricots or peaches for an intense summer ice-cream.
Roast lamb with summer herbs and lemon
I may not have been to Greece for decades, but the smell of lamb roasting on a summer’s day is invariably laden with memories of whitewashed houses with blue doors, narrow stone-floored alleyways and searing crimson geraniums. If I am going to eat red meat in high summer it will almost certainly be lamb, marinated with thyme, rosemary and occasionally garlic, and roasted on the bone. To make carving almost effortless, I recently asked the butcher to remove the bone, but to include it in the parcel, so I could tuck it under the trimmed meat, opened flat, like a book, as it roasted.
thyme sprigs 10g
fennel fronds or dill 20g
olive oil 200ml
lemon 1 small
lamb 1 leg, boned but not rolled, 2 kg
bay leaves 4
Remove the leaves from the thyme, rosemary, parsley and fennel and put them in a food processor or blender. Keep the stems for the stockpot. Pour in the olive oil and blend to a thick paste. Squeeze the lemon, then stir the juice and a little salt and ground black pepper into the herb paste.
Open the boned lamb flat and place, skin side down, on a chopping board. Score deeply with a very sharp knife, turn over and repeat on the other side. Put the lamb in a large bowl or zip-lock bag and pour in the marinade, rubbing it into the meat as you go. Add the bay leaves and set aside for an hour or more. Overnight in the fridge wouldn’t hurt.
Set the oven at 200C fan/gas mark 7. Remove the lamb from the marinade and place it, fat side uppermost in a roasting tin, then spread the marinade over it. Roast for 20 minutes then lower heat to 140C fan/gas mark 3 and continue roasting for a further 20 minutes.
Remove the lamb from the oven and place a tent of foil over the tin. Leave it to rest for 15-20 minutes before scattering with a little sea salt and carving thickly. Spoon any roasting juices over as you serve.
Roast spiced potatoes, beetroot raita
There is often an oval plate of thinly sliced beef or cold pork on the table at this time of year. Cold cuts as they used to be called, and something I am more than happy to eat if there is a pot of good, glossy mayonnaise on the side. But they will be welcomed more if they appear with a dish of roast potatoes. This mildly spiced recipe comes with a yogurt raita, crunchy with grated beetroot and tomatoes, and speckled with coriander, its appearance at the table suddenly makes a platter of cold meat (or smoked mackerel or chicken) really sing.
maris piper 1kg, or similar potatoes
onions 3, medium
groundnut oil 6 tbsp
coriander seeds 1 tsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
ground turmeric 1 tsp
For the raita
raw beetroot 150g, peeled
tomatoes 2 medium
garlic 2 cloves
ginger 25g piece
nigella seeds 1 tsp
natural yogurt 200ml
iced water 100ml
coriander leaves 4 tbsp, chopped
While you cut the potatoes into large pieces, bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt it generously. Cook the potatoes in the boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain.
Set the oven at 180C fan/gas mark 6. Peel the onions and cut them into quarters from root to tip. Warm the oil in a roasting tin, add the onions and the drained potatoes, turning them over in the oil as you go. Roast for 50 minutes or until the potatoes are golden and the onions soft.
Crush the coriander and cumin seeds to a coarse powder, then mix with the ground turmeric. Add the spice mix to the potatoes and onions, and toss gently to coat. Return them to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
Make the raita: coarsely grate the peeled beetroot into a bowl. Finely dice the tomatoes and add them. Peel and finely crush the garlic and grate the ginger to a puree, then stir into the beetroot. Mix the nigella seeds together with the yogurt and the iced water, whisking them until smooth, then stir in the vegetables and the coriander leaves. Serve, chilled, with the hot roast potatoes and onions.
Baked sea bass, courgette and spinach stuffing
A whole fish, plump with a stuffing of summer vegetables, is a splendid dish to bring to the table. I like using spinach, grated courgette or fennel, or perhaps young carrots to fill the fish with (avoid beetroot, it sends the fish pink). Some new potatoes, sliced and baked around the fish is a thoroughly good thing, as would be a bottle of olive oil to pass around, to trickle over the fish and its stuffing once it’s on your plate. You do need the potatoes, though. No matter how your large your sea bass is, it will still only be enough for two or three of you.
jersey royals 400g, or other new potatoes
olive oil 5 tbsp
spinach leaves 400g
dried chilli flakes 1 tsp
sea bass 1 whole, about 1kg
Set the oven at 180C fan/gas mark 6. Scrub the potatoes, then cut them into rounds about as thick as one-pound coins. Toss them in half of the oil, seasoned with salt and black pepper, then place them on a shallow roasting tin, leaving an empty space in the middle in which to place the fish. Bake the potatoes for about 10 minutes.
Coarsely grate the courgette into a colander. Wash the spinach leaves but don’t shake them dry. Put them into a large pan, cover tightly, then place over a moderate heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Keep an eye on them, turning the leaves once they are starting to wilt. When they have softened in texture and brightened in colour, remove from the heat.
Put the spinach in a colander and run a little cold water through the leaves, then squeeze firmly to remove the water. Roughly chop the spinach. Wring the grated courgette in your hand to remove any moisture, then add to the chopped spinach and season with salt and the dried chilli flakes.
Remove the tray from the oven. Place the fish in the middle of the tin and fill the belly with the spinach and courgette stuffing, pushing it right into the cavity, then pour over the remaining olive oil and season lightly with salt and black pepper.
Bake the fish for 30 minutes, till the skin is starting to crisp and the potatoes are golden. Should they colour too quickly, then cover them with a little kitchen foil. Remove from the oven and lift on to a serving dish, or fillet on the roasting tin if you prefer.
Peppers with a dressing of their roasting juices, lentils and basil
I roast peppers as much for the caramel-sweet juices that congregate in the roasting tin as I do for their silken scarlet flesh. Those juices are dressing enough for the peppers, but they can also act as the backbone of something a little more involved, such as a dressing into which you tear leaves of basil or cooked lentils. A splash of cream might seem unnecessary, but it is quite wonderful with the sherry-coloured roasting juices. And I should add that it really is worth cooking the peppers until the skins have browned here and there.
red peppers 5 large
olive oil 6 tbsp
small, dark green lentils 200g
bay leaves 3
double cream 200ml
basil leaves a large handful
Set the oven at 180C fan/gas mark 6.
Slice the peppers in half, discard the seeds and cores, then cut each half into three. Put them in a baking tray and trickle the olive oil over them. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the peppers are soft and the skins are brown in patches.
Cook the lentils with the bay leaves, in deep, unsalted boiling water for about 30 minutes, then drain them in a colander.
Remove the peppers from the oven, then place the pan over a low to moderate heat. Stir in the drained lentils, the cream and the basil leaves, then season generously with salt and black pepper.
Lift the peppers onto a serving plate, then spoon the lentils and the creamy juices around them.
Apricot and rosewater ice-cream
Sometimes, on a hot summer’s afternoon, I will simmer apricots with a little honey and water till the fruit has softened and the honey has turned to a light syrup. I add a few drops of rosewater, then chill them till the syrup is almost ice cold, and eat them the next day for breakfast. This heady mixture, with its faintly Middle Eastern notes, also makes an excellent ice-cream, delicate and beautiful. An ice-cream the colour of sunset at midsummer.
I like the soft consistency of an ice-cream made in a commercial machine, but it is easy enough to make without one. Transfer the fruit and custard mixture to a freezer box, cover tightly, and freeze for an hour or two, until ice crystals have formed around the edge. Remove briefly from the freezer, whisk the crystals into the liquid centre, cover and return to the freezer. Leave for a further hour, then repeat the whisking. This will ensure a softer, creamier texture. Continue until almost frozen.
Enough for 4
honey 4 tbsp
For the custard
double cream 400ml
egg yolks 4
caster sugar 90g
rosewater 1 tsp
Set the oven at 180C fan/gas mark 6. Halve the apricots, discarding the stones, and place the fruit in a roasting tin. Trickle the honey over the apricots then bake for about 25 minutes until the honey and juices are bubbling and the fruit is meltingly soft and fragrant. Remove the tin from the oven and roughly crush the fruit with a fork. Spoon into a bowl and set aside to cool.
Warm the cream in a small pan, bringing it almost to the boil. Beat the egg yolks and sugar till thick (I use an electric whisk but a wooden spoon could suffice), then pour the warm cream over, stirring thoroughly. Rinse and dry the milk pan, return the custard to the pan and place over a low to moderate heat.
Stir the custard with a wooden spoon, almost constantly, until it thickens to the consistency of double cream. Stir in the rosewater. Remove from the heat immediately and cool quickly. (I like to pour the custard into a clean bowl set over a second bowl of ice and stir till the steam no longer rises.) When the custard is cold, stir into the apricot and honey mixture, taste and add a little more rosewater if you wish, then pour into an ice-cream maker and churn till softly frozen.