The Abundance of August
Date: 04-08-2017 published by Nick Baines
Kitchens are heaving in fresh produce at this time of year. At no other time do we see such a wide and varied crop of ripe fruit and vegetables. Cheeses made from spring milk are tasting sweet and fresh while the ocean kicks out a startling array of seafood. August is happening and now is the time to reorganise, reshuffle and create some space for all this bountiful produce.
British apples are beginning to rule the line-up, with varieties like Bramley, Cox and Discovery ripe for the picking. Freshly chopped and tossed in salads they add crispness, sharpness and offset heavy dressings in a unique way. If you’re using the classic Waldorf as a starting point for apple based salads, then choose Golden Delicious or Granny Smith.
The allotments are bursting come August, broad beans and courgettes are flowing in consistent waves, while under-utilised items like chicory, cobnuts and greengages come into their prime, providing fastidious chefs with nuanced flavours that can underpin and lift a great diversity of dishes.
Take the gooseberry for example, a sharp, juicy unsung hero of the British countryside that has the ability to pull back the sweetness in a dessert, and adds a grown up assertiveness to everything from jellies and fools, to long pre-dinner cocktails and even marinades and cures for raw fish.
Mackerel and sardines are a plenty right now and the perfect partner for some vibrant, crisp salad leaves and the acidic kick from some lemon juice. Scallops are another brilliant creature pulled from the sea at this time and work with a range of pork-based products and heavy, earthy flavours such as beetroot, which is ready to be pulled from the soil right now too.
The humble marrow is also becoming a familiar item on the veg markets, handsome things that have an unfortunate reputation for being flavourless. But taste is harboured and coaxed by only the most dextrous of chefs who know how to use this vegetable to great effect. Throw a large amount of cracked black pepper at it, and the flavours begin to unfold, some gentle cooking (or adding your marrow to the pot nearer the end of the cooking process) and this hardy, chunky British gem will pay you with great rewards.
Of course, we can’t talk about August’s glut of fresh produce without mentioning the tomato – a superstar of cooking in the western hemisphere. Gone are the watery toms of winter and instead you have juicy intense, full-flavoured tomatoes grown everywhere from the Isle of Wight, to Norfolk. Almost every colour of the rainbow is represented through some of the tomatoes on offer, some heirloom varieties, others just common hybrids.
It’s peak summer, kids are off from school and your menus are at their most flexible. Whatever you choose to stick on the menu, make sure to capitalise on the bounty of this wonderful month, and get your kitchen prep game on to preserve, pickle and harness all the flavours from August, to use when the leaner months come in.
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