I don’t know about you but I am officially done with the 30°C heat. In a country that rarely sees the mercury creep above 25, it’s been HELL; I mean, my house is made for drizzly Welsh winters, not stinking, sticky hot summers (emphasis on the ST-ICKY) – and neither am I. On a recent shopping trip I stumbled across an aisle full of thick woolly jumpers and winter coats and let me tell you, I am so ready to feel that cool September bite in the air. And while I’m not ready to say goodbye to the sunshine yet, the summer fatigue I get every year around this time has definitely started to set in.
Hopefully we’re done with the sweat and the humidity for now, but just in case we’re not – here’s the perfect antidote. I absolutely love fresh lemonade – and if you’ve never made it yourself before then why not? It’s an absolute doddle; there’s a reason why kids out in the states set up lemonade stands in the summer (American readers, do they really do that? Or is that just “Disney America?”). But limeade somehow, tastes even better – maybe because it feels just a little bit more grown up, especially with plenty of fresh mint. If you’re planning a late summer BBQ or picnic then you can’t go wrong with a ready made iced pitcher of the stuff – and you’ll be pleased to know it takes less than twenty minutes to make up. Shake some up ahead of the weekend and keep it chilling in the fridge and ready to pour for up to five days.
makes enough for 1 pitcher
200ml fresh lime juice (from approx 5 limes)
150g caster sugar
zest of one lime
mint leaves to garnish
Squeeze as much juice out of your limes as possible into a saucepan (don’t worry if you get some pulp in there; you’re going to strain all that out later). Add the lime zest, cold water and caster sugar, then gently bring it all to the boil – by which time the sugar should have completely dissolved.
Strain the liquid into a clean bottle/pitcher and then leave to cool.Before serving, give it a taste test and add a little more water if you find that it’s too strong.
Serve over ice with a slice of lime and fresh mint. (…and maybe a shot of Tequila? *shrugs* I don’t know…) 😉
…Oozing with plenty of homemade strawberry jam and Chantilly Cream…
When it comes to summer cakes, you just can’t beat the basic (but beautiful)Victoria Sandwich. To paraphrase the famous glutton Mr Joeseph Tribbiani, what’s not to like? Cream, good! Jam, gooooood! It’s a classic; the kind of cake that’ll please everyone if you turn up with it at a picnic or at your Mum’s front door on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I mean you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like a plain sponge cake, sweet cream and strawberry jam. Better yet, it’s very easy to make – even if you’re a bit of a baking noob. The classic, base recipe involves weighing your eggs first, then matching up with the exact same quantities of butter, caster sugar and self raising flour – but I’ve experimented and come up with a slightly more refined recipe with a little added baking powder and buttermilk for a buttery, moist but airy sponge. Sandwiched with a layer of slightly runny homemade strawberry jam (easier to make than it sounds and absolutely worth the added effort) and some piped Chantilly Cream (fancy pants for double cream whipped with a bit of powdered sugar and vanilla – yum yum), you just can’t go wrong. 🙂
Picnic Perfect Victoria Sandwich Cake
For the cake:
175g butter (softened)
3 medium eggs, whisked
175g self raising flour(sifted)
70 ml buttermilk
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
For the jam:
100g fresh strawberries (pitted)
100g jam sugar
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
For the Chantilly Cream:
200ml double cream
50g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
The night before baking, prepare your jam strawberries; remove the leaves, slice them and then pop them in a bowl. Sprinkle with caster sugar, then leave in the fridge overnight.Sounds odd, but while you’re at it, put a small plate in your freezer – it’ll come in handy later.
Set the oven to 160C (Fan), and grease your baking tin of choice. (I like to use a deep, 10cm loose-bottomed tin and then slice the cake in half once it’s cooked. But two 20cm sandwich tins will work just as well.)
Cream together the butter and sugar, then stir in the eggs.
Stir in the sifted flour, salt and baking powder. Gently fold in the buttermilk.
Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for around 40 minutes if you’re using a deep tin, and 25 minutes if you’re using sandwich tins – either way, an inserted skewer or knife should come out clean.
Once the cake is cooked, leave it to cool. Meanwhile, start making the jam; pop your juicy, pre-prepared strawbs in a saucepan and then either blitz them with a hand-held blender, or mash them. Add the jam sugar and lemon juice to the saucepan, and then gently heat the mixture on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely.Resist stirring!
Turn the heat up to a roaring boil and leave the jam to bubble for up to 10 minutes. Remember that plate in the freezer? That’s going to give you a helping hand in working out when your jam has cooked. Every couple of minutes, take a small teaspoon of jam and drizzle it onto the ice cold plate – when you turn the plate vertically, if the jam runs then it’s not quite done. If it sticks in a blob and doesn’t seem in any hurry to go anywhere, then it’s ready! If like me you prefer your jam a little runnier, take it off the heat when it runs slightly, then sets on the plate.Once you’ve reached that stage and the jam is cooked, take the saucepan off the heat and pour it into a ready sterilized jar to cool and set.
Once both the cake and the jam have cooled, you can whip up your Chantilly Cream – which is as simple as throwing the cream, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste into a bowl and then whisking them together until thick and airy.
To assemble the cake, sandwich the two halves with a layer of jam and a layer of Chantilly Cream – then decorate with some extra cream, icing sugar and fresh strawberries.
So here’s the thing. I’m not a massive fan of salads – in fact, I’m not really a fan AT ALL. (Great start, I know…) I’m a big kid at heart, I need to be tricked into getting those greens; I’ll eat them, but there’s got to be a lil’ something-something tossed between the leaves to bring me to the table.
This (kind of Wimbledon-inspired!)Strawberry and Gruyere Summer Salad is really easy to make and really hits the spot served up for an al fresco lunch or alongside a barbecue. Fresh, sweet and creamy – with a sour, zingy edge thanks to the added raspberry vinaigrette – the strawberries really steal the show on this one, provided you pick the best the season has to offer. British strawberries really are in their peak season at the moment and these “Red Diamond Strawbs” from my friends at Marks and Spencer are quite possibly the juiciest I’ve ever tasted; their sweet scent filled my car on the short drive back from my local M&S Food and perfumed my fridge and kitchen all weekend! Get them while you can! 🙂
Strawberry and Gruyere Summer Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette (serves 2)
150g Strawberries, sliced
Italian Peppery Leaf Salad (spinach, lettuce, rocket)
50g Gruyere Cheese, shaved(use a potato peeler 😉 )
For the Vinaigrette:
150g raspberries (I used M&S’s Sapphire Raspberries)
25ml balsamic vinegar
100ml olive oil
1 tbsp honey
a handful of basil leaves
To make the vinaigrette, blitz together the raspberries, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and basil until smooth.
Assemble your salad, then drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and sprinkle with the shaved gruyere. Easy!
Have a great week! 🍓🍓🍓
*This post contains gifted items from Marks and Spencer, to find out more about what that means click here to read my disclaimer.
Okay, I’m well aware that it hasn’t exactly been “Ice Cream Weather” recently (it’s been so wet and windy here in Wales the past couple of weeks that I’ve had to dig my winter coat back out of storage)… so let’s call this post aspirational, shall we? Mind you, I grew up slurping down Joe’s Icecream cwtched-up in the back of the car with my Mum and Mamgu parked up on the front in Mumbles in the dead of winter so I can’t say the weather’s ever really stopped me, so…
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that making ice cream is difficult – or that you need a special machine to do it – because they’re having you on (and trying to stop you from creating your own never ending supply of the good stuff…). There are a lot of complicated recipes out there that involve creating the custard base with eggs, or stirring the mixture every hour as it freezes (ugh)… but this recipe? It’s EASY. Too easy, in fact. All you need is some double cream and condensed milk, and with some restrained whipping you’ll have yourself a simple ice cream base that freezes like a dream (no need to break your wrist when it comes to scooping!) and can be flavoured any way you like it.
Since the weather’s been a bit… autumnal, I added some marshmallow fluff and toasted marshmallows to mine to make this Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream – which I bet would be absolutely awesome served up between two cookies as a kind of Smores Ice Cream Sarnie. Yum! 😉
Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream
600ml double cream
400ml sweetened, condensed milk
100g marshmallow fluff
200g large marshmallows (plus a few more to serve!)
This recipe is so easy, it’s practically criminal. To make the ice cream base – grab a mixing bowl and whip up your double cream (whip it good) until it’s nice and thick and forming stiff peaks (if the cream becomes foamy and starts to separate then you’ve whipped too much!).
Pour in the marshmallow fluff and condensed milk and whip until everything’s combined.
Next, toast your marshmallows. It’s completely up to you how you do it; you can either pop them in the oven under the grill until they start to brown and bubble, or you can (carefully!) scorch them with a blow torch. Set them aside for a few minutes to cool down – then mix them into your ice cream!
Pour the ice cream into tubs, then freeze for at least five hours. Serve up in cones, or between a couple of cookies (yum!) or over grilled peaches with a couple of scorched marshmallows and toasted nuts on top. 🙂
I’m not the biggest fan of Rosé (no way, Rosé!). It’s way too close to white wine and I haven’t drunk that stuff since my twenty-first birthday (DON’T ASK). But, when it’s sweetened with some fresh strawberries, syrup, a little lemonade and slushed? Strawberry Frosé. Now that, I can definitely get on board with. It’s like an adult Slush Puppy (remember those?) – minus the blue tongue – and would be perfect served up at a barbecue or summery wedding. The base recipe is also super-adaptable; if you’re not a fan of strawberries then swap them out for raspberries or peaches – yum! And, the best thing? They’re really easy to make – especially if you prep the night before. All you need is a strong-bladed blender and you’re good to go. 🙂
One bottle of Rosé
250g punnet of strawberries, chopped with stalks removed
100g caster sugar
200ml cloudy lemonade
There are two ways to do the first step. You can either faff around dissolving the sugar on the hob with the lemonade and then add the strawberries to infuse and then seive the liquid into the Rosé… or, you can just take the easy route and blitz the whole lot in a blender until it’s nice and smooth and the sugar has dissolved. You do you.
Next, pour the frosé mix into ice cube trays and freeze overnight.
When you’re ready to serve, blitz the ice cubes in the blender until you get candy floss pink slush. Pour into glasses and garnish with a fresh strawberry. Cheers! 😉