The blackcurrants are closer to a washed out wine stain, than inky black but Midsummer has been reached in the garden. The fruits are particularly large, and will need a good cooking down to extract the most of that peculiar musky but wonderful flavour.
A jam making session mid-week with the wonderful Vivien Llloyd paired the fruit with chocolate habanero chilli, which provides a warming punch which cuts the musky flavour wonderfully. I don’t usually endorse books, but her volume “First Preserves” should be on everyone’s shelf, spattered and sticky with jam stains.
Currants grown in terracotta pots provide the perfect place to grow strawberries – the foliage of the currants providing shade, and the clay warmth to bring on the berries. I also use pails similarly, which studded with rainbow chard bring an attractiveness to the smallest of gardens, with stems of yellow, orange and red against vivid green leaves.
Flash sautéed in butter, and placed on a pancake with soft goats cheese before being rolled and eaten like a hot wrap, it reminds you why you nurture the plants throughout the spring. Eaten with a salad of baby lettuce, pea shoots and equally colourful nasturtium flowers this is probably as close to summer on a plate as can be. The other perfect partner to goats cheese are broad beans, now much bigger than the baby fingernail of just a week or so ago, they are best blanched and their bitter skins slipped off. Tossed with crumbled cheese – the goatier the better – and some hand torn mint, they provide a very decent feast.
My favourite broad bean dish is a little meatier, and prepared just hours ago: the heavy pods split by my thumb nail, just like a Kit-Kat of old, to reveal plump beans resting on vegetal white ermine. It is a time consuming task - but not a unhappy one - best done with R4 burbling away as aural wallpaper and with something cold, junipery and clinking with ice in the other hand.
Broad Beans love things piggy like a heroine seeks her Prince in a Barbara Cartland novel. With dry cured smoked bacon gently puttering in the pan the added diced shallots turned golden as the beans tumbled in. It needed nothing more than some torn lemon thyme, and a heavy-hand-with-the-cream to let everything marry in the pan. Slowly, the sauce thickened to a white sticky-smoky-coating, and a brilliantly simple supper became a feast; not even making a serving dish, but eaten hungrily from the pan.