Simple Summer Menu

Summer in London is the best of it - with a sun that skips along the horizon cheating the night of time; people, mood and energy swell. Anything insulated is banished, sandals are extricated from places long forgotten and we all reacquaint ourselves with sunglasses.

To an Australian, especially a coastal native, this series of events was like coming home - never had I lived so long without double digits on the thermometer.

The liberation is swift and widespread and it lends itself to a most endeared past time, that of the afternoon garden party. These aren’t always backyard bound of course merely wherever the grass has dehydrated but they are prolific.

In a way it almost becomes frenzied - the travelling of meal times during summer. I suppose because there’s a subconscious yet collective knowledge that time is borrowed and if you don’t submit to the outdoor migration you’ll have more months to regret it than you do to enjoy it. Of course why anyone would resist is another question entirely.

In London even closeted gardens are prone to ramble under steady sunshine and there isn’t much better than tucking yourself into a green corner for a moment - none more so than when in attendance of a table. Yes, the seasonal garden party is requisite.

Now the term garden party to me, comes with connotations of canapes, starched linens and a guest list, but I’m not the kind for crowd, so this menu is one for intimacy. It’s also exceptionally simple, because let’s face it, summer and laboriousness don’t make good bedfellows.

Personally, I gathered just three for a still yet affectionate afternoon - memories forever suspended in the cotton candy that is a London summer.

Simple Summer Menu

Serves 4 / Quick to Prepare

Lentils w. Tarragon & Lemon vinaigrette

240g / 1 cup of puy lentils, uncooked

150g of asparagus, stems trimmed

30g of fresh tarragon

60ml of olive oil, plus a dash more for cooking

1 lemon

2 shallots, roughly chopped

1 tbsp of dijon mustard

1 tbsp of honey

To serve boiled eggs and water cress

Salt & black pepper

Begin by preparing your vinaigrette; halve one lemon and place cut side up under a grill for 15 minutes or until it begins to char. Meanwhile, in a small skillet heat a dash of olive oil and sauté the shallot for 5 minutes or until softened. Allow both the lemon and shallot to cool before continuing.

Using a blender or stick mixer, process 15g of the tarragon, the olive oil, shallot, dijon mustard, honey and lemon flesh (once cooked you’ll be able to squeeze it easily from the skin). Season to taste.

To prepare the salad; bring 750ml of salted water to boil over medium heat, add the lentils and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Toward the end you’ll want to keep a close eye on the lentils, ideally they’ll still have a slight bite and if you leave them too long they’ll turn mushy quite quickly. Drain and rinse.

Meanwhile, char the asparagus on a griddle plan for around 5 minutes or until it becomes bright & tender. Cut the stems into thirds & combine it with the lentils & vinaigrette in a large serving bowl. Serve with the eggs, leftover tarragon & water cress.

Whipped Goats Cheese w. Balsamic Strawberries & Dukkah

150g of goats cheese

100g of cream cheese

45ml / 3 tbsp of maple syrup

15ml / 1 tbsp of lemon juice

150g of strawberries

30ml / 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

To serve; dukkah (find a recipe here)

Begin by preparing the strawberries; wash, remove the green tops and halve. Place in a small roasting tray lined with parchment paper and coat with the balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup Roast for 15 mins at 160 degrees celsius or until soft and aromatic. Set aside to cool.

Using a hand held mixer combine the goats cheese, cream cheese, remaining maple syrup and lemon juice. It won’t get super aerated but it will become smooth and creamy. To serve; spread over a plate and then top with the strawberries and a handful of dukkah.

Cucumber w. lime & Mint

150g of cucumber (a soft skin variety is best)

30ml of lime juice

15ml of white wine vinegar

1 tbsp of honey

Handful of mint leaves, washed

Salt and pepper to season

Combine the lime juice, vinegar and honey in a small pouring jug. Using a mandolin slice the cucumbers; one lengthways and the other into rounds. Assemble on a serving dish and then top with the dressing and picked mint leaves. Season.