If, like me, you experienced the rollercoaster of emotions of life in lockdown, then read on for some new survival strategies to give you a boost.
PINEAPPLE PICK-ME-UP >>>
This fabulous little cocktail sure does pack a punch. The sunshine colour lifts the spirits, and even if the rum is excluded, it makes a very merry mocktail. I can always remember being told to sniff the base of a pineapple to assess the ripeness before purchasing, but inthese days of social distancing that’s a total ‘no-no’. A sure-fire way that shouldn’t offend anyone is to surreptitiously tug on a spiky leaf; if it comes off easily then your pineapple should be fragrant and sweet. Another top tip for this tipple is to peel your root ginger using the edge of a teaspoon.
2 large sweet pineapples
Root ginger (thumb-sized chunk, peeled)
Viola flowers to decorate (optional)
Peel and core the pineapples and then, if you have a juicer, juice them with the peeled ginger or in my case, whizz up in a blender and then pass through a sieve. The juice can be used immediately or chilled for up to eight hours in the fridge.
To make each cocktail use 50ml of juice and 2-3 tbsp of rum, poured over ice then topped up with soda water and garnished with flowers.
SOURDOUGH FOUGASSE WITH BASIL & HALKIDIKI OLIVES >>
Many of us have been trying new things and challenging ourselves this summer, and judging by the number of cane proving baskets that we have sent nationwide, a lot of people have been mastering sourdough: a delicious bread that’s more digestible for the gut, but needs long, slow proving. I’d spoken to a friend and, after 12 weeks of daily sourdough bread, she mentioned needing a change, so this olive fougasse made use of the dough but provided a different loaf. Plus, the added benefit of using leftovers as bruschetta, topped with goat’s cheese and melted in the oven then slathered with chilli jam.
1 quantity of sourdough: makes 3 x medium fougasse.
1kg flour (750g strong white, 250g Gilchester’s wholemeal flour, 50g of dark rye flour)
Handful of pumpkin seeds
700g warm water mixed with 200g of ripe levain (made from a tablespoon of your sourdough starter and equal quantities of flour and water, which has been left to mature at room temperature until a teaspoon dropped into a glass of water floats)
20g sea salt
1 jar of pitted olives, drained
Fresh basil leaves, pounded with extra-virgin
Mix the initial flours, levain and water by hand in the bowl until no dry bits remain, then leave for 30 minutes before 20g of sea salt (mixed with a small amount of warm water) is squeezed into the dough using fingers. The whole dough will come together
quickly in the bowl with no kneading.
During the bulk fermentation, over four hours, fold the dough every hour. Add the jar of drained Halkidiki pitted olives and
basil on the first folding. When the dough is puffy and light, tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and cut into three.
Roll each third into a ball and leave covered to relax for 20 minutes before each ball is shaped.
After 20 minutes, take each ball and pull the front towards you, then fold it back over onto the dough. Pull each side and finally stretch the back and fold over to close the envelope. Roll the whole thing towards you so the seam is on the bottom then place on a well-floured linen tea towel and flatten it to a 11/2 inch rectangle.
Cover loosely with cling film or another floured tea towel and leave to rise for 2-3 hours.
Preheat your oven to its max setting (240°C) and place a heavy baking tray in to heat up.
Place a roasting tin in the oven filled with some water on the floor of the oven.
Flour a wooden board well and flip or roll a fougasse onto it then slide onto the hot baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Peek in the oven and turn if necessary and bake for another 5 minutes if required.
Remove from the oven and brush with olive oil whilst hot. Repeat with the other two fougasse.
RICH PICKINGS FROM THE GARDEN >>
It’s a joy at this time of year to visit the veg plot and reap the rewards of all your hard labour in spring. Pea tips tossed into the overflowing salad bowl of homegrown leaves. Courgette flowers picked for topping anchovy and gorgonzola focaccia. The first new potatoes, nutty and sweet – dipped in melted butter. Just perfect.
JOBS IN THE GARDEN >>
Now is the perfect time to sow Florence fennel and spinach without the risk of bolting – both bolt as a result of long days, so waiting until after 21 June pays dividends. Keep sowing short rows of salad leaves, radishes and turnips as soon as the leaves of the first sowings are seen and you’ll have fresh supplies until the first frosts. It is worth seeking out a winter salad leaf that will take you into the colder months, as well sowing some chervil and lamb’s lettuce.