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Summer warmth (hopefully) brings everything on apace in the garden. As we progress through June to July and August, gluts are likely, and even if you don't have a garden, British-grown veg should be in abundance in the shops. So, lots to choose from. Time to make some chilled soups – lovely and refreshing in the summer!


A wonderful vivid soup that can be served chilled or hot, with a swirl of sour cream or yogurt. Forget any preconceptions about beetroot – this is delicious!

cook 40 minutes + chilling

serves 4

Image by Emma-Jane Hobden


1 good-sized onion

1 small potato

450g raw beetroot

25g butter or margarine

1.2 litres of vegetable or beef stock (2 Knorr stock pots + water)

3 tbsp (45ml) cider vinegar

Ground nutmeg to taste

Salt and pepper


A handful of chopped parsley

A small pot of sour cream or natural yoghurt


You may want to protect your hands from staining when handling the beetroot, but I don't bother; it washes off with some scrubbing!

Peel the beetroots with a potato peeler and chop all the vegetables.

Melt the butter/margarine and sauté the onion until transparent stirring it around a bit. Add the potato, beetroot and stock.

Bring up to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer for half an hour. Allow to cool a little before blending/liquidizing. 

Add the cider vinegar, salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste and either reheat or cool thoroughly before chilling in the fridge.


Before serving, divide into individual bowls, swirl in a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream or yoghurt, and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

Fresh Mackerel Two Ways

Mackerel is cheap, rich in omega 3, so health-promoting, and plentiful off the British coast, especially in the summer.


It tastes great when cooked with something sharp to counteract the richness, but the mackerel MUST be fresh. That means they must be firm, not at all floppy, the skin a shiny iridescent colour and the eye of the fish bright.


If you go to Devon or Cornwall on holiday, you might be able to get mackerel straight off the boat or catch it yourself!

If you don't like your fish with bones or look like a fish (head on!), ask the fishmonger to fillet them for you.

Image by Ben Wicks

Grilled Mackerel with Gooseberry Sauce


1 mackerel per person 

Salt, pepper, a little oil

Gooseberry sauce for 4 people

450g gooseberries

15g butter

1 ½ tbsp sugar

Finely grated zest and juice of ½ orange

Salt and pepper


Top and tail the gooseberries and put them in a pan with the butter, sugar and orange juice.

Cover and stew gently over low heat until the juices run, then raise the heat and take the lid off; simmer until the fruit collapses, and most of the juice evaporates. 

Add the orange zest and a little salt and pepper. Keep it warm.

Lightly brush the mackerel fillets with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place under a preheated moderate grill. Fillets don't take long to cook, maybe just 6-8 mins. 

Serve with new potatoes sprinkled with parsley and maybe steamed spinach or chard.

Baked Mackerel with Lemon Thyme and Sun-dried Tomatoes.


4 mackerel filleted

2 lemons – juice of

1 heaped tsp thyme leaves

5 tbsp olive oil

6 pieces of sundried tomatoes from a jar or a packet

(a packet of sundried tomatoes dry – not in oil – is cheaper than a jar of them. I buy them from Grape Tree)

16 black olives stoned and sliced (omit them if you don't like olives!)

Chopped fresh herbs to garnish 


Lay the mackerel fillets in a lightly oiled shallow dish in a single layer as soon as you get them home; season with salt and pepper and pour the lemon juice over them. Leave them to marinate in the fridge for 4-8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 190C gas 5. 

If using dry sundried tomatoes (not from a jar with oil), soak them in hot water for 15-20 mins. Drain and cut into thin strips.

Uncover the fish and scatter them with the thyme leaves.

Spoon over the olive oil. 

Bake for 10 mins, then sprinkle over the sundried tomatoes and olives; bake for 5 minutes until the mackerel is cooked through.


This can be eaten hot or cold. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped herbs, e.g., parsley, chives, and chervil.

Courgette and Chard (or spinach) Soup

A lovely soup for summer, especially if you are enjoying a glut of courgettes from your garden!

cook 30 minutes

serves 4

Image by Markus Spiske
corgette sou


1 medium onion

1 large courgette (2 small ones)

1 medium-sized potato

120g chard or spinach

Small bunch of parsley chopped

2 tbsp oil

1.2 litres vegetable stock (1ater & 2 vegetable stock pots)

150ml cream

Fresh sprigs of parsley

Salt and pepper to taste


Chop the vegetables. Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion and courgette until the onion is transparent. 

Add the potato, chard, parsley and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 20 mins.

Allow to cool a little and blend/liquidize. Reheat gently, stir in the cream adjust the seasoning; do not let it boil.


Serve with a little sprig of parsley as garnish.

Summer Vegetable Paella 

The Spanish might not consider this should be called paella, but it does taste great, uses paella rice and is full of lovely summer veg!

Adapted from Plenty - Ottolenghi

cook 60 minutes

serves 4

Image by Annie Spratt


1 large Spanish onion finely chopped

1 large red and 1 large yellow pepper cut into strips

A small fennel bulb (150g) cut into strips

4 garlic cloves crushed

4 bay leaves

½ tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

300g paella rice

150ml white wine or sherry (optional)

1 tsp saffron (optional)

900ml vegetable stock (or 1 litre if omitting wine)

350g shelled broad beans, fresh or frozen

16 - 20 baby plum tomatoes halved

8 -12 slices of grilled artichokes in oil from a jar

20 pitted olives halved

4 tbsp chopped parsley

1 lemon halved and cut into wedges


Heat the oil in a large shallow pan - frying pan, sauté pan or, if you have one, paella pan. Gently fry the onion for about 5 mins, then add the peppers and fennel. Stir everything around, cooking until soft and golden, about 8 mins, and then add the garlic, cooking for another minute.

Add the bay leaves, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne to the vegetables and stir well.

Now add the rice and stir well for a couple of minutes. If using the wine/sherry and saffron, add it now, allowing it to boil down for a minute, and then add the stock and ½ teaspoon salt.  

Reduce the heat to the minimum so it simmers gently for about 20 mins until nearly all the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Do not cover the pan or stir the rice while cooking.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to a boil and add the broad beans for about 2 mins. Drain well and allow to cool.

Once the rice is cooked, taste it to check if it needs more salt, but it doesn't disturb the paella much. Remove from the heat, scatter the tomatoes, artichokes, and broad beans over the rice and cover the pan tightly with some foil or a lid. Leave for 10 mins.

Finally, scatter the olives and parsley over everything and serve with lemon wedges.

Summer Pudding

It's summer – it's time for Summer Pudding! So simple and so delicious with some thick cream or crème fraiche. This recipe needs a 1 ½ pint (850ml) pudding basin and will probably feed 6 people. 

cook 8 minutes

serves 6

Image by Zoe Schaeffer
summer pud


450g raspberries

225g redcurrants

120g black currants

150g caster sugar

7-8 medium slices of white bread from a large loaf

Cream to serve


Lightly butter the pudding basin and line it with the bread, overlapping the pieces and sealing them by pressing the edges together. Fill gaps with smaller pieces of bread and keep a piece for the top of the pudding.

If you've picked the fruit from your garden/allotment, strip the currants from their stalks. You may also need to wash them and remove any musty raspberries. 

Place all the fruit in a large saucepan with the sugar over medium heat and let them cook for about 3 – 5 mins until the sugar has melted and the juices begin to run - don't overcook. Remove from the heat.

Pour the fruit into the pudding basin, keeping a cupful of the juice to one side. Cover the pudding with another slice of bread. Find a small saucer or plate that will fit inside the top of the basin and put something very heavy – 1.5kg-2kg on top of that. Put the whole thing in the fridge overnight. 

When you want to serve it, turn it into a serving dish. Use the reserved juice to ensure no white bits of bread are still showing; cut into slices and serve with cream. The quintessential taste of English summer….hmmm!


This is an excellent remedy for a hot sultry day – deliciously refreshing. Tomatoes should be sweet and ripe, bursting with flavour.

20 minutes + chill

serves 4

Tomato Soup


3 garlic cloves

1kg sweet tomatoes halved

1 green pepper, seeded, cored and sliced

¾ cucumber peeled and sliced

2 rounded tablespoons of finely grated onion

2 handfuls of slightly stale white bread, crusts removed, roughly crumbled

3 tbs good quality red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

4 tbsp olive oil

Salt and black pepper


Crush the garlic in a mortar and pestle with a good pinch of salt until you have a smooth paste. 

Using a blender or food processor, puree all the vegetables and the bread until smooth. I had to do this in batches as there was a lot of veg, but you need a uniformly mixed and blended puree in the end. 

The soup is then seasoned with garlic, vinegar, oil, salt and black pepper.

Put the whole thing in the fridge to chill for 2 hours. Check the balance of the seasoning before serving.

stuffed courgette

Stuffed Courgettes

Courgettes, peppers, tomatoes, aubergines – lots of things can be stuffed! A glut of courgettes from the garden makes them my preferred vehicle for the stuffing. Best to blanch them in boiling water for 5-10 mins first.

This recipe can either be made with pork sausage meat or cheese

cook 90 minutes

serves 4-6

Image by helena munoz


4-6 medium courgettes

50g butter/margarine

175g chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic chopped finely

350g skinned sausages or 230g cheese grated 

120g breadcrumbs

6-8 tbsp milk

1 heaped tbsp of chopped parsley

¼ tsp of dried thyme

¼ tsp dried marjoram or oregano

Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 190C Gas 5.

Melt the butter/margarine in a frying pan, add the onion and half the garlic and fry gently until the onion begins to brown. 

Having blanched the courgettes, split them in half, scoop out the pulp from the centre of the courgettes, and add to the onion. Allow it to cook down until most of the moisture has evaporated. 

Break up the sausage meat with a fork as you add it to the pan so it separates into little bits. Cook it lightly until it loses its raw appearance.  

In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with enough milk to make them a crumbly paste.

If you omit the sausage meat and use cheese instead, add the cheese to the breadcrumbs, mixing them together and using the milk as above.

Now stir the contents of the frying pan into the breadcrumbs, then the herbs, seasoning and remaining garlic.

Use the mixture to fill the courgette halves.

Place the filled courgettes in a lightly buttered dish or tin. Drizzle a little oil over them and bake in the oven for approx. 40 mins. How long they will need in the oven depends on the size of the courgettes – if they are bigger, they may need longer.


Enjoy with some runner or French beans and new potatoes. 

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