What to grow, sow and cook right now as August draws to a close

As we continue our Year in Flavour series, KATE RYAN of Flavour.ie tells us what to grow, sow and cook right now 
What to grow, sow and cook right now as August draws to a close

Broad Bean Masala Picture: Kate Ryan

AUGUST is an exquisite time of year for food. The choice is seemingly endless as we revel in that marvellous point in time when the best of summer produce is thriving, and autumn crops arrive too.

Tomatoes are ripening, blackcurrants are at their peak, figs and blackberries are appearing now too.

Beans and peas of all kinds should be flourishing towards their apex; herbs are ready for collecting and drying for winter stores — and then, there is sweetcorn!

Like all my favourite veg, sweetcorn is incredibly versatile. I have included two sweetcorn recipes I love, but I could have listed at least ten ways on how I love to cook it, including a luscious chowder made with a base of summer potatoes and celery, steamed langoustine tails, fresh crab, with a gentle sprinkling of smoky paprika to finish things off. Divine!

Blackcurrants are a fruit I had to learn to fall back in love with. 

As a child, we grew them and they fruited prolifically, and it was my job to pick them. We ate them unsweetened, but their natural sour tartness does require a generous hand with the sugar bowl, and of course now, in charge of my own kitchen, this is exactly what I do!

In the garden, there is the sense that things are starting to gently sigh towards autumn. It has been a challenging growing year, and for sure timings are out of kilter. Only now have my runner beans begun to set from flower to fruit, and after much tending I am happy to see the miniature beans appear, looking like little green Saracen daggers.

I have spent most of August in an epic war with caterpillars, which isn’t helping matters. I’m sure I have divested my garden of hundreds of them, but they keep coming. It is somewhat of a mystery because, of all the pollinators that have visited my garden this year, butterflies were notably absent — or so I thought, anyway!

As I write this, in my neck of the woods, brambleberries (or blackberries) are not yet ripe. The rain is certainly helping them grow and swell, but we do need a burst of late August sunshine to help them colour and sweeten.

If the birds haven’t stripped the elder shrubs of berries, this is also the time of year to collect them and turn them into a syrup for the winter.

And all around there is the wild herb, Yarrow, growing in the hedgerows, and chamomile too; both with calming and healing properties — just the thing as we ease out of one season and into the other…

GROW IT YOURSELF

Where to start! August is a busy time of year for gardeners as we work to harvest crops for eating fresh, herbs for drying, preserving gluts, and planting for winter crops too.

One of my favourite spiced dishes is a Muttar Masala, a heady vegetarian curry made with peas. It takes some time as you need to make the curry paste, lavishly redolent with cashew nuts, black cardamom and mint among many other things, at least two days before cooking the curry itself. This leaves time for all the flavours to marry together and develop.

I substituted peas for broad beans instead having a little glut at the time. The swap worked perfectly!

The last of my peas I kept for a kind of Garden Guacamole, using my own grown scallions too, goats’ cheese and chilli. See the recipe below.

In the garden, I am starting to collect herbs for drying. This is so simple to do, just cut lengths of herbs, tie together with string and hang upside down in a cool, dry and airy place to slowly dry out.

This preserves all the flavour of the herb as it dries, then simply run your fingers down the stem of the herb from bottom to top to remove all the leaves. Store in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

If you are growing fennel, allow some of it to bolt and flower. Clip off the flower heads and dry flat on a drying rack. After a few days, shake the yellow fennel pollen from the flowers and collect it. Mix it up with a good quality salt to make a fantastic fennel pollen salt — great for seasoning fish or pork with.

If you’re having a great tomato season, try my method for Oven Roasted Herbed Tomatoes below.

I’m having a much better time this year with my beetroot. I pulled the first few to make a delicious Chilli Beetroot and Cashew Dip that I took to a picnic with my fellow Postgrad Diploma friends at the Doneraile Estate to celebrate our graduation, with homemade flatbreads. The perfect picnic food with friends!

SHOP FOR IT

Summer spuds, like Queens, are back in action again! The most enjoyable way to eat great quality, fresh Irish potatoes is steamed in their skins, served lashed in butter with chopped scallions and a little dusting of sumac. Sumac is a spice most associated with Mediterranean cuisine, but it can grow in Ireland too. The little red flecks deliver an intense lemon citrus burst of flavour. I love it, and it works particularly well with potatoes!

Fresh blackcurrants are difficult to find in most supermarkets; but small growers and culinary stores do get them in stock for a very short time, so make the most of them. As a child, there used to be so many fruits, we were kept in blackcurrant jam all year round, and we would be kept in blackcurrant pies and crumbles all year round from stores kept in the deep freeze.

A bowl of Figs Picture: Kate Ryan
A bowl of Figs Picture: Kate Ryan

But what about a summer pudding? Redcurrants are also in season now and are the perfect pairing for this classic pudding. Or try my Blackcurrant and Lemon Verbena Ripple Mousse for something a little different, but no less indulgent! See recipe below.

Keeping things fruity, figs are the fruit to look out for over the next couple of months. I adore these fruits, I grew up eating them, and learned to find lots of different way to appreciate their flavour. Try my Fig, Ricotta and Honey Tart, recipe below.

I’ve already waxed lyrical about my love for sweetcorn, which come into season now. 

What I love about sweetcorn is that it can be eaten as humbly and deliciously as corn on the cob, or easily elevated to a taste of luxury. 

It goes particularly well with shellfish, especially lobster.

I like to steam the sweetcorn until tender, then remove the kernels and toss them in a mixture of lime juice, salt and olive oil, before mixing through some chunks of cooked lobster. Of course, langoustine, prawn or crab toes can be substituted. Or pair it with bounty from your own garden, by making my Charred Sweetcorn Salsa, recipe below.

Garden Guacamole with Homemade Tortilla Chips. Picture: Kate Ryan
Garden Guacamole with Homemade Tortilla Chips. Picture: Kate Ryan

COOK IT

Garden Guacamole

Substituting the very non-Irish avocado for the very Irish garden pea! This went down very well served with homemade tortilla chips. Best to blanch the peas for two minutes to aid with blending.

Ingredients

125g fresh peas, blanched

1 tbsp mild goat’s cheese

Handful of fresh coriander herb

1 red chilli, deseeded

Juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

Method:

  • Put the peas, cheese, coriander leaves, and lemon into a blender and blitz until combined. Then blitz again slowly adding the olive oil until you have a rich,creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Oven Roasted Herbed Tomatoes

If, like me, you find that all the tomatoes ripen at the same time, it can be hard to decide how to eat them all. This is a great solution for dealing with the glut, and if stored in an airtight container in the fridge will keep for up to two weeks. We love eating this as a divine bruschetta topping.

Ingredients

Enough tomatoes, cut in half, to fill a single layer in a baking tray

4 garlic cloves, bashed, still in their skins

Mixed fresh herbs, chopped (any of tarragon, parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, or rosemary)

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

Method:

  • Heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with parchment, slice tomatoes in half and place cut side up, and place around the garlic cloves.
  • In a bowl mix together herbs, then add the sea salt and pepper.
  • Generously drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and then sprinkle over the herb mix all over the tomatoes. Roast in the oven until slightly burnished, jammy, but still holding their shape.

Blackcurrant and Lemon Verbena Ripple Mousse

The sweet and tart of blackcurrants is balanced out here with the light but creamy mousse. Lemon verbena herb lifts everything. Substitute for lemon zest if you can’t source lemon verbena.

Ingredients

For the compote

200 ml water

150 g white sugar

350 g blackcurrant

4 sprigs of lemon verbena

For the mousse

250 g double cream

3 medium egg whites

Method:

  • Into a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium-low heat, add water, sugar, and lemon verbena sprigs, stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add the blackcurrants and cook for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully remove the sprigs of lemon verbena with tongs (it’ll be very hot!) Allow the compote to cool fully before making the mousse mix.
  • When cooled, in one bowl whip the cream and in the other whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak.
  • Take one spoonful of egg white and fold into the cream gently. Repeat until all the egg white has been folded into the cream. Do this all as gently as possible so as not to lose any of the air out of the mix.
  • Swirl two generous tablespoons of the compote into the mousse mix and very gently stir through so the compote ripples through the mousse.
  • Into a serving glass, place an amount of compote in the bottom, followed by some of the mousse mixture and top with another spoon of the compote. Garnish with a sprig of fresh lemon verbena.
Fig Ricotta and Honey Tart. Picture: Kate Ryan
Fig Ricotta and Honey Tart. Picture: Kate Ryan

Fig, Ricotta and Honey Tart

I used a rectangular pie dish for this but use whatever you have. I save time by using a good quality ready made puff pastry and pre-bake while you make the filling.

Ingredients

Ready-made puff pastry

6 ripe figs (the more ripe the better)

50g caster sugar

4 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

100g Greek-style natural yogurt

400g Macroom Buffalo Rictotta

4 tbsp honey

Method:

  • Blind bake the pastry case as per instructions.
  • In a bowl, add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla bean paste. Whisk together until blended.
  • Add the yogurt and whisk again. Then add the ricotta and half the honey. Whisk until fully combined. Set aside.
  • Slice the figs – in half or thin slices, it’s up to you!
  • When the pastry is baked, remove from the oven and fill with the ricotta mix. Place half of the figs into the pie filling. Return to the oven and bake for half an hour.
  • Remove from the oven, and garnish with the remaining fresh figs and drizzle over the rest of the honey.
Charred Sweetcorn Salsa. Picture: Kate Ryan
Charred Sweetcorn Salsa. Picture: Kate Ryan

Charred Sweetcorn Salsa

This salsa is great as an accompanied to any grilled meats or fish.

Ingredients

1 fresh sweetcorn on the cob

2 or 3 ripe tomatoes, of any variety/colour

1 scallion, sliced thinly on the round

½ red chilli, with seeds

Juice of ½ lime

Olive oil

Salt

Fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Method:

  • Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Place in the sweetcorn and cook for 10-15 minutes until tender and the kernels are bright yellow. Drain the water and dry the cob.
  • Using a BBQ, or, if you have a gas hob, char the sweetcorn all over. If you are cooking on electric, place a heavy bottom frying pan over a medium high heat, add the sweetcorn and allow to char in a dry pan turning occasionally.
  • Set the sweetcorn aside to cool. Meanwhile chop up the tomatoes, scallion, and red chilli and place in a bowl. Then, take the sweetcorn and stand it up on one end. Carefully run a sharp knife down the long side of the cob to remove all the kernels. Turn the cob and repeat.
  • Place the charred sweetcorn kernels into the tomato mix, add lemon juice, olive oil, generous pinch of sea salt and coriander, and mix thoroughly to combine.

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