So long, summer…

Adios August, month of holidays, half empty offices and, if you’re familiar with Welsh culture, the National Eisteddfod.

Summer’s coming to an end and autumn is definitely in the air but it’s not here just yet. It’s that weird transitional stage when it’s still too warm to wear even a jumper but the shops are full of winter coats and you know that any day now, there’ll be a Christmas tree in the window of Marks and Spencer.

You might feel the same about eating. Unless we have an Indian summer (and there’s every chance that we will), we’ll soon be choosing stodge over salad but it’ll be a while before we get carte blanche to start laying down the winter blubber with pie and mash.

Summer produce is still in abundance and peas, broad beans, sweetcorn, tomatoes and strawberries (just) are still in season. And although the nights are starting to draw in, we can make the most of these sweet and mild flavours while it’s still warm enough to eat lunch in the garden.

Here are two recipes to try if you, like me, are feeling in inter-seasonal limbo: a simple salad with a twist and a summer soup.

Strawberry, avocado and mint salad

One of the many reasons I’ll miss summer is because it means no more strawberries. Out of season, they taste foul and I refuse to buy them, something I’ve ranted about before.

This salad takes about five minutes to put together and makes a lovely and light supper. You can always add boiled potatoes or grains if you want to bulk it up a bit. It also works really well with nectarines if you can’t get hold of strawberries. Don’t worry if you can’t find pomegranate molasses in the shops, but it really is delicious and I got a bottle for around three quid in Waitrose.

Strawberry, avocado and mint salad.jpg
Minty fresh – almost

Serves 2

Ingredients

Half a punnet of strawberries, hulled and sliced in half

2-3 big handfuls of spinach leaves (massage in oil and balsamic)

1 large avocado, sliced

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Half a head of broccoli broken into florets

A handful of flaked almonds (optional)

A few fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional)

Method

Steam the broccoli for 4-5 minutes and allow to cool. Meanwhile, place the spinach leaves in a large bowl and massage with the olive oil and half the balsamic vinegar. Stir in the chickpeas and add the avocado and broccoli. Place the strawberries in a separate bowl and coat with the rest of the balsamic vinegar, then add to the salad. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and the mint, then drizzle over the pomegranate molasses.

 

Courgette, pea and pesto soup

I’ll admit it, I’ve half inched this from the Good Food website. I’ve tinkered with it a bit though and I think my version is better. This is perfect if you have a glut of courgettes to use up. No, I don’t have an allotment but I was a bit over-zealous during my trip to the Riverside Market on Sunday and I bought way too many vegetables.

This is a really easy soup to make. Of course, you can use fresh peas (they’re lovely at the moment) but it’ll take you a bit longer to make. And if you have pesto to hand (remember you’ll need a dairy-free version if you’re vegan), you’ll save even more time.

Courgette, pea and pesto soup.jpg
Those are yellow courgettes in case you’re wondering…

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, sliced

500g courgettes, quartered lengthways and chopped

200g frozen peas

400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 l litre hot vegetable stock

2 big handfuls of kale or spinach, chopped

A squeeze of lemon juice

 

For the pesto

A handful of mixed nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

5-6 basil leaves, roughly chopped

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Cook the garlic for a few seconds, then add the courgettes and cook for 3 minutes until they start to soften. Stir in the peas, the kale or spinach, and the cannellini beans, pour on the hot stock and cook for a further 5 minutes.

If you’re making your own pesto, simply place the nuts, olive oil and basil into a blender, or grind in a pestle and mortar. If you don’t have either, spread the ingredients onto a chopping board and bash with the base of a mug.

Stir the pesto through the soup, squeeze over the lemon juice and season with lots of salt and pepper. Serve on its own or with crusty bread.

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