After a sad and surreal week, returning to the nest is always the ticket. A mother’s love always makes things better, along with a shared punnet of juicy strawberries and her saying I ‘deserved a night off’ and could go and relax instead of helping her clear up after dinner. She knows the way to my heart.
With the sun shining and birds singing the world is suddenly in Technicolor. In the garden vividly purple flowers, which I didn’t know we had, wave lazily and the tendrils of the honeysuckle bush dance as cooling gust of breeze wafts across the lawn. Sitting outside to write this is a rare treat as during the winter the garden is a hostile, cold entity of patched brittle grass and a forlorn apple tree with bare branches scratching the sky. Today, however, it’s as if I’m wearing a camera filter as glasses; the garden in thrumming with heat and colour, and my skin is gaining its limited dose of Vitamin D as its pasty tone blindingly reflects the sunlight.
Being back home automatically induces a torpor which saw me fall asleep for half an hour on the sofa yesterday afternoon. This lethargy is a treat as was our detour for ice creams. Stopping off in the local town, my mum and I wandered through the thrum of heat to the ice cream shop. Once again I was her little girl being bought an ice cream cone on a hot day. The selection was impressive; apart from the usual vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, there was rhubarb and custard, apricot and mango, honeycomb, and Morello cherry. Set on my choice, the serving lady then introduced a curve-ball to the mix – vanilla with stem ginger. My eyes lit up and my mum bought me a cone, first insisting I take a napkin too, and I slurped away contentedly as we roamed along the river. The smooth vanilla had a gentle warmth of ginger and a frequent bite of a chewy peppery cluster. I demolished that cone.
Earlier this week, my day off saw me opening the fridge (a regular habit of mine) to plan dinner. Seeing we had two open packets of smokey bacon I quickly settled on macaroni cheese with bacon, before my mind started wandering and I came across a Jamie Oliver recipe for mozzarella and bacon kebabs. My pulse quickened, my mouth watered and I dashed out to Sainsbury’s for the ingredients to make myself this spontaneous mid-day snack. Using up ingredients in the fridge always requires me to buy more. The mozzarella and bacon was tossed in a bowl with chunks of soft roll, and marinated with lemon zest, garlic, rosemary, and some dill I found in the fridge. Speared onto kebab sticks I thrust them under the grill, filling the kitchen with smoke, until the bread was golden and crisp, the bacon cooked through, and the mozzarella drippy. Drizzled with a dressing of chopped Kalamata olives, lemon juice, dill and salt, the stodgy indulgence of this equivalent to a cheese and ham toasty on a stick became summery, sloppy and fresh, zesty and piquant. Managing to poke myself in the cheek with the kebab sticks more than once in my eagerness to eat, I ate five on the trot with no regrets.
This summery lunchtime requires one more treat. We don’t get to indulge in ice cream often here in the UK thanks to our traditionally cold summers so let’s make the most of it. A delicious British dessert, the Eton mess, made into a quick ice cream with meringue shards, fresh strawberries, and another thrill, but entirely necessary, flakes of chocolate.
Eton Mess Ice Cream Sundae
Adapted From Leon Fast Suppers
1 tub of vanilla ice cream – any will do but don’t break the bank
1 punnet of strawberries
2 or 3 meringue nests, depending on size – I bought mine, yes I am ashamed but also life is short!
2 flaked chocolate bars
- Scoop out the ice cream into a container you can put in the freezer and leave to soften for a couple of minutes. Churn around with a spoon before crushing meringue over the ice cream. Make sure you have a couple of big gnarly chunks. Gently fold the ice cream over the meringue – it needs to be soft enough to not crush the meringue pieces. Break up a flake chocolate bar and scatter over the top – rather like Stracciatella gelato – before covering and storing in the freezer until firm.
- Chop a large handful of strawberries in half and toss into a pan with two tablespoons of sugar – enough to make a sticky syrup. Cook low and slow so the sugar dissolves, the strawberries soften and you’re left with a loose jam with a few large lumps of strawberry still intact. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
- Cut some strawberries in half. Now for plating it up – presentation is not the key, you’re after a big glass of gooey creamy ice cream and that’s it! Fill a sundae glass with a couple of scoops of the re-frozen ice cream. Drizzle with the strawberry sauce, crush some more meringue and scatter over the top and and add the halved fresh strawberries. Layer it in anyway you want, add more chocolate, pour the sauce between the ice cream layers. Go to town on it.