It is high summer, July produce is tempting juicy cherries, lush strawberries and pretty sprigs of red currants are perfect for summer pudding or making into a light fruit salad. Vegetable markets come into their own with heaps of runner and French beans, cucumbers and fennel. Eating with the seasons means more money in your pocket and better tasting ingredients on your plate. So here's what is in season this July.
Something to curb the thirst… 2 Quenching Punch Recipes
Tropical Fruit Punch
Here is a delicious punch that you can alter or add to as the mood strikes. Garnish your cups with paper umbrellas or funny straws.
1 liter water
1 cup superfine sugar
1 liter cranberry juice
2 cups orange juice
Juice of one lemon
Melon balls and thinly sliced orange, lemon and lime rounds
1 liter sparkling water or ginger ale
2 cups sherbet or cracked ice
Heat the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Chill. Pour the sugar syrup, juices and fruit into a large bowl. Just before serving, add the sparkling water or ginger ale and the sherbet or ice. Pour into cups and garnish with paper umbrellas stuck into pieces of fruit or with decorated straws. (Makes about 3 1/2 liters)
If you wake up, for instance, in the middle of the night feeling a little hungry for what you call sugar cravings for maybe a quick dessert, then get these handy ingredients and hang on for just about 15 minutes to make them.
Sun Tea Punch
Here is an iced tea that is just right for kids and adults. It gets its zip from fruit slices and fresh mint, not caffeine.
6 to 8 bags of decaffeinated tea
2 liter water
4 oranges, 3 juiced and 1 sliced
8 lemons, 7 juiced and 1 sliced
1/3 cup honey
½ bunch of mint
Combine the tea bags and water in a large glass jar and let them steep in the sun for 3 or more hours. Remove the tea bags. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Pour into tall, ice-filled glasses. Serves 10.
Fennel and apple soup with fennel seed toast
Raw, braised or roasted, fennel is flavorsome and versatile. Meet your new best frond.
Warm up from the inside with a substantial fennel soup with flavors of aniseed and apple.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 (about 900g) fennel bulbs, fronds reserved, coarsely chopped
2 green apples, peeled, coarsely chopped
1.25 liter (5 cups) chicken stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
1/2 small French bread stick (baguette), cut into 12 thin slices
Double cream, to serve
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, fennel and apple. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until the apple starts to soften. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Blend half the fennel mixture in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a clean saucepan. Repeat with remaining fennel mixture. Cook the soup over medium heat for 2 minutes or until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200°C. Combine extra virgin olive oil, fennel seeds, oregano and lemon rind in a small bowl. Place bread on a baking tray and brush with oil mixture. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Divide soup among serving bowls. Top with cream and reserved fennel fronds. serve with fennel seed toast.
This casual assembly of eggs, ricotta and char grilled vegetables makes an extraordinary weekend brunch.
1 large eggplant
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped, plus extra leaves to garnish
200g fresh low-fat ricotta
6 baby roma tomatoes, halved
2 small Lebanese cucumbers, halved lengthways
1/2 cup (about 80g) mixed olives
1 tablespoon zaatar or sumac
100g reduced-fat feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Preheat a char grill pan or barbecue grill to medium-high heat. Cut the eggplant lengthways into 8 thin slices, then lightly brush each side with olive oil. Grill for 2 minutes on each side or until charred. Set aside to cool slightly. Stir the chopped mint into the ricotta until well combined, then season well. When eggplant is cooled but still soft, spread a heaped tablespoon of ricotta mixture at the end of 1 slice and roll up to enclose. Continue with remaining eggplant and ricotta mixture. Set aside.
Place the eggs in a pan, cover with hot water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5-6 minutes for soft-boiled, then remove and plunge into iced water. Peel, then halve. To serve, divide the eggplant rolls, eggs, tomatoes, cucumber and olives among serving plates. Sprinkle the eggs with zaatar or sumac. Crumble over feta and drizzle with honey. Garnish with extra mint leaves and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.