Uprooted: Take it outside for the last days of summer

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It’s a well-documented myth that if the last days of summer aren’t spoken about at all, they simply won’t arrive. When there are no whisperings of the dreadfully taboo word winter and zero fearful utterings of the clocks going back then it just can’t be possible for days to get shorter and the weather chillier.

In spite of all this wishful thinking, the last days of summer are on their way. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Think of this period as an extended golden hour, where outside the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, and everything looks radiantly beautiful. It’s a unique time of year, not least for the food – when it comes to fresh produce and seasonal delights, it doesn’t get much better than September. Here we show you how to create the perfect set-up outside to enjoy the Indian summer, with the help of true foodies: Alexandra Dudley, a ‘serial dinner party host’ and Manon Lagreve, a star baker and quarter finalist on the Great British Bake Off.

The Setting

It’s a little late in the year for a picnic – by the late afternoon the grass is sure to be a little dewy – but this provides the perfect excuse for creating a sophisticated look instead. A true Indian summer means guaranteed sunshine, but there’s no harm in preparing for the worst anyway and brightening your table with colourful crockery – our patterned Herrinko Collection fits the bill perfectly. As Manon says, “summer lunch equals sharing plates, dips and easily transportable food,” and we couldn’t agree more – make hosting easier with beautiful serving accessories, like trays, jugs and cutlery carriers, that double up as decorative items.

If you’re planning an affair which could easily escalate from lunch until dinner, ensure you’re prepared for the sun setting a bit earlier with plenty of ambient lighting – it’s this time of year when lanterns and candle holders come into their own. Incorporate some luxurious throws for warmth, and you’ll be set for hours to come.

The Menu

From the environmental benefits to its cost-effective nature, there are plenty of positives to eating seasonally. Fruit and vegetables in season are more flavoursome, retain more nutrients and are much less likely to be covered in pesticides or chemicals to keep them fresh. In the wise words of Alexandra, “the beauty of summer is that her ingredients are bountiful and need little fuss.”

In September, you can go wild with blackberries, artichokes, courgettes, cucumber, apricots, tomatoes, pears, plums… the list goes on, but you will be safe in the knowledge that they’ll all be delicious. Alexandra and Manon have each crafted some creative recipes – featuring plenty of these seasonal ingredients – that allow you to spend more time outside and less time in the kitchen (and are ideal for simple sharing).

Apricot and Rosemary Simple Focaccia, by Manon

“Focaccia is probably the quickest and easiest bread to make. This version combines the herb of summertime with sweet and tangy apricots, served with fresh goat’s cheese.”

Globe Artichoke With Saffron Mayonnaise, by Alexandra

“A good dipping sauce is key for dipping the leaves and I adore the silkiness of a homemade mayonnaise. The addition of saffron gives it a little more thrill and makes for an even more delicious reward when you reach the heart of the artichoke.

Blackberry Amaretti Tea Cake, by Alexandra

“Blackberry and almond make a beautiful pairing and this cake has a good hit of both. The fragrant amaretti give a wonderful almond flavour and an added layer of crunch to the cake.”

The Recipes

Apricot and Rosemary Simple Focaccia

For one rectangular focaccia.

Preparation: 2 hours 10 minutes

Bake: 20 minutes

Difficulty: 2/5

Ingredients:

For the dough

  • 500g of plain flour
  • 9g quick yeast (or 20g fresh yeast)
  • 400ml warm water
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 100g olive oil

To Garnish

  • Fresh rosemary
  • Sea salt
  • Soft dried apricots

Method:

Make the dough: in a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of warm water, caster sugar and dried yeast. In another bowl, add the flour, salt. Make a well and add all the water and all the oil. Mix using your hands until everything is combined.

Cover the dough with a damped towel and let to rise in a warm place for 90 minutes minimum.

Bake: preheat the oven to 220 degrees (fan). Take the dough out of the bowl and place in a greased rectangle tray and spread evenly. Brush with more olive oil, add the apricots (press and push the dough half inside), sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve with soft goat’s cheese.

Globe Artichoke With Saffron Mayonnaise (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 4 globe artichokes, stems removed
  • A good pinch of saffron
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 175 ml/3/4 cup canola or sunflower oil, divided

Method:

To make your mayonnaise place your pinch of saffron in a small ramekin or an egg cup and pour over roughly 2 tablespoons of boiling water from the kettle. Allow it to infuse and cool completely. Combine the egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium sized bowl. Whisk until blended and bright yellow.

Very slowly, adding just a teaspoon at a time whilst whisking constantly, add a third of the oil to yolk mixture. Work patiently for about five minutes adding teaspoon by teaspoon.

Next add the remaining oil in very slow thin stream, whisking constantly, until the mayonnaise is thick. This takes about 8 minutes. Gradually whisk in the saffron liquid until it is bright and golden.

Cover and chill until you are ready to serve. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.

To prepare the artichokes pull off any very tough outer leaves and using a sharp knife remove about a quarter of the top of each artichoke. Snip trim any remaining thorny leaves using scissors. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and place your artichokes inside stem side up. Cover with a lid and reduce to a simmer. Cook for roughly 25-35 minutes until the inner leaves can be pulled away with relative ease and the heart is tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

Serve warm or at room temperature alongside the saffron mayonnaise.

Blackberry Amaretti Tea Cake

Ingredients:

  • 175g/6.2oz butter, soft
  • 175g/6.2oz caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 140g/5oz spelt flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 90g/3.2oz ground almonds
  • 125g/4.4oz amaretti biscuits
  • 200g/7oz fresh blackberries
  • Icing sugar to serve

Method:

Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F fan setting. Grease and line an 8 inch loose bottomed round cake tin.

Place the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and almonds into a large bowl and beat using an electric hand-held whisk until light and fluffy.

Spread half the mixture in the tin. Crush over half the amaretti biscuits followed by a third of the blackberries. Press lightly into the mixture.

Spoon over the remaining mixture and spread evenly. Crush over the remaining amaretti biscuits and sprinkle over the remaining blackberries.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until a skewer or sharp knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Check after 35 mins to ensure the cake is not over browning. If so cover lightly with foil.

Cool for 10 minutes in the tin before running a knife around the edge and removing it from tin. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Before serving dust with icing sugar.

Enjoy!

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Topics: entertaining