July and we’re into holiday season, thunder storms, Wimbledon and the Tour de France.

Why does the weather always break just as the schools break up? This year we have had some spectacular, noisy thunder storms, the weather has turned cooler and my shorts are back in the wardrobe! Fingers crossed it warms back up later in the month.

As well as tomatoes and courgettes, raspberries are at their peak this month, along with crab (I must get some), broad beans, green beans and new potatoes. Green beans are a personal favourite, as well as steaming them as a vegetable, I toss them in a salad still warm from the pot.

In June, we had the first Jersey Royal new potatoes, now it’s the turn of the Ayrshire Earlies. Grown in Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland, these are new potatoes, 15 to 70mm in diameter, round or oval in shape with a distinctive earthy, nutty flavour and creamy texture. There are a few different varieties grown, but  Epicure is one of the traditional ones if you can get it. My mother used to toss them in a bit of oatmeal once cooked, they were absolutely delicious with a bit of butter!

Here’s what I have been making in July…

Black cherry clafoutis dusted with caster sugar

Black Cherry Clafoutis

I’ve made clafoutis with all sorts of fruits, but cherries are my favourite!

Serves 4

25g plain flour

2 medium eggs

50g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

Pinch of salt

125ml semi skimmed milk

250g fresh cherries

Butter and flour for dusting the pan

Caster or icing sugar for dusting the top of the clafoutis.

  1. Pre heat the oven to 190C/375F/ Gas5.
  2. Lightly butter a 20cm oven proof frying pan and dust with flour
  3. Mix the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence together, add the flour and salt. Beat well, then add the milk to make a smooth batter.
  4. Pour half the mixture into the bottom of the frying pan, add the cherries and pour over the remaining batter.
  5. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 40 minutes.
  6. Once ready, remove, allow to cool a little, then dust with caster or icing sugar.
  7. Serve with ice cream or cream. Watch out for the cherry stones!
An image of a bowl of Dijon Dressing

Dijon Dressing

This is a useful dressing to have in the cupboard, it goes with almost any salad and also works with steamed vegetables such as new potatoes, carrots, beans and asparagus.

Makes about 150ml

100ml olive, rapeseed, vegetable or sunflower oil

50ml cider or white wine vinegar

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Good pinch of salt

Gind of black pepper

Pinch of caster sugar

  1. Put everything into a 225ml jar with a lid and shake well. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
An image of aubergine grilled with ras en hanout spices and served with quinoa salad

Grilled Ras en Hanout Aubergine with Quinoa Salad

This is a great way to eat aubergine. Soft, but full of flavour with a tasty quinoa salad. Ras en hanout is a Middle Eastern spice mix.

Serves 2

1 med aubergine

2 tsp ras en hanout

1 tbsp olive oil

70g quinoa

70ml water

½ tsp vegetable bouillon

10cm piece cucumber, cubed

12 cherry tomatoes, quartered

16 black olives

Small handful coriander or parsley, chopped

¼ of a bulb of fennel, thinly sliced

  1. Pre heat the grill to high heat, use the middle grilling level.
  2. Rub the aubergine pieces with the oil and sprinkle over the ras en hanout, pressing it into the aubergine to make it stick. Put the aubergine onto a baking sheet and under the grill, turning to brown it on all sides. Remove from the grill and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Put the water, quinoa and vegetable bouillon into a pan with a lid. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins to cook. Allow to sit for 10 mins to absorb any excess moisture.
  4. Stir through the cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives and fennel and herbs. Taste and season with salt & pepper if necessary, divide between 2 bowls.
  5. Serve each bowl topped with 2 quarters of the warm aubergine.
An image of a dish of cauliflower, cashew, black bean & Red Thai Curry

Cauliflower, Cashew & Black Bean Red Thai Curry

I’ve been experimenting with one pan dishes, easy to throw together and delicious to eat. Cauliflower is endlessly versatile and works here with red Thai curry paste for flavour, cashew nuts for crunch and beans for creamy protein.

Serves 4

1 medium cauliflower, cut into large florets

2 handfuls cashew nuts

1 tin of black beans, drained

1 large onion, sliced

3 tbsp red Thai curry paste

2 tbsp oil

1 can coconut milk

  1. Heat the oven to 200c/400F/Gas6
  2. Put the cauliflower florets and sliced onion into a roasting tin, mix the oil with the curry paste and spoon over the cauliflower. Mix everything well with your hands, making sure the paste is pushed into the branches of the florets. Put into the oven and roast for 20 mins.
  3. Remove the cauliflower from the oven, tip over the beans and cashews, pour over the coconut milk. Mix well and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Serve with rice and or salad.
A bowl of roasted aubergine and feta cheese salad

Summer Roast Aubergine & Feta Cheese Salad

I always find aubergine a challenge, my kids are not particularly keen. This got the thumbs up though!

Serves 4

1 large aubergine

2 tbsp oil

½ bulb fennel, finely sliced

200g pack feta cheese

3 tbsp chives, finely chopped

1 tbsp mint leaves, finely shredded

16 cherry tomatoes, halved

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp good olive oil

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6.
  2. Cut the aubergine into 1cm cubes, put into a roasting tin, season with salt & pepper, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil, toss well and roast for 20 – 30 mins, until well browned around the edges, turning half way through.
  3. Crumble the feta cheese into a large salad bowl, add the finely sliced fennel, including any fronds, halved tomatoes, chives, mint, and lemon rind. Toss everything together well and add the lemon juice and olive oil.
  4. Remove the aubergine from the oven, add hot to the salad, tossing well and serve.
An image of a dish of baked salmon fillets on a bed of couscous

Baked Salmon with Couscous

This is a great way to bake any kind of fish. Any juices from the fish trickle into the couscous, making it extra tasty. This dish serves 3 on its own or 4 with a salad

Serves 3 – 4

130g couscous

150g water

½ tsp vegetable bouillon

3 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 tbsp chopped tarragon

1 tbsp chopped coriander

12 black olives, sliced

1 green chilli (optional)

12 cherry tomatoes, quartered

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp oil

Salt & pepper

3 – 4 fillets salmon

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6
  2. Boil the water and vegetable bouillon in a small pan. Add the couscous, stir, remove from the heat, put a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 10 minutes to absorb the liquid.
  3. Chop the vegetables and herbs, stir through the couscous with the lemon juice and season to taste.
  4. Rub the oil around an oven proof dish, spoon the couscous into the dish and roughly level.
  5. Place the salmon fillets over the top of the couscous and season well with salt & pepper.
  6. Put into the oven and bake for 15 mins. Serve on its own or with salad.
An image of a pan of beetroot, chickpea and coconut curry

Beetroot, Chickpea & Coconut Curry

This is a great curry, not only is it made in one dish in the oven, it’s also vegan/vegetarian and gluten free, not to mention delicious! Serve with rice, naan or roti.

Serves 4

1 large onion

600g beetroot, topped, tailed & cut into wedges

1 tin chickpeas, drained

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

5cm piece of ginger, finely grated

1 red chilli, chopped

1 heaped tsp ground cumin

1 heaped tsp ground coriander

1 heaped tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp salt

1 tin coconut milk

Chopped coriander or parsley to serve

  1. Pre heat the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas6.
  2. Put all the ingredients except the coconut milk into a roasting tin or oven proof dish. Put into the oven and roast for 40 minutes, turning the mixture with a spoon half-way though.
  3. Pour over the coconut milk and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven, taste and adjust seasoning, stir through the coriander or parsley to serve.
An image of a salad with black pudding and pink grapefruit

Black Pudding, Avocado & Pink Grapefruit Salad

This warm salad makes a fantastic brunch.

Serves 2

2 handfuls of romaine or gem lettuce

Small handful rocket leaves

2 slices black pudding (about 200g)

1 pink grapefruit, peeled and segmented

½ avocado, cut into pieces

1 tsp chopped chives

1 tsp chopped tarragon

4 tsp Dijon dressing

  1. Cook the black pudding under the grill on both sides until cooked. Remove the casing and cut into chunks.
  2. Slice the romaine or gem lettuce and toss with the rocket, avocado and half the herbs. Divide between 2 salad bowls.
  3. Scatter the warm black pudding over each salad, arrange 5 grapefruit segments over the top.
  4. Sprinkle over the remaining herbs and drizzle round a little dressing to serve.
An image of Spanish Red Pepper Chicken

Spanish Red Pepper Chicken

This is an absolutely delicious casserole. Very quick and easy to put together, it uses roasted red piquillo peppers from a jar.

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

100g chorizo sausage, chopped

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

½ tsp chilli flakes

4 chicken breasts

4 roasted piquillo peppers, from a jar, drained & cut into 5mm strips.

  1. Heat the oil in a wide, shallow pan, add the chicken breasts and fry over a medium heat to brown on both sides.
  2. Add the chopped onion, garlic and chorizo sausage. Continue frying until the onion is soft and lightly browned.
  3. Add the sliced peppers, cherry tomato halves and chilli flakes, season with salt & pepper. Stir everything well, put a lid on the pan and cook gently for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Once time is up, to thicken the sauce, remove the chicken and as much of the chorizo, pepper mixture from the juices in the pan. Arrange on warm plates and keep warm.
  5. Return the pan and juices to a high heat and bubble fiercely for a few minutes until they are reduced and syrupy. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.
An image of a pan of chicken cooked with cashew nuts, ginger & lemon

Chicken with Cashews, Ginger & Lemon

A delicious, summery chicken dish for those days when it’s a bit cool and you need a warming meal.

Serves 4

4 large chicken thighs, skinned

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp cashew nuts

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

2 large cloves garlic

½ tsp salt

Pinch of saffron

1 tbsp finely grated root ginger

1 large onion, chopped

1 bay leaf

Juice of ½ lemon

100ml chicken stock

  1. Grind the cashew nuts, parsley, garlic, salt and saffron in mortar & pestle or food processor to make a paste, set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large, shallow pan and fry the chicken thighs for a few minutes on each side to brown.
  3. Add the chopped onion, bay leaf and finely grated root ginger, stir and when the onion has softened, add the stock and lemon juice.
  4. Put a lid on the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Add the cashew paste and cook for a further 15 minutes. Add a splash of water if the chicken is a bit dry.
  5. Taste for seasoning and serve.
An image of a bowl of goulash soup

Goulash Soup

Usually I make this soup with beef, either the end of a roast or leftover mince. I also have a teenager with hollow legs, so I made this pork version on a miserable July day to fill him up at lunch time (hopefully)!

Serves 6 – 8

200g pork mince

3 rashers streaky bacon, chopped

1 tbsp oil

2 medium onions, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 large stick celery, chopped

2 large potatoes, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp paprika

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp caraway seed

2 tins chopped tomatoes + 2 tins water

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

Handful of parsley

Salt & pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the bacon and pork mince. Fry over a high heat to brown and cook.
  2. Add the onions, carrots, celery, potatoes and garlic, stir to mix everything together, then add the paprika, chilli powder and caraway seed. Stir again and add the tomatoes and water.
  3. Bring to the boil, put a lid on the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir through the sugar and serve topped with a little parsley.
An image of a bowl of green lentil salad with Thai dressing

Green Lentil Salad with Thai Dressing

These lentils are spicy and refreshing with a Thai Dressing. Eat them warm from the pot or cold the next day.

Serves 2 – 3

150g green lentils

200ml water

2 handfuls gem or romaine lettuce

1 handful rocket

1 roasted red pepper, either from a jar or roasted from fresh

140g frozen edamame beans

3 spring onions, finely sliced

1 red or green chilli (optional or to taste)

1 small clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped

2 tbsp lime juice

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tsp soft brown sugar

  1. Put the lentils and water into a pan, bring to the boil, put a lid on the pan and simmer on a low heat for 20 mins.
  2. If using a fresh red pepper, grill on a high heat until the skin is blistered & blackened on all sides. Remove to a bowl, cover with a lid or cling film and allow to cool. Once cool, scrape away the skin, remove the seeds & pith and chop into pieces. If using a red pepper from a jar, just drain and chop into pieces.
  3. Bring the edamame beans to the boil in a small pan, remove from the heat and drain. Put hot into a bowl and mix through the pepper, finely sliced spring onions, chopped garlic, chilli if using and coriander.
  4. Mix the lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar together to make a dressing.
  5. When the lentils are ready, while still hot, tip them into the bowl with the peppers, beans etc. Pour over the dressing and mix well.
  6. To serve, divide the salad leaves between 2 or 3 plates and spoon over the lentils.
A bowl of avocado and soft boiled egg salad

Avocado & Soft Boiled Egg Salad

This is another winning combination, an easy, healthy supper if you’re on your own.

Serves 1

1 handful of romaine or gem lettuce

Small handful rocket leaves

6 cherry tomatoes, halved

½ avocado, cut into pieces

1 egg

1 tsp chopped chives

1 tsp chopped mint leaves

3 tsp Dijon dressing

  1. Boil the egg for 4 minutes if medium or 5 minutes if large. Run under cold running water to cool before peeling and cutting into quarters.
  2. Slice the romaine or gem lettuce and toss with the rocket leaves, avocado, cherry tomatoes and half the herbs.
  3. Arrange the egg over the top of the salad, sprinkle over the remaining herbs and drizzle over the dressing to serve.
An image of a bowl of salad containing green beans, feta cheese tomatoes and black olives

Green Bean Salad with Feta Cheese

I like green beans and I like a warm salad; this is a winner!

Serves 1

1 handful of green beans, topped

1 handful of romaine or gem lettuce

6 cherry tomatoes, halved

8 black olives

2cm slice feta cheese

1 spring onion, thinly sliced

Squeeze of lemon juice

Pinch of salt & grind of black pepper

  1. Steam the beans for a few minutes until tender, but still with a slight crunch. Remove from the heat and refresh under cold water. Allow to drain, then cut in half.
  2. Slice the lettuce and toss with the beans, halved cherry tomatoes & olives.
  3. Sprinkle over the sliced spring onion and crumble over the feta cheese. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt, a grind of black pepper and drizzle with a squeeze of lemon juice to serve.
An image of spice fillet of seabass with baked sweet potato

Spiced Sea Bass with Baked Sweet Potatoes

This is a one pan dish, the juice from the cherry tomatoes keeps everything juicy.

Serves 4

600g sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tbsp chopped thyme

125g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tbsp rapeseed oil + a little extra

4 fillets sea bass

4 cardamom pods

½ tsp paprika

¼ tsp smoked paprika

¼ tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp mixed spice

Salt & pepper

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6
  2. Toss the sweet potatoes, sliced onion, thyme, cherry tomatoes, garlic, oil, salt & pepper together in a roasting pan. Put into the oven and roast for 30 mins, turning half way through.
  3. Crack the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle. Remove the green husks and grind the seeds. Mix with the paprikas, turmeric, mixed spice and a little salt & pepper.
  4. Dry the fish fillets with kitchen paper, make two or three cuts diagonally through the skin on each fillet. Rub with a little oil and dust with the spice mix, rubbing some into each cut.
  5. Once the sweet potatoes have been cooking for 30 mins, remove from the oven. Lay the sea bass over the top and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad.
An image of a coconut custard pudding

Coconut Custard Pudding

This is a very good pudding and very easy to make. Everything gets mixed up in the one bowl, then separates out into layers during baking, giving a thick layer of custard with a crispy coconut topping.

Serves 6 – 8

4 eggs

170g caster sugar

60g softened butter

85g plain flour

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

400ml can coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla essence.

  1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4
  2. Grease an ovenproof dish approx. 23cm diameter with high sides.
  3. Beat all the ingredients together and pour into the dish. Bake for 50 mins.
  4. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Eat warm or cold.
An image of a fish pie pasta bake

Fish Pie Pasta Bake

I was looking for a different way to make a fish pie when I made this, make sure you have a little smoked fish in the pie, it just sets it off.

Serves 6

150g pasta

325ml milk

20g flour

20g butter

1 tsp Dijon mustard

120g strong Cheddar cheese

60g frozen peas

80g (2 good handfuls) spinach

Handful of chopped parsley

600g fish pie mix (I had a mixture of smoked, plain & salmon)

  1. Cook the pasta, then drain and cool under cold, running water. Allow to drain.
  2. Make the cheese sauce – Put the milk, butter, flour & Dijon mustard into a heavy based pan. Using a whisk, stir everything together over a medium heat until the sauce is thickened and boiling.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, add ¾ of the cheese and stir in to melt. Season to taste and stir in the spinach, parsley and frozen peas.
  4. Stir the fish and pasta into the sauce, tip into an oven proof dish, roughly level and sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
  5. Cook at 190C/375F/Gas5 for 45 to 50 minutes or until the fish is cooked, the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Serve with salad or extra vegetables.
An image of a bowl of hot smoked salmon and avocado salad

Hot Smoked Salmon & Avocado Salad

It had been raining all day, it dried up at tea time and the sun came out. This made the perfect supper.

Serves 1

1 portion hot smoked salmon

1 small avocado

8 pieces of roasted antipasti pepper

1 handful romaine or gem lettuce leaves

Small handful rocket

6 mint leaves, shredded

1 tbsp chives, finely sliced, chive flowers if you have them

Zest of ¼ lemon

Squeeze lemon juice

Black pepper

  1. Toss the lettuce and rocket in a bowl, crumble over the hot smoked salmon.
  2. Scoop the avocado out of its shell with a teaspoon and arrange over the dish. Add the pieces of roasted red pepper.
  3. Scatter over the chives, mint & lemon zest. Grind over black pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice to finish.