Make these long summer evenings magical with memorable meals that taste of sunshine
While the sun is shining, I’ve been trying to capture little moments in the high-summer evenings with a glass of good wine and something to nibble. A simple celebratory moment for when the kids are down and Sofie and I can catch up uninterrupted.
We tend to eat dinner early with the boys so find ourselves looking for something around 7pm. A little plate of arancini is a true treat. Golden breadcrumbed balls of risotto rice with cheese are perfect to make if you whip up a summer risotto and have some leftovers in the pan. Oozing with stringy mozzarella, they transport you to a little Italian eatery, even if you don’t quite get there in person this summer.
Around this time of year, I find myself on autopilot when it comes to cooking in the kitchen and the classics are what I rely on for simple seasonal suppers. Often the test of a good cook, the humble Caesar salad, done well, remains one of my favourite things to make in the summer months. If I’m going to put in the effort, the dressing must be the classic version and include anchovies for their salty bite; from there it is open to interpretation. Purists may baulk at the idea of soft-boiled eggs and charred chicken but for me they make it a generous summer meal and are essential. I’m also not a fan of chunky croutons and, in the recipe here, I toast crumbs of sourdough to sprinkle all the way through the salad so every bite gets the all-important crunch.
For a sweet summer pick-me-up, these no-bake raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake bars take minimal fuss and are a riff off a recipe I’ve been making for years due to the oohs and aahs they almost always garner. Keeping things simple for the summer will have you in good stride to enjoy the best of the long evenings.
Cook time: 20 minutes. Serves: 4
2 large skin-on chicken breasts
1 tsp flaky sea salt
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves stripped
A pinch of smoked paprika
3 tbsp olive oil
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 thick slices of sourdough
2 free-range eggs
2 romaine lettuces, roughly torn
Parmesan shavings, to serve
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing
1 fat clove of garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
A dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 free-range egg yolk
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
A splash of boiling water
1 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
A good squeeze of lemon juice
1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/Gas Mark 6.
2. Remove the skin from the chicken breasts and place the skin on a baking sheet. Season and then place another baking sheet on top and roast for 15-20 minutes until golden and crisp. Set aside to cool, then break into pieces.
3. Flatten the chicken breasts between two pieces of parchment paper with a rolling pin until 1cm thick. Place in a dish. With a pestle and mortar, grind the sea salt and rosemary together to form a green salt.
4. Sprinkle a little over the chicken (save the rest for another dish). Add the paprika, a good grinding of black pepper, 1 tbsp of the oil and the finely grated lemon zest. Marinate for 20 minutes if you have time.
5. Toss the sourdough bread in the remaining oil and spread on to a baking sheet, then bake for 10 minutes until golden and crisp. Set aside.
6. Make the dressing. In a small food processor, whiz the garlic, anchovies, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and egg yolk together. Season, then gradually whiz in the oil to form a smooth, luscious sauce. Add a splash of just-boiled water and the Parmesan and a good squeeze of lemon juice to taste.
7. Put the eggs in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes, then drain and cool under running water. Once cool, peel and quarter
8. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes each side until golden and charred. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes, then slice.
9. Put the romaine lettuce in a bowl and toss this with the chicken, croutons, hard-boiled eggs and some extra Parmesan shavings. Finally, drizzle with the dressing, scatter with the chicken crackling/skin and serve.
Time: 35 minutes. Makes: 20 balls
For the arancini
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
200g arborio or risotto rice
250ml white wine
750ml vegetable stock
75g pecorino, finely grated
½ x 150g ball mozzarella, cut into 20 pieces
2 large eggs, beaten
150g panko breadcrumbs
3 tbsp hot sauce
½ tsp garlic powder
A small handful of basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and sauté for 6-8 minutes until softened without colour. Add the arborio rice and toss to coat. Pour in the white wine and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes until reduced, stirring regularly.
2. Add the hot stock, little by little, until it is all used up and the rice has cooked; this will take about 20 minutes. Make sure each amount you add is soaked up before adding the next.
3. Stir through the pecorino, season to taste, then spread the risotto in an even layer on a tray lined with parchment paper. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 2 hours.
4. To form the arancini, scoop a portion of the cooled risotto into your hand. Form a patty with 2in in diameter approximately and place a piece of mozzarella into the centre. Repeat to give you 20 in total. Place on a tray in the freezer for at least an hour until solidified to ensure they hold their shape.
5. Once ready to cook, heat a large saucepan a third full with oil or deep enough to cover the arancini and allow to reach a temperature of 180C. When it has almost come up to temperature, add the flour, egg and panko to three separate bowls. Toss the arancini in the flour, followed by the egg and then the breadcrumbs, placing on a tray as each piece gets coated. Deep-fry in batches of five for 5-6 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.
6. Combine the passata, hot sauce and garlic powder in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Serve the arancini on a platter alongside the sauce and a scattering of basil leaves.
Cook time: 30 minutes + chilling time. Serves: 10
200g plain digestive biscuits
100g unsalted butter
400g good-quality white chocolate, broken into pieces
250g full-fat cream cheese
200ml double cream
250g mascarpone cheese
250g raspberries, half mashed to a purée and half whole
1. Bash the biscuits in a resealable bag with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the biscuit crumbs and mix to combine. Tip the butter-and-biscuit mix into the base of a 20cm square loose-bottomed cake tin. Chill while you make the filling.
3. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, in a single layer if you can, over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water, and gently melt, without stirring. You can tell that it is melted when you gently nudge a square and it will dissolve. Only then, stir together and set aside.
4. Beat the cream cheese, cream and mascarpone in a large bowl with an electric hand whisk, then, with a spatula, stir through the white chocolate and fold in the whole raspberries. Then fold in the puréed raspberries just once or twice so as not to over-mix.
5. Scatter half the whole raspberries over the biscuit base, then spread the mixture evenly over the top (the ripple will become more pronounced as you spread). Scatter with the leftover raspberries and just push them into the mix. Cover and put in fridge to chill and set for at least 3 hours.
6. Remove the cheesecake from the tin and cut into bars, then serve.