This morning I realised we are experiencing an inexorable slide to ‘porridge weather’. All summer I have been vacillating between starting the day with berries and yogurt, poached egg with asparagus, and a breakfast bruschetta of chopped cherry tomatoes, olive oil & basil on sourdough. All very delicious and light. But this morning – without any thought behind it – I reached into the cupboard and pulled out a forlorn packet of Scottish porridge oats. Using a half and half mixture of soya milk and water, I simmered this companionable pairing before adding dried goji berries and a grating of apple. And it was heavenly. If that doesn’t say ‘autumn’ I’m not sure what does.
But it wasn’t just the instinctively pre-hibernation breakfast that signaled summer’s end. Although it doesn’t yet feel too chilly, the other omens are abundantly clear: more than the odd brown leaf on the lawn, mystery mushrooms colonising under the oak tree, a lower, moodier sky. But my most accurate harbinger is the two extra bodies on the bed. Today Mr A and I awoke to find our cats nestled and immovable among the folds of the the duvet.
Over the years we have realised that as soon as Max and Mimi pad up from the cool and serene downstairs to warm and cosy upstairs, summer is well and truly behind us. So, barring a freak heat wave (highly unlikely) it won’t be long until we fire up the central heating and start moaning about the cost of it. Until then it is an extra layer and the comfort of cat-warmed feet.
I hope this doesn’t sound too depressing because, from a produce point of view, summer’s decline is a cook’s bonus. August is traditionally a hugely abundant and generous time of year for gardeners particularly, and plant food-lovers generally – despite the vagaries of this year’s weather. So today’s two recipes celebrate its bounty and beauty.
Some of you may have allotments and gardens brimming with the colours and textures of late summer – sun-yellow courgettes, crimson tomatoes, vermilion radishes and feathery fennel. But even if you are selecting under fluorescent lights rather than the sun’s warming rays, these recipes are perfect for highlighting and capturing the nutritional and taste essences of summer. For the soup, use your ripest, heaviest tomatoes and, for the salad, thinly slice in whatever looks, smells and tastes of summer. I have used all of the above with added broad beans (still on the go here in Scotland) for the salad, with added protein and fillip from the quinoa. As usual, adapt and make these recipes your own. No rules, just suggestions. If only life was such.
If you love tomatoes, this is the soup for you. Filled to bursting with cancer- and heart disease-fighting lycopene, it is also perfect if you have impaired tastebuds, having been successfully tried out on willing folk with just that problem.
Although I have added in the chickpeas for protein and a different taste, feel free to leave them out if your digestion isn’t up to the fibre challenge. To add more calories or make it into a ‘cream of’ kind of soup, do just that and add cream, crème fraiche or whole milk. And you can even have it cold, should the weather oblige.
In a large saucepan saute the onion in warmed oil, over a low-medium heat, for 5 minutes, then add the celery, carrot and rosemary. Saute for a further 10 minutes.