There is nothing sadder than an Aga which isn’t on. Today my Aga has been cold and consequently – I know it’s silly, especially since it’s summer, allegedly – my kitchen seemed a rather uninviting place. The Aga was turned off last night to give it a chance to cool down before its annual service today. It’s just been switched back on and with a bit of luck will have enough heat for me to cook supper on it tonight.
Some Aga owners (sensibly) turn theirs off during the summer months and use their alternative oven. The trouble is, I don’t have an alternative oven. It was a deliberate decision when we had the Aga installed in our new kitchen ten years ago to be a full-time Aga cook and also not to use up space unnecessarily; instead, I have plenty of cupboards! Admittedly it can feel too hot if ever we have a spell of proper summer weather (ie not often) but our Victorian house has large sash windows which can be opened wide, and also, the Aga can be turned down and still be used.
It’s a pity the Aga service hasn’t coincided with some really hot weather like we had a couple of weeks ago, when it would have been a relief to have a cooler kitchen. It’s grey and wet out there but mild: it’s definitely summer rain we’re experiencing.
Still, it doesn’t mean I can’t tell you a little about what I’ve been making in the kitchen lately. It’s the season for salad and soft fruit, neither of which necessarily requires cooking.
A delicious salad in my new favourite book, Honey and Co., is fatoush. As far as I can tell, there exist many versions of it, but this is the first one I’ve come across which includes pomegranate. If I was making it today I’d have to add the pitta without toasting it, because I don’t have an electric toaster.
- 1 pitta, cut in half to make two thin pieces
- olive oil
- 1 head of Little Gem lettuce
- 250g mixed tomatoes
- 150g feta
- 2 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves picked (if you don’t have any fresh, use a little dried oregano in the dressing)
- 2 tsp za’atar
- 2 heaped tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- a little freshly ground black pepper
- Peel the garlic, place it on a chopping board and press down on it with the back of a knife until it’s crushed but still in one piece. Mix it together with the other dressing ingredients in the bowl you want to serve the salad in, and leave to infuse for about an hour at room temperature
- Brush the pitta pieces with a little oil, place them on a baking tray at the top of the roasting oven for a few minutes until they’re golden and crisp. You can do this under a grill or in a regular toaster too. Break into bite-size pieces
- Separate the lettuce into leaves and cut these into strips
- Cut the tomatoes in two or three different ways (slices, wedges, chunks) to give the salad some texture. Crumble the feta but not too much
- When you are ready to serve, remove the garlic clove from the dressing (it was only there to add a hint of flavour) and add all the salad ingredients to the bowl and toss them gently together
At the 21st birthday party we went to recently, our hostess served this strawberry dessert which was absolutely delicious. This is not a precise recipe; I’ll leave you to adjust quantities to your liking.
Strawberries in Balsamic Vinegar with a Mascarpaone, Fromage Frais and Vanilla Cream
- Hull and halve or quarter your strawberries, depending on size, and place in a bowl with some sugar and balsamic vinegar. I used a couple of tablespoons of balsamic and just a sprinkling of caster sugar for about 600g strawberries. Leave these to infuse for a couple of hours.
- Serve with the cream made up of 50% mascarpone and 50% fat free fromage frais, and a little vanilla extract and some caster sugar to taste
- Serve the strawberries in individual bowls with large dollops of the cream on top
Apologies for not having a photo of this dessert but here are some strawberries anyway.