The height of summer is on us and we’re all in holiday mode as you read this, I’ll be sunning myself somewhere very hot with a cold drink in my hand. I’m always moaning about how long it is between January and August as I don’t really get any holiday until then. I need to recharge this year, as I’ve been cramming in so much, what with opening another restaurant in September called Tom’s Place and getting married in June. I’m also about to launch Tom’s Kitchen, my own food-product brand. Not busy at all! Once September starts, I’ll be studying on weekends from home for a part-time nutrition course. All part of my plan to make you fitter and stronger through good food.
August is a time when London empties and the majority of us are away, enjoying the sun in another part of the world. It also marks the start of the game season and grouse and hare are in season.It’s the prime time to enjoy barbecues and picnics, and there’s nothing more English than these whether they’re in the beautiful countryside, a well-manicured lawn or at the coast. It makes me laugh to see macho males take over from their other halves and create either a catastrophe or a feast fit for a king.
The trick is to keep it all easy to cook and to prepare in advance. Make it all something that cooks quickly and can be transported without making a mess everywhere. For example, the great British banger, but I prefer a Cumberland sausage. Use some meat that’s been prepared the day before. For example, chicken breasts that have been cut into strips and marinated in some Greek yogurt, lemon juice, a little garlic, cumin powder, black pepper and salt, then left for a day to marinate. Soak some wooden skewers in cold water for a few hours, skewer the chicken with them and then bag them all up. Then there are minute steaks that you can marinate in olive oil, crushed garlic, black pepper, thyme and rosemary, before sealing them in a ziploc bag. Or how about the homemade burgers shown here?
You could even take a load of sliced vegetables to grill on the barbecue think red peppers, courgettes, aubergines and red onions again marinating them in some olive oil, garlic and rosemary.Keep the salads simple yet fresh: peas with a lemon dressing; crushed broad beans with feta cheese; sliced figs with Parma ham; and slow-roasted vine cherry tomatoes. Then for dessert, some very simple poached fruits peaches with vervain, poached strawberries with mint, or apricot with vanilla. All of these can be done the day before to make your life simpler. Make a basic stock syrup with three parts water to one part sugar, then add some fresh vanilla pods split and scraped, lemon peel and the juice of two lemons, then some fresh mint. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, then cook the fruit until tender. Leave it to cool and keep in the fridge for a day before use. Serve these with some semi-whipped cream, sugar and vanilla seeds.
Find out what’s cooking at Tom’s restaurants at www.tomaikens.co.uk
Makes six or seven burgers
1kg minced beef
400g minced-beef fat
300g finely diced onion
10g chopped parsley
1 whole egg
Mix all the ingredients and mould into approximately 150g sections for a nice-sized burger. Then grill for about three or four minutes each side on a medium heat.
Makes 2.5 litres
3.5kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
1kg apples, peeled, cored and chopped
900g onions, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes
1 litre malt vinegar
25g sea salt
1g cayenne pepper
2g whole black pepper corns
2g whole allspice
Put all the spices into a tied muslin bag and place all the ingredients into a pan. Turn the heat to full and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, cooking the ingredients until they’re a pulp (about two hours). Stir the mixture now and again so it doesn’t burn. Turn off the heat, ladle the pulp into a blender jug to only half full and purée until it’s nice and smooth. Tip this into a fine sieve over a clean pan and press the liquid through using a small ladle. Return the pan to the heat and re-boil for two to three minutes. Place into sterilised jars and bottles and sterilise following the correct procedure.
1 x 2kg scaled and gutted bass with no head
50ml white wine
100ml olive oil
Juice and zest of one lemon
3 bay leaves cut in half
Small bunch of dill roughly chopped
2g thyme leaves
2g sea salt
Place two sheets of foil together, about 40in long, then fold it over and make a boat shape so the sides come up. Take the bass and slash through the flesh to 0.5cm deep, about 10 times each side. Rub in the olive oil and put the bay leaves and dill into the slashes. Add the lemon juice, peel and white wine, then the salt. Wrap this up well to transport for the barbecue, then cook it on a low heat so it steams in the foil. Alternatively, you can take it out of the foil and place it on the grill for about six to eight minutes each side. Just before you cook the fish, add the salt. This should be very tasty.