The sun has come out at last and summer produce is reaching its peak. Madalene Bonvini-Hamel, owner of the British Larder pub and restaurant in Bromeswell, Suffolk, looks at the ingredients in their prime in August
With summer now finally here and the 2012 London Olympics now well under way, everyone is buzzing.
The grouse season is, of course, starting on 12 August, giving every chef another fantastic food to be creative with.
The stone fruit season is peaking, with peaches, apricots and plums (including some wild plum varieties) at their best now.
Damsons are ready to be harvested - use them for jam, chutneys, fruit pies and even damson cheese - perfect for the cheeseboard.
There are about 130 varieties of green beans, and the common green bean, also known as the French bean, is one of the most popular. There are two main groups of beans: the dwarf beans and the climbers. The dwarf beans grow on low-growing plants close to the ground, whereas the climbers are similar in growing habit to runner beans. Green beans are at their best when they are young and tender and they are usually eaten whole or cut into shorter lengths and lightly steamed or blanched.
Kohlrabi is a member of the brassica family and the swollen, round root grows above the ground. Kohlrabi comes in two colours: pale green and purple. Eaten raw, the flesh of young, fresh kohlrabi is crisp, mild, sweet and juicy. As the vegetable gets older, it's best to cook it - in the same way that you would cook turnips.
There are numerous varieties of peach, ranging from those with a velvety "fuzzy" skin, to those with a smooth and shiny skin, such as the nectarine. Peaches can be eaten raw or cooked - poached, baked, grilled or bottled in syrup or brandy, or used in pies and crumbles. When buying, check whether the peaches are "cling" (stones attached to the pulp) or "freestone", which are easier to work with (peach Melba)
Pollack is white-fleshed seawater fish with a dark, olive-green upper skin and a silver-white belly. It is a member of the cod family and is a sustainable alternative to cod and haddock, so can be cooked in the same way as these fish.
Wash 1kg of whole, fresh damsons (with their stones left in), then place them in a large saucepan with 500g caster sugar and 250ml cold water.
Heat over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for about 12 minutes or until the fruits have burst and the flesh has turned into a pulp. Remove from the heat, then pour the purée into a colander set over a heatproof bowl and stir to press the purée through the holes, leaving the stones behind. Leave to cool, then cover and chill in the refrigerator and use within three days.
Use the damson purée as the base ingredient when making sorbets, parfaits or ice-creams.
Seasonal best during August
Apricots, artichokes, aubergines, beetroot, blackberries, black cabbage (Cavolo Nero), blueberries, borage flowers, borlotti beans, broad beans, broccoli, carrots, celery, chard, chives, cobnuts, cod, coley, courgettes, crab, crab apples, crayfish (freshwater), cucumbers, damsons, Dover sole, duck, fennel, flounder, garlic, green beans, greengages, grey mullet, grouse, haddock, halibut, herring, kohlrabi, lamb, langoustines, lettuce, lobster, loganberries, mackerel, mint, monkfish, onions, oregano, parsley, peaches, peppers, plaice, plums, pollack, potatoes (main crop), prawns, pumpkins, rabbit, radishes, raspberries, redcurrants, rocket, rosehips, rosemary, runner beans, sage, salmon, samphire, sardines, scallops, sea bass, sea beet, sea plantain, sea purslane, sorrel, summer savory, sweetcorn, Swiss chard, tarragon, thyme, tomatoes, walnuts (young green ones, for pickling), watercress, whelks, whitebait, wild plums (Mirabelles), woodpigeon.
● With thanks to Goodfellow and Goodfellow for the plates featured in the recipe photographs (www.goodfshop.net)
What's in store next month
James Wellock of fresh and dried ingredients supplier Wellocks takes a look at what's coming into season in September
September sees us moving firmly over to autumn menus, with some great products and flavours to look forward to.
English onions - both red and brown - will be available. Compared with Spanish onions, which is the normal option, the English ones are like iron - they have less water content and their flavour is more intense.
We will now be on English parsnips, which have an amazing extra-sweet flavour for the first few weeks.
The long, violet Jerusalem artichokes come on to the market this month (and at the beginning will be around £20/kg), but in a very short space of time will halve in price. Try to get them early on in the season, however, because they are coming straight out of the ground so they will have the freshness and the flavour. This is the same with parsley root (about £5/kg) and chervil root (about £11 /kg).
An array of squash and pumpkins will appear: spaghetti squash (a particular favourite of mine) will be around £2 each, while the beautiful deep-orange-fleshed French Muscade (the only pumpkin to use) will be around 90p/kg. Sorry, the English ones are only fit for lanterns!
Pink, green and red meat radish all start.
Fresh walnuts will be around £5/kg but are here for only a short time - make sure you communicate with your supplier so you don't miss out.
Italian autumn black truffles with their rich, earthy flavour and hints of hazelnut, chocolate and vanilla will be around £300/kg, and white Alba, which have a powerfully intense flavour with a faintly garlicky aroma, will be £1,200/kg.
I have left the best to last: we have now got the early English apples coming in this month and we are seeing some amazing varieties appear. The UK crop of apples has been badly affected this year so the yield of many varieties will be lighter than normal. There will be apples available for September, but some may be running a week to two weeks late.
Norfolk Royal, Katie Peasgood, Worcester, St Edmunds Russetts, Honey Pippin, Laxtons, Cox's Orange Pippin, Spartan, Crown Gold, Egremont Russett, Sturmer Pippin, Queen Cox, Blenheim Orange, Allington Pippin, Barnack Beauty, Lady Henniker.