Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Recipe: Simple Summer Supper (part one) - Chargrilled veg with feta and mint

This hot weather is glorious. But what to eat when it's sweltering outside? I crave simple meals, full of flavour without leaving me with that too-full feeling. Summer flavours I love are mint, lemon, chilli, garlic, and those charred, scars left by a hot grill.

Last weekend we ate the same meal three times, it was so good. I'll be posting recipes for all elements of our Summer supper over the next few days. Here's part one.
{Part two (Tortilla Espanola) here, and part three (Rose and Lemon Sponge) here.}

Chargrilled Courgettes and Asparagus with Feta and Mint (Serves 4)

Two medium courgettes, washed and cut lengthways into even strips no wider than 5mm
A bundle of asparagus (preferably English - Evesham is the finest), washed
1 pack feta cheese, crumbled
125ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Generous handful of fresh mint, torn

1. Preheat your grill - a barbecue, a grill plate, or a griddle pan will all do.
2. First, make your marinade. Put the olive oil, garlic and lemon juice into a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the courgettes and asparagus, tumbling the vegetables around until evenly coated.
4. Place on the grill at right angles to the lines, to make sure you get those lovely burnt stripes. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your grill.
5. Keep an eye on the veg, turning as soon as you begin to smell the sugars caramelising. The courgettes need turning once, the asparagus several times to ensure an even browning.
6. Once the courgettes are nicely cooked, transfer to a serving bowl. The asparagus may need a stab with a knife to make sure it's cooked - then sling these into your serving bowl as well.
7. Scatter the feta over your vegetables, as well as the mint, straight before serving. You can keep the salad in the fridge for a day or two but I'd add the cheese and mint at the last minute.

More ideas
:: While your grill is hot, you could toast some sliced ciabatta and rub the surface with a clove of garlic for a rustic garlic bread.
:: Or use the marinade to flavour chicken breasts or pieces destined for kebabs - immerse the chicken for a couple of hours to maximise its flavour potential.
:: Use the leftover marinade (not if you've used it for chicken) as a dressing for a simple baby spinach salad.
:: It's easy to scale this recipe up - double for 8, etc - and it can accompany other summer salads as part of a more elaborate supper.
:: Peas also go well with the mint/feta/lemon family, so cook a cup or two of garden peas or petit pois and add to the salad along with the final ingredients before serving.
:: If you've got mint left over, don't waste it. Add it to a pan of new potatoes as they cook, or use it to garnish a fragrant cocktail. I love a large glass of Pimm's on a warm summer evening, and it's just not Pimm's without a chunk of cucumber and a nose-tickling sprig of mint.

Incidentally, a few years back I planted a pot of mint straight into the flowerbed, disregarding the advice to keep it contained. It spread far and wide, virtually overtaking part of the garden. But I didn't mind - I love mint and can find hundreds of ways to use it. This year, though, it didn't come back. Perhaps it was the hard winter, or maybe that rain in early Spring...

Whatever it was, I miss my mint and plan to plant it again, straight into the garden. And once it's established, expect many more minty recipes to come.

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