Waiting for summer……………

Well after an initial burst of warm spring weather, it is yet again cool and wet, so in order to give myself a little taste of summer, I came across this lovely summer entertaining feature my husband, photographer Ian Wallace and I shot last summer for Food & Travel magazine in the UK.

As you can see from Ian’s stunning photos it was a lovely sunny day and the colours from the food, styling and flowers zing out at you. Rather than a formal sit down menu, the al fresco nature of the story led me to assemble sharing patters, ideal for a more relaxed ambience.

Scene setter for our summer menu

Seared tuna is one of my favourite ways of eating this meaty and some would say king of the ocean. Here it is served with a spiced chermoula salsa with a hint of chilli. Chermoula is a combination of herbs, spices and aromatics used as a marinade or sauce in many Arabic countries. The actual combination of ingredients varies widely from country to country and even region to region and this one is inspired by a version I had in a London restaurant many years ago. It is great with most types of meaty fish, chicken, and lamb or even drizzled over grilled vegetables.

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Moroccan tuna with chemoula salsa

Beef and anchovy are happy sparing partners and here, beautifully moist slices of rare beef fillet is served with a creamy anchovy dressing. A contrasting texture comes in the form of the crispy pangrattato, Italian for fried bread crumbs. It is spiced up here with a little red onion, garlic and fresh thyme.

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Thyme beef fillet with anchovy dressing and pangrattato

Alongside our main dishes are two pretty salad platters full of Mediterranean flavours – you can almost feel the warmth of the sun as you look at them. The orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb salad is my version of a dish I was served last summer by friends who love everything Spanish. They too had been inspired by this dish from Ibiza, one of the Spanish balearic Islands. I love the little sprinkles of blackness made by the olive crumbs.

To further complement our two main dishes is a platter of char-grilled asparagus topped with creamy burrata cheese – where balls of buffalo mozzarella are filled with a rich creamy centre that oozes pure yumminess when cut open. The dressing is made sweet with the inclusion of vincotta, a thick syrup made by the long, slow reduction of grape must, produced in the Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy, Apulia, and Marche regions of Italy. If is available from Itlian food stores or online. If you can’t find it, an aged or reduced balsamic vinegar is a good alternative.

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Ibiza salad with orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb & Asparagus, burrata and pistachio salad with vincota dressing 

I simply adore coconut, so any excuse really to use it in a recipe. It adds a wonderful moist texture to this simple cake made just that little bit more special with the passionfruit drizzle. You can sieve out the passionfruit seeds if you prefer, but I think they look great and I love the crunch they add.

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Coconut cake with passionfruit syrup and raspberries

And if you don’t fancy cake, why not treat yourself to this delicious and decadent cocktail inspired, upside down cheesecake. It is a lovely end to this summer feast and the salty zing from the salted lime praline is lovely surprise.

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Margarita cheesecake pots with salted lime

Summer may still be a little ways off for us here in France, but at least I can dream of warmer evenings and delicious flavours to come.

RECIPES

Moroccan tuna with chemoula salsa

Serves: 6

6 x 180g tuna loin steaks

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds (optional)

1 bunch coriander

1 large red chili, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

a pinch of saffron strands

juice ½ lemon

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

salt and pepper

lemon wedges, to garnish

Trim the tuna steaks and brush with a little oil. Combine the paprika, cinnamon, fennel fronds if using, salt and pepper and press all over the tuna. Set aside.

Make the chermoula. Combine the coriander leaves and smaller stalks, chilli, garlic, saffron strands, lemon juice, oil and some salt and pepper in a mini food processor and blitz until smooth.

Sear the tuna on a hot barbecue or griddle pan for 1 minute each side and then rest for 2-3 minutes. Slice thickly and serve with the chermoula.

Thyme beef fillet with anchovy dressing and pangrattata

Serves: 6

1.25 kg beef fillet

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

salt and pepper

pangrattata

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, bashed

100g day old bread, made into rough crumbs

½ small red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

25g pine nuts, toasted

2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

anchovy dressing

125g aioli

3 anchovy fillets, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

pepper

Preheat the oven to 190c/375f/gas mark 5. Rub the beef fillet with oil and then dust with the thyme, salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over a high heat and sear the beef for about 4 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Transfer to a roasting tin and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile make the pangrattata. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic for 3-4 minutes over a low heat until lightly golden. Discard garlic. Increase the heat, add the breadcrumbs to the pan and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until evenly browned. Drain on kitchen paper. Combine the onion with the vinegar and set aside to soften for 15 mins. Drain and pat dry.

Make the dressing. Place the aioli, anchovies, lemon juice and a little pepper in a blender and puree until smooth. Cover and set aside.

To serve, place the breadcrumbs, onion, pine nuts, capers and parsley in a bowl and stir well. Cut the beef into thin slices (it should be lovely a pink in the middle) and top with some of the pangrattata, the anchovy dressing and a little extra drizzle of oil.

Asparagus, burrata and pistachio salad with vincotta dressing

Serves: 6

1 kg asparagus spears

2 teaspoons olive oil

200g ball buratta cheese

300g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved

50g rocket leaves

25g pistachio nuts, chopped

15g Parmesan shavings

dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon vincotto (or aged balsamic)

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Trim the asparagus stalks and place on a tray, add the oil and season with salt and pepper, stir well. Cook on a hot griddle pan for 3-4 minutes turning half way through until lightly charred. Transfer to a platter and let cool.

Make the dressing. Whisk the ingredients together in a bowl.

Tear the burrata into pieces and arrange over the asparagus with the tomatoes, rocket and pistachio nuts. Drizzle over the dressing and serve scattered with parmesan shavings.

Ibiza salad with orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb

Serves: 6

50g pitted black olives

300g baby new potatoes

1 small head fennel, trimmed (fronds reserved for the beef)

8 large radishes, trimmed

3 oranges

3 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

a small fresh chervil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 140c/220f/gas mark 1. Make the olive crumb. Place the olives on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake the olives for 1-1/2 hours until dried out. Leave to cool and then transfer to a chopping board. Chop finely until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes for 10-12 minutes until just tender, drain, refresh under cold water and drain again. Pat dry and let cool. Cut larger potatoes in half.

Finely slice the fennel. Thinly slice the radishes.

Peel and thinly slice the oranges over a bowl to catch the juices and arrange the slices on a platter. Taking all the peelings and ends of the oranges squeeze any juice into the bowl. Whisk in the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard and salt and pepper.

Top the orange slices with the potatoes, fennel and radish slices and scatter over the chervil leaves. Top with the olive crumbs and serve drizzled with the dressing.

Coconut cake with passionfruit syrup and raspberries

Serves: 8-10

180g butter, softened

250g caster sugar

6 eggs

225 g desiccated coconut

225 g self-raising flour

250g Greek yogurt or crème fraiche

300g raspberries

passionfruit drizzle

150g caster sugar

150ml water

100ml passionfruit pulp, about 6 large passionfruit

Preheat the oven to 160c/fan-forced 140c/325f/gas mark 3. Oil and line a 23cm loose-bottom cake tin. Cream the butter and half the sugar together until smooth and then beat in the remaining sugar and eggs, a little at a time until combined (don’t worry if the mixture appears curdled). Fold in the coconut and flour until smooth and spoon into the prepared tin.

Transfer to the oven and bake 45-50 minutes, covering loosely with foil if the cake begins to brown. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire tray and spike with holes.

Meanwhile, make the passionfruit drizzle. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Add the passionfruit pulp and bring to the boil, simmer gently for 8-10 minutes until reduced slightly and thickened. Spoon all but a few tablespoons over the cake and let infuse until cold.

Serve the cake in wedges with the yogurt, raspberries and remaining sauce.

Margarita cheesecake pots with salted lime

Makes: 8

200g white chocolate, melted

50g butter, melted

175g digestive biscuits, crushed

grated zest and juice 3 limes

100ml tequila

250g caster sugar

600g soft cheese

250ml cream

1 teaspoon sea salt

Finely grate 50g of the white chocolate into a shallow bowl. Take 8 martini or margarita glasses, dip the rims into cold water and then into the grated chocolate to coat the rims. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and pour into a bowl. Add the digestives and stir well until evenly coated. Divide between the glasses pressing them down lightly using the end of a rolling pin. Chill until required.

Combine the lime juice, tequila and half the sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool completely.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water), stirring until the chocolate is melted. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the cheese in a food processor with the tequila lime mixture and blitz until smooth. Then stir in the melted chocolate and cream and blend again. Using a piping bag with a large lain nozzle divide the mixture between the glasses. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Make praline. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Combine the remaining sugar with 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and heat very gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring for a further 5-6 mins until the liquid turns golden brown. Pour the caramel onto the prepared tray and leave to go cold.

Roughly crumble the praline and place in a food processor with the lime zest and salt and blitz to make a slightly chunky crumb mixture. Spoon onto the set creams and serve at once.

Copyright Food & Travel, 2017

Recipes,  Louise Pickford

Photographs, Ian Wallace


Recipe of the week……………duck salad

Duck Salad

Sesame and soy duck fillets and green papaya salad

Serves: 4

Green papaya is a used extensively in Thai and South East Asian cooking where it is traditionally served as a refreshing salad. The slightly tart quality of the fruit absorbs the sweet salty dressing perfectly, a perfect foil to the richly flavoued duck.

4 x 200 g duck breast fillets

1 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs fish sauce

2 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

750 g green papaya, peeled, halved and  seeded

2 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced

1/2 bunch each fresh Thai basil, coriander and mint

125 g grape cherry tomatoes, halved

4 tbs dry roasted peanuts, finely chopped

dressing

3 tbs fish sauce

3 tbs caster sugar

2 1/2 tbs fresh lime juice

2 small red chillies, thinly sliced and seeded if wished

sea salt

Thai crispy fried shallots, to garnish

Marinate the duck. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Score the skin of each duck breast several times with a sharp knife, add to the marinade, cover with cling wrap and chill for 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200c. Remove the duck from the marinade and rub dry with kitchen paper, sprinkle the skin with sea salt. Heat a heavy based ovenproof frying pan and sear the duck skin down form 1 minute until golden. Turn the duck breast oven, transfer to the oven and roast for 8-10 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the papaya and cut into long thin strips or julienne. Place in a bowl and add the cucumber, herbs and cherry tomatoes. Whisk together the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice until the sugar is dissolved and stir in the chillies.

Thinly slice the duck breast and add to the salad with the dressing. Toss well, divide between plates and serve scattered with the peanuts and the fried shallots.


Recipe of the week………..summer dessert!

Chocolate marbled meringues with summer berries and white chocolate sauce

Serves: 6

These gooey, marshmallow-like meringues look and taste amazing, topped with a scoop of ice cream and a tumble of summer fruits all drizzled with a white chocolate sauce.

4 eggs whites

250 g caster sugar

2 tsp organic cocoa powder

350 g mixed summer berries

6 scoops vanilla ice cream

white chocolate sauce

100 ml single cream

75 g white, chocolate, finely chopped

1 tbs Cointreau (optional)

Preheat the oven to 130c/250f/gas mark 1/2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Place the egg whites in an electric mixer and whisk on high until stiff, then gradually whisk in the sugar a spoonful at a time, until the mixture is thick and really glossy, about 5 minutes.

Sift over the cocoa powder and carefully fold through the meringue mixture to just combine and leave the mixture with a marbled effect. Carefully spoon 6 large meringues onto the prepared tray and bake for 1 hour until set then cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce, place the single cream in a saucepan and bring to the boil, remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until melted. Stir in the Cointreau if using.

Arrange the still warm meringues on serving plates and serve each with a scoop of ice cream and the summer berries all drizzled with the warm white chocolate sauce. Serve at once.

Tip: If you prefer allow the meringues to cool completely before serving, they are just as good. Meringues keep well, so make ahead of time and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

 


Seasonal delights……………..Strawberries

StrawberriesHere in France the strawberry season starts off early with the arrival of a small, slightly oblong little strawberry called gariguette. One might expect a rather sharp, watery, bland little fruit but actually gariguettes are renowned for their sweet and well rather strawberry-like flavour – sadly so many strawberries you buy today, because we demand year round availability, share very few similarities to the fruit I remember with such fondness from British summers past. From then on as the weeks pass, more and more strawberries of different shapes, sizes, and flavours appear in the markets and without doubt it is a joy to behold.

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This year, with it’s unseasonably dry and warm spring, strawberries abound in the markets, so it was the perfect excuse to get cooking. To be totally honest I prefer my strawberries as nude and natural as the day they were born, plucked from my fingertips straight into the mouth, but I wanted to preserve their flavour for later in the summer when they will become nothing but a distant memory (until next year anyway). With a fridge also packed full of yogurt it seemed only right to join them together in a richly intense strawberry yogurt ice cream. Wow, that was definitely one of the best food decisions I have made this year – it is sooooo delicious – rather typically the weather has turned and it feels more like January than mid May today, but hey ho, who needs sunshine and warmth to enjoy a little ice cream!

Strawberry ice cream

Strawberry yogurt ice cream

1 kg strawberries, hulled

300g caster sugar

2 tbsp strawberry liqueur or cassis

1 tbsp lemon juice

500g Greek yogurt

Combine the strawberries, sugar, strawberry liqueur or cassis and lemon juice together in a large bowl and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until syrupy.

Transfer to a blender with the yogurt and puree until really smooth. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Transfer the mixture either to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the instructions or to the freezer.

If using a freezer stir the ice cream every 2-3 hours, as it starts to crystallize until the mixture is creamy. Leave until frozen. Remove from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving and scoop into bowls.


And then, just because life would be a little less satisfying without, it was meringues, strawberries and of course cream…………..

Strwberries and Cream

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Seasonal delights……..asparagus

As the ground starts to warm after the winter chill, the garden is abloom with spring flowers and the first signs of life in the veg plot start to twist and turn their way towards the sun. It is still too early for any homegrown asparagus but as I drive around the local area I noticed several of the local producers have started to advertise their early crop and it won’t be long before bundles of vibrant green asparagus stalks are all over the markets.

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It is without doubt my first real treat of the season and I am going to pair some tender young stalks with soft poached duck eggs. For something a little different to normal I have scattered over a little dukkah, an Egyptian blend of toasted nuts and spices, which marries perfectly the soft creaminess of the egg and the sweet, almost citric flavour of the asparagus. A bed of creamy tahini yogurt and a slug of fruity olive oil makes this combination truly delicious.

Asparagus with duck eggs, tahini and dukhah

Serves: 2

4 tablespoons Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon tahini paste

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 duck eggs

1 bundle young asparagus, trimmed

2 teaspoons dukhah*

a drizzle extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Combine the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice and salt and pepper, to taste. Divide between 2 plates.

Cook the duck eggs in a small pan of boiling water for 7-8 minutes. Drain and immediately refresh under cold water to stop further cooking. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel the eggs and cut in half.

Plunge asparagus spears into a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and shake dry.

Arrange the asparagus spears over the tahini sauce, pop the egg halves on top  and scatter over the dukhah. Drizzle with a little oil and serve.

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  • dukhah is available from Middle eastern stores, delis and some supermarkets

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All fired up

It’s that time of year again, the tell-tale spiral of smoke swirling above gardens; backyards buzzing with talk and the evocative aroma of food sizzling on the barbecue. What is it that makes us so drawn to this age old method of cooking? I think its a combination of factors – its sociable, its outdoors and therefore has a more relaxed ambience and of course it is all about the taste – barbecued food should cook over a direct heat so the outside caramelises keeping the inside juicy and moist and of course delicious.

This recipe is my version of a classic south American barbecued steak traditionally served with a green sauce called Chimichurri – the cut used is a beef skirt steak that comes from the belly of the beast and it is best to marinate the steak before cooking, to help tenderise it. It is also best cut across the grain once cooked, again this helps tenderise the beef. The sauce, similar to a salsa is made with coriander and spices and goes really well with beef. Keeping with the all South American theme I have opted for blue potatoes to serve as crisps with the steak. They tend to be drier and more starchy than other varieties and lend themselves very well to deep-frying. You should be able to find them in larger supermarkets or speciality green grocers – alternatively you can use a more traditional chipping potato such as Yukon Gold, King Edwards or Maris Bard.

 Barbecued beef skirt wraps with chilli, coriander and lime salsa

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Serves: 6

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves, crushed

grated zest 2 limes

1 tsp each salt and pepper

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 kg skirt steak

500 g blue potatoes, peeled

ancho chilli powder

salsa

2 x bunches fresh coriander (50g)

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped

juice 2 limes

1 tsp caster sugar

150 ml extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

serving suggestions

250 g heirloom tomatoes, 1 avocado, diced

coriander leaves and aioli

Place the rosemary, garlic, lime zest, salt, pepper and oil in a bowl and stir well to combine. Place the meat in a shallow dish, add the marinade, stir well and leave to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Return to room temperature 1 hour before cooking.

Make the salsa just before you cook the meat to keep the lovely vibrant green colour. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, season to taste.

Preheat your barbecue (or ridged-grill pan) until hot and add the meat. Cook for 3-5 minutes each side, depending on how well you like the meat cooked. Transfer to a board and rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Make the chips. Either buy or make your own. Cut the potatoes into wafer thin slices. Soak in cold water for 30 minutes, drain and dry thoroughly on kitchen towel. Heat 5 cm oil in a wok or saucepan until a cube of bread, when added, sizzles immediately. Fry the potato wafers, in batches, for about 2 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with a little ancho chilli powder and salt and serve at once.

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

This recipe and both images first appeared in Grazia UK June 2014


Floral hints of summer

As soon as I see the first elderflowers appearing in hedgerows and gardens I know that summer is just around the corner – sometimes a little further away than we hoped – but for sure the evenings are getting longer and their is a definite ‘bon vivant’ in the air. Elderflowers have a special place in my heart too as they remind me of childhood forays into the woods to go gathering basketfuls to take home and make into cordial and fizzy pop, as we called it. The past few years have seen a return to foraging and preserving due partly to the economic climate but also a desire to reconnect with nature. Suddenly lost pastimes are popular again and everywhere you look people are out hunting and gathering, pickling, salting, smoking and preserving. Bring it on…….

So it is the beginning of June and due to a slightly cooler spring the flowers are a little later than usual this year. I’m off basket in hand, dogs by my side and husband in tow with his camera to capture and record this years collecting of elderflowers for the blog. It’s only a gentle stroll along the path behind our home to a lovely sheltered spot where there are several heavily laden trees, more white than green, with so many flowers this year just waiting for to be picked. But why oh why do they always have to grow in the middle of a hundred nettles – I hate nettles!

Both of us love elderflower syrup, so that’s a definite. It’s such a versatile syrup and can be served simply, with water or why not try drizzling a little over wedges of chilled melon or stirred through whipped cream to serve with scones. The recipe is simple to make and the end result refreshing and delicious. Add ice cubes and sparkling water for a lovely summer drink or perhaps top up with Prosecco for a wonderfully fragrant aperitif.

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Elderflower cordial

Makes: approx 2 litres cordial

20 elderflower heads, choose those with all the flower heads open and bright white

1.5 L cold water

1 kg granulated sugar

4 un-waxed lemons, thinly sliced

55 g citric acid

Wash the flowers lightly under cold waking shaking away insects. Place the water and sugar in a large saucepan and bring it the boil over a low heat, without stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the elderflowers, lemon slices and citric acid.

Cover the pan with a clean tea towel and leave to steep overnight in a cool place. The next day strain the liquid through a sieve lined with a piece of muslin and transfer to clean jars.

Seal and store until required. Once re-opened store cordial in the fridge.

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Another great idea for making the most of the flowers is to serve them as crispy fritters, dusted with sugar and squeezed with lemon juice. The batter should be light so it doesn’t overpower the delicate nature of the flowers and they are best eaten just as soon as the batter cools enough to pop into the mouth. I tend to fry a couple, serve them and then fry a few more. Remember when deep-frying anything don’t over fill the pan with oil – for this recipe you will only need about 4-5 cm of oil in the bottom of a large wok or deep saucepan and have everything ready to go so that you don’t have the fat getter hotter and hotter. The best way to ensure that the oil is at the correct temperature for deep-frying is to invest in a sugar thermometer. It needs to be between 170-180c/340-350f but alternatively you can pop a small piece of bread into the hot oil – if it crisps and browns in 20 seconds the oil is perfect and remember the temperature will dip as the flowers go in so keep checking the thermometer and adjusting the heat as necessary.

Elderflower fritters

Serves: 4

8 elderflower heads

Batter

100 g plain white flour, sifted

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp caster sugar

175 ml fizzy water

caster sugar and lemons wedges, to serve

sunflower oil, for deep-frying

Wash the elderflower heads under water to remove any dead bits or insects and dry on kitchen paper. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and caster sugar in a bowl and gradually whisk in the fizzy water until the batter is smooth.

Pour 5 cm or so of oil into a wok or old, deep saucepan and heat until it reaches 180c/350f on a sugar thermometer (or until a cube of bread added to the oil, crisps in 20 seconds).

Working in batches, dip 2 flower heads into the batter, shake off excess and deep-fry for 1 minute or until the fritters are golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.

Serve the fritters dusted with sugar and some lemon wedges to squeeze.

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace