June is busting out all over 🎶🎶

Early summer in the Hérault is probably my favourite time of the year. It’s warm and sunny, the garden is probably at its best with the oleander blooming, it’s pre tourist and school summer holidays so we take advantage of the quieter roads to visit the seaside. Here we were at Gruissan, a circular (circulade) village on the coast in the Aude, famous for its chateau at the top of the village and its salt flats, les salines de Saint Martin. There is a wonderful variety of flavoured natural sea salts in the boutique which can be bought loose (en vrac) or in attractive pots. They make lovely presents, especially for foodies. At this time of the year I like to be thrifty with my time spent in the kitchen. No one wants to be inside cooking when the weather is like this and it’s nice to have a few impressive dishes under the belt that can be prepared in advance, fuss free in preparation for the descent of family visitors from late June onwards.

Vanilla cream and summer fruit terrines garnished with more fresh fruit and a drizzle of raspberry coulis.

This has become one of my favourite summer desserts. It keeps well for a few days in the fridge, takes advantage of the red summer fruits and will easily serve 8 people. I stole the idea from Delia Smith’s Summer Collection but had to do a bit of practising with the quantities of gelatine. Here in France we seem to work with sheets of gelatine not powder but once you work out that 3 sheets are sufficient for 250 ml of preparation and that if you line the terrine tin with cling film they are both foolproof. I know, famous last words !

Vanilla cream

425 ml double cream

425 Greek yoghurt or fromage blanc..not low fat

2 tsps of vanilla essence

75 g of sugar

Mix the yoghurt in a bowl with the vanilla.

Soak +/- 9 sheets of gelatine in cold water.

Heat the cream and sugar until dissolved but don’t boil it.

Take off the heat, whisk in the gelatine, stir into the yoghurt and pour into a lined loaf tin and refrigerate overnight.

Fruit terrine

500 ml of rosé wine

75 g of sugar

6 sheets of gelatine soaked in cold water

1 kg of mixed berries

Heat 500 ml of rosé sparkling or flat wine with 75 g of sugar until simmering, then stir in the gelatine off the heat until dissolved. Leave to cool.

Line a suitable loaf tin with cling film and arrange the mixed summer fruit in it. When the wine has cooled pour over the fruit, cover with cling film and weigh the whole thing down before refrigerating. Tins of beans or tomatoes are good for this.

Another good standby to have in the repertoire is home made gazpacho which needs to be kept nicely chilled in the fridge. All that’s needed when served is a garnish of fresh salad vegetables or avocado, croutons and a drizzle of good olive oil. This makes a refreshing light entrée or lunch on a hot day and is so easy to make. I simply liquidised a selection of summer vegetables and added sherry vinegar, seasoning and olive oil to taste. It’s not necessary to skin the vegetables but I do find that sometimes the cucumber is better peeled if it has a thick skin. If you like the texture of the soup smoother then you can always push it through a sieve 👍

As I was saying we enjoy visiting the coast, so many lovely places and we like to take advantage of the fact we can go pre season. Here I am in Marseillon on the L’étang de Thau. It certainly looked like the silver Euro generation, of which we are members, had the same idea admiring the spectacular hanging baskets and enjoying a lunch of seafood on the terraces of the restaurants .The mood was convivial ,no doubt helped along by the tipples of local rosé wine!

Inspired by the outing I quickly prepared a seafood pasta dish of little scallops called noix de pétoncle, some small prawns, cherry tomatoes and a bisque I had in the freezer. What works equally well with this as a shortcut is one of those little tins of concentrated lobster bisque, loosened down with a dash of cream. It’s a one pot dish that’s simplicity itself, the picture tells the story. A fitting end to a lovely day.

One final dish for these summer days, great with fish or meat or pasta is this gratin of tomatoes and courgettes. These are plentiful at this time of the year and growers often have a glut so it’s a good way to use them up. Spread a spicy tomato sauce in the bottom of a gratin dish and arrange the slices of courgettes and tomatoes in an attractive pattern on top. It’s fun!

I like to decorate with grated cheese, Gruyère or comté, something that melts nicely, and bake in the oven at 200°C until golden and tender. You can serve this hot or cold so I find it’s a good side to have with a barbecue, one less thing to worry about.

Bon appétit!