At this time of year, I have to stand firm against the tyranny of the garden produce. There's a phone call. I stiffen. We're going past your way this afternoon. Do you want some plums? NOOOOOO!
We barter. I'll take some eggplant and swap you some pears. What about tomatoes? Sorry, but I can do zucchini. Well - some hesitation, I'll take some zucchini but you'll have to have some avocados.
Sadly, there's a friend-wide issue with garden tomatoes this year. I hand over a load of fruit, get some other stuff back and receive one tomato. I'ts a beauty, a one-off treasure.
Yes, yes, there is excess and we hand it around to friends, we take it to the alternative restaurant at the corner, we give it to rescue centres but there's a limit... Chutney? Jam? I have vintage chutneys that would make the age on a prized bottle of Grange blush. And anyway, that's just all more sugar.
Here's what I've been trying to do. Any further suggestions will be welcome.
The best invention has been the Pear & Potato Gratin. See below - left to right.
For 4 generous serves
2 medium potaoes -cut into cubes 1cm x 1cm approx
2 firm pears - ditto
Generous cup grated cheese, cheddar style (**I use "cat cheese" - I give up my secret below)
Big slurp of cream
Lightly salt and heavily pepper.
Mix all together, place in a gratin dish and lightly coat with breadcrumbs (optional).
Bake in the oven for about 40mins - 180˚c/350˚F - until bubbling and potato is cooked.
P.G. with a lamb croquette, sauce from our tomatoes and our beans.
P.G. with the ubiquitous stuffed figs. (Note the Arne Jacobsen fork as seen in the film 2001-a Space Odyssey. Plate "Landscape" by Rosenthal c. 2005)
P.G. with braised lamb and chickpeas à la Jamie Oliver (easy, easy, look it up). Plate - Royal Copenhagen "Brown Iris" 1962. My favourite glass "Isadora" by Holmegaard c1990)
**Cat cheese - we always have on stand-by, a sealed bag of grated "all-purpose" cheese bought at the supermarket dairy shelf for our cats. They need the calcium and milk is bad for cats. One day, stuck for melting cheese, I raided the "cat cheese". It was perfect. OK, OK, not as good as Gruyère, Cantal, Comté or Emmantal but fine. Now, when I need it, we share with the cats.
Then there's the figs. Stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and baked, they make a great entrée or main course.
Serve 2 figs for an entrée, 3 or more for a main course. Allow guests to serve themselves.
Because they are baked, this works equally well for very ripe and under-ripe figs, in the same batch.
Use a really standard blue that packs a punch. Tried some left-over Roquefort and it wasn't as good.
For each fig...
Left - a nice platter of warm figs, running with juice, served here with a fattoush salad. Yes, I did go overboard on the fattoush arrangement. This Lebanese or Jordanian salad is very forgiving. Use what you have but there must be sumac.
For the fattoush salad, cut into small bite-sized pieces...
Ripe tomatoes, green capsicum
A few radishes, finely sliced
Lebanese cucumber, cubed
Red onion finely sliced (or some spring onions, because they were clamouring in the garden)
Flat lebanese bread, toasted and broken up, or use, as above, sliced ciabatta
Season with lemon, olive oil, salt and the essential ingredient sumac.
Arrange on lettuce leaves. Serve pretty soon after final assembly.
(Mine has some sesame seeds - I just had some toasted, left over.)
SUMAC - a type of berry, dried and ground which gives a lovely sour/acid taste. Easily found at Lebanese markets.
Enough - already! There's more to come next week with eggplant and native finger limes.
Comment or add - see below