What's in season: June

What's in season: June

by Sally Abé 31 May 2018

As spring begins to morph into summer (despite the odd downpour), Sally Abé sheds some light on the greens, fish and fruits that are coming into their own over the next thirty days.

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After a five-year stint in the kitchen at two Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury, Sally is now head chef at The Harwood Arms in London.

After a five-year stint in the kitchen at two Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury, Sally is now head chef at The Harwood Arms in London.

Ignore the occasional thunderstorm you might’ve experienced in the past few weeks – summer is so close we can almost taste it. In fact, a flavour of things to come is already available in the greengrocers, with several summertime specialities beginning to appear.

By now you might have had your fill of broad beans and peas, but they’re set to get better and better as the weather warms up. If you fancy something a little different, however, keep an eye out for British-grown French beans; during the rest of the year they tend to be flown in from Africa, so are never as fresh as those grown here. They make a particularly good accompaniment to lamb, as seen in Nigel Haworth’s Confit shoulder of organic lamb, poached plum tomatoes, French beans and potato purée, and add a fresh crunch to Galton Blackiston’s Peanut chicken summer salad.

June marks the beginning of courgette season, with deep green and vibrant yellow varieties ready for eating. While they’re often sliced up and cooked, as in this Beef braised in red wine with Provençal vegetables, in the past year or so many have ended up spiralised, julienned or finely sliced into courgetti as a healthy alternative to pasta. Try it in a simple salad with Piccolo tomatoes, grilled corn and herb dressing, or use it as a bed for fish, as Matthew Tomkinson does in his dish of Hake with courgettes, Provençal mussel sauce and crispy breadcrumbs. Of course, don’t forget the flowers, which can be stuffed, fried or turned into tempura.

As the waters around the UK warm, certain species of small fish begin to appear in our fishermen’s nets – particularly mackerel and sardines. Mackerel will continue to be in season from now until winter, and is in plentiful supply, but the oily, strong-flavoured fish is a fantastic addition to all sorts of summertime dishes. Marcus Wareing simply pan-fries a fillet and serves it with chorizo-braised leeks and shallot crisps, while James Mackenzie takes smoked mackerel to make Scotch eggs with tartare sauce. However, for the easiest (and one of the tastiest) ways to enjoy mackerel, just whizz it into a pâté.

Sardines are never used as much as they should be, perhaps because of their association with the poor quality tinned fish of the past. But a fresh sardine is a real treat, especially when it’s grilled on a barbecue until the skin crisps and the flesh becomes lightly smoked. Shaun Rankin pairs them with seasonal Jersey Royals and a salsa verde, while Nathan Outlaw serves them very simply alongside a paprika-spiced mayonnaise.

Looking for the perfect accompaniment to your fillet of seasonal mackerel? Keep an eye out for gooseberries, which should be popping up in farmers’ shops across the UK any day now. It might sound like an odd combination, but the sharp, sweet flavour of the fruit contrasts beautifully with the oily, fatty flavour of mackerel. Try a dollop of Food Urchin’s Gooseberry sauce alongside some simply fried fillets and see for yourself.

Gooseberries are all well and good, but everyone knows it isn’t truly summer until the red berries begin to appear – most notably strawberries and raspberries. For the rest of the year they’re often watery, tasteless and pale, but when they’re freshly picked and still warm from the sun they have an intense, sweet flavour. Give strawberries and cream a fine dining twist with Graham Campbell’s panna cotta, or make Stephen Crane’s refreshing Strawberry sorbet to help you cool off on a hot day.

Raspberries can be turned into all sorts of different desserts, such as Agnar Scerrisson’s Raspberry soup with raspberry jelly and milk ice cream, James Mackenzie’s Pistachio and raspberry Bakewell tart or blogger Karen Burns-Booth’s Chocolate raspberry gateau. If you can’t bear the thought of the season ending, then boil up a batch of Easy raspberry jam, or follow in Josh Eggleton’s footsteps by making your own Raspberry vinegar.

While they aren’t grown in the UK, watermelons are at their best in June, lending an exotic touch to puddings such as Tom Aikens’ Compressed watermelon with coconut sorbet. Keep an eye out for elderflowers on your next country walk, too, as a few of these delicate flowers add bags of flavour to desserts, cocktails, cordials and syrups. Add a few to a glass of Prosecco (along with some sliced strawberries), and you’ll have an incredibly delicious glass of fizz that’s perfect for welcoming the warm weather ahead.