Pork chops, green fritters and elderflower drizzle cake: recipes to try in June

Keep your energy levels high with all the fresh flavours of June
Keep your energy levels high with all the fresh flavours of June Credit: Yuki Sugiura

Busy, crazy June. When it seems everyone is around, when traffic chokes every journey you take and the school year reaches its exhausted crescendo. It’s a month of big events, from sports days and proms to nightly, sunlit partying in a haze of white charcoal smoke.

There’s too much to cram in, whether dressing up for Royal Ascot, banking up work ahead of a holiday, doing your level best to mop the exam stress from an offspring’s brow or trying to sneak in a few hours of TV, watching the tennis at Queen’s. On balance, I think that June is even more shattering than December, though often in a joyful way.

Frantically keeping up with a packed diary does not leave a lot of time for cooking – typical when it is exactly now that good nourishment is essential, and ironic since June is such a great time for seasonal eating.

'Seems like a lot of work? With all those energy-packing greens, it will be a breeze' Credit: Yuki Sugiura

On grocers’ counters, punnets brim with red, black and green berries and the season’s final bunches of asparagus. There’s the privilege of eating fresh peas, broad beans, small potatoes from Cornwall and the Channel Islands, multifarious leafy greens and the first, tender roots - carrot, radish, then beetroots red, gold and stripy pink.

Recipes for June must take time poverty into account while not missing out on the glut. For that weary student, needing brief distraction from their books and files, some marigold yellow fritters, speckled with greens and a little heat from green chilli, eaten with a spoonful of rich sour cream – as effective but infinitely more pleasurable than a vitamin injection.

For that TV supper taken while watching the tennis, a gratin of young lettuce hearts as green as the balls being smashed back and forth over nets, stuffed with creamy ricotta. Eat this alone or as a side dish to grilled pork chops eaten alongside buttery watercress puree and small garden peas.

'You only need a few heads of elderflower to make a syrup to add to an easy-to-make cake for picnics' Credit: Yuki Sugiura

There is always the hope, however, that the light evenings lend time for a relaxing walk. In which case look out for elderflowers in hedgerows – you only need a few to make a syrup to add to an easy-to-make cake for picnics, to pack into lunchboxes or serve as a pudding with a squiggle of extra honey, and a splosh of double cream.

Seems like a lot of work? With all those energy-packing greens, it will be a breeze.

 

Lettuce stuffed with ricotta, lemon and pecorino

Credit: Yuki Sugiura

Try to buy tender butterhead lettuces for this recipe because they have no bitterness.  Serve with grilled pork chops.

SERVES

4

INGREDIENTS

  • 100g butter, melted
  • 2 butterhead lettuces
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed to a purée with a little salt
  • 8 tbsp ricotta
  • 4 tbsp pecorino, grated
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg, grated
  • 2 egg yolks

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Brush the base of a 20 x 20cm ovenproof dish with some of the melted butter.
  2. Cut each lettuce in half, from the root end to the top, exposing the pale lettuce heart. Take off any damaged leaves and trim the root if dirty. Cut out the centre of each lettuce, leaving behind a sturdy shell of outer leaves.
  3. Chop the hearts and put them in a pan with the oil and garlic. Cook over a low temperature until the lettuce wilts. 
  4. Remove from the heat and put in a bowl with the ricotta, pecorino, lemon zest, nutmeg, egg yolks and some seasoning. Mix to combine.
  5. Take one lettuce shell and spoon a quarter of the mixture on to its centre. Place it in the ovenproof dish. Repeat with the other three shells so you have all four sitting snugly in the dish. Brush the exposed lettuce leaves with melted butter. 
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the lettuces are soft  and the filling bubbles. Serve immediately.

Rocket and broad bean fritters, with green chilli, green pepper and rocket salsa

Credit: Yuki Sugiura

I suggest frying these as  you need them, eating close  to the pan, as it were.

SERVES

4

INGREDIENTS

For the fritters

  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh parmesan, grated
  • 2 heaped tbsp plain flour or chickpea flour
  • 150g rocket leaves
  • 6 tbsp broad beans
  • olive oil or groundnut oil, for frying

For the salsa 

  • 150g rocket, chopped
  • ½ green pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 hot green or 4 mild green chillies, deseeded and chopped, plus more if you like
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • sour cream, to serve

METHOD

  1. Mix together the eggs, cream cheese, parmesan and flour until you have a smooth, thick batter. Stir in the rocket and beans with half a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of ground white pepper.
  2. Combine all the salsa ingredients in a bowl with some seasoning, then taste to adjust, adding more chilli if you like it hot. Put the salsa and sour cream in separate serving bowls and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and drop in a heaped tablespoon of the fritter mixture. Add two or three more depending on the pan size, and cook until the underside of each fritter is light brown. Turn them over with a spatula and cook until puffed and just firm.
  4. Serve immediately with the salsa and sour cream.

Grilled pork with watercress and garden peas

Credit: Yuki Sugiura

SERVES

4

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large pork shoulder chops
  • oil, for brushing

For the watercress purée

  • 1 bunch of watercress, chopped
  • 100g butter
  • 100ml chicken stock

To serve 

  • 1kg new potatoes, boiled until just tender, then sliced
  • 500g garden peas, boiled for 1-2 minutes until just tender
  • 4 red radishes, sliced on a mandolin
  • 2 tbsp watercress leaves

METHOD

  1. Heat the watercress in a pan with the butter and stock. When it simmers, cook for a minute then blend in a liquidiser until you have a smooth green sauce. Season to taste and set aside in a warm place.
  2. Heat a grill pan to medium-high, or prepare a barbecue so it has burnt down to grey-white embers.
  3. Brush the pork chops all over with a little oil and grill them for about four minutes on each side, turning a few times, until just firm. Transfer to a serving place to rest, covered with a loose tent of foil, for  10 minutes.
  4. Plate the pork on individual serving dishes, with the potatoes and peas around it, the watercress sauce poured around the meat and vegetables, the radish slices and watercress leaves scattered over.

Elderflower drizzle cake

Credit: Yuki Sugiura

A springy, bubbly sponge that laps up the elderflower syrup beautifully. Serve as  a pudding with lightly whipped cream.

SERVES

6

INGREDIENTS

For the cake

  • 115g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the tin 
  • 55g dark, soft brown sugar 
  • 6 eggs, separated, the yolks lightly beaten 
  • 120g runny honey
  • 30ml elderflower cordial
  • 125g self-raising flour 
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 200g ground almonds 

For the syrup

  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 4 elderflower heads
  • juice of 1 lemon

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3½. Prepare a 20cm loaf tin, either buttering and dusting with flour or lining the base with baking parchment.
  2. Put the syrup ingredients in a pan with 200ml water and slowly bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Leave to dissolve the sugar and steep – for about one hour.
  3. For the cake, put the butter and sugar together in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Gradually beat in the egg yolks, adding little by little (this helps stop the cake curdling), then add the honey and elderflower cordial.
  4. Sift the flour, spices and a pinch of salt together and fold this into the mixture with the almonds. 
  5. Finally, whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold them gently into the mixture. 
  6. Transfer to the tin and bake for about one hour. The cake is cooked when an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  7. When the cake has cooled, and while still in the tin, pierce holes in it with a skewer and pour over the syrup through a sieve. Leave to sit for a while before serving.