September. The start of a new season, and quite possibly my favourite month. Cooler air, foggy mornings and bushes heavy with blackberries. I love it.
I often find myself daydreaming about autumn; even on the hottest day in the middle of summer. Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries II allows you to dip into recipes meant for cooler autumnal days or any time of year for that matter, whenever you please. The book is a beautiful collection of recipes and tales of what he has cooked and eaten over the course of a year.
My first recipe for this month’s Book Club is taken from the chapter ‘September’ in The Kitchen Diaries II, and for me, it’s a recipe that demonstrates perfectly this transition from one season to the next.
Gammon, Peach and Parsley Salad: a cooked ham and warm puy lentils combined with the last of the summer’s peaches.
The first step was to cook the ham. Simmered in water with just a few aromatics: bay leaves, peppercorns and parsley stalks, it took only an hour to cook. Whenever I cook a ham like this, I always ask myself why I don’t do it more often. It’s so quick and simple, and a 700g piece only set me back £4, when you’d pay that for just three slices of cooked ham in the supermarket.
The ham was left to cool in it’s own cooking liquor before being torn into juicy chunks.
I’d bought a mixture of yellow and white fleshed peaches, for no other reason than their sheer beauty. To prepare them, Nigel says to “slice the peaches in half, pull out their stones and slice each half into three, then toss with lemon juice”. They were so beautifully ripe, it was difficult not to bruise their delicate flesh.
The peach slices, nuggets of ham and cooked puy lentils were combined with a generous handful of parsley. Now, I don’t actually like parsley. Correction: I HATE parsley. If it’s cooked, I have no issues with it whatsoever, but raw? Just no. But still, I did as I was told, and the salad needed some greenery anyway.
A creamy dressing of white wine vinegar, olive oil, crème fraîche and basil finished off the dish. It looked an absolute picture.
The salad tasted really fresh, but quite substantial at the same time because of the lentils. The peach to ham ratio was quite high, but it was perfect. I did eat some parsley, and it did work perfectly if I’m honest. My husband, a normal eater that has no aversions to parsley, loved it.
The only thing I might have changed would be to have chopped the basil finer into the dressing. The recipe says to roughly tear it, but I found the random hit of basil quite odd. I would have preferred a little with each mouthful.
This is a stunning autumnal salad. The ingredients, the flavours and even the colours of this have got me excited for what else this season has to hold.
Next WeeK: Blackberry Ice Cream Cake
Last month: August Book Club