Last of the summer veg (and fruit)
August is one of the best months for home-grown fruit and veg. Visit a farmer’s market or pick-your-own to enjoy it at its freshest or pick up bargains at the end of the day from a street market.
Hugely good for you as they’re high in the anti-oxidant beta-carotene. Just scrump them fresh or, if they’re not very ripe, halve them, put them in a pan with a little water and a couple of tablespoons of sugar, cover the pan and simmer them for about 10-15 minutes until soft.
No, not baked ones! Lovely green fresh runner beans. You need to remove the tough ‘strings’ that run either side of the bean. Simply cut down each side with a sharp knife and nick off the top and bottom of the bean. Then cut them into diagonal slices, put them in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and cook for about 6-7 minutes until they’re tender. (Try one after 6 minutes to check). Drain the beans and return them to the pan with a little butter or oil and some salt and pepper.
One of my favourite summer veg but keep away from water otherwise they go soggy. The easiest way to cook them is to grate them coarsely and stir fry them for a couple of minutes in hot oil and butter - great mixed into cooked couscous. They also roast and grill well along with other Mediterranean veg like peppers and aubergines.
Available all year round but cheaper at this time of year. If you don’t want it to make your salad soggy, de-seed it by cutting it in quarters lengthways and cutting away the seeds. The skin is a matter of taste (I like it) but remove it with a vegetable peeler for a milder flavour
Almost a dying breed now that we’ve all got the packaged salad habit but just compare the price of an old fashioned round lettuce with a bagged one and you’ll see it’s worth washing a few leaves. Just strip off any damaged or dirty leaves on the outside of the lettuce, pull off the other leaves, wash them in cold water then drain them and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel (or whizz in a salad spinner if you have one). Serve with your favourite salad dressing. Any leftover leaves can be kept in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Peaches (and nectarines)
At their best this month but can still be hard and unripe, particularly if you buy them in punnets (plastic boxes) rather than individually. Look out for bargains in street markets but eat them up quickly after you buy them as they don’t tend to keep for more than a couple of days. Shouldn’t be too difficult!
Again, look for market bargains. Red and yellow ones are sweeter than green ones - better for salads and for eating raw. Roasting also intensifies their flavour - simple halve and de-seed them and lay them in an oiled roasting tin. Pop a thin slice of garlic in each half, season with salt and pepper, drizzle over a little olive oil and roast at 190°C/375°F/Gas 5 for about 45-50 minutes or until the peppers are soft and charred.
At their juiciest and cheapest. For a fab breakfast roughly mash some in a bowl, spoon over a large dollop of yoghurt and trickle with honey. Mix roughly together then sprinkle with a heaped tablespoon of muesli.
Like salad, spinach normally comes in pricey bags but at this time of year you should be able to buy it loose. Tip the leaves into a sinkful of cold water and wash thoroughly. Pull off the stalks and central rib of any particularly large leaves. Drain off the water and pack the spinach into a large lidded saucepan. Place over a low heat and cook until ithe leaves start to collapse down. Turn over and cook for a couple of minutes over then drain thoroughly in a colander or sieve. Return to the pan with a good chunk of butter, reheat and season with pepper. You can also use raw spinach leaves in a salad - great with bacon and blue cheese
Like most veg they’re cheaper if you don’t buy them ready prepared. Simply cut off the roots and the top half of the green tops and remove any damaged outer leaves. Then either slice across finely (better if you want to add them to a salad or rice dish) or cut them in half or quarters lengthways, and again in half to give you fine strips (better for stir fries or if you’re using them as a garnish). They have a milder flavour than ordinary onions so you can use them for example in egg dishes like stirred eggs with chilli and coriander (p. 54 of Beyond Baked Beans)
Yes, you can buy tinned - and frozen - sweetcorn year round but cobs are cheap and fun to eat. Just cut off the stalk, strip off the feathery husks and plunge into boiling, unsalted water (salt makes them tough) Cook for about 7-8 minutes, drain and smother with soft butter, salt and pepper. Mmmm.
Don’t be seduced by the ‘vine-ripened’ varieties (where else would they be ripened?) - ordinary ones should be fine at this time of year. Cherry tomatoes are specially sweet if you find them on special offer.
Has been completely overtaken by rocket but why? It has the same peppery flavour and is quite a bit cheaper. The best places to buy it are off market stalls or old fashioned greengrocers. Just take the bunch in your hand dunk it in cold water and give it a good shake then twist off the ends of the stems so you’re just left with the leaves at the top. Makes good strong-flavoured salads along with spinach or a tasty, healthy salad garnish. (It’s rich in iron and vitamin C)