Can it really be true? Am I really sitting in my back garden - in England - enjoying yet another day of glorious sunshine, blue sky and paddling pool action? Amazing. Yes, it might be hot at times but please let's try not to complain. After all, we still were contemplating turning the heating back on in late June!
So let's embrace the heat, get out of the kitchen and make the most of the opportunity for some proper al fresco dining. Whether you are a hardcore charcoal enthusiast, or a (slightly more child-friendly, in my opinion) gas BBQ-er, now is the time to dust off the deck furniture, say good-bye to the slow-cooker and get grilling.
I was brought up in the US, have enjoyed many a July 4th celebration, and for me a BBQ is not complete without a nice, fat, juicy burger. A nice white (I know, I know!) sesame bun, a slice of mature cheddar and lashings of tommy K and I am a happy girl. My husband (and the rest of my family, for that matter) also smear mayo generously over the bun and top with thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes and crispy lettuce, but that is the beauty of the burger....it is fully customisable.
When it comes to the burger itself, you can't beat homemade and simple. Good quality beef and a little seasoning is all you need. I use Organic beef mince from Waitrose, add in a big dollop of Dijon mustard, a generous pinch of sea salt and a few twists of black pepper. From 400g of mince, you can get enough for a family of 5: two hearty mummy and daddy burgers, and three kiddie sized ones.
So you've got your burgers sorted and a jug of Pimm's on the go. Add a couple of refreshing salads and you're all set. Peaches and nectarines are just coming into season, and the following salad makes the absolute most of them.
Peach, Parma Ham and Mozzarella Salad
3 ripe (but still firm) peaches, quartered
1 large ball of Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese
1 bag of mixed lettuce leaves (I like lamb's lettuce and rocket)
4 slices (approx.) thinly sliced Parma ham, torn into 3 lengths
Handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
Start by tossing the leaves and mint in a simple vinaigrette. I like a citrus-based one like lemon juice, oil & a little honey. Roughly tear the mozzarella into bite-sized pieces and place over the salad leaves. Next, lay slices of Parma ham over the salad and top with slices of peach. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and you are good to go. If you've got a little extra time then grilling the peaches on the BBQ (or a griddle pan) until you get lovely blackened stripes adds a nice touch too. If you really want to push the boat out, and you want to make this salad the star of the show, then I urge you to make the Green Goddess dressing from the William's Sonoma blog and drizzle it liberally over the top. I served it recently and we were literally licking the plates clean.