Say it quietly, but the sun has established its dominance over the summer. While we've changed our attire to a summery affair of shorts and skin, our pallets are lagging behind. We're in need of a meal worthy of the warm weather.
Tom Aikens knows his way around a seasonal dish. The Michelin starred chef takes a pride in food provenance, investing an obscene amount of time into sourcing the best regional produce for his creations. A recent trip saw him visit the workshops of the Leonardi family, who've been producing balsamic vinegar since 1871. He's recently lent this extensive gastro knowledge to Walker's latest range of Market Deli premium crisps, calling upon his knowledge of flavours and foods from around Europe.
Here he provides us with the perfect menu for a summer dinner party, calling upon some of the key ingredients of the Market Deli range. Fetch your apron, sharpen you knives and prepare to eat exceptionally well.
Chilled Gazpacho with english vine ripened tomatoes
"There's a combination of different flavours at work here: the tomatoes, sourced from a farm in Evesham, cucumbers, red pepper and some fresh herbs and basil and white wine vinegar."
To be chopped into small, neat dice (approx. 0.3mm in size):
3 red peppers cleaned, deseeded
3 yellow peppers cleaned, deseeded
1 medium sized red onion
1 cucumber peeled, deseeded
150g sweet roasted peppers
200g Turkish sun-dried tomatoes
300g fresh English tomatoes (from Evesham, if you want the full Market Deli experience)
6 cloves of roasted garlic, finely chopped
1 litre tomato juice
50ml of red wine vinegar
15g Anglesey sea salt
2g fresh cracked black pepper
150ml olive oil
20g tarragon, cut into strips
20g basil, cut into strips
For the tomato dice
1. Place a pan of water on the stove to boil. Take the tomatoes and remove the eye of the tomato and make a small score at the base with a knife .
2. Once the water is boiling, add the tomatoes carefully and blanch for about 10-15 seconds (depending on their ripeness), then remove with a slotted spoon and place into iced water. Leave for a minute to cool before removing them from the water.
3. Take a paring knife and carefully peel the skin off the tomato, before cutting them into four quarters. Cut between the flesh of the tomato and the seeds so you end up with just the flesh. Discard all of the seeds. Cut the tomato into a small dice and place into a bowl.
Mix all diced ingredients with the tomato and remaining ingredients. Best left to marinate in the fridge for a day before it’s eaten. Serve chilled. Garnish with the extra basil leaves.
Macaroni Cheese with Wiltshire Cured Ham
"In this dish we've got some sun dried tomatoes from Manisa, Turkey, which give it a really nice intense, rich flavour, lightened by some basil and oregano.
500ml milk (Hot)
12 turns of cracked black pepper
8g Anglesey sea salt
100g grated Mature Cornish Cheddar (plus an additional 20g for topping)
20g Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
2 bay leaves
4g sprigs thyme
Pinch of grated nutmeg
100g Wiltshire cured ham, cut into 1cm dice
50g Turkish sun dried tomatoes
Pinch fresh marjoram and thyme
10 leaves of fresh basil ripped
Cooking the sauce:
1. Infuse the milk with the 3 garlic cloves (cut in half), 2 bay leaves, sprigs of thyme finishing with a little grated nutmeg. Leave for 10 minutes, then strain.
2. Melt the butter in a pan on a low heat. Whilst stirring gently, add the flour and cook out for 5 minutes. Pour the infused milk little by little into the flour and butter mix, again continually stirring. Ensure the heat is on low - if it is too hot your mix will burn on the bottom of the pan.
3. Once all the milk has been added to the flour and butter mix, add the salt and pepper. Bring to a slow simmer for 5 minutes at a low temperature stirring all the time ensuring the mixture does not catch on the bottom of the pan.
4. Slowly add the mustard and cheese, stir until the cheese has completely melted. Turn the heat off and leave the final mixture in a bowl to rest. Cover with cling film.
Cooking the pasta:
1. Place some water into a clean pan, adding 10g of salt per litre of water. Bring the water to a simmer, add some olive oil and gently add the pasta. To cook the pasta to an al dente level before leaving to simmer for approximately 8 minutes.
2. Drain in a colander and refresh in cold water. Drain well and leave to drip dry. Return the pasta to the pan and add the sauce, ham, pinch of fresh marjoram, thyme, sun-dried tomato and basil.
3. Place in the casserole size dish and sprinkle with 20g of extra grated cheese. Bake in the oven at 200c/400F for 15 minutes till hot and golden.
Roast Plums with balsamic vinegar
"You can use more of an aged balsamic vinegar if you use it with fresh fruits and not cook it. So for a dish like fresh strawberries you can use a balsamic aged between five and ten years. If you're going to cook with a balsamic you're going to want to use something aged around three years."
8 ripe plums, cut in half
2 tbsp muscavado sugar
Large pinch of mixed spice
Small pinch of ground cloves
Large pinch of ground ginger
2 oranges, zested finely
Large pinch of ground 5 spice
20ml of aged balsamic vinegar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, then cut into 4
20g soft butter
1. Place a large shallow sauté pan on a med high heat and add the butter. When nut brown, sprinkle in the sugar and vanilla and cook until caramelised.
2. When the mix is syrupy, add the plums, cut side down. Cook for 2-3mins till caramelised, then add the spices and orange zest. Cook for another minute then turn over. Sprinkle balsamic vinegar when they are just softening.
Serve with the spiced crème fraiche
300g Crème Fraiche
1 vanilla bean, scraped
80g caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder
Place the crème fraiche into a bowl. Add the sugar, cinnamon powder and vanilla seeds. Beat the mix with a wooden spoon for 3-4 minutes.
Tom Aikens is working with Walkers on the launch of new Market Deli which is available nationwide now. For more information head to www.Walkersdeli.co.uk
(Images: Walkers; Shutterstock; Kristen Taylor)