It has been a fairly blissful weekend, all in all. This was a surprise as I wasn't expecting it to be a particularly good weekend. After all, part of it involved work. I was over in northern France for work on Friday night. Usually we head back first thing on Saturday so as to salvage as much of the weekend as possible but this time, as the weather was so lovely and neither my colleague or I had plans for the weekend, we decided to take an early evening train back and enjoy a day exploring the area. Our initial plans to visit Le Touquet were thwarted when we realised that the entire population of France seemed to have the same idea (me? prone to exaggeration?? never...!). Rather than spend the day sitting in traffic, we headed further along the coast and found a small seaside town (the name of which I forget) with access to the most stunning sweep of beach. It seemed to go on for miles - the tide was right out and it was just perfect for a lovely pre-lunch stroll in the sunshine.
We then went on to Wimereux - a quintessentially French station balnéaire if ever there was one! We found a lovely bistro and had a delicious lunch (perfect goat cheese salad followed by grilled salmon with a buttery citrussy sauce, topped off with tarte tatin) all washed down with a little fresh and zesty Muscadet. Lovely way to spend Saturday.
On Sunday, I pottered in the garden and then joined a friend in Battersea Park where we lazed under the shade of a tree and ate a punnet of strawberries. Then it was on to another friend for supper in the garden. What a treat it was! We started with Pimms - Summer has truly arrived. See Julia's post for tips on making the perfect jug of Pimms.
As we enjoyed this first taste of Summer, we nibbled on pitta bread and dips whilst we caught up on all the latest news. It was so great to be outside in summery dresses late into the evening. The table looked tempting with fresh salads: mixed leaves with sunblush tomatoes and courgettes with feta and mint.
We had a fantastic starter of salmon carpaccio which had been cured in lime juice in the style of ceviche. A Nigella recipe apparently. We had hunks of sourdough bread to soak up the citrussy juices. It was presented beautifully:
Next we had some fabulous lamb. I'd had a few glasses of wine by this point so there are no photos and I forgot to ask how it was prepared. I think it was lamb fillet perhaps - it was meltingly tender. We finished with mixed berries. Perfection!
To make up for the lack of lamb information, I'm sharing a great dish that I enjoyed last week (...slightly tenuous link, I know...). I had some lovely little lamb steaks in the freezer which I griddled and served quite pink along with a really good oven-roasted ratatouille. It is actually not really a ratatouille at all. In fact I should probably just call it roasted vegetables. But it had all the flavours of ratatouille, so I'm going with that as a title! In any case it was really rather good.
Griddled lamb with oven-roasted ratatouille
Serves 2 (easily multiplied or halved)
2 lamb steaks
1 small courgette
half an aubergine
1 large red onion
1 red pepper
handful of cherry tomatoes
1 fat clove of garlic
a sprig or two of thyme
1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Chop onion, pepper, courgettes and aubergine into 2 cm dice (or thereabouts). Chop garlic finely.
2. Place aubergine in a colander, sprinkle salt over it and weigh down with a plate and a tin of tomatoes (or similar weight). Leave for up to half an hour (this draws out bitterness, so I am told). On this occasion I didn't bother with this as I was hungry, but I'm telling you about it just in case you feel like doing things properly!
3. Drizzle oil into a small roasting tin and heat up in the oven. Meanwhile rub a little olive oil onto the lamb steaks, chop up some thyme and massage into the meat. Leave in a bowl covered with cling film until ready to cook.
4. Put onion, peppers and garlic into the oven to roast. After ten minutes add the courgette and aubergine and season well with salt, pepper and a little thyme. Roast for half an hour. Add the tomatoes and roast for a further 10-15 minutes, until the tomatoes are squishy.
5. Heat the griddle pan to high and cook the lamb to your taste. Serve with the ratatouille which should have a wonderfully rich and smoky flavour.
Notes: As you can see, I used a biscuit cutter to 'shape' the ratatouille into a circle. I think it looked more appealing than a great big dollop of the stuff. But that may just be me!