Delia Smith's Summer Collection by Delia Smith

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Delia Smith's Summer Collection by Delia Smith
Buy Delia Smith's Summer Collection from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Delia Smith's Summer Collection from Amazon.com

Genre: Cookery
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: With 140 fool-proof recipes to take you through from late spring until the early autumn there's something here for everyone. It's a book I've used over many years.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: May 2003
Publisher: BBC Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0563488700

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There comes a point each spring, probably round about Easter time, when Delia Smith's "Summer Collection" comes down from the top shelf. It's when the weather's just starting to feel a little warmer and we're tiring of roastie veg and warming casseroles. We want something that's a little lighter and brings some sunshine into the dining room.

One of the first of the summer dishes that we have each year is inevitably the Piedmont roasted peppers - red peppers filled with tomatoes, anchovy fillets and garlic. It's one of our favourite Saturday lunchtime meals served with some hot French bread to mop up all the juices. The preparation's slightly fiddly - you need to be able to cut the stalk of the pepper down the middle - and it's rather a long time in the oven, but it's well worth it. Originally the recipe was published by Elizabeth David, taken up by a couple of big-name chefs and then reproduced by Delia Smith.

Delia, you see, is not a chef and isn't trained as such, which might explain why she sometimes appears rather wooden when you see her on television in "her" kitchen. (It isn't, actually - the kitchen you see is her conservatory which is converted to a kitchen for the television cameras, and then re-converted afterwards. Her own kitchen is a very much less-grand affair.) She quite simply takes a recipe, tests it until she has what she considers to be the best possible product and then provides a recipe which is fool-proof if followed exactly. She teaches you little about the feel and sensation of food and there is little encouragement to experiment in any of her books, but followed to the letter her recipes will always ensure that you eat well. If you want to produce good meals read Delia Smith, but if you want to learn to cook then read Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson or Nigel Slater.

To me summer really starts when you see the young asparagus in the shops. I love it, but I'm the only one in the family who does. It's a short season, though, so I insist that we have it at least once and for preference it's Asparagus under wraps. Lightly steamed asparagus is wrapped along with cheese in Parma ham and then baked until the cheese melts. It's wonderful as a starter, but good as a light lunch as well. I've got away with it as a main meal by serving it with sliced potatoes baked with tomatoes and basil. Slice the potatoes and layer with chopped tomato flesh, onion, garlic and basil and then sprinkle with olive oil. Lovely!

Delia is occasionally guilty of following fashion, but never of setting it. In 1993 when this book was written the fashions were for salsa, and lime juice with virtually everything. I find salsa tedious to prepare - all that fine chopping of vegetables - and rather unrewarding. I can't see me ever doing the Toasted Sweetcorn Salsa which requires, as the name suggests, that you toast the Sweetcorn cobs and then strip the kernels from the cob before mixing them with red pepper, red onion, tomatoes, coriander, fresh lime juice and Tabasco. It sounds delicious, but I like a little more food for my minutes. I also think I'd use lemon juice!

I confess to having some difficulty with the Barbecue and Outdoor Food chapter as I am one of those odd people who has ever quite been able to see the point of cooking outside (or, worse still, having someone else half-cook) when I have a perfectly good kitchen where the flies do not often penetrate. The recipes look tasty, though (but not sufficiently so to tempt me!) and there is a good recipe for vegetarians - marinated Halloumi cheese kebabs with herbs which I have considered converting to indoor food. The home-made lemonade not only looks good - it is good, but be warned - there is quite a high sugar content, particularly if you're planning on giving it to children.

I always find meat difficult in summer. Somehow most of the standard meat roasts and casseroles seem too substantial, or too hot for the warmer weather. Even a roast chicken somehow seems better eaten cold. I have been taken, though, by the recipe for chicken with sherry vinegar and tarragon sauce. It's served hot, but isn't heavy and is one of our summer regulars.

Puddings, sweets, deserts - call them what you will, but this, to my mind is where Delia excels. I have never tried the terrine of summer fruits - a brick of dark red fruits held together with a jelly - but it looks absolutely stunning. The fresh peaches baked in Marsala with mascarpone cream is an indulgent regular as is the Caledonian ice cream - a vanilla ice cream veined with caramelised oatmeal. The most-used desert recipe, though, is the One-crust pie. Pile fruit onto a circle of shortcrust pastry - I cheat sometimes and use the pre-rolled circles which you can buy from the freezer section at the supermarket. Gather the circle up round the edges and glaze the surface with egg white and crushed sugar cubes. It doesn't have to be neat because it's meant to look a little bit rustic! It's my kind of recipe! The favourite recipe, though, has to be the gooseberry cobbler - gooseberries topped with a scone mixture. It's just a pity that the gooseberry season is so short!

I always know that summer's nearly over when I'm looking up the recipe for preserved dried tomatoes. It's late August now and I'm picking about 2kg a day of tomatoes from the greenhouse. I've got a good supply of pasta sauce in the freezer and there are tubs of tomatoes and courgettes in there too, so I like to dry some tomatoes and store them in olive oil so that I can add them to casseroles in the winter. It's an easy job and very worthwhile.

After that it's time for "Summer Collection" to go back on the shelf until next year!

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