Monday, 28 June 2010

Getting in the swing of summer

It feels – finally – as though summer is really here. Glorious sunshine, headily azure skies and heat to warm the marrow of the bones – there's no mistaking it any longer.

With the signs set for a hot weekend, The Other Half and I forewent the pleasures of an evening in the staff bar on Friday and pottered down to John Lewis for a bit of seasonal retail therapy. Specifically, a pair of metal-framed 'deckchairs' and a new braai, since the previous one had started to collapse. still, it had only cost around £20 from a local Turkish shop and had lasted us some years.

All that meant some work in our garden. I suppose it's roughly 15' by about 12' – can't be much more than that – but it's such a precious space. The Other Half spent Saturday de-cluttering it. First, the old braai – a tin box on legs – went out. Then he finally got around to bashing a garden bench into pieces so that we could carry it out and decant it into the communal bins.

We've had that bench for years, having bought it from a small shop on Hackney Road and, when we got it home and mostly errected, found out that it was missing two struts. It was one of those affairs with cast iron ends and wooden slats. For whatever reason, we never got around to going back to the shop and either demanding the struts or our money back.

So it has occupied space against once fence for years: always wobbly and getting wobblier with every passing season. It was long past our being able to sit on it. We talked of getting rid of it some years ago, but Trickie, one of our cats at the time (and as neurotic a cat as we've had) loved it, so we left it there.

But Trickie is long gone. And in the last week, one of the wooden slats fell off. It was a rallying call.

We'd also had a little table and two folding chairs in our tiny space, but both chairs had finally given up the ghost. So we have now simply shoved the table out of the way, leaving the patio clear for the new 'deckchairs'.

And once that was sorted, the plan for the rest of the weekend was really rather obvious. Sitting in the sun with plenty of chilled water and a book.

And then there was food. Obviously a braai was arranged – that was for Sunday.

But for Saturday, I picked up salmon fillets to poach, plus good new potatoes (still Jerseys), fresh garden peas and fine beans.

And then I made the first aioli of the season to serve with it.

This Catalan version of mayo is an utter delight. When I'd made it, I had a struggle to stop myself scoffing the stuff by the spoonful as it set off an orgy of flavour in my mouth.

Don't believe all the stories about emulsions being difficult – all you need to do is take your time.

So, take one – or more – garlic cloves. Peel and crush, then blend with some coarse salt until you get a paste.

Pop that into a large jug and add the yolk of a very fresh egg. Then whisk until you've got a lovely, stiff mixture.

Now, here's the only real trick: as you keep whisking, start adding some good virgin oil – very, VERY slowly: you really need to just drip it in at first. If anything, your mix should stiffen even further. Okay, it takes a few minutes, but keep going – slowly. When you've eventually got something that looks like a really good, stiff, golden mayo, you can add the oil a little faster until you get the consistency that you want.

Decant it into a pot and stick in the fridge – it'll keep for up to a week, although that's only if you can resist the temptation to use it much much quicker!

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