I have a terrible habit of choosing to review baking books. It has become a bit of an addiction, I find myself staring at lovely images of cakes and cookies for an unhealthy amount of time. However, with the return of the sun and ambient weather in general I find myself putting my baking books to one side (for now), the thought of chocolatey and sugary treats feels all melty and sticky. I'm craving something lighter and fresher, the problem is I only know how to make the heart-warming stuff.
Enter Flavours of Summer, a recipe book full of much needed inspiration, with over 150 recipes (including recipes for condiments) there is plenty to choose from. There are seven chapters beginning with a rather large section on Snacks and Plates to Share, followed by Summer Salads, Sunshine Lunches, Best-ever Barbecue, Outdoor Dining, Desserts and Sweet Treats and finally Drinks.
There are wonderful images scattered generously throughout, some showcasing the food, others the outdoor, garden lifestyle. They work beautifully alongside each other, making you wish for long afternoons and light evenings. Occasionally a lifestyle shot has been chosen over a shot of the food, and if I'm honest I'd rather see what it is I'm making over a hand pouring some wine. Thankfully, I only noticed this once or twice, and it is worth noting that I found some full page images of food at the beginning of each chapter that accompany recipes that I thought were without their own image.
I was pleased to see a great range of foods, there is obviously a lot of meat recipes featured, especially in the barbecue chapter, but there are also plenty of vegetarian recipes in Snacks and Plates to Share and Summer Salads. I'm not a vegetarian myself but if the weather is warm I find it nice to have something a little less heavy (as well as it being lighter on the wallet). With a mixture of favourites from around the world such as mezze, shish kebabs and hand-risen pork pies, there should be something for everyone.
In the first chapter, the meat-eater in me was tempted the Buffalo Chicken Wings with Homemade Ranch Dressing, but I also quite fancied the Tomato Keftedes with Tzatziki and the Arancini with Percorino, Porcini and Mozzerella.
I was impressed with the interesting selection of salads in chapter two. I'm one of those people that finds the idea of a salad boring; I've no imagination when it comes to putting something tasty and interesting together, so I was hugely inspired by the idea of Grilled Nectarines with Buffalo Mozzarella, Coppa Salami and Chilli and Pearl Barley, Roast Pumpkin and Green Beans, they both looked delicious.
The first half of Sunshine Lunches seemed a little soup heavy for me as I'm not a big fan (especially of chilled soups), but if you are, you'll find classics like Gazpacho and Minted Pea, as well as the slightly more exotic, Chilled Smoked Salmon, Avocado and Chive. However, I think I'm more likely to want to chow down on a Goats' Cheese, Thyme, and Red Onion Tartlet, or an Artichoke, Olive, and Provolone Grilled Sandwich.
Vegetarians seem to have a lot less choice in the following two chapters Best-ever Barbecue and Outdoor Living. They are limited to the usual corn cobs and mushroom burgers plus Veg Antipasto and Grilled Artichokes. There is an abundance of fish and seafood recipes, and although I'm generally not a fan, I admit that both the Grilled Mackerel, Orange, Fennel and Red Onion Salad with Tapenade, and the Monkfish Kebabs with Chermoula look worth trying. Meat-wise, the Pork Burritos with Spicy Pineapple definitely get my vote.
Desserts and Sweet Treats contains everything you would expect from a British summer picnic or garden party: pavlova, trifle cheesecakes, sorbet and syllabub, but the one I'm looking forward to making and then devouring has to be the Potted Amaretti Tiramisu.
Finally the chapter on drinks offers a lovely balance of interesting soft and alcoholic beverages. Those driving can enjoy English Summer Punch and Peach Iced Tea while the more reckless amongst you might opt for classics like a Singapore Sling or a Mai Tai.
If your idea of outdoor dining is limited to hot dogs in soft white buns with ketch-up or soggy sandwiches and a packet of crisps then this book has a lot of inspiration to share. It has both the usual and more unusual (Salade Nicoise/Indian - Spiced Leg of Lamb with Tandoori Breads), and is a great go-to book if you are planning on entertaining and want to come up with something a little more special. I appreciated that only a small part of the book focuses on barbecuing, meaning you can use it all year round and not have to save it for nice weather. Having planned several possible menus in my head, I'm itching to entertain my friends and family, I just need to work on having a garden big enough to invite them all to.
Flavours of Summer
Published by Ryland Peters & Small
Images © Ryland Peters & Small
Can be found on the Ryland Peters & Small website: http://www.