Fruitful Pursuits

Liz Nicholls

As August arrives, Katie Kingsley serves up three dishes which make the most of the flavours and textures of the height of summer.

Plum and almond loaf

A simple, pretty little number. Great when you don’t have much time on your hands but still fancy something a bit special (and plums are at their best this time of year).

Heat oven to 160°C and grease and line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with baking paper. Take a large bowl and add 150g of self raising flour, 150g of golden caster sugar, 100g of ground almonds, 175g of softened unsalted butter, three eggs, ½ tsp of almond extract and pinch of salt. Use an electric mixer to beat together well, for about five minutes until very light and fluffy. Stone and slice three ripe plums then stir through the mix before spooning into your tin and baking for 1 hour 15 to 1 hour 30 minutes, when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cake cool in tin before removing onto a wire rack. Warm three tbsp of plum jam in a small pan and brush over the top of the loaf. Stone and slice two more ripe plums and lay atop the cake then brush liberally with more jam and sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds.

Harissa and sweet pepper chicken with spiked couscous

Save this one for a cooler day; it’s great mid-week but also special enough for Friday night. Just double everything to serve four, and the kids will love this, too!

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a wide-bottomed pan and sauté a chopped onion before adding three sliced red peppers, six halved boneless, skinless chicken thighs and three or four minced garlic cloves. Once the chicken has browned, mix together two teaspoon of harissa paste with 150ml of water and add to the chicken mix. Once simmering, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. Carefully remove the chicken and blend the sauce with a hand blender, or in a food processor, until smooth. Return the chicken to the sauce and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened. I like to add a knob of butter and check seasoning at this point while I prepare the couscous. Cook the couscous, according to packet instructions then fluff up, adding lemon juice to taste. Fry a tin of drained chickpeas in a little oil until golden then add ½ tsp each of ground cinnamon and ground cumin until fragrant. Add the spiced chickpeas to your couscous and scatter with toasted flaked almonds and fresh parsley, serving alongside the harissa chicken.

End of summer tomato fritters

These I believe are a speciality in Santorini (known there as keftedes) where sweet ripe tomatoes are a plenty. They are a great way to showcase beautiful tomatoes where maybe you are lucky enough to grow them and find yourself in abundance, but if not try to use the best quality you can find as it really will make a difference. Just as good simply dipped into tzatziki for a snack as they are sandwiched between toasted sourdough and an oozy poached egg for breakfast. Roughly chop 1kg of good quality ripe tomatoes and drain away the juice over a sieve then transfer the flesh to a large bowl. Grate two brown onions and 1 small courgette then squeeze out the moisture before adding to the bowl with 200g of plain flour, a bunch of finely chopped basil, 1 tbsp of olive oil and season generously.

Mix everything together until well combined and heat rapeseed oil in a saucepan to very hot. You will know when the oil is ready by dropping in a pea-sized dollop of mixture, it should sink but then rise to the surface bubbling. Use two tablespoons to carefully dollop bite-sized spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil being careful not to overcrowd the pan (I did about three at once). If your mixture breaks up, add more flour and mix again well before frying more. The fritters will take two or three minutes to cook through, if still raw, inside then turn down the oil and cook for longer, you should have a crisp shell and perfectly cooked centre. Drain on kitchen paper before serving with an extra sprinkle of salt.