We need a drink. Not a glass of wine or a cold beer, but something long, sweet-sour and fizzing with the flavours of the season. So we make one or, more accurately, a jug full. A drink that is truly seasonal, of gooseberries and elderflower, and then another of watermelon and the sort of sparkling wines that seem made for when the sun is shining. And then we take them outdoors.
Every drink, be it a small, cold golden beer or an espresso, needs something to go with it. A bite or two. That something could be a tiny, too-hot-to-hold pastry filled with a paste of anchovies and pine kernels or it could be an olive or two that you have marinated with roast peppers, rust-red chillies and coriander. A spicy morsel to alternate with a swig of icy watermelon fizz.
The one truly essential rule for making summer drinks is that they be iced. Hand me a lukewarm cocktail on a summer’s day and I’ll probably throw it at you. Ice cubes, yes, but you could swap them for frozen berries or chunks of fruit. I made a gooseberry drink this week and cooled it with frozen berries. Rather than dissolving into your drink like ice cubes, they partially thaw as they do their work and leave you with diminutive, sozzled nuggets to scoop up at the end.
A bright red drink to cool a blazing hot summer’s day. It also makes a splendid water ice. Just pop it in the freezer.
Makes 12 small glasses
elderflower cordial 250ml
prosecco 750ml bottle
The watermelon fizz also makes a splendid water ice. Just pop it in the freezer
Cut the watermelon into 3cm thick slices, remove the skin and seeds, then place in a freezer bag, seal and freeze for 2 hours.
Put the frozen watermelon into a blender, add the elderflower cordial and process to a bright pink slush.
Tip into 12 small glasses, then top up with prosecco, and if you wish, some edible flower petals.
Olives with chilli and roasted peppers
There are few drinks that don’t appreciate an olive or two. Enough for 12
roasted peppers 150g, bottled or canned
red chilli 1, large
smoked paprika 1 tsp
coriander leaves a small handful
green olives, pitted 160g (drained weight)
cipollini onions 100g
Purée the peppers and chilli in a blender or processor, add the smoked paprika and coriander leaves and process to a soft red and green paste. Scrape it into a bowl, add the olives and onions and fold gently together. Serve with the watermelon fizz.
Anchovy and pine kernel rolls
We made a paste of anchovies, olives, thyme and pine kernels, the scent of which reminded me of a Provençal farm I visited years ago. A farm where the owners made not only their own olive oil but also deep vats of tapenade from the crushed olives. They threw in dried thyme and ground bay. The fragrant paste below is also worth making to spread on thin, curling sheets of crispbread or to wedge into the furrows of a rib of celery.
anchovy fillets 15
green, pitted olives 120g (drained weight)
pine kernels 55g
dried thyme 2 tsp
garlic 2 cloves, peeled
parsley a large handful
puff pastry 325g
nigella seeds 3 tsp
Pat the anchovies with kitchen paper to remove the excess oil. If you are using salted anchovies, rinse them briefly then dry them with paper. Put the anchovies in the bowl of a food processor together with the pitted olives, pine kernels, dried thyme, peeled garlic and parsley. Grate the zest from the lemon and add, then process to a thick paste.
Roll the puff pastry out on a lightly floured board to a rectangle measuring roughly 30x40cm. Have the long side facing you, then cut the pastry into three 40cm-long strips. Break the egg into a small bowl and beat with a fork until thoroughly mixed. Brush the pastry strips with beaten egg.
Place 12 tsp of the filling along one side of each of the pastry strips then lightly smooth into a long thin sausage shape. Fold the pastry over the filling then press the pastry edges firmly together to seal. Cut the sausage into 10 small pieces, place them on the baking sheet, a centimetre or two apart, then brush with more of the beaten egg and sprinkle lightly with nigella seeds. Repeat with the remaining two strips of pastry and the reserved filling. Set the pastries in the fridge for a good half hour.
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6 and bake them for 12-15 minutes until golden.
Gooseberry, elderflower and mint drink
There are drinks I want to sip in the sunshine, and others such as this that are made for enjoying in the shade of a large tree. There is no alcohol here, but gin would put a spring in its step. We used frozen gooseberries in lieu of ice cubes.
Makes 6 small glasses
gooseberries 350g, plus 18
elderflower cordial 120ml
mint leaves 25, plus a few extra
sparkling water 500ml
Put the 18 reserved berries in the freezer. Remove the stalks and dried flowers from the gooseberries. Put the berries in a stainless-steel saucepan, add the sugar, elderflower cordial and water and bring to the boil. As soon as the berries start to burst and the sugar has dissolved remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
Ladle the berries and their liquid into the jug of a blender, add the mint leaves and process to a pale green, sweet-tart syrup. Chill thoroughly.
To serve, divide the gooseberry and elderflower syrup between 6 tall glasses, top up with sparkling water, the frozen gooseberries and a few mint leaves.
Email Nigel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @NigelSlater