|Courgette, lemon & thyme linguine|
At this time of year it sometimes feels like we've been abandoned in London. There's a flurry of "see you in two weeks" from friends and family then silence. - sand and social media don't mix. Fact is, I love it. There's altogether more space to breathe and no pressure to do anything at all. The tourists are still with us, of course, but although they know the trendiest places to eat, they don't know the best places to eat. We can walk into a restaurant - "No reservation? No problem." We can sit in a cool, dark cinema watching a film without a disapproving "Why do you want to do that in summer?". We can travel on the tube without fighting for a square inch of space - though, in the heat of a London summer, we'd rather not. And when the heat of the city gets too much, we can take the train from St Pancras to Rye for a Camber Sands cooling sea breeze - but just for the day.
"Sand in the sandwiches, wasps in the tea ....."
Trebetherick by John Betjeman
All in all, summer in the city is good. Here, glorious deep blue skies in the early morning morph into washed-out denim by mid-afternoon. On bad days a sticky oppressiveness settles over the city. Everything that involves moving is done as early as possible and here I am in the late afternoon sitting cross-legged in cool cotton pyjamas - well I'm going nowhere and nobody's around to be shocked. What cooking is done is of the 'little energy used' variety and mostly composed of whatever's cropping on the allotment. How anyone who has an allotment can go away at this time of year is a mystery to me. There's fruit to pick, potatoes to be dug and onions to be pulled. And there are the courgettes - slender little flower-topped fingers one day turn to monster mutants the next.
So, I guess my audience for this post, at this time, will be small, but probably like-minded. I've kept it short because we stay-at-homes also want to enjoy the short, precious period of languor. In this spirit, here's a recipe for the courgette glut that will hardly raise a bead of moisture on a fevered brow. Cut your courgettes into the finest strips you can. A mandolin will make life even easier if you have one.
Courgette, lemon and thyme linguine
(Serves 2 as a main course)
150g dried or fresh linguine pasta per person
1 medium sized or 2 small courgettes (a mix of green and yellow is good), cut into fine strips
50g unsalted butter
1 fat clove of garlic, thinly sliced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Finely grated rind of half a lemon and a squeeze of juice
1 courgette flower, sliced (optional)
Salt and pepper
Boil the pasta in a large pan of salted water for the required cooking time, depending on whether it is fresh or dried. Whilst it's cooking, melt the butter in a separate pan and add the garlic to soften. Add the strips of courgette and cook for no more than 2-3 minutes. Take off the heat and add the cooked and drained pasta, a couple of spoons of pasta water (unless the courgettes have released enough water), the thyme and lemon rind and toss well. Add the sliced courgette flower, if using, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Serve with grated parmesan.