I dropped in on a local cheesemaking friend the other day. Marcus Fergusson of Feltham’s Farm is a bit of a maverick, producing award-winning organic cheeses that break the British mould. His first creation, named Renegade Monk after both the ale used to wash the cheese and the location of the farm on what was once Templar land, combines the pungent attributes of both blue and washed-rind cheeses, while his latest, La Fresca Margarita, is a queso fresco with a light, citrus tang.
This creamy, bright-flavoured cheese provided the inspiration for this week’s recipe. Fresh cheeses are a great thing to blob over salads now that summer is here and I paired this one with courgettes, mint, peas and broad beans – a vision in green and white. Although the vegetables aren’t all quite in season here yet, courgettes are always available and I’ve noticed young peas and beans arriving from elsewhere in Europe over the past few weeks to satisfy warm-weather appetites before our own summer bounty truly arrives.
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 medium courgettes, sliced 1cm thick
Extra virgin olive oil
A small pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 bulging handfuls of fresh mint leaves
200g broad beans in the pod, podded
200g peas in the pod, podded
A squeeze of lemon (about a quarter)
150g queso fresco (if you can’t find it, use a fresh rindless goat’s cheese – or even cream cheese)
Freshly ground black pepper
A handful of pea shoots
Put the courgette slices in a bowl and toss with a splash of olive oil.
Heat a large frying pan over a highish heat and, once hot, add the courgette slices in a single layer (you may need to do this in two batches). Give them about 2 minutes each side until just tinged with gold. Remove from the pan and lay on a plate to cool a little.
Cut each slice into quarters, then return to the original bowl with a good pinch of salt, the chilli, vinegar, garlic and 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Finely chop the mint, leaving a few whole leaves for decoration, then stir everything together and leave the flavours to get to know each other.
Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Fill a bowl with cold water. Add the broad beans to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and place in the cold water. When they are cold, scoop out of the water, then pinch off and discard the outer skins to reveal the emerald buttons inside.
If the peas are very young and sweet, leave them raw. If not, throw them into the boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes. Scoop out into the cold water to stop them cooking.
Add most of the peas and peeled beans to the courgettes, leaving a few for decoration. Toss together and divide between two plates. Add a squeeze of lemon over each one, splash generously with more extra virgin olive oil, dot with the remaining peas, beans and mint, then add a good grind of black pepper and more salt if needed. Scatter with a few pea shoots before serving.
Lucas Hollweg is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cook. A former Sunday Times journalist and cookery columnist, he writes for a wide range of food publications. His most recent book isGood Things to Eat.