Summer solstice? Summer my arse. I know a wet summer in the UK is not exactly unheard of, but this is getting rather tiresome. In the past fortnight, the rain has curtailed the cricket, sabotaged sports days and literally pissed on the Queen’s parade. Every day at 3.10pm like clockwork the heavens open, as if the rain Gods have their alarms set to ‘school run’. Last week wasn’t so much National Picnic Week as National Pack Mac Week. Enough already.
The only things enjoying the weather are the snails. Well they were, until *ahem* a couple of days ago. You see on the one day of not rain last week, I spent six hours filling my garden’s borders with bedding plants. This is how they looked when I’d finished. Pretty eh?
I don’t usually bother with summer bedding because I am both a reluctant and lazy gardener – to me gardening is just an extension of housework with added spiders – so when I can be arsed to plant things I want them to last for more than one season. This lot, however, didn’t even make 24 hours. This is how they looked the following morning…
The bastard snails had munched their way through the lot. In an act of fuming, sweary and ill-thought-out revenge I proceeded to shower the beds with slug pellets (a fine example of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted if ever there was one). What I hadn’t appreciated was that the pellets do not deter snails, but rather attract them – in this case in their hundreds – before poisoning them slowly, disgustingly and probably quite painfully to death. The following morning the garden was like a snail death camp, the path littered with dehydrated corpses that had oozed out all their mucus in snotty deposits.
I am not proud of this gastropodicide. I can’t quite bring myself to clear up the carnage, but when I do I know it will be with equal amounts of repulsion and remorse. At least the rain will help wash away all the slime.
Vietnamese summer rolls
If I haven’t put you off the thought of food altogether, here is a super summery recipe for Vietnamese rice paper rolls (although in this weather it’s quite possible you’d prefer a steaming bowl of soup or something slowly braised in red wine with a mound of buttery mash).
These are a great way to get kids to eat salad, but they are also pretty enough to serve as canapes or as a starter at a dinner party. You can put whatever veg or protein you like in them, so I haven’t provided set amounts here, although I would say the fresh herbs and rice noodles are a must as is the dipping sauce.
I used the following in mine:
- Rice paper wrappers – you can buy these in Asian grocers. I would use the bigger ones for lunch and the smaller ones for canapes or starters.
- Julienned carrots
- Julienned cucumber
- Shredded lettuce and spinach leaves
- Whole mint leaves
- Whole coriander leaves
- Handful of chopped salted peanuts
- Rice vermicelli (soak for 5 minutes in boiling water then refresh in cold water)
- Cooked and cooled rump steak, thinly sliced and marinated in a combination of 1 tbsp fish sauce, juice of one lime, one chopped red chilli and 1 tsp sugar (this marinade would work well for other cooked meats and prawns)
- Dipping sauce: mix together 25g sweet chilli sauce (I used Lingham’s), 10 ml fish sauce, juice of one lime, 1/2 finely chopped red chilli. I also served mine with hoisin.
- Dampen the rice wrapper under the cold tap, then place on a board, rub one side with your fingers, then flip it over and rub the other (this will make it pliable).
- Place a couple of herb leaves, top side down in a line along the middle of the wrapper (this is not essential but looks quite pretty once wrapped).
- Place small amounts of the other ingredients in the wrap, taking care to place the julienned veg in the same direction.
- Wrap as you would a burrito: fold in the left and right side of the wrap, then take the bottom side, pull it up over filling and tuck under the filling and continue to roll up, using the stickiness of the wrap to help you to do this quite tightly.
- Put all thoughts of massacred molluscs to one side and enjoy.