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Summer Recipes from The Book of St John - Bread & Oysters

Summer Recipes from The Book of St John

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Two of our favourite recipes from Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver ‘s latest book celebrating 25 years at St John

Grilled Lamb’s Hearts, Peas and Mint

To serve 6, or 3 as a main course

1 good-sized lamb’s heart will suffice as a starter, 2 each as a main course

Choose your peas wisely and avoid oversized starchy bullets; the smaller and sweeter the better. There is a brief overlap between pea season and grelot season; in this glorious time you would be foolish not to use grelots as delicious substitutes for spring onions.

  • 6 lamb’s hearts, butchered and marinated (see book for details)
  • 8 spring onions, trimmed and cleaned
  • 3 heads of little gem lettuce, washed and separated
  • 2 large handfuls of freshly podded peas
  • A handful of pea shoots per person, snipped at the stem
  • A large handful of extra fine capers, thoroughly drained
  • For the mint dressing
  • 1 large bunch of mint, picked and stalks retained
  • 80g demerara sugar
  • 200ml malt or red wine vinegar
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper

First make the mint dressing. Bash the mint stalks with the back of a knife and place in a small pan with the demerara sugar and vinegar. Bring to a simmer for just long enough to melt the sugar, then set aside to cool thoroughly and infuse. Once ready, finely chop the mint and strain the cold vinegar over the leaves. Whisk in the olive oil, seasoning to taste.

To cook the lamb’s hearts you will need a cast-iron griddle or bar­becue. Your hearts should be room temperature, not fridge cold, and the grill should be ferociously hot. Season boldly and place the hearts on the grill, cook for a minute and a half each side, then set aside to rest. A rare heart is a challenge, so aim instead for a blush­ing medium within. Now season and grill the spring onions in much the same way, charring with intent.

To serve, slice the hearts into slivers about half the width of your little finger, being careful to retain the delicious juices that are exuded in the resting. Place the little gems, peas, pea shoots and capers in a large bowl, then introduce the heart, resting juices, spring onions and mint dressing. Serve with chilled red wine.

Much like the ox heart, this salad is also a noble bun filler.


Floating Islands

To serve 4

‘The first thing that I ever cooked from a book, when I was about seven years old, was Iles Flottantes. I was knocked out by it. Those celestial fluffy egg whites! The yellow pool of custard! By merely following words on a page I had created this miracle. A finger had descended from the clouds and pointed to my destiny.’

It may be a controversial view, but floating islands should be unadorned by heavy nuts or a constrictive caramel cage. These bind the ethereal clouds with earthly elements, which is the very opposite of your intention.


For the islands

  • 4 large egg whites
  •  teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 260g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 320ml milk, for poaching the meringues and then for the custard

For the custard

  •  a vanilla pod
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 70g caster sugar

Using an electric whisk on a high setting, in a spotlessly clean and dry bowl, whisk the whites with the vinegar and vanilla extract until soft peaks appear. Then lower the speed and continue whisk­ing, slowly incorporating the sugar until glossy and stiff. Add the cornflour, folding it through with a metal spoon until completely incorporated.

Heat the milk to the gentlest of simmers in a large saucepan and spoon little heaps of meringue carefully into the simmering milk. Aim for 3 little meringues per person. Poach the clouds for 2 minutes, then gently flip them over and poach for another 2 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate until needed.

Now for the custard sea! Scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk and follow with the pod, then bring the milk back to a decent simmer. In a bowl whisk the yolks and the sugar together until pale, then add the hot milk to the yolks a little at a time, whisking continu­ously. Transfer the mixture back to the pan and place over a medium heat.

Keep stirring the custard, making sure that you get right into the corners of the pan. It is crucial not to let it get too hot – bubbling will curdle the custard, a disaster for your seascape. It is cooked when a finger dragged through the back of the spoon will leave a channel. At this stage immediately transfer to a bowl, lay cling film over the surface, leave to cool, then refrigerate until needed.

Serve each bowl as an archipelago of three islands in a shallow sea.


For a Q&A with Fergus Henderson visit


The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £30)

Photography: Jason Lowe