Can’t believe it, a bit of sun at last, in fact we’ve had two good days in a row, we’re all heady with excitement and of course rush to find the barbecue. To add to the excitement Peter Manning has just arrived with a bucket of freshly caught mackerel from Ballycotton –absolute bliss.  

Luke Cullinane has picked the last of the green gooseberries off the prickly bushes in the fruit garden – we’ve still got a piece of the delicious wild salmon I bought from those wild O’Connell boys in the Cork Market, so no prizes for guessing what’s for supper? We’ll light the barbecue but in the meantime I will scrub and prick a few potatoes and put them into the Aga to bake.  Alternatively the first of the Ballycotton potatoes are ready to eat and they’re most delicious cooked in sea water.  Perhaps we should ask a few friends around, so I’ll get a few succulent lamb chops for those who feel they haven’t eaten at all unless they can sink their teeth into some juicy meat.

My preference is for charcoal on the barbecue, but we often use wood if we’re not in too much of a hurry. Its worth having both types of charcoal in stock, the fast burning – you can be cooking in 15 minutes from light-up and the slower burning lumps - the latter takes longer to get to the white ash stage, but equally lasts longer, unlike the former which burns out fast.  Gas grills are brilliantly convenient and I love my Weber, not least because it has a lid and one can cook a duck or chicken or even a turkey. Last year an American friend showed me how to make pizzas on the grill. Again this works best on the wide rack on the Weber, all you need is some dough and lots of toppings.

Bruschetta and Quesadillas are also great on the grill and can be simply or lavishly embellished, depending on what you have in your fridge. Back to the salmon and mackerel. I’ll fillet them and brush each fillet with a little olive oil and melted butter. Sprinkle each fillet with salt and pepper and lay skin side down on a wire cake rack. (If you own one of those fancy fish cages, use that instead.). Cook salmon for about 10 minutes on one side, the mackerel 5 minutes. Then lay another cake rack on top and using a cloth quickly flip over so the fish cooks on the other side.

Meanwhile I’ll make some dill butter for the salmon and some green gooseberry sauce for the mackerel – a delicious combination which can only be enjoyed at this time of the year.  A tomato fondue would be good with the salmon and dill butter and don’t
forget a big bowl of green salad with lots of lettuces, salad leaves and maybe a few little edible flowers.
Bon Appetit.!

Barbecued Mackerel in Foil with Green Gooseberry Sauce

Salting fish before barbecuing enhances the flavour tremendously. I like to serve mackerel with the heads on, but if you are a bit squeamish remove them before cooking.

4 very fresh mackerel
sea salt
olive oil
Gut, wash and dry the mackerel and cut about 3 slits on either side of the
back with a sharp knife. About 15 minutes before cooking sprinkle the fish
lightly with sea salt inside and outside. Put a sprig of fennel in the
centre and a knob of butter if you like. Wrap in foil and seal the edges
Put on the barbecue and cook for 4-6 minutes on each side depending on the
size. Serve with a segment of lemon and let each person open their own
package. There will be delicious juice to mop up with crusty bread or a
baked potato.
* The mackerel could be prepared ahead to this point and refrigerated until
Serve with Green Gooseberry Sauce

Green Gooseberry Sauce

Use the tart hard green gooseberries on the bushes at the moment, they make
a delicious sauce.
10 ozs (285g) fresh green gooseberries
stock syrup to cover (see below) - 6 fl.ozs (175 ml) approx.
a knob of butter (optional)
Top and tail the gooseberries, put into a stainless steel saucepan, barely
cover with stock syrup, bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit bursts.
Taste. Stir in a small knob of butter if you like but it is very good
without it.
Stock Syrup
4 fl ozs (120ml) water
4 ozs (110g) sugar
Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil together for 2 minutes. Store in a
covered jar in the refrigerator until needed. Stock syrup can also be used
for sorbets, fruit salads or as a sweetener in homemade lemonades.

Pan grilled Grey Sea Mullet with Buttered Zucchini

I consider this to be the most under-appreciated fish in the sea, every bit
as delicious as sea bass and half the price. We get delicious fresh grey
sea mullet from Ballycotton Seafood - look out for it.
Serves 8 as a starter, 4 as a main course
4 fillets of very fresh grey sea mullet, sea bass or mackerel
Soft butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve
Buttered zucchini
Sprigs of fresh fennel and flat parsley
Heat the grill pan or barbecue. Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been
seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and
then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you
were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot
but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the
fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat
slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn
them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden.
Serve with buttered zucchini.

Buttered Zucchini

Serves 4
1 lb (450g) zucchini (courgettes), no larger than 5 inches (12.5cm) in
1 oz (30g) butter
A dash of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly chopped parsley, dill, basil or marjoram
Top and tail the zucchini and cut them into ¼ inch (5mm) slices. Melt the
butter and add a dash of oil, toss in the zucchini and coat in the butter
and oil. Cook until tender, 4-5 minutes approx. Season with salt and freshly
ground pepper. Turn into a hot serving dish, sprinkle with chopped herbs and
serve immediately.

Chargrilled Quesadilla

Serves 6
12 flour tortillas
3 chillies, thinly sliced
4ozs (110g) Mozzarella
4ozs (110g) Cheddar or Gruyere
4 spring onions, sliced at an angle
salt and freshly ground pepper
Tomato and Coriander salsa (see recipe)
Guacamole (see recipe)
Put a tortilla onto the grid of the barbecue, top with some thinly sliced
chilli. Sprinkle on a mixture of grated cheese and some spring onion.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Press another tortilla on top.
Grill until the cheese melts, flip over. Allow 2-3 minute on the second
side. Repeat with the others.
Cut into wedges and serve with Tomato Salsa and Guacamole.


One of my most treasured possessions is a dark green pottery bowl with a
coarse textured interior, it was specially made in a village in the Oaxacan
valley in Mexico to make Guacamole. I carried it and the lava rock pestle
the whole way home and have enormously enjoyed using it ever since.
Serves 2-4
1 ripe avocado, preferably Mexican
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice (as a last resort)
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh coriander
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper .
Scoop out the flesh from the avocado. Mash with a fork or in a pestle and
mortar with the garlic, add the freshly squeezed lime juice, a little olive
oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Tomato and Coriander Salsa

Serves 4-6
Salsas of all kinds both fresh and cooked have now become a favourite
accompaniment to everything from pangrilled meat to a piece of sizzling
4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½-1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper
and sugar.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Bruschetta on the BBQ

Serves 6
6 slices country bread, yeast; sour dough; ciabbatta or foccaccia
peeled whole garlic cloves

Chosen toppings
Aubergine, Pesto and Goat’s cheese
Very ripe Tomato slivers with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic
vinegar, salt and freshly ground pepper
Portobella mushrooms with slivers of Parmesan cheese and rocket leaves
Mozzarella cheese
Vine-ripened tomatoes and basil leaves
Grill the bread over the coals. Rub both sides with a clove of garlic,
drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and top with chosen combination. Season
and eat.

Lydia’s Salmon with Tomato Fondue and Fresh Dill Butter

This can also be cooked on the barbecue.
Serves 6
6 portions of wild Irish Salmon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 ozs/85 gbutter
2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill
Tomato fondue – see recipe
Sprigs of fresh dill
Season the salmon pieces well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Melt a
very little butter in a heavy pan over a medium heat, cook the salmon gently
first on one side and then on the other until just about cooked. Meanwhile
reheat the tomato fondue. If necessary melt the butter in a little
saucepan, add the dill and remove from the heat.
To serve: Put a little Tomato fondue around each hot plate, pop a piece of
salmon in the centre. Spoon a little Dill butter over the top and serve

Tomato Fondue

Tomato fondue is one of our great convertibles, it has a number of uses, we
serve it as a vegetable sauce, filling for omelettes, topping for pizza,
stuffing, etc.
Serves 6 approximately
115g (4ozs) sliced onions
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
900g (2lbs) very ripe tomatoes in Summer, or 2½ tins (x 14oz) of tomatoes
in Winter, but peel before using
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste
1 tablespoon of any of the following freshly chopped mint or torn basil
Heat the oil in a non reactive saucepan. Add the sliced onions and garlic
toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not
coloured. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are
completely soft before the tomatoes are added. Slice the fresh tomatoes or
tinned and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly
ground pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their
high acidity). Add a generous sprinkling of chopped mint or torn basil.
Cook uncovered for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens.

Lamb Chops with Marjoram

Lamb chops
Annual Marjoram
Olive oil
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt
Trim the chopped of excess fat and score the back fat and chop the marjoram.
Take a flat dish large enough to take the chops in a single layer, brush
with olive oil and sprinkle with some chopped marjoram. Season the chops on
both sides with freshly ground pepper, place on top of the marjoram,
sprinkle some more chopped marjoram on top and drizzle with olive oil,
marinade for 1 hour or more. Brush off excess oil, season well with sea
salt. Grill on a grid 6 inches (15cm) from the hot coals for 10-15 minutes
depending on the thickness and degree of doneness required. Baste frequently
with the oil and serve immediately.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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