Don’t we have to pinch ourselves now that weeks have passed and the sun is still shining, hope it is still beaming on all of us by the time you read this piece. It’s heaven to be able to eat outside every evening. Lily white bodies that haven’t been exposed to the Irish sun for over 10 years are beginning to glow and the local beaches resemble the Mediterranean, everyone having a jolly time, beach barbeques, picnics, sandcastles, ice-creams. There’s been a mass exodus from the kitchen and some Irish firms are reporting a 70% increase in absenteeism…the lure of the beach and the sun lounger is irresistible and it’s difficult to spend too much time over a hot stove. Having said that, seaside restaurants, cafés and pubs are doing a brilliant trade, a little compensation for the past few years of dismal weather. Spare a thought for the cooks and chefs who are still rustling the pots and pans over hot stoves, a special little word of thanks sent into the kitchen can help to compensate and maybe ease the envious thought of pals frolicking on the beach.
We’ve been having lots of fun making homemade ice-pops or popsicles as they are called in the US. We’re smack in the middle of the soft fruit season so we’ve been experimenting with different combinations, strawberry and blackcurrant, strawberry and lemon verbena, blackcurrant and rosemary, green gooseberry and elderflower…except these ones are not just flavour they are real fruit ice and everyone is blown away by the intensity of the flavour. We also love to add some fresh herbs, mint, lemon verbena, sweet geranium, peach and raspberry also make a super popsicle – experiment, have fun!
This week, a few recipes for Summer days and picnics in the countryside or on the beach.
Salmon or Sea Bass with Hoisin Sauce
Tuna would also be good in this recipe as well as chicken breasts or lamb chops.
This dish is also good cold, perfect for picnics. Leftovers may be added to rice or couscous salads. Hoisin Sauce is a sweet bean paste available in ethnic shops and many supermarkets.
4 x 4ozs (110g) salmon fillets, about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Mix the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper in a small bowl. Pat fish (or chicken breasts) dry and coat with sauce.
Preheat the barbecue or pan-grill and cook fish for about 5 minutes each side. You may also bake fish for 10-12 minutes in a preheated oven 220ºC/425°F/Gas Mark 7.
Serve with boiled potatoes and a good green salad.
Potato and Spring Onion Salad
The secret of a good potato salad is to use freshly cooked potatoes and then season and toss in French dressing while they are still warm. This simple trick makes a phenomenal difference to the flavour of the finished salad. I’ve had delicious results with both waxy (Pink Fir Apple or Sharpe’s Express) and floury (Golden Wonders) potatoes, though waxy are definitely easier to handle.
1.6kg (31⁄2lb) raw potatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons chopped chives or spring onions
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
150ml (1⁄4 pint) French Dressing
150ml (1⁄4 pint) homemade Mayonnaise, thinned with a little water
Boil the potatoes in their jackets in a large amount of well-salted water. Peel and dice the potatoes while they are still hot and put into a large, wide dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle immediately with the chives or spring onions and the parsley. Drizzle over the French dressing and mix well. Leave to cool and then add the mayonnaise. Taste and correct seasoning.
Spatchcock Chicken with Rosemary and Chilli Oil
Serves 6 or more
1 organic chicken – weight 1.8 – 2.2kg (4-5lb)
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Wedges of Avocado – (you will need 2-3 avocadoes)
Wedges of Cucumber
To spatchcock the chicken
First remove the wishbone from the neck end (keep for the stockpot).
Insert a heavy chopping knife into the cavity of the chicken from the back end to the neck. Press down sharply to cut through the backbone. Alternatively place the chicken breast side down on the chopping board, using poultry shears cut along the entire length of the backbone as close to the centre as possible.
Open the bird out as much as possible.
Mix the rosemary, garlic, pepper, chilli flakes, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Just before cooking, brush the chicken both inside and out with the marinade. Put skin side up on the grill rack. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.
Preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas mark 9.
Lay the chicken, skin side up on a rack. Roast for 30-45 minutes over a roasting tin.
Spatchcocking enables the bird to cook much faster, there will be lots of crispy skin and its really easy to carve. All poultry can be cooked in this way, vary the seasoning and spices to give Mexican, Moroccan or Asian flavours.
Alternatively barbeque until cooked through, 20cm (8-9 inches) from the coals, turning over half way through cooking – about 30 minutes. Make sure the chicken is fully cooked through before serving.
Serve with a good green salad and wedges of avocado.
Raspberry Fool with Shortbread Biscuits
This is one of those recipes that somehow is much greater than the sum of its parts. Three simple ingredients produce a rich and luscious result.
When in season I use fresh raspberries, but this fool is also excellent made with frozen berries – I haven’t quite decided if it is actually better with the latter. Soft fruit becomes more bitter when frozen but the flavour of the berries seems to be accentuated when frozen ones are used. Any leftover fool can be frozen to make ice cream.
450g (1lb) raspberries, fresh or frozen
150–225g (6–8oz) caster sugar
600ml (1 pint) whipped cream
shortbread biscuits (see recipe)
Lay the raspberries in a single layer on a dish. Sprinkle on the sugar and allow to macerate for 1 hour. If you are using frozen berries this should be long enough for them to defrost.
Purée the fruit in a liquidiser or blender then pass through a nylon sieve to remove the seeds. Gently fold in the whipped cream – go lightly if you want to create a ‘swirly’ effect. The fool is now ready to be served or can be chilled for serving later. Serve with shortbread biscuits.
Everyone should have this biscuit recipe written up inside a kitchen cupboard door, actually it’s really easy to remember – just 2,4,6…
6 ozs (175g) white flour or Spelt
4 ozs (110g) butter
2 ozs (50g) caster sugar
Put the flour and sugar into a bowl; rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 1/4 inch (7mm) thick. Cut into rounds with a 2 1/2 inch (6cm) cutter or into heart shapes. Bake in a moderate oven 180°C/350ºF/regulo 4 to pale brown, 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Remove and cool on a rack.
Serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams.
Note: Watch these biscuits really carefully in the oven. Because of the high sugar content they burn easily. They should be a pale golden – darker will be more bitter.
However if they are too pale they will be undercooked and doughy. Cool on a wire rack.
We use all the summer fruits, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants with combinations like blackberry and sweet geranium, redcurrant and strawberry, peach and raspberry, raspberry and basil. In Winter we make a variety of citrus pops including blood orange and tangerine. They are loved not just by children but people of all ages, and I particularly enjoy serving them at the end of a dinner party.
450g (1lb) fresh blackcurrants
225-300ml (8-10flozs) stock syrup
Pour the syrup over the blackcurrants and bring to the boil, cook for 3-5 minutes until the blackcurrants burst. Liquidise and sieve through a nylon sieve. Allow to cool. Add the syrup. It needs to taste sweeter than you would like because the freezing dulls the sweetness. Pour into popsicle moulds, cover, insert a stick and freeze until needed. Best eaten within a few days.
Makes 825ml (28fl ozs)
450g (1lb) sugar
600ml (1 pint) water
To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.
Add 1 – 2 sprigs of rosemary to the cold water and sugar and bring to the boil. Cool and use as above.
350ml (12fl oz) approx. syrup (see recipe for Stock Syrup)
1.4L (2 1/2 pint) approx. still water or better still sparkling water
sprigs of fresh mint or lemon balm
Juice the lemons and mix with the stock syrup, add water to taste. Add ice, garnish with sprigs of fresh mint or lemon balm and serve.
Knockdrinna Cheese Courses – Two one day cheese making courses Saturday 31st August and Saturday September 28th 11am to 3pm. Enjoy a day of learning how to make cheese using equipment that most people already have in their kitchen – no need to go out and spend a fortune on equipment. €80 Euro includes tea/coffee and lunch and a tour of the Knockdrinna cheese factory in Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny – email firstname.lastname@example.org to book – www.knockdrinna.com
On the Pigs Back – around the back of St Patricks Woollen Mills in Douglas – has expanded its dining area, it’s a super food shop, Isabelle Sheridan chooses the produce with a keen eye for quality – try the salamis, varieties of sea salt and some French cheeses in superb condition alongside a well-chosen Irish farmhouse cheese selection. I bought a St Félicien from the Rhône-Alpes region of France – www.onthepigsback.ie
Rory O’Connell’s new book Master It – How to Cook Today has garnered some rave reviews – he is teaching a two day practical cookery course based recipes from his book from Wednesday 4th to Friday 6th September at Ballymaloe Cookery School – www.cookingisfun.ie