ArchiveJuly 31, 2022

Summer Salads

Understandably, this column is always written a little ahead of publication, chances are it’ll be raining today but after all the glorious weather we’ve been having, lots of requests for Summer grills and salads including several for perennial favourites like potato salad and now that the Irish tomato season is underway, a really good tomato salad.  We have 16 varieties this year including some ‘new’ heirlooms, notably Northern Lights; Green Zebra, San Marzano, Golden Sunrise, Yellow Submarine, Sartroloise, Tigerella, Brandy Wine, Black Russian, Marmande, Mirabelle Blanche, Andine Cornue, Stripe, Dzintre Lasite…

Early season tomatoes have not as yet developed the intense sweetness they’ll have in late August. Choose the ripest you can find, cut them in haphazard shapes. Season well with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.  I like to add freshly squeezed lemon juice, then drizzle them with runny honey.  Toss gently so they are well coated and garnish generously with lots of fresh mint or basil leaves.  We grow several types – Genovese, purple opal basil, lemon basil, Greek and perky Vietnamese… but the first three are best for a tomato salad.  Taste and tweak if you fancy.  This makes a delicious starter salad or an accompaniment to either fish, meat, feta or mozzarella or a selection of vegetarian salads.

The secret of a really delicious potato salad, the ultimate Summer crowd-pleaser, is to cook the potatoes in their jackets in really well-salted water.  Peel and coarsely chop while still warm.  Spread out on a wide platter, season ‘mindfully’ with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Sprinkle with lots of freshly chopped parsley and green scallions.  Drizzle with French dressing.  Toss gently but thoroughly. This will be delicious just as it is but if you feel that a richer, creamier,  potato salad will work better with your meal, add some mayonnaise which has been loosened with water so it’s easier to fold through.  If you have a lovage plant in your garden, add some, it will contribute a delicious, fresh celery flavour.  Once again, taste.  However the secret which Myrtle Allen taught me is to toss the potatoes in French dressing while still warm. The potato variety also matters, some favour a waxy variety which makes a ‘tidier’ potato salad but we’ve always favoured British Queens or Kerr’s Pinks at this time of year.  Of course, you can add many other good things to the basic potato salad – cucumber pickle, smoked mackerel and dill, hard-boiled eggs, chorizo…Vegans could substitute a classic mayo with tahini … 

I’ve done quite a bit of recipe testing lately.  We love the new rice salad with irresistible crunchy topping, certainly makes a great stand-alone salad but we also enjoy it with these chicken kebabs which were inspired by a recipe we tested from Mezze.

This Pedro Ximénez Panna cotta is my new favourite dessert.  We’ve enjoyed it with a sprinkle of boozy raisins but it’s also surprisingly good with summer berries. The blackcurrant season is just starting, don’t forget my favourite super intense blackcurrants with icy cold cream.  Poach the currants in a simple syrup until they burst, a matter of minutes, then serve them immediately in small bowls with some icy cold, preferably Jersey cream…exquisite!

Potato, Spring Onion and Nasturtium Salad

For a classic potato salad, omit the nasturtium and substitute lots of spring onion and parsley instead.

Serves 4-6

900g (2lbs) freshly cooked potatoes – diced, allow about 1.1kg (2 1/2lbs) raw potatoes

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion

110ml (4fl oz) French Dressing

110ml (4fl oz) homemade Mayonnaise

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

lots of nasturtium leaves and red, orange and yellow nasturtium flowers (75-110g/3 – 4oz)

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Toss in the coarsely chopped nasturtium leaves and two thirds of the flowers.  Scatter the remaining nasturtium flowers on top of the salad.

Best served fresh but keeps well for about 2 days.

Note: This potato salad is also delicious without mayonnaise.   Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, e.g. add cubes of chorizo, cooked mussels or cockles or even diced cucumber.

Ballymaloe French Dressing

A brilliant all-purpose salad dressing.

50ml (2fl oz) white wine vinegar

150ml (6fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

1 level teaspoon mustard (Dijon or English)

1 large clove of garlic, crushed

1 scallion or small spring onion

sprig of parsley

sprig of watercress

1 level teaspoon salt (it’s vital to put in correct amount of salt)

few grinds of pepper

Put all the ingredients into a blender and run at medium speed for 1 minute approx. or mix oil and vinegar in a bowl, add mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and mashed garlic. Chop the parsley, spring onion and watercress finely and add in. Whisk before serving, best used fresh.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) oil (sunflower or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the salt, mustard and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time to create an emulsion. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too complacent or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil, Olive Oil and Honey

Serves 6-8

8 very ripe heirloom tomatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pure Irish honey

10-12 leaves of fresh basil

Cut the tomatoes into a variety of shapes – 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices or quarters or eighths depending on size.  Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice over the tomatoes.   Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and honey.  Add the ‘torn’ basil leaves, toss gently. Taste for seasoning and correct if necessary.

Chicken Shawarma Flatbreads with Yoghurt

Serves 4

For the Chicken

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sumac

1/4 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin

juice of 1/2 lemon

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

6 boneless chicken thighs

For the Yoghurt Raita

200g (7oz) labneh or thick natural yoghurt

1 teaspoon sumac

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 small teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon fresh mint, leaves chopped

To Serve

4 flatbreads

1 little Gem lettuces 

1/2 cucumber, cubed


2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

fresh coriander, chopped

Combine all of the ingredients for the chicken in a bowl.   Toss until coated, then marinate for at least 15 minutes or a couple of hours if possible.

Whisk all of the ingredients together for the yoghurt raita. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and tweak if necessary…

Preheat a barbeque or griddle pan to a high heat.  Cook the chicken for 5-6 mins on each side until nicely charred on the outside but juicy in the centre.

To Serve

Grill the flat breads for a minute or two on each side.  Slather each generously with yoghurt raita, sprinkle on a quarter of the cucumber dice.  Add a piece of chicken and sprinkle with sumac,  pomegranate seeds and fresh coriander.  Fold over and serve immediately.

A Salad of Coconut Rice with Sweetcorn and Peanut Crunch

The peanut crunch makes more than you need, store the excess in an airtight container and sprinkle over salads and fruit.

Serves 8

45g (scant 2oz) virgin coconut oil plus 1 teaspoon extra
3 onions (360g/12 1/2oz), peeled and roughly chopped
3 fresh makrut lime leaves
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
30g desiccated coconut
200g (7oz) white Basmati rice, washed until the water runs clear, then drained
300ml (10fl oz) full-fat coconut milk
200g (7oz) frozen sweetcorn, defrosted
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
20g (3/4oz) coriander leaves
10g (scant 1/2oz) mint leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
60g (scant 2 1/2oz) salted peanuts
40g (generous 1 1/2oz) desiccated coconut
3 shallots (40g/generous 1 1/2oz) fried in oil
1 teaspoon soft light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Put the 45g (scant 2oz) coconut oil, onions, lime leaves and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt in a large sauté pan for which you have a lid. Put the pan on a medium-high heat, and cook, stirring often for 10 minutes until the onions are lightly coloured and translucent.
Stir in the desiccated coconut, cook for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned, then stir in the rice. Pour in the coconut milk or 200ml (7fl oz) milk and 200ml (7fl oz) water, cover, turn the heat to low and cook gently for 15 minutes. Uncover and fluff up with a fork.

Meanwhile, make the topping. Melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Add the chill, peanuts and desiccated coconut and cook, stirring for 4-6 minutes until toasted. Take off the heat and stir in the fried onions, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, then tip on to a tray and leave to cool. Once cool, tip into a bowl.

Wipe clean the frying pan and put it on a high heat. When it’s smoking hot, add the sweetcorn and cook, stirring for 3-5 minutes until slightly charred. Tip into a bowl. Add the lime juice to the bowl with the olive oil, herbs and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Arrange the rice on a platter, sprinkle the topping and serve with the rest on the side immediately otherwise the delicious crunchy topping will soften.
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

Pedro Ximénez Panna Cotta

Panna cotta is easy to make and there are endless possibilities. Pedro Ximénez, a sweet sherry is well worth looking out for, I particularly love the Lustau version.

Serves 8-10

3 gelatine leaves
800ml (1.4 pints) double cream
finely grated zest of 1 organic orange
1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthways in half and the seeds scraped out
100ml (3 1/2fl oz) whole full-fat milk
60ml (scant 2 1/2fl oz) brandy
110ml (4fl oz) Pedro Ximénez sherry
140g (scant 5oz) caster sugar

175g (6oz) raisins
150ml (5fl oz) Pedro Ximénez sherry

Put the gelatine leaves in a small bowl and pour over enough water to cover. Soak for 4-5 minutes or until they are soft, drain and squeeze out the excess water.

Put 50ml (2fl oz) of the cream in a saucepan with the orange zest and vanilla pods and seeds. Bring to the boil, turn off and leave to infuse.

Warm the milk gently in another saucepan, then take off the heat. Add the gelatine and stir to dissolve. Add the brandy, Pedro Ximénez and sugar. Strain the infused cream through a sieve, add to the milk mixture, mix well and allow to cool.

When cold, lightly whip the remaining cream and fold gently into the mixture. Pour into 8-10 ramekins, allow to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours until set.

Meanwhile, put the raisins into a small saucepan, cover with the sherry. Being very slowly to almost boiling point, turn off the heat and allow to macerate for at least 1 hour.

Serve each Panna cotta with a spoonful of Pedro Ximénez raisins.


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