What joy, the garden and greenhouses are bursting with produce, so are the Farmers’ and Country markets and hopefully, your local shops and supermarkets are offering the bounty of the season to tempt you to make beautiful salads, pasta dishes, gorgeous soups and crudtiés.
I know I’m super fortunate to have a greenhouse so we have beautiful new potatoes, weeks later than usual this year but many of you too have discovered the magic of owning a tunnel to use as a protected garden. Pair them with some of those little scallions, put them into other dishes to add extra bulk and deliciousness but best of all boil them in sea-water, eat immediately slathered with butter and Irish sea salt -you’ll feel like saying grace and thanking the Good Lord and Mother Nature for the bounty of the seasons, and of course make a wish.
There’s still a little asparagus about and we’re just getting the first Summer crabs from Ballycotton and soon we’ll have mackerel. Joy of joys, the gooseberry bushes are dripping with fruit. You know, they are my favourite sea fish – fresh mackerel eaten within a few hours from the sea is a revelation to many.
The wild Irish salmon season started on the 12th of May. Just a few weeks to enjoy this sublime and precious fish. So treat yourself. And then there’s broad beans, oh my goodness I just love broad beans or fava beans as they are known in the US.
We use every scrap, the top leaves and some flowers in salad (don’t pick too many flowers, remember they will be ultimately be the broad beans) When the little pods are just 3 to 4 inches long, we chargrill them. But to be as magical as I say, broad beans must be super fresh, the natural sugars turn into starch within 5 or 6 hours and after a few days travel they really lose their ‘mojo’ and become dull and mealy. So I can understand if you’re baffled by my enthusiasm. You’ll need to grow them yourself or sidle up to a friend with a glut and maybe do a barter. We’ve also had the first of our courgettes with their frilly canary yellow blossom, another vegetable that can be dull as dishwater or blow your mind when they are young, crisp, and nutty in flavour. Try them raw and thinly sliced in a carpaccio of zucchini, drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil and a few flakes of sea salt, alternatively sprinkle with some strips of anchovy and add a little of the oil. Decorate with the zucchini blossoms.
I’ve chosen a few of my favourite Summer recipes, so difficult because there are so many delicious ways to serves gorgeous fresh produce.
Spring Onion or Garlic Chive Soda Bread
On a recent trip to India I loved the flat breads with scallions. They use a yeast dough but this soda bread version is also delicious and super easy to make.
450g (1 lb) flour
1 level teaspoon bread soda
1 level teaspoon salt
2-4 tablespoons finely sliced spring onions or garlic chives
350- 425mls (12-15 fl ozs) approx. sour milk or butter milk to mix
First fully preheat your oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8.
Sieve the dry ingredients, add the finely sliced spring onions. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board, knead lightly for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inch (4cm) deep and cut a deep cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven 230C\450F\ gas mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200C\400F\ gas mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, if it is cooked it will sound hollow.
Spanking Fresh Mackerel Gravlax with Wasabi and Dill Mayonnaise
This basic Nordic pickling technique can be used for many fish – salmon, haddock, and mackerel. I’ve substituted wasabi for French mustard with delicious results. We are all addicted to this pickled mackerel gravlax, which keeps for up to a week. Fresh dill is essential.
One can use the same pickle for the gravlax.
Serves 12 – 16 as a starter
4-6 mackerel, filleted
1 heaped tablespoon sea salt
1 heaped tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dill, finely chopped
dark brown bread and butter, to serve
a gratin dish
Fillet the mackerel and remove all the bones. Mix the salt, sugar, pepper and dill together in a bowl. Line the gratin dish with a piece of clingfilm. Sprinkle some cure on the bottom of the gratin dish; lay the mackerel fillets skin side down on top. Sprinkle more cure on top and another layer of mackerel and finish with a layer of cure. Wrap tightly with clingfilm, weight it down slightly with a board and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours.
Wasabi and Dill Mayonnaise
1 large egg yolk, preferably free range
1-1 ½ tablespoons grated wasabi
1 tablespoon white sugar
150ml (5fl oz) ground nut or sunflower oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped
salt and white pepper
Whisk the egg yolk with the wasabi and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.
Wipe the dill mixture off the fish and slice thinly. Arrange on a plate. Serve with wasabi and dill mayonnaise and dark brown bread and butter.
Garnish with fresh dill flowers if available.
Pappardelle with double Broad Beans and Rocket Leaves
225g broad beans, shelled
8 tablespoons broad bean puree (see recipe)
A fistful of rocket leaves
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, approx.
lots of freshly ground pepper and sea salt
First make the broad bean puree. Cook and shell the broad beans and keep warm.
Cook the pappardelle until ‘al dente’ in plenty of boiling salted water. Drain quickly. Add a little extra virgin olive oil to the pan, add the broad beans, pasta and rocket leaves and toss well. Season with lots of pepper and some sea salt. Put two tablespoons of warm broad bean puree onto each plate. Put a portion on pasta on top and serve immediately.
Broad Bean Puree
We use this puree in many ways, you can imagine how good it is with ham or bacon, duck, summer plaice or John Dory.
1 teaspoon salt
450g shelled broad beans
sprig of summer savory
about 25g butter
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 teaspoon summer savory, freshly chopped
2-3 tablespoon cream
Bring the water to a rolling boil, add the sea salt, broad beans and a sprig of savory. Boil very fast for 3-4 minutes or until just cooked. Drain immediately.
Melt a little butter in the saucepan, toss in the broad beans and season with freshly ground pepper. Taste, add some more savory and a little salt if necessary.
Slip the beans out of their skins. Add the cream and puree. Check the seasoning and serve.
Roast Beetroot with Apple, Pomegranate Seeds and Mint, with Horseradish Cream
This combination makes an irresistible starter but can also be served family style for lunch or supper.
I kg young beetroot
3-4 Cox’s Orange Pippin apples, or 2 Red Elstar, peeled and diced in 7mm dice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½-1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 fistful mint leaves
15-30g Iranian pistachio nuts, halved
Grilled Sourdough (optional)
Preheat the oven to 230C/gas mark 8
Wrap the beetroot in aluminium foil and roast in the oven until soft and cooked through, 30 mins to 1 hour,* (see below) depending on the size, or until the skins will rub off.
Cut into chunks. Add the apple dice.
Toss in extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Halve the pomegranate and pop out the seeds.
Scatter a serving plate with rocket leaves. Spread the beetroot and apple over the leaves. Scatter the mint leaves over the top and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and halved pistachio nuts.
Serve with a dollop of horseradish cream and some grilled sourdough.
*Beetroot take much longer to cook in winter, we sometimes boil them first until tender, then peel, cut into wedges. Toss in extra virgin olive oil and roast in a preheated oven at 230˚C/gas mark 8 for 15-20 minutes.
Green Goosegog Crumble with Elderflower Cream
We’ve just had the first green gooseberries, they are still hard and under ripe but fantastic for pies and tarts.
When we were little, we always called gooseberries goosegogs.
Crumbles are the quintessential comfort food, this is a brilliant master recipe, just vary the fruit according to the season.
675g green gooseberries
45-55g soft dark brown sugar
1-2 tablespoon water
110g white flour, preferably unbleached
50g castor sugar
175ml cream, whipped
1 tablespoon elderflower cordial
1.1L capacity pie dish
First stew the gooseberries gently with the sugar and water in a covered casserole or stainless steel saucepan just until the fruit bursts.
Then taste and add more sugar if necessary. Turn into a pie dish. Allow to cool slightly while you make the crumble.
Rub the butter into the flour just until the mixture resembles really coarse bread crumbs, add the sugar. Sprinkle this mixture over the gooseberries in the pie dish. Scatter the flaked almonds evenly over the top.
Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 30-45 minutes or until the topping is cooked and golden. Serve with elderflower cream or just softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar.
To make the elderflower cream, fold the cordial into the softly whipped cream, to taste.
Variation: Gooseberry and Elderflower
Stew the gooseberries with white sugar, add 2 elderflower heads tied in muslin while stewing, remove elderflowers and proceed as above.
Variations on the Crumble
30g oatflakes or sliced hazelnuts or nibbed almonds can be good added to the crumble.
This is a wonderfully rich ice-cream. Unexpectedly delicious, we love it with precious ripe figs from the greenhouse.
1/2 vanilla bean (pod)
45g fresh basil leaves, torn
175ml whole milk
4 egg yolks
175ml rich cream, cold
Ripe figs, optional
Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a heavy saucepan. Add the torn basil leaves. Add the bean pod and the milk. Heat to just below the boiling point and remove from the heat. Cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove the bean pod and scrape again to release every bit of flavour. Add the scrapings to the milk and discard the pod.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together. Add warm milk gradually, stirring constantly until all the milk is added. Return to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a spoon (170º-175º), 8-10 minutes approx.
Pour the cream into a large bowl. Strain the basil custard into the cream. Mix well, then chill thoroughly.
Freeze according to the directions of your ice-cream machine.
Serve on chilled plates with ripe figs if available.