One of our favourite things about making food during the summer months, apart from the obvious abundance of gorgeous fresh produce, is the greater emphasis on food that is meant to be shared.
We want to focus on the barbecue separately. So for this week's recipes we are going to feature dishes that are great for sharing in the middle of a table. Whether it's a large salad, something to spread on good bread or simply a great side dish, sharing food with family and friends is one of the best things about summer.
Down in Currabinny when the weather is splitting the stones, we like to set up a big table outside dedicated to al fresco dining, with a large mixture of salads, dips, sauces, breads, hot dishes, always including fresh fish, plenty of chilled wine and my mother's green house tomatoes arranged in a myriad of different ways.
The dishes are never complicated, fresh summer ingredients shouldn’t be fiddled around with too much and let’s be honest, we cannot always be bothered to invest tonnes of time thinking about cooking in the summer.
Salads are usually the easiest dish to make, there is little in the way of cooking, you take the raw elements and bring them together, loosely, without too much in the way of fuss or elbow grease. Everything happens as you put the separate elements together and this is the beauty of salads.
Keep it easy, effortless and above all use the finest ingredients which are in season and locally produced. For our summer plate we brought together elements from some of our favourite Irish producers.
The most creamy, unctuous mozzarella from the Buffalo down in Macroom, hot smoked trout from goatsbridge, tomatoes from the greenhouse in Currabinny, yellow and purple carrots and mixed leaves from McNallys farm and some delicious artichoke hearts from Toons Bridge, who have conveniently opened up a new store in Dublin.
This is less a recipe and more an idea for what to eat on a perfect summer's day, when you have some family or friends to share delicious things with. Use the things local to you, as long as it is in season and of high quality you really cannot go wrong.
Simply to assemble on a large platter, season everything with sea salt, black pepper, lashings of extra virgin olive oil and torn basil. For the carrot ribbons, dress with olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice and crumble the feta over. The mixed leaves should be kept simply seasoned with sea salt, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
The summer always gives us a glut of courgettes, both yellow and green along with summer squash and marrow. Courgette are a member of the squash family and when they are fully grown they are known as marrow.
For this recipe, you can use any type of tender, summer squash or courgette you have at your disposal, they grow abundantly between June and September.
Young, tender and thin skinned ones are the best and most delicious. The yellow ones are lighter and more citrusy than the dark green ones.
We like to use a mix of both for maximum range of flavour. This recipe requires just a little bit of tossing in a hot wok, the courgette pieces should be lightly cooked on the outside but with a bit of crunch still left in the middle.
Cut the courgette into chunky triangular pieces.
Heat the rapeseed oil over medium high heat on a large wok. Add the courgette, cooking them in the wok, shaking them around making sure all the sides get lightly charred. This should only take around a minute or two. Add the sesame oil, soy, ginger, chilli and sesame seeds, stir around the wok for another minute and then remove from the heat. Transfer to a serving bowl, squeeze the lime juice over and garnish with Thai basil or mint.
Broadbeans are one of our favourite summertime produce. Like courgette, they grow abundantly in most climates between June and September. They grow in large pods with around 4-5 beans per pod. Simply pop the beans out of the pod into a bowl and discard the pods for the compost heap.
You can double pod them by popping each bean from the thin skin that covers them. The best way to do this is to blanch them briefly for a minute or two and them pop the bright green beans out of the skin. This can be a laborious process so luckily this particular recipe doesn’t require you to double pod each bean!
Pod the beans, discarding any blemished ones. You may leave the individual beans in their outer skins. Place the beans in a small pot of boiling salted water for around 6-10 minutes depending on the particular size of the beans you are dealing with.
Drain the beans and place in a food processor with the lemon juice, mint and olive oil. Blitz until very smooth and green. We like to serve this with some focaccia.
Double or triple this recipe if you have a larger group or are feeling particularly greedy. This dip is a taste of summer.