There is an abundance of wonderful summer vegetables just starting to come onto the scene here in Ireland. With the great weather we have been having lately, it can be assumed that this first glut of summer vegetables will be imbued with the perfect amount of warm sunshine needed for perfectly ripe and delicious produce.
We are both of us omnivores in so much as we don’t shy away from enjoying any type of food as long as it is ethically produced, reasonably in season and of course conflict and cruelty free. Although meat is a feature of our diets, it is far from being the shining focus of every meal, as maybe it would have once been, especially growing up.
Our diet is in fact much more vegetable focused than anything else (although cheese, butter and cream also feature prolifically).
There is no denying that in many ways meat has become such a hugely convenient and widely available, astonishingly cheap product. In our personal food philosophy, meat should be seen as something special, bought at a price that doesn’t suggest any compromise in standards, especially in terms of how animals are raised and treated.
We have endeavoured to cut our general meat consumption down considerably. By looking at all of the amazing possibilities that Ireland's considerable bounty of top quality produce has to offer.
You are never too far in this country from an organic farm, a top quality green grocer or even the possibility of growing your own. We ourselves have just been gifted three medium sized planters, made by a friend of ours called Geoff Ryan, made out of pallets. We have put them on our little roof, as unfortunately we don’t have a garden in our terraced Phibsborough house. Certain supermarkets with a garden section are in fact selling compost and seeds. Watch this space.
Aubergines are far from native to Ireland and will only really grow here in a polytunnel or greenhouse. This doesn’t mean you should be put off having a go at it yourself.
Small greenhouses and polytunnels are widely available and the aubergine is a compact enough plant, given the size of the vegetable it produces. Sow the seeds around now, in May, making sure any chance of a late frost has passed. They can be harvested whenever the aubergines have reached a good size and are firm and shiny.
We recently discovered this recipe and have adapted it to our own tastes. It is somewhat like a traditional caponata, except the aubergine is allowed to cook down well past the point where it holds on to its shape. In this recipe you are creating a rich, deeply flavourful and silky sauce which can be enjoyed with pasta, grains or potatoes.
1 large or 2 medium aubergine, cut into small cubes.
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Large handful of ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 small leek, sliced thinly, white parts only
200ml vegetable stock
2 -3 sprigs of thyme
Small handful of parsley, chopped
Small handful of basil, shredded
Sea salt & black pepper
Put a heavy based saucepan or casserole on a medium high heat and add around 80mls of good olive oil. Add the garlic and leave to sizzle for a minute or two, being careful not to let it burn.
Next add the Leeks, letting them soften for around 4 minutes, stirring the ingredients around the pan regularly.
Add the aubergine and stir it around the pan until everything is well coated in oil and garlic. Add the tomatoes along with sprigs of thyme and stir the pan regularly until the aubergine turns very soft and translucent. At this stage you can add the stock. Bring to the boil and then turn it down to a medium low heat.
Let everything bubble away for around 15 to 20 minutes. Put the lid on, leaving a little gap for the steam to escape.
After 20 minutes the liquid should have been mostly absorbed by the aubergine, at which point, mash or bash the aubergine mixture until everything becomes broken up, forming a silky smooth sauce. Add the parsley and stir through.
Serve with your choice of grain, pasta or starch and garnish with basil. You could also add some parmesan at the end.
Good store-bought puff pastry really offers limitless potential for delicious meals and snacks, especially when it comes to using up whatever lovely ripe vegetables (or fruit) you have at hand. We love to make this tomato tarte tatin, whenever we have a glut of ripe tomatoes in the house.
We love how jammy and unctuous the tomatoes become in the balsamic caramel.
750g mixed tomatoes, larger ones cut or sliced to size
Extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Sea salt & black pepper
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
400g puff pastry
Preheat the oven to 200C.
The first thing to be done is to peel the tomatoes. This is surprisingly easy, although can be a little fiddly. Score each tomato with a cross on the top. Then submerge in boiling water for around 30 seconds. Drain and then submerge in cold water.
The skins should easily peel off, using the cross shaped cut to start peeling strips off. Cut the peeled tomatoes vertically and scoop out the seeds.
Using an oven proof frying pan, heat the oil on a medium high heat and add the garlic slices. Add the thyme, butter, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Leave on the heat until bubbling and then add the tomatoes to the pan, cut side up. Add a little more thyme and cook for around 10 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the caramel becomes jammy with the juices from the tomatoes.
Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.
Roll out your puff pastry if you aren’t using pre-rolled puff pastry. Cut a circular piece out that will fit comfortably in the inside circumference of the frying pan. Tuck the edges in, sealing all the juices inside the pan. Cut a few small vents in the top of the pastry and place in the hot oven.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is nice and brown on top. Leave to sit for around 5 minutes after taking out of the oven. Place a large plate on top of the pan and using a tea towel to protect your hands flip the frying pan over, keeping pressure on the plate with your free hand.
The tart should come out nicely, with the jammy, garlicky tomatoes facing upwards.
Sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with plenty of fresh thyme leaves.
This is just a simple breakfast dish which combines a few lovely ingredients into something deeply satisfying and a little lighter than your usual fry up.
2 organic eggs
A large bunch of chard
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
Juice of half a lemon
Seasalt and black pepper
A small handful of parsley, chopped
A small handful of chives, chopped
Good bread for toasting
Trim the chard stalks, removing any large, stringy or woody bits.
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, frying in the oil for around 30 seconds before adding the chard.
Let the chard wilt down in the oil for around 2 minutes before adding the juice of half a lemon and then season with salt and pepper. Throw in the chopped parsley, stir around the pan for another minute or two until most of the liquid has dissolved and then remove the chard to a warm oven.
Using the same pan, add a little more oil and fry the eggs however you like them.
Toast the bread and butter generously.
Serve the chard with the fried eggs on top with the toast on the side and a good sprinkle of freshly chopped chives.