In print Saturday 9th June
Have you noticed how happy everyone is. This beautiful weather we’ve had is the best medicine. No wonder we all love going on holiday. It’s not the not going to work, or the little luxury of breakfast in a hotel or delicious dinners by the port – it’s simply the weather that makes everything feel and taste better.
Last year we had one day that the family were able to eat outside on the garden. Miserable! This year you can’t get us away from the terrace. It’s been fabulous.
Now don’t crucify me but I have issues with BBQs. I struggle to cook well on them. Burnt or raw or covered in ashes. Traditionally BBQ’s have come with an abundance of buns and sauces to mask the flavours that you’ve added along the way, singe and toast come to mind. Now it may just be us. We genuinely don’t get it. What we do get though is good food cooked inside and eaten outside.
A delicious roast chicken, a wee plate of pasta, loads of fresh salads, platters of fresh fruit. Easy dishes that we cook or prepare each and every day but enjoyed in the sunshine.
What I love more than anything is setting the table. Especially when it comes to eating outdoors. A tablecloth, little napkins, a vase of flowers cut from the garden, jugs of flavoured water with lemons, mint and a few berries and my fanciest largest platters for all the salads. Even if there is just a couple of us eating I’d rather have a few different salads than the hassle of a BBQ.
A BBQ also needs constant attention. Literally one person is tied to the stove. When the sun is out – who wants that job. Get up and get organised and enjoy the leisure and civility of eating al fresco it’s a breath of breath of fresh air and I guarantee everyone will be happy.
squashed roast chicken
I usually spatchcock my chicken, this involves removing the back bone. It gives me a wee a pot of free stock if I boil down the bones with the tips of the wings so it’s worth the effort.
1.5kg free-range or organic chicken
3 green chillies, deseeded
2 garlic cloves
1 unwaxed lemon or 1 preserved lemon, halved and deseeded
large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
large handful of coriander leaves
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Wash and dry the chicken. Cut it in half and remove the backbone. Lay the two halves, skin side up, on a roasting tray. Using the palm of your hand, press each half down either side of the wing to flatten them out. Put the chilies, garlic, lemon, herbs, 3 tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt in the blender or food processor and blend until fairly smooth.
Pour over the chicken and gently rub it in. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. Sprinkle some more saltover the chicken and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Roast for 20 minutesin the preheated oven so the skin becomes lovely and tasty, then lower the oven
temperature to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and cook for another 30 minutes or so,until the legs of the chicken come away from the body easily.
potato & broad bean salad with a garlic & lime dressing
Those lovely new potatoes are my favourite. Delicious hot or room temperature in the garden. Use a good olive oil. You really can taste the difference.
500g new potatoes
150g fresh broad bean, podded weight
large handful of mint leaves, torn
1 garlic clove
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
small handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
juice of 1 unwaxed lime
Peel the potatoes and put them in a pan with salt and cold water to cover.
If necessary, cut them to ensure they are all the same size. Bring to theboil, then lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked butstill have some bite. Drain and place on a large serving platter or bowl.
Scatter the uncooked peas and half the mint leaves on top. Using a pestleand mortar, cream the garlic with a little salt, then loosen with some oliveoil. Add the remaining mint and the parsley, together with enough oil andlime juice to make a loose dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper,then drizzle over the potato and pea salad.
6 tsp home-made strawberry jam
6 tbsp double cream
for the pastry
200g unsalted butter, at roomtemperature
100g caster sugar
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour, sieved,plus extra for dusting
To make the pastry, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together in a bowluntil light and fluffy. Beat in the flour and cornflour. Transfer to a flouredsurface and knead together to make a firm dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Roll thepastry out onto a floured surface and use a cutter to cut circles about thethickness of a two-pound coin and large enough to fit your chosen pastrycases. Lay a circle in each pastry case and put the filled cases in a shallowmuffin tray. Using a fork, prick a few holes in the pastry, then transfer thetray with the filled pastry cases to the freezer and chill for 30 minutes. Thiswill help stop the pastry from shrinking. Meanwhile, preheat the ovento 180oC/350oF/Gas 4. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes untilcrisp and golden.
Cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire coolingrack. To assemble, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Place 1 tspstrawberry jam in the bottom of each pastry case, followed by a generousspoonful of whipped cream. Decorate with a toffee strawberry.
These are the ultimate extra for my very fancy strawberry tarts. Thecrunchy toffee, sweet strawberry, soft cream and crumbly pastry willgive you every sweet sensation all at once. They use caster sugarfor the toffee in the kitchen at The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant butMummy uses granulated; either is fine.