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Carina in Print – June Scotsman


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.

SERVES 4

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
salt

Method

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 salt over the chicken and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes in 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.

SERVES 4

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

Method

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 the boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked but still 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 pestle and mortar, cream the garlic with a little salt, then loosen with some olive oil. Add the remaining mint and the parsley, together with enough oil and lime juice to make a loose dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then drizzle over the potato and pea salad.

strawberry tarts

SERVES 4–6

6 tsp home-made strawberry jam
6 tbsp double cream
4–6 strawberries

for the pastry

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour, sieved, plus extra for dusting
90g cornflour

Method

To make the pastry, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour and cornflour. Transfer to a floured surface and knead together to make a firm dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Roll the pastry out onto a floured surface and use a cutter to cut circles about the thickness of a two-pound coin and large enough to fit your chosen pastry cases. Lay a circle in each pastry case and put the filled cases in a shallow muffin tray. Using a fork, prick a few holes in the pastry, then transfer the tray with the filled pastry cases to the freezer and chill for 30 minutes. This will help stop the pastry from shrinking. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until crisp and golden.

Cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack. To assemble, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Place 1 tsp strawberry jam in the bottom of each pastry case, followed by a generous spoonful of whipped cream. Decorate with a toffee strawberry. 

toffee strawberries

These are the ultimate extra for my very fancy strawberry tarts. The crunchy toffee, sweet strawberry, soft cream and crumbly pastry will give you every sweet sensation all at once. They use caster sugar for the toffee in the kitchen at The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant but Mummy uses granulated; either is fine.