Cookery Feature - Simply Summer

It’s all about the ingredients again this month - and why wouldn’t it be. High summer has brought an abundance of terrific Irish produce, so there’s no better time to keep it simple and spend less time in the kitchen - just let seasonal foods do the talking on the plate.

The secret, as always - unless you can produce your own - is to shop well. Seeking out the best local and Irish produce, and doing as little to it as possible, will always repay the careful cook with simple deliciousness - and, at this time, Irish producers need our support even more than usual.

The recipes below couldn’t be easier, and all depend on the quality of the ingredients for their success. A few favourite producers are suggested for the shopping list, and there are many more like them all over the country.


Ballyvolane House Warm New Potato and Gubbeen Chorizo Salad

The Green family’s Ballyvolane House in Co Cork is a delightful Hidden Ireland property that is (normally) a stunning wedding venue, as well as being available now for whole-house rentals and B&B (and home to Bertha’s Revenge gin). The vegetables and herbs for this flavoursome salad would be grown in the beautiful old walled garden and, although the classic ingredients are given for the dressing, excellent alternatives are available from nearby counties. The bee-friendly Second Nature rapeseed oil from Drumeen Farm in Co Kilkenny, for example, is Ireland’s only organic rapeseed oil, while cider vinegars renowned for their quality are available from The Apple Farm near Cahir, and Highbank Orchards  in Co Kilkenny - who also produce the delicious Highbank Organic Orchard Syrup, which is the discerning Irish cook’s go-to replacement for maple syrup. If you grow your own potatoes, it’s a pleasure to dig a few for a simple dish like this - if not, your local market or speciality food shop will have some that are grown not too far away.

Serves 4

600g small new potatoes 
200g Gubbeen chorizo (or other good quality chorizo, preferably Irish eg On the Wild Side, made in Kerry, Killenure Dexter Gourmet Co Tipperary, or Forage & Cure, Dublin
One handful of flat leaf parsley roughly chopped
One handful of finely chopped scallions
Rocket or other fresh salad leaves, as available
Ballyvolane House Salad Dressing:
8 floz/ 240ml extra virgin olive oil
2fl oz/60ml white wine vinegar
2fl oz/60ml balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp /30ml maple syrup
To make the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a jug and whisk. Season to taste with salt and pepper and store in a screw-top jar.

Steam or boil the potatoes with a sprig of mint for about 10 minutes until tender. Set aside, allow to cool, and then slice in half.
Slice the chorizo and add to a heated frying pan. Cook for 5 minutes and then add the cooked potatoes and mix through until hot. Add the scallions and cook for a further minute to soften them.
Add the chopped parsley at the last minute, together with enough of the salad dressing to moisten the leaves. Season to taste and mix through gently, then pile up on shallow dishes with the dressed rocket or other salad leaves on top.

Grilled Mackerel with Three Tomato Salad and Bruschetta

No fish says summer like a freshly caught mackerel fished from a pier or a day boat while on holiday …But there are plenty of excellent fishmongers around Ireland who sell the freshest of locally caught fish too - just a few of them were listed recently in our feature A Taste of the Sea and they will have plenty of other things to tempt you with as well while you’re there, perhaps including some samphire or other sea vegetables if you're lucky. A hinged wire rack is very handy for barbecueing fish, as it’s it easier to turn them over during cooking and helps to prevent them from sticking to the grill rack. Be careful not to overcook mackerel, as they can dry out quickly and lose their flavour. A tomato salad makes the perfect accompaniment, especially if you grow your own, or can get some from nearby growers. Using mixed tomatoes is attractive and the different varieties all have their own individual textures and flavours, but any variety of tomato will do of course. Garlic scapes are in season now and, if you have your own or can get hold of some from one of the commercial growers like Drummond House Garlic & Asparagus in Co Louth, or West Cork Garlic, a few chopped scapes would make a delicious addition to the salad - and they are brilliant in stir-fries too. This recipe is from the Summer Entertainig & Barbecues Chapter in From Tide to Table. 

4 freshly-caught whole mackerel, gutted and cleaned
8 slices country-style / sourdough bread, cut on the diagonal
1 garlic clove, halved; olive oil, for drizzling

For the Three Tomato Salad
2 beef tomatoes, thinly sliced
4 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
100g (4oz) mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
1 shallot, thinly sliced and/or a few chopped garlic scapes
handful fresh basil leaves, shredded
6 tbsp salad dressing (the Ballyvolane dressing given above would work very well)
freshly ground black pepper

Serves 4

Preheat the grill or prepare a barbecue with medium-hot coals. Slash the mackerel through the thickest part and cook directly on a grill rack for 6-7 minutes on each side until cooked through and lightly charred.

Add the slices of bread to the grill rack for the last minute or two of cooking, turning them once. Rub with the cut side of the garlic clove and drizzle a little olive oil over each one. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, make the three tomato salad: Arrange the beef tomatoes in a single layer on the base of a large serving plate, then scatter over the tomato wedges and finish with a pile of the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle over the shallots and basil and then drizzle the balsamic and honey dressing on top. Add a good grinding of pepper.

Serve the mackerel on plates with the bruschetta and hand the tomato salad around separately for guests to help themselves.

Barbecued Chicken with Harissa Dressing

This is a really tasty chicken dish that can be on the table within half an hour and is equally successful if barbecued or cooked under the grill. You could use commercially produced Harissa, but it’s worth making your own for the freshness and flavour - and it is very easy to prepare. But key to the success of simple chicken dishes like this is the quality of the main ingredient and it’s always worth seeking out the best from producers such as Carlow Free Range; Kilkenny Free Range; Rings Family Farm, Co Kilkenny; The Friendly Farmer in Co Galway; or Coolanowle Organic Farm in Co Carlow - who now also have a butchers and shop with café and restaurant in Carlow Town.

Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, skin on
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, or an Irish alternative (see Ballyvolane House dressing above)
Salt and black pepper
Harissa Dressing:
1 red pepper, roasted, skin removed and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
3-4 chillies, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Handful of coriander leaves
4 tbsp olive oil, or an Irish alternative (see above)
Juice of a lemon

An hour or two ahead, if possible, place the chicken breasts in a shallow dish. Pour over the lemon juice, oil and seasoning.
Meanwhile, make the dressing: Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process to form a thick sauce. Use as required - any leftovers will keep in the fridge for at least a week.
When ready to eat, preheat the grill or barbecue; cook the chicken carefully until thoroughly cooked.
Serve with: new potatoes and seasonal vegetables or salad.

Organic Summer Berries in a Lemongrass Syrup with Organic Natural Yoghurt

It’s surprising how much imported fruit there is in the shops, even at the peak of our growing season, so it’s worth checking the labels - The Fruit People list of some of the major growers, and markets and speciality shops also sell fruit from smaller producers. Keep an eye out for Irish blueberries from Derryvilla Farm in Co Offaly, which are in season in July and August. It is also fun to forage for their smaller cousins, wild bilberries, in peaty mountainous areas such as the Wicklow Hills - although you will be lucky to get them before the birds do. Home- or locally-grown summer berries at the peak of perfection really need no embellishment - a drizzle of Irish honey or a sprinkling of sugar (where are you Irish beet sugar, when we need you…), perhaps, along with a spoonful of fresh cream or a dollop of good Irish yogurt - favourite brands often found in my fridge include Clandeboye Estate, Co Down Glenisk Organic  Co Offaly; Glenilen Farm West Cork; and Killowen Farm Co Wexford. A simple stock syrup (100g caster sugar to 150ml water) is useful to keep in the fridge for fruit salads and, for something slightly more exotic, the citrus tang of lemongrass enhances the flavour of many fruits - as in this classic Bord Bia recipe. Serves 6

4 lemon grass stalks, finely chopped
450g caster sugar
Juice and zest of 2 limes
300g Irish blueberries
300g Irish raspberries
300g Irish strawberries, hulled and quartered
Organic natural yoghurt

Put the lemongrass into a saucepan with the sugar and 1 litre of water; stir over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Cool, cover and chill overnight for the flavours to infuse. Strain the syrup and add the lime juice and half the lime zest.

To serve, divide the fruit between six bowls, pour over some syrup and scatter with the remaining lime zest. Serve with a bowl of natural yoghurt. Store any leftover syrup in a screwtop jar in the fridge, for up to three weeks. #ThisisIrishFood

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