When Whit Weekend comes around we are well and truly in summer mode and the barbecue gets a makeover, or if we are really with it, the pizza oven. Summer turns into something of a meat feast and it is easy to forget that there are wonderful summer vegetables, salads and herbs coming into season. One of the most underrated is the humble beetroot, a vegetable that is quite versatile and makes an excellent addition to a barbecue menu. Here is a simple recipe from Ballymaloe.
Roast Beetroot with Ardsallagh Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar
Our new season’s beetroot are the size of table tennis balls by now and are so sweet and delicious; try roasting instead of boiling them for extra sweetness.
6-12 baby beetroot, a mixture of red, golden and Choggia would be wonderful
Maldon Sea Salt
freshly cracked pepper
extra virgin olive oil
175g (6oz) goat cheese -Ardsallagh or St. Tola
rocket and beetroot leaves
wild garlic leaves if available
Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/regulo 8
Wrap the beetroot in aluminium foil and roast in the oven until soft and cooked through - 30mins to an hour depending on size.
Rub off the skins of the beetroot, keep whole or cut into quarters. Toss in extra virgin olive oil.
Scatter a few rocket and tiny beetroot leaves on each serving plate. Arrange a selection of warm beetroot on top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. Put a dessert spoonful of goat cheese beside the beetroot. Sprinkle with Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with tiny beet greens or wild garlic flowers and serve.
Roasted Vegetables with Couscous.
From the school of "keeping it simple", this is one I wheel out every year. It is a great recipe for people who can't cook very well, and a fantastic accompaniment to barbecue meats.
Basically, you take whatever vegetables you can lay your hands on, wash, peel or prepare them in the usual way, cut them into chunks, toss them in olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper and roast them in the oven. You can add any seasonings, herbs or spices that you enjoy. You might remember to cut hard vegetables (potatoes, carrots etc.) into smaller chunks than softer ones (courgettes, bell peppers), so that they cook more evenly, but you might not. Who cares?
Your oven needs to be hot, and occasionally you should open it to let out the steam, and to taste the vegetables. When they are all nicely roasted take them out.
For people who like a recipe, here is how I do it.
For six people allow at least 200g of each vegetable (raw weight)
Prepare equal quantities of:
Salad potatoes (Charlotte work well) unpeeled, in 2cm chunks.
Carrots cut into batons.
Mushrooms (whatever type you have).
Salad onions, shallots or onions cut into chunks.
Courgette unpeeled and cut into thick slices.
Butternut squash in 2cm cubes.
Red, green and yellow peppers cut into big chunks.
You need to fill a good size oven tray, because the vegetables will shrink considerably. Even so, if after preparing your vegetables you feel you have too many, cook them anyway. They will keep.
Add whole cloves of garlic, one for each vegetable. Season with a good pinch of salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Sprinkle over some dried herbs. Toss the whole lot in some olive oil. Use oil sparingly. Each piece should only be lightly coated in oil. You don't want vegetables frying in oven.
For extra flavour take a jar of sun dried tomatoes in oil and finely chop two or three good sized pieces of tomato to add to the vegetables. Then use some of the oil from the jar, with all that tomato flavour, to toss the vegetables.
You could use a couple of heaped teaspoons of tomato pesto or basil pesto, to flavour the vegetables.
For some crunch you can add a handful of flaked almonds, or pine nuts, or both, or why not try walnuts?
Place all the vegetables in a large oven tray, draining off any excess oil. Try not to layer them too much; use two trays if you need to. Place the trays in a fairly hot oven for about forty minutes, longer if necessary, until you can put a knife through a piece of potato without resistance. Open the oven occasionally to let the steam out, taking care not to have your face too close to the oven door. If you have a low oven steam will rush out and up and into your face if you are not careful.
When the vegetables are nicely roasted, and browned around the edges, stir in some couscous that you have prepared according instructions on the packet. As a rule of thumb you should have roughly the same amount of couscous as vegetables, if not a little less. This can be served hot or cold, as a side dish or main.
Roasted Vegetable and Chorizo Pasta Bake.
Using the recipe above you can make a wonderful pasta bake. Add some small chunks or thick slices of chorizo to the vegetables, about twice the quantity of one vegetable, so if you have 200g of each vegetable add 400g of chorizo. You can of course add as much as you like. Roast as usual.
Take a tub of creme fraiche and an equal quantity of natural yoghurt and mix in a bowl with a couple of heaped teaspoons of tomato or olive pesto. Adjust the quantities up or down if you are making larger or smaller quantities.
Add the mix to a quantity of cooked penne pasta, in this case more pasta than vegetables (enough for at least six people), so the pasta is liberally coated.
Toss the roasted vegetables in the penne pasta, and place the whole lot in the oven tray or an oven proof dish. Sprinkle over some grated smoked cheddar (any cheese will do) and place in the oven for fifteen minutes.
Serve hot with a side salad.
Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote
'Gooseberries, currants and cherries for children, gingerbread for young girls and maddening whiskey for those who wanted to row', so wrote Amhlaoibh O' Suilleabhan of the fare at a Pattern day near Callan in Co. Kilkenny in 1829.
Elder bushes which grow freely in the hedgerows all around Ireland produce a mass of blooms in May and early June. They smell strangely musty but have the most magical muscat flavour when cooked with green gooseberries.
2 lbs (900g) green gooseberries
2 or 3 elderflower heads
1 pint (600ml/22 cups) cold water
1 lb (450g/2 cups) sugar
First top and tail the gooseberries. Tie 2 or 3 elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold. Serve in a pretty bowl and decorate with fresh elderflowers.
Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Fool
Liquidise the compote, mix with whipped cream to taste about 2 volume of whipped cream. Serve chilled with Janes Biscuits.
Rhubarb Tart with Crystallised Ginger Cream
The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from 'hot hands' don't have to worry about rubbing in the butter.
225g (8 ozs//2 sticks) butter
50g (2 ozs/1/3 cup) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
300g (12ozs/2 1/2 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached
900g (2lbs) sliced red rhubarb (about 1cm/1/2 inch thick)
approx. 375– 400g (13-14ozs/generous 1 1/2 cups) sugar.
egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
castor sugar for sprinkling
softly whipped cream with chopped crystallised ginger
or Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream
Tin, 18cm (7 inches) x 30.5cm (12 inches) x (2.5cm) deep
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.
First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.
To make the tart
Roll out the pastry 3mm (1/8 inch) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Put the prepared rhubarb into the tin and sprinkle with the sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the rhubarb is tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with crystallised ginger cream or with Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream.