What a beautiful Easter weekend we had here at Salad Club. From beach hut breakfasts in Calshot to picnics in Brockwell park, we managed to spend almost every mealtime outside, only venturing indoors for loo breaks and sleeps. There’s quite an art to eating outside and avoiding the uniquely British pitfalls of burnt barbequed sausages and tired potato salads. Whatever you do, there are a few key items you always need: a big rug, a little bottle of olive oil, plenty of cold beer, a bottle opener, fresh herbs, a lemon and a sharp knife. There’s no need to stop being inventive and colourful once you leave the kitchen, you just need to plan ahead a little more.
Rosie’s al fresco weekend kicked off on Good Friday with lunch for two tired gardeners on the allotment: tomato, bulgar and crunchy pitta salad, Ottolenghi’s hummus (in my view, still far from perfect) and chargrilled harissa halloumi with chorizo.
A couple of wheat beers later, the sun still beating down, we decided to cancel a restaurant reservation for six and invite the family over for a barbeque instead. The lunch menu was bulked up to make enough for supper and guests arrived with rib eye steak that was swiftly coated with olive oil, garlic, chilli and pepper; chicken that was smothered with harissa and wine that was eagerly poured. Rare, smokey barbequed steak is hard to beat, as is a crisped chicken thigh or drumstick coated with something sweet and spicy–both so much better for being cooked over white-hot coals.
The bulgar number from up there was popular. Inspired by fattoush, but making use of what I had in my fridge and cupboards, this salad is really satisfying and packed with colour and flavour. It went particularly well with the steak–the crunchy pitta soaking up the tasty juices from the tomatoes and the beef to delicious effect.
Tomato, bulgar and crunchy pitta salad
400g bulgar wheat
1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon
4 large vine tomatoes
Juice of 1 lemon
1 large red chilli, sliced (seeds optional)
Salt & pepper
2 handfuls pine nuts
2 white pittas
3 large handfuls flat leaf parsley
2 large handful dill
More lemon wedges to serve
Put the bulgar in a bowl and pour over boiling water until the water level is about 1cm above the bulgar. Stir in the bouillon, cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the wheat to soften and expand. Dice the tomatoes as small as you can and add them to your serving bowl with a long glug of olive oil (about 4 tablespoons), the lemon juice, chopped chilli and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
Put the pittas in the toaster or under the grill and toast until just crisp but not brown then cut or break into roughly 1 inch squared pieces. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over a low heat until brown and finely chop the herbs. Once the bulgar is soft and has absorbed all the water, fluff it up with a fork and pour into the serving bowl with the tomatoes. Stir everything together then add the pitta, pine nuts and herbs and stir again very gently to combine. Serve with extra lemon wedges and a big spoon.
Now on with our weekend:
A busy Saturday morning of car booting and DIY was paused for leftover steak sandwiches with lashings of English mustard (and ketchup for Rosie).
*Insert Easter Sunday here: families, lamb shoulders, red wine, chocolate, champagne and slouching followed by beer and backgammon in Brockwell at sunset then onto pub gardens and friends’ barbeques*
Waking up on Monday to yet another clear blue sky and a gentle hangover, we may have taken the heatwave euphoria a step too far by cooking breakfast in the garden. Although it did make for a superior grill-up, with wonderfully moist and smoky mushrooms, crunchy bacon and classic barbequed bangers.
After a little lie down it was onto trial some book recipes in the park with the other half:
Here’s another recipe from Ellie for you and your next burst of sunshine (never know when it may be, but perhaps that pesky royal wedding will provide another opportunity to eat outdoors). See the plate of orange and white flecked with green up there on the top right? Well here it is:
Roasted Cumin Carrots with Halloumi, Pistachio and Honey
Serves 4 as part of a mezze picnic
4 lge carrots
2 generous pinches cumin seeds
Good glug of sesame oil
Little glug of olive oil
Handful of pistachios, roughly chopped
6 thin slices halloumi
A squeeze of lemon
A drizzle of honey
Preheat the oven to 210°C. Scrub and peel the carrots then use the vegetable peeler to shave them into wide ribbons. Toss with the sesame and olive oil and cumin seeds then roast in the oven til a little browned and crisped. Squeeze the lemon juice over the halloumi, heat a ridged pan and sear the cheese on both sides, making sure that it doesn’t run over from soft and melted to squeaky and rubbery. Arrange the carrot on a flat plate, top with the halloumi and finish with pistachios and drizzle of honey. Eat immediately.
Which just leaves us to wish you the best for this tiny working week. We hope everyone has fun waving union jacks, drinking Pimms, meeting the neighbours or moaning about the whole stupid business while enjoying yet another day off on Friday! Hooray for Spring.
Ellie & Rosie