IT IS the time of year for barbecues and picnics. The challenge is how to find side dishes that are tasty, but not too boring. Here is a selection of ideas that play with seasonal flavours.
For this Broad bean and feta salad, boil 450g (1 lb) of shelled broad beans in chicken stock for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the pan to cool. At least an hour before serving, strain the beans into a bowl and stir in the juice of one lemon, the leaves from two sprigs of thyme, ten finely chopped mint leaves, a good grind of black pepper, three tablespoons of olive oil, and 200g (6½ oz) of feta cheese, crumbled into pieces.
We’ve just come through World Gin Day (Saturday), and this Gin coleslaw might be a talking-point at parties. Shred or grate a white cabbage, one large onion, and two carrots. Mix together in a bowl with one large cucumber, diced. Then crush two teaspoons of juniper berries and sprinkle them over the vegetables with one tablespoon of rock salt, two tablespoons of gin, and the juice of two limes. Give it all a good stir, and let the flavours combine. If it goes watery, just remove some of the liquid to ensure that it maintains crunch.
A lettuce on its own can be a little dull; so, for this Pea and ham salad, take one iceberg lettuce, disassemble it, soak in water, shake in a colander, and shred. Cook 250g (8 oz) of peas, then drain them and stir in two tablespoons of mayonnaise, one tablespoon of salad cream, and half a teaspoon of mustard. Chop about five slices of ham (about 150g or 5 oz), and add this, with the pea mixture, to the lettuce. Combine well and serve with a little chopped parsley on top.
Jazz up a Cucumber salad by cutting the cucumber in half and shaving down the inside with a potato peeler to give nice long strips. Chop down into thumb-length pieces, mix with salt and pepper, a handful of fresh dill, and a tablespoon of light vinegar (cider or white wine).
The kids in our family love Corn on the cob. Prepare the cobs by simmering in a saucepan of Coca-Cola for ten minutes and leaving everything to cool. When you are able to handle them, wrap each one in tinfoil with a knob of butter. Twist the ends to keep everything nice and tight, and put these parcels on to the barbecue (or in a medium oven) for 15-20 mins. They should come out slightly browned and with a slight sweetness.
Strawberries are always best at room temperature: in advance, sprinkle them with rosewater and icing sugar. Give everything a light stir, and leave for a while to macerate. A little chopped fresh mint prior to serving can add fragrance, but is not essential.
To make Strawberry soup, take a couple of punnets of strawberries, wash and trim them, then liquidise in a blender with a twist of lemon juice and a tablespoon or two of caster sugar. Divide this mixture between individual bowls, top with some chopped mint or basil, and a ball of vanilla ice cream.