I am always entertained by how the Irish greet the faintest speck of sunshine. If a sunny day emerges in April and May, people appear on the streets donning flip-flops, shorts and you may even spot the occasional shirtless man wandering the roads. BBQs come out of storage, cider and rosé become de-rigour in the desperate hope that Summer has arrived. Unfortunately, Ireland’s Summers tend to be notoriously short and unpredictable. Sunshine on a Saturday afternoon can turn to heavy showers by evening and often means BBQ guests ducking for cover and beach-goers sheltering under flimsy umbrellas!
So how do you plan picnics and other food events with the uncertainty hanging over you?!
For me, its about combining comfort elements of winter foods with the fresh wonderful ingredients available at this time of year. Salads are amazing and they don’t have to consist of limp lettuce leaves and soggy tomatoes.
Here are just a few of my favourite salads that can be eaten for lunch on their own or serve as wonderful side dishes for BBQs or (if the weather doesn’t co-operate) roasted meats.
Chorizo and Bean Salad:
Serves approx 8 but you can make it stretch!
This is a salad in the loosest sense of the word! I would not consider it particularly healthy in large quantities but a spoon or two wont hurt you. This appeased even the most established salad hater in our family and I have been told to make it again so I consider that a success! Its adapted from an Avoca Salads book recipe to make it slightly healthier (slightly!)
- 200g Chorizo sausage, sliced into discs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 can cannellini beans, drained
- 1 can chickpeas, drained
- 200g greenbeans, trimmed and cut in half
- 1 large bag of rocket
- Couple of handfuls of spinach
- Seasoning to taste
- Heat the oil in a deep bottomed sauté pan or frying pan.
- Place the chorizo evenly through the pan. Fry on one side until crispy and turn over to crips the opposite side.
- Meanwhile, boil some water in a pot and blanch the green beans in this for about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Remove the chorizo from the pan but leave the lovely flavoured oils.
- Add the chopped shallot and fry for a couple of minutes until translucent. Stir in the garlic and fry for another minute or so then turn off the heat under the pan.
- Stir in the chickpeas, cannelini beans and green beans until they are evenly coated in the flavoured olive oil. Add the chorizo back to the pan and try and distribute it evenly.
- Remove to a serving dish and stir in rocket and spinach leaves.
Grated Carrot Salad:
This one is so easy and can be multiplied to infinity when required, it reminds me so much of summer holidays in France. I had to include it as it really is one I make so often!
- 4 large carrots, peeled or scrubbed and coarsely grated
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- Sprinkling salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
- This is basically as easy as it gets, pop all your grated carrot into a bowl.
- Mix olive oil, vinegar and seasoning in an empty jar with a lid and shake well.
- Toss with the salad. I am always sparing on the dressing but taste and decide if you would like more.
Roasted broccoli salad with chilli and garlic:
This is one of my favourite salads for a while now. You can make it spicier if you wish by leaving the seeds in the chilli. I usually decide how spicy to make it depending on who I am cooking for (I can be a bit of a chilli whimp!)
- 2 large heads of broccoli, cut into bitesize florets
- 1 red chilli, seeds removed or left in depending on your spice preference and finely sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic finely sliced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Heat a pan of salted water and when its boiling, add the broccoli.
- Cook for 2 minutes and then drain under cold water to stop the cooking.
- Stand in a colander and allow to dry or dry using paper towels.
- Toss in 1 tbsp olive oil and spread out evenly on a baking tray.
- Put into oven at 180 degrees celsius for 20-25 minutes. You want the broccoli to begin to crisp on the tips of the florets.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and add the chilli and garlic slices. Allow to fry but do not allow the garlic to burn.
- When its roasted, toss the broccoli in a bowl and dress well with the garlic and chilli oil and some salt and pepper to taste.