I fall in and out of love with food. Making something time consuming can be immensely therapeutic but the catch 22 is that stress can often dampen a love of creating and any inspiration you may have. I am back to re discovering the joy of pawing over cookbooks and scrolling through my favourites. It’s a funny one, in times of stress you often need to nourish your body and soul with good food but it is often the first thing that gets thrown to the wayside.
Recently I have dabbled in the glory of a good condiment. I made a fantastic chimichurri the other day and stunk the kitchen (and myself) out with garlic. It was glorious. Next I made an olive tapenade from a new book Dylan brought home for me. It was pungent as hell and stung the nostrils but it was oh so good. I drew inspiration from these delicious yet simple flavours and decided to turn it into a dinner menu. A simple vinaigrette also joined the team to help make a supper of early summer vegetables really sing.
One thing I have only just realised is that we have no photos of our food actually cooking on the barbecue! I think I got too distracted by my wine whilst Dylan was doing the important bit. Actually it might be a good thing you can't see what we cook our food on.. we definitely opt for the self cleaning method.
Margot Henderson inspired me to make crostini toasts to start. It was her tapenade recipe I used that started it all off. Olive tapenade on toast, sardines with tricolor tomatoes on toast and a whipped goats feta with grilled courgette ribbons on toast. I feel like crostini was one of those nibbles your mum made back in the early noughties. I know my mum did and it usually involved cream cheese and some form of chutney. Sorry Mum but these ones are way better.
For our dinner we had a butterflied barecued chicken which was marinated in chimichurri then slapped on the barbecue to cook - no matter what this always looks impressive to guests. We also had delicious steak sliced up and served with chimichurri too (ok so I am a bit addicted – forgive me).
Asparagus is back in season so of course there were plenty of spears thrown on the grill. Kenji over at Serious Eats reminded me that sometimes a simple salad is all you need so a bundle of baby cos lightly dressed in his vinaigrette also made an appearance. Some green beans were grilled as well and tossed them together with just thin slices of raddish, capsicum and parsley then finished it all in a touch of that same vinaigrette.
Lately we have been making baked potatoes that have been finished off on the barbecue. They are so good. You wash and dry a potato or two per person, prick the skin and then leave them to bake on the oven rack for say an hour at 180 degrees Celsius. Next cut a cross into them like you would for a jacket potato and stuff inside a couple of slices of garlic, salt and a knob of butter. Wrap each potato up in tin foil and then throw them on at the back of the barbecue to do their thing while you are cooking everything else. Amazing.
Fundamentally everything we made was really simple and relied on just a couple of bold flavours done well.
I was flicking through a Nigel Slater book where I found a lush looking recipe for a gooey chocolate almond cake. Mine didn't turn out as gooey as his but I will give it another try this week to see if I can perfect it. It was made with a block of chocolate and just as much butter. It was still wonderfully rich and served up with some creme fraiche it was just delectable.
I think the standout performances that night were the crostini, the chicken and I think the potatoes (which were even great cold the next day).
I can't wait to buy up large on the new season produce - sometimes all you need are a few good ingredients and a dirty old barbecue to make something delicious.
It should also be known that whilst waiting for photos to upload I was eating a cold barbecued sausage from a tin foil package with a good dollop of tomato sauce. Ah, summer is a good time to be alive.