Now that we are getting into finer weather, longish evenings and the prospect of summer ahead it makes me think of bbq food. Last week I had a phone call from a friend. She was having 17 people to lunch and was wondering if I had any ideas of how she was going to cope with just one oven and a mini hoard to feed. My advice was to a) have a decent selection of sides pre-prepared and then b) marinade some meat the day before and either bbq it or cook in the oven on the day. What I didn’t say, but should have was c) chill some delicious white wine, because if she did a and b then she should be left (relatively) free to enjoy a glass of wine and entertain her guests on the day knowing most of the work was done in advance.
My failsafe sides are a collection of roasted vegetables which can be prepared several days beforehand if required. I have always explained to my children that there is a science to baking and they can use their flair with cooking. This is my cheeky way of saying that the times and temperatures mentioned below are approximate rather than precise, you have been warned.
1. ROASTED PEPPERS
Peppers, Basil plant ,Olive oil, Salt and pepper, Baby tomatoes, Garlic, Anchovies
(fresh coriander (cilantro) and balsamic vinegar to serve)
What to do with them?
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Now, halve the peppers and remove the seeds. Try to cut them through the stalk, they are prettier that way! On the subject of peppers I use any colour except the bitter green ones for this).
Put them into the pre-heated oven 180 degrees for about 50 minutes or until the edges are black and deliciously nutty tasting.
Transfer to a serving dish, taking care to keep all the lovely oil/ juices. Garnish with the chopped coriander and a few splashes of good balsamic vinegar.
Beef tomatoes (if you can get them), Fresh Basil, Olive oil, Salt and pepper, Garlic
(basil, black olives and balsamic vinegar to serve)
What to do with them?
Pre-heat the oven to180°C (350°F). Hold the tomato with the top facing straight up then cut it horizontally across the middle. (this is purely for aesthetic reasons, nothing to do with the flavour!) Arrange on a baking tray, cut side up. Slice the cloves of garlic thinly and place one slice on top of each half tomato. Season well with salt and pepper. Tear the fresh basil into pieces and place on top of the tomatoes before drizzling them with some olive oil. Place in the pre-heated oven for c. 40-50 minutes depending on the size of the tomatoes.
3. Other roasted veg!
Another fail safe option is to char grill a variety of vegetables such as aubergine (eggplant) or courgette (zucchini), asparagus or red onions on a griddle pan on a hob or on a griddle bbq.
Vegetables of your choice
Olice oil, Salt and pepper, Balsamic vinegar, Fresh coriander (cilantro)
Griddle frying pan
What to do with them?
Slice the vegetables: courgettes, aubergine, onions thinly in preparation and season well. (Cut the aubergine last and cook them first before they start to brown. )Take the woody end off the asparagus. Heat the oil on the griddle pan on a high heat on the hob.
Place the veg down on the hot oil. Do not go away and do something else. You need to stand over these as they brown quite quickly (less than 1 minute?)and they can also burn easily, hence the reason you need everything prepared in advance. Turn once and wait patiently. Remember not to go away again! Take off the pan and place on a serving dish. Repeat with all the other prepared vegetables.
Lastly, stand back and admire the very satisfying black grill marks and the result of your not so hard work but clear dedication to the cause.
The cooked veg can be covered and stored in the fridge for several days. They do however need to be brought room temperature for several hours before serving. To serve they work really well with a big bowl of new potatoes, a green salad and whatever meat/fish/whatever you are having yourself. However they are also great just mopped up with some crusty bread.
I simply cannot leave you today without offering you a great link. You may have noticed my “translations” from Irish to American above. Well my friend Kim has a blog called “In an Irish Home” and on it she has a few pages of conversions and substitutions from American to Irish. If like me you have lots of US cookbooks and may from time to time struggle with ingredients this is the perfect source for you. From liquid measures, oven temperatures to translations this is really useful. Who knew that treacle is known as molasses in the states for example? Thank you Kim! Check it out at the link below.
It goes without saying that the perfect way to shop for doing this range of vegetables for a large group is to get up early and go into the Dublin city market as per my last blog post. Also as this post relates to sides only and if you are not patient enough to wait for me to do some accompanying mains, you will find a fantastic range of these on another blog called “One Man’s Meat”.
Fingers crossed for another great Summer here in Ireland, (and wherever you are) and lots of outdoor cooking and entertaining. Enjoy!