Looking back at previous summer party blogs I see that the weather gods have it in for us. This was the view from the kitchen in 2015 – and it could have been the view yesterday! Except that in 2015 it did clear up enough to get out whereas yesterday no one except our growing band of children were prepared to venture down the steps….
Very frustrating, especially as finally the bougainvilleas have started to perform…. (Of interest only to those who follow the garden blog and know what a struggle they have had!) None the less – a good time was had by all – but I did seriously over cater! But for that I also blame the weather as torrential downpours did keep a number of guests at home – and at least I do not have now to cook for a week!!
As those who follow our recipes in the newsletters will know, I have handed the business of creating free from recipes almost entirely into Katherine’s able and inventive hands. So these days, pen and paper rarely make it into the kitchen with me. However, I did think that for our own summer party, I should maybe try bit harder so here are two of the dishes that we had for lunch yesterday – Red rice with anchovies, seaweed and smoked oysters and a Fennel, bean, avocado and mint salad.
For the record we also had one of what Alex calls my ‘ploughed field Puy lentil salads’ – chillis, ginger, garlic, red peppers, Puy lentils and cavolo nero (they do look rather like a ploughed field!), the most spectacular ham and some rather disappointing chrain. This is a Jewish salad and is a wonderful mixture of grated beetroot, horseradish and cider vinegar which should blow the top of your head off. However, I am not sure what had happened to Ocado’s horseradish root but it had definitely lost its mojo! Still it made nice soup this morning.
Plus lots of cheese, some lovely sourdough breads from Gail’s, huge piles of Kentish cherries and strawberries and some very weird chocolate brownies…. Weird because I could not resist a bit of experimentation with seaweed, buckwheat flour, coconut flour and alternative sugars…. I think best ones were the ones that I decided to rescue by piercing them with a skewer and drizzling them generously with cherry brandy!!
And just in case you are wondering about the bread and cheese, apart form them, everything was gluten, milk, soya, celery, tomato and nut free. Even though the only guest we had with any allergies was Ruth of What Allergy? – although to be fair, she has enough to do for everyone!!
Red rice with anchovies, seaweed and smoked oysters
As you can see, Boris thought that this had definite possibilities!
10g seaweed salad (a mix of seaweeds that you can find in most delicatessens or from numerous on line sources)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 x 30g tin anchovies
1 large leek, finely chopped
200g red rice
1.5 litres fish or vegetable stock
50g fresh marsh samphire, chopped roughly
3 x 85g tins smoked oysters
freshly ground black pepper
juice 1 -2 lemons
chopped fresh parsley
- Chop the sea salad small and soak in a couple of tablespoons of boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil and the oil from the tin of anchovies in a wide pan. Finely chop the anchovies, finely slice the leeks and add both to the oil. Cook gently for to-15 minutes or until the leeks are really soft.
- Add the rice, stir well the add half of the stock. Cook briskly for 15-20 minutes adding extra stock as the rice starts to dry out.
- When the rice is all but cooked, add the samphire and the liquid from the tins of oysters. When the rice is cooked, gently stir in the oysters (you may need to cut them in half) and season to taste with black pepper and lemon juice.
- Serve warm or at room temperature sprinkled with the chopped parsley.
Fennel, bean, avocado and mint salad
1 x 400g tin of haricot beans
200g fine Kenya beans
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 heads fennel
50g fresh okra
1 large or 2 small avocados
large handful of fresh mint
- Tip the haricots beans into a pot and heat gently till well warmed but no where near boiling. Strain. (They absorb the dressing much better if they are warm.)
- Meanwhile, trim the Kenya beans and halve them, then steam for 2-3 minutes or until they are slightly softened but still crunchy.
- Tip the haricots beans and the green beans into a bowl and dress with salt, pepper olive oil and lemon juice. You will need extra lemon juice to toss the fennel and the avocado to stop them going brown.
- Finely slice the fennel, toss in lemon juice and then add to the beans. Top and tail the okra, slice it quite thinly and add to the salad.
- Peel the avocados, cut into largish dice and toss in lemon juice the add to the salad.
- Chop the mint roughly and add to the salad and then toss all very gently so as not to crush the avocado. Decorate with some fennel fronds if you have any left.
- Serve at room temperature.