Thinking Ahead to Summer
By Linda Parker
It’s that time of year again … Spring has sprung, with visits to garden centres and creative thoughts of idyllic outdoor living and dining. We’ve found some recipe suggestions to get you in the mood for al-fresco activities …
Shake off the winter with a perky smoked salmon and beetroot starter and an easy-cook kale and ricotta tagliatelle main course.
With a surfeit of Easter and bank holiday roast dinners I feel as if I’m in a food coma again, so I’ve decided to make another effort with simple, quick, healthy meals. A quick look on the Waitrose website has revealed some, and found some perfect suggestions if you’re planning some seasonal entertaining … try Skandi-style smoked salmon and beetroot salad as a starter, Kale and ricotta tagliatelle and an easy-peasy main, and add a final flourish with a no-cook British berry sherry trifle
A pressure cooker can cut cooking times by up to 70%, so there really isn’t an excuse to skimp on healthy, home-cooked mid-week suppers. By Bella Housewares from Argos , £79.99
The arrival of the new Bella Housewares pressure cooker has enabled me to make some very flavoursome and delicious dishes, using up very basic items from the freezer … packs of inexpensive pork loin, lamb steaks and chicken thighs. The sorts of things we all buy ‘just in case’ it’s needed and which tends to migrate to the back of the freezer, never to be seen again. Well, instead of doing lots of three or four hour slow-cooks, I’ve hurtled through things using a 45minute pressure cook pre-set programme, which gives the fabulous results, equal to endless amounts of simmering and slow-roasting. This means of course, that it is possible to have a very healthy stew/casserole any day of the week, allow around 90 minutes max, to including chopping, making stock (including using up the left-over wine, if such a thing exists in your household) and sautéing/browning the meat first. Find out more here. This model, the 6-Litre Pressure Cooker has 12 pre-set functions, two steam-release valves, plugs into a standard socket and can also slow-roast, cook rice and pasta and steam too. A worthy investment.
Having just struggled through a wet, wild and windy Easter holiday, coupled with multiple visits to buy paint for the new house, I did several detours through the ‘outdoor living’ departments of the DIY sheds. I’m always excited to see the wonderful interpretations of perfect ‘outdoor dining’ spaces and pristine barbecues. We buy these things with excited anticipation, whilst the reality is that once the barbecue is lit the smoke will either drift back into the house or upset the neighbours, someone will drop a bowl of salad and then someone else will have to spend an hour picking fragments of crockery out of the grass or gravel. However, it is very cheering to stock up on outdoor accoutrements. Plastic or melamine tableware is a worthwhile investment, and get the biggest table you can, as there’s never enough space for all the serving dishes …
We adore the clean, modern lines of the Liberty large table and matching chairs, in aluminium and teak finish. The table will seat eight, measures 214cm L x 97cm D, and costs £586, chairs are £89 each, all are maintenance free. Look at the whole range from Harley & Lola here.
If your garden furniture and outdoor accessories are looking a bit dull and past their best, treat yourself to some cheerful pots from Hum Partnership, a row of these along the outdoor dining table will detract from any re-staining or painting that should be done …. Masses of colours and patterns available, in plastic, 22cm tall, £10 each, buy here.
So, we are starting off gently this season with barbecue suggestions. Keep it simple with the Char-Broil model by Kettleman, £199 from Homebase (top left). This has a unique TRU-Infrared ™ cooking system for easier cooking with fewer flare ups and better results. The Lotus Grill (top right) from Cuckooland is a grill-barbecue with fan, £129, which uses only a small amount of charcoal, and the battery operated fan means fumes and smoke are kept to a minimum. From June the option of a Fondue-Grill accessory kit, £89 will be available to cook sauces and fondue. Look at the range from Cuckooland here. And finally, (bottom centre), think about the Weber Q1200 portable gas barbecue, which can be used with a disposable canister or a refillable bottle, and includes a drip tray, hinged lid and extremely useful fold-away work tables. Porcelain-enamel cooking grates allow this model to cater for up to six people at a time. £212.49 from Riverside Outdoor Living, see it here.
So, get cooking … next month I’m looking at ultimate outdoor food prep ideas – from an outdoor kitchen to super-size barbecues and grills, fire pits and wood burning pizza ovens …