For one week only, food blogger Dave Reilly, also known as The Perthshire Foodie online, stops by to tell us about his love for alfresco dining.
Having grown up with a French family, alfresco dining has always been an important part of my life.
From huge family gatherings centred around a giant bubbling pan of paella, grilling sardines on fires fuelled with grape vine wood, drinking, singing and dancing into the early hours of the morning or simply sitting out on the balcony in the morning with a bowl of hot chocolate and a croissant.
I have so many fond memories of eating outside. So it’s no surprise really that outdoor dining is something that I have brought into my life in Scotland. Not always successfully, as the weather here can be temperamental and wet.
However, on those magical days when it’s dry and warm enough to sit out in a jersey, you’ll find me out in the garden with a cold drink or coffee and a bowl of nibbles.
Although it’s something we’ve long embraced in our household, the last year’s events have resulted in a lot more people taking to garden dining, as it has often been the only way to be able to socialise and enjoy good food with friends.
I find that the key to successful outdoor dining in Scotland, other than having waterproofs close to hand, is to have a level of spontaneity. This means food that can be rustled up quickly. Ideally brought out on large plates or bowls so it can quickly be rushed back indoors again if the heavens decide to open.
Here, I will share a few of my favourite recipes to help you create an alfresco feast.
Barbecued langoustines with garlic butter
We are blessed in Scotland to have access to some of the finest seafood in the world. Langoustines are definitely one of my favourites, especially when grilled on the barbecue.
My recipe for wild garlic langoustines is really handy as it makes use of the abundant supply of wild garlic that you find scattered throughout the forests of Scotland at this time of year. They are easily identifiable by their lush green leaves and their strong smell. Don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on some as you can substitute the wild garlic for a crushed garlic clove in this recipe.
First, get the largest langoustines you can find; the bigger they are, the less fiddly they’ll be to eat and the more delicious meat you’ll get from them. Split t hem in half and cover them with butter blended with chopped parsley, finely chopped wild garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
Place them on to your hot barbecue and grill them for five minutes, until the meat inside is no longer translucent. Serve them hot, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. In my opinion this is the best way to eat langoustines.
The zesty garlic butter complements the sweet taste of the langoustine beautifully. The butter recipe has a diverse range of uses. It goes great on a halved lobster or with scallops cooked on the barbecue using the scallop shell as a mini tray to cook them in. It takes minimal effort to make and does a fantastic job of showcasing the seafood’s flavours.
Rainbow pasta salad
When eating outside I think a large bowl of colourful salad is essential. This fantastically versatile pasta salad can be made in advance and will complement any main meal, be it grilled fish or roast chicken. It’s super simple to make and takes little time to prepare. I like to use orzo pasta with this recipe, but it will work with any pasta shapes you have.
Finely chop one red onion and add it to a roasting tray with one red pepper and one green pepper that you have deseeded and sliced into fine strips.
Crush a garlic clove and mix it into 25ml of olive oil. Drizzle the oil over the vegetables and roast them in an oven preheated to 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes. Take the tray out and add 12 cherry tomatoes cut in half and roast for a further five minutes.
While the veg is cooling, cook 150g of orzo pasta as per the instructions on the packet. Drain and cool the orzo. Mix the roasted vegetables together with the pasta and crumble in as much feta cheese as you like (I usually put in at least half a block).
Add a generous handful of torn-up basil leaves. Keep refrigerated until needed. This salad travels well and it’s great for picnics.
Boozy Berries with cream
Now on to dessert. My recipe for boozy berries is quick to make and takes advantage of the bountiful supply of Scottish soft fruits available over the summer months.
I usually make it with blackberries, strawberries and raspberries.
For four generous portions you will need 125g of each berry type. Add them into a bowl with 70g of caster sugar, add 50ml of Drambuie and give it all a stir to get the berry juices out. Add some finely-chopped mint leaves into the mix and keep it refrigerated until ready to serve. It will keep for a day if you want to prepare it in advance.
With your berries chilling in the fridge soaking up the booze and mint flavours, it’s time to prepare the cream to go on top. Whip up 150ml of whipping cream with
½ tsp of vanilla extract and 2 ½ tbsp of granulated sugar.
The final step is to create some caramel shards that add a nice crunch to the dish and also look great. To do this, heat a flat bottom pan and add 100g caster sugar and enough water to just dissolve the sugar completely. Let the sugary solution reduce into a syrup, keeping a close eye to make sure that it doesn’t burn.
As soon as it starts to caramelise, take the solution off the heat, and pour the hot caramel over a non-stick surface such as a silicone baking mat or greaseproof paper. Leave it to cool and solidify.
Once hardened, smash the caramel up into shards with a blunt object such as a rolling pin. This stage can be quite satisfying if you’ve had a stressful day at the office! To serve, spoon the berries into a bowl. Add a generous dollop of cream and sprinkle on some of the caramel shards just before you put it out on the table.
Orange whisky sour
Alfresco dining wouldn’t be complete without an ice-cold cocktail! Here is one of my current favourites, an orange whisky sour:
You’ll need 50ml of a whisky that’s not too peaty, 25ml of freshly-squeezed orange juice, 25ml of freshly-squeezed lemon juice, 12.5ml of sugar syrup, 1 medium egg white, ice (as needed), a slice of orange and a cocktail cherry to garnish.
First, add all the above-mentioned ingredients, minus the cocktail cherry and orange slice, ice, into a cocktail shaker or jar with a lid. Shake for around
Add ice to the shaker and shake for a further 30 seconds. Strain the mixture into a glass with ice and add your garnish. I hope these recipes have inspired you to embrace alfresco dining.
Dave Reilly is The Perthshire Foodie on Instagram. Catherine Devaney returns to Kitchen Life next month.