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Paula McIntyre is berry keen on summer dessert and soup


Grilled prawns with ajo blanco, dill oil, blistered grapes

Grilled prawns with ajo blanco, dill oil, blistered grapes

Summer berry trifle

Summer berry trifle


Grilled prawns with ajo blanco, dill oil, blistered grapes

High summer berry fruits are now in abundance. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of the “pick your own” fruit farms here, now is the time to pay a visit. Claggan Fruit Farm outside Limavady is the nearest to me and makes for a great day out.

Picking fruit is totally intergenerational – you’ll find small kids, teeth and lips stained from sampling strawberries right through to expert jam makers stocking up fruit for the winter months.

There’s nothing nicer than picking a perfectly ripe raspberry in the place, the minute its grown. You’ll be able to buy blackcurrants and redcurrants that are rarely available in supermarkets. These fruits make me think of the classic dessert, summer pudding.

While it looks good with sweet fruit encased in bread, it puts me in mind of a fruity poultice. For me much better to celebrate with a lovely big trifle. Lemon sponge is topped with strawberries and red currants in a blackcurrant puree, a custard layer on top and finished with a billow of cream. The perfect summer dessert.

Some things taste so much better when you’re abroad. Ripe Italian tomatoes simply anointed with peppery olive oil, peaches dipped in sparkling wine and gazpacho.

This cold, Spanish soup of blended tomatoes, peppers and cucumber is totally dependent on the ingredients. It’s flavoursome and cooling and the perfect antidote for a blistering hot day.

A variation that’s more accessible here is Ajo Blanco where toasted almonds are blended with cucumber, garlic, soaked bread, olive oil and sherry vinegar. Chill well and traditionally it’s served in a cold bowl or glass, drizzled with some drops of olive oil and a few halved grapes. Here it’s served as more of a puree as an accompaniment to grilled prawns with barbecued grapes and some dill oil.

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The creamy nuttiness is perfect with the shellfish. Rubbing grapes with oil and blistering on the barbecue gives them lovely sweet, smokiness. Dill really brings the whole thing together. You could substitute mackerel or even crab or lobster in the recipe.

Pour yourself a chilled Manzanilla or Fino sherry as a perfect accompaniment to remind you of hot Spanish evenings…

Grilled prawns with ajo blanco, dill oil, blistered grapes

What you’ll need

400g prawn meat

1 tablespoon oil



Season the prawns with salt. Rub the oil over and place on a hot ridged pan or barbecue and cook for a couple of minutes, turning half way each side depending on the size.

For the ajo blanco

100g blanched almonds

50g white bread, preferably sour dough with crusts removed, chopped

200ml ice cold water

2 cloves garlic

½ cucumber

75ml olive oil

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Salt to taste

Toast the almonds in a frying pan to release the oils. Soak the bread in enough cold water to cover it for 10 minutes. Squeeze the water from the bread and place in food processor with the almonds and blitz to breakdown – add a little of the soaking liquid. Peel the cucumber and chop and add to the blender with the garlic. While still processing add the ice cold water. Add the oil and vinegar and process to a smooth puree. Add salt to taste.

For the dill oil

2 tablespoons chopped dill

4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Mix together.

For the blistered grapes

150g grapes in a bunch

1 tablespoon oil


Toss the grapes in the oil and place on barbecue. Grill until they blister. Cool slightly and remove from stems.

To assemble, spoon some ajo blanco into a bowl. Top with a piece of fish, scatter over the grapes and drizzle the oil over the ajo blanco.

Summer berry trifle

What you’ll need

For the lemon sponge

100g soft butter

100g castor sugar

2 eggs

100g self raising flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

Zest 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Line a swiss roll tray with parchment paper and set oven to 180oC.

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour, baking powder, lemon and vanilla. When smooth spread onto baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool.

For the blackcurrant puree

350g blackcurrants

100g castor sugar

50ml water

Juice of lemon from above

500g strawberries, hulled and chopped

100g redcurrants + extra to garnish

Cook the blackcurrants, sugar, water and lemon juice in a pan until the blackcurrants are soft. Blend to a smooth puree and pass through a sieve. Cool and toss in the strawberries and redcurrants.

For the custard cream

3 egg yolks

50g castor sugar

10g cornflour

10g plain flour

150ml whole milk

100ml whipping cream

Whisk the yolks, sugar, flour and cornflour.Scald the milk and whipping cream and pour over the egg mixture, whisk well and return to the pan. Stir constantly on a medium heat until thick. Pour into a clean bowl, cover surface with cling and when cool enough chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

To assemble

500ml double cream, whipped

Cut the sponge into squares and place in bottom of six individual glass bowls or in one big trifle bowl.

Paula McIntyre is using her loaf 

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