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Foccacia with grilled aubergine with chilli feta

Foccacia with grilled aubergine with chilli feta

Meadowsweet fritters with strawberries and cream

Meadowsweet fritters with strawberries and cream

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Foccacia with grilled aubergine with chilli feta

It’s the perfect weather to embrace the outdoors and enjoy al fresco dining. Rather than eating a full scale dinner it’s a good idea to graze on a variety of dishes. A freshly baked loaf is a good centrepiece to start with. Focaccia is a relatively easy bread to make that looks fantastic when you place it on the table. For the recipe here I topped it with seasalt and rosemary but you could add onions, some locally grown tomatoes, olives, the world is your oyster.

There’s nothing better than our local produce but sometimes a big, sexy Italian aubergine finds its way into your life and is hard to resist. The local farmshop stocks them and I’m in love with their rotundity, the purple hue of their skin and the alabaster flesh. Slice and brush them with oil and place on a barbecue or grill. The smoky element cuts through the sweetness.

Here I’ve topped them with some onions and feta mixed through with chilli and sour cream – a delicious hit of heat to the creamy, soft vegetables. Serve piled onto some warm focaccia and a dollop of tapenade for a sensational summer supper.

Meadowsweet is growing particularly prolifically this year. It’s that frizzy, cream flower that appears at the roadside. The flowers can be used as a natural sweetener and have an almond, lychee and vanilla flavour profile.

It contains an aspirin like compound that relieves pain and is also anti inflammatory. Be careful if you’re allergic to aspirin or an expectant mum.

In the past I’ve added it to redcurrant jelly, in a crème brulee and used it to flavour ice-cream and creams. To preserve it I either bury it in a honey jar or add to cider vinegar. The recipe here is for meadowsweet fritters where the flowers are dipped in a cider batter and fried until golden and crisp. Serve with some strawberries and cream.

Focaccia with grilled aubergine with chilli feta

For the focaccia

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What you’ll need

500g strong bread flour or “00” flour

½ teaspoon salt

7g dried yeast

50ml olive oil or good local rapeseed oil + more for brushing

75ml white wine

300ml lukewarm water

1 teaspoon seasalt

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

Method

Place flour in a bowl and mix in the ½ teaspoon salt and yeast. Make a well in the middle and add the oil, wine and water. Mix to a dough and then turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes or until feels elastic.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp teatowel. Leave for an hour at room temperature. Knock back the dough and press into an oiled tray. Press all over the top with your fingers and scatter the salt and rosemary over the top. Brush with some more oil. Leave for another 20 minutes. Set oven to 200oc and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from tin and place on a wire rack.

For the grilled aubergine with chilli feta

1 large aubergine, sliced

Oil for brushing

1 red onion

125g feta cheese

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely minced

100g sour cream

Slice the aubergine and brush with oil. Place on a hot barbecue or ridged pan and season with salt. Cook on both sides until golden. Peel and cut the onion in half. Slice into wedges and brush with oil. Season with salt and cook until soft and grilled.

Crumble the feta into a bowl and whisk in the chill and sourcream. Season to taste.

Arrange the aubergine over a platter and spoon on the chilli feta and scatter over the onions.

For the green olive tapenade

100g green olives, stoned removed

2 sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

Juice ½ lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

Blend to a puree. Check seasoning.

Meadowsweet fritters with strawberries and cream

What you’ll need

12 heads of meadowsweet

75g self raising flour

100ml ice cold cider

10g castor sugar

Oil for frying

1 punnet strawberries, hulled and sliced

250ml double cream whipped

Icing sugar for dusting

Method

Whisk the flour with the cider and sugar to a smooth batter.

Heat a thumbnail depth of oil in a pan to 180oC on a probe (or set your electric deepfryer). Rinse the meadowsweet in cold water and pat dry on kitchen paper. Dip the flowers into the batter, shake off the excess and place in fryer – do this in a couple of batches. Fry for about 5 minutes or until golden and crisp. Dust with icing sugar and serve with strawberries and cream on the side.

Life’s a peach with Paula McIntyre’s sweet and sour recipes


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