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The sun has got his hat on, hip, hip, hooray! Time to enjoy al fresco dining, but don’t be boring with burgers, says CASA’s Maria Broadbent, who suggests some tasty alternatives



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It took a while but the sun arrived a few days ago and even treated us to a sunny bank holiday weekend! We visited family over the weekend and enjoyed the sun and the ability to meet again. It has been a year plus of many restrictions and we have all missed meeting our loved ones for convivial meals and drinks.

We sat in the garden with all the flowers and shrubs bursting with green leaves and flowers blooming, whilst others, such as the peonies, are about to burst into flower. It was a complete overload of the senses – the sights, smells and sounds – the perfect detox to a crazy few weeks in the hospitality trade. We were even instructed by my three-year-old grandson to put sun tan lotion on – a sure catalyst for memories of summer holidays. I decided that my subject for this week’s article, therefore, was in fact summer dining. Not necessarily entertaining, but barbecues, al fresco and just summer food in general really.

I love chargrilled meat (not charred!). A barbecue to me though is a means to cook the protein and the veg for a meal rather than a home version of a burger van. Okay, yes I am a barbecue snob I guess, but actually it is easier to do and everyone gets to sit and eat together.

Pinchos Morunos (47778170)
Pinchos Morunos (47778170)

How to make a barbecue simple:

Have everything prepped, with a raw table and somewhere to put the cooked food.

Have all accompaniments made and in the fridge or oven ready to bring to the table.

Choose a menu that works as you would for a normal meal (see menu suggestions).

Make sure the ground you’re cooking over won’t be spoilt by the fat and spillages.

Pre-soak wooden skewers.

Wait till your coals are almost white and very hot to cook, do not cook over flames.

Have proper long-handled tools for the job – much safer!

Pre-cook gently any ‘danger’ foods, such as chicken thighs.

Don’t cook when inebriated.

Have a bucket of water close by in case of accidents!

Have marshmallow and metal skewers to end with.

Maria gives us some summer menu ideas:

GREEK TAVERNA

Starters

Chicken souvlaki skewers

Halloumi

Pitta bread with hummus and taramasalata (fridge)

Main

Lamb steaks marinated in garlic and rosemary

Vegetable skewers

Lemon and oregano potatoes (oven)

Greek salad (fridge)

Tzatziki (fridge)

Dessert

Greek yoghurt with honey and toasted almonds

Suggested beverages

Mythos beer, red wine ouzo if you’re feeling brave!

SPANISH FIESTA

Starters

King prawn skewers with garlic butter or oil for dipping

Chorizo chipolatas on skewers

Almonds, aioli and olives with bread

Mains

Pinchos Morunos - delicious pork skewers

Patatas a la pobre (oven) - potatoes with peppers and onions

Tomato salad

Dessert

Spanish almond cake

Suggested beverages

Estrella, sangria, Rioja or Albarino wine.

And here's some recipes to try:

HOMEMADE LEMONADE

Another recipe that I love in the summer is homemade lemonade. It is simple and refreshing and has no artificial ingredients in it.

Ingredients:

6 unwaxed lemons, washed

125g granulated or caster sugar

1 litre of sparkling water or soda water, chilled

Ice cubes to serve

Method:

Peel the zest off the lemons (avoid getting the white pith as this is bitter).

Juice the lemons.

Place the zest in a saucepan with 400ml water and the sugar.

On a low heat, gently bring the water to a gentle boil until the sugar dissolves.

As soon as it’s boiling, add the lemon juice and take the pan off the heat.

Leave to completely cool (this syrup will keep for three days in the fridge).

Serve mixed with the sparkling water and topped up with ice.

Vodka can be added to make a zingy cocktail!

MARIA’S SPAGHETTI BOLOGNAISE

My earliest memories of ‘foreign’ food was probably spaghetti bolognaise. This is still a lovely simple dish that I always enjoy. It has the added advantage that for most families I know, it is enjoyed by all of them. It tastes so much better when the sun is shining and you have a chunk of fresh parmesan for grating and a glass of Chianti or Montepulciano to wash it down with.

I still recall aged around 11 slurping my spaghetti and my Mum creeping up behind me with a pair of scissors to cut the slurp mid-flow. The result was I did not have time to slow the final consumption and the shortened spaghetti flicked bolognaise sauce everywhere – much to her amusement!

Serves 6 (but freezes well)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

500g mince beef

4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves

2 x 400g tins tomatoes

2 medium carrots, grated

2 tablespoons tomato purée

125ml red wine (decent wine!)

1 teaspoon herbes de provence

1 Knorr beef stock pot

400g spaghetti if serving 6

Parmesan and black pepper to serve

Method:

If you have a large sauté pan this is ideal or a big saucepan with a frying pan will also work.

Fry the bacon for about 10 minutes in the oil until cooked, browned and the flavours of the fat have been released.

Add the onions and grated carrot and cook for 8 more minutes, add the garlic and stir for 2 minutes – do not let the garlic burn as this will be bitter.

I fry my beef separately and drain the fat off it, then add it to the onion mix.

Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, stock cube, herbs and red wine.

Cover and allow to come to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour checking that it has not dried out or is catching on the bottom – add a little water if it is.

Check seasoning, add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Cook for a further 15 minutes.

Cook pasta as per packet instructions less 1 minute.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and retain about 3 tablespoons of the water, add this and the spaghetti to the sauce and allow to sit in the sauce for that last minute of cooking as this imparts the flavour and ensures your spaghetti remains firm.

Serve with a chunk of parmesan and a grater, plus a peppermill. Dried pre-grated parmesan and white pepper are NOT an option!

CHEF’S TIP

You can pre-cook the pasta and refresh in cold water and then mix into the hot sauce to serve. If you do this under cook the pasta by 2 minutes.

PINCHOS MORUNOS – TRANSLATES AS MOORISH SKEWERS

Ingredients:

1kg pork tenderloin

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon sweet Spanish paprika (you can use smoked)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 cloves garlic, crushed

60ml good olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Method:

Mix all your spices together to make a paste.

Dice your pork into cubes around 2.5 cm or 1 inch in size.

Mix together the pork and the marinade in a plastic bag for at least a couple of hours – better overnight.

Skewer onto metal or pre-soaked wooden skewers.

Cook over the barbecue being careful not to overcook as they should be moist.

These are wonderful served with chilled sherry – don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!

CHEF’S TIP

You can pan fry these and then skewer them. Use a non-stick pan with a lid. Heat the pan on a medium to high heat and then add a tablespoon of oil. When the oil has heated up, add the pork and put the lid on immediately, turning the heat to the lowest setting. The meat will cook whilst retaining moisture, then when nearly cooked remove the lid, turn the heat up and add some colour to the pork cubes.

A message from Maria and team CASA

We are not sure if the restrictions will fully ease on the 21st, but we are geared for continuing with the current set-up should we need to. We have our indoor space with 45 covers, which you can book for up to six people or more than six if only from two households. We have our sun terrace that is available for walk-ins or they can be reserved in conjunction with an inside table as we are always weather dependent. Last and by no means least, we have our beautiful marquee which is available for larger groups of people as we have the sides open.

We have weddings, retirement dos and other parties booked for this space already. Should you be interested in a group or event booking, please contact Caitlyn on 01284 701313 or bookings@casabse.co.uk for further information.

We are going to be closed on Sundays and Mondays unless for a specific function or event. This is to give our exhausted staff some respite and to facilitate some essential maintenance and training. Thank you for your ongoing support and understanding. Maria

A plea from the hospitality trade

Please continue to bear with all those hospitality businesses currently trading under extenuating circumstances. Outside dining poses all kinds of challenges and the logistics of social distancing stretches staff across a much larger area. Most customers of ours and our friends in hospitality have been wonderful, however, we all know that despite everyones best efforts, mistakes do happen. Please share these privately via email with the establishment and this will help them address your complaint, and also look at how to prevent it happening again.

Maria Broadbent is owner of Mediterranean restaurant CASA in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Tel 01284 701313

Visit casabse.co.uk