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Sunny meals in the garden

We British are always talking about the weather, it seems we are unable to have a conversation with anyone without mentioning it.  So here I am, talking about the weather – but what incredible weather it has been this past week!

Mr Rigg is convinced this is our summer, last year March was stonking hot, this year maybe it’s May.  I do hope this isn’t the end of hot, sunny weather for the rest of the year, just a few more occasional weeks like this would satisfy me.

Mr Rigg and Buddy

Like everyone I’m sure, we’ve been out in the garden, down on the allotment, cooking and eating outside, and quickly getting in a tan in case this really is our one and only week of warm, cloudless skies.

Some of our many meals eaten outside (and some even cooked outside!) have included this new favourite pasta dish of prawns, rocket and sundried tomato paste…

Spaghetti with prawns and rocket

A rather scrummy and also new favourite omelette with colourful cherry tomatoes from our local farmer’s market, crispy Serrano ham, shavings of sheep’s cheese and snipped chives from the garden…

Cherry tomato and Serrano ham omelette

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Barbecue at the allotment

We’ve eaten quite a few dinners at the allotment over the past week, much like our anniversary meal they’ve been utterly blissful.

Before we left I made a quinoa salad with cucumber, radish and dill, which was then finished off at the allotment with grilled fennel – I’d seen the recipe here and it was delicious, very refreshing which is just what you need in this weather.

Quinoa, cucumber, radish and fennel salad

Mr Rigg grilled some sausages and chicken, and we ate simply but well.

Allotment barbecue

We drank sparkling elderflower from enamel mugs…

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Allotment barbeque

Yesterday was our first wedding anniversary, and having spent the previous 24 hours tucked away in bliss at the Inn at Whitewell, and with the gorgeous warm weather, we decided last minute to have dinner at the allotment.

Allotment dinner of new potatoes

We boiled up some new potatoes, got a barbeque going to cook the sausages and burgers, and Mr Rigg watered the vegetables.

Watering the allotment

It reminded me of how much I enjoy cooking outside with the challenge of limited gadgets and gismos to help you prepare your meal.  It reminded me of sunny evenings cooking market ingredients in the Loire Valley.

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Last weekend we celebrated the fine weather with our first barbeque of the season (hopefully not the last!).  We had tiny buffalo koftas from Laverstoke Park Farm, asparagus, new potatoes baked in the embers, and homemade flatbreads.

This was a new adventure for us – attempting to make our own flatbreads – and I was desperately worried they would go all crispy, and not soft and doughy like I was hoping.  If there was anyone I was going to put my trust in, it was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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I have been wanting to make and devour this meal ever since I spied it.  What would we do without Nigel Slater?  This recipe was found in his book Tender, which is fabulous, and everyone should read it.

We had rain yesterday and this morning, but by the time we got home from work it was hot and sunny again.  A perfect excuse to use the barbeque, if only to chargrill some courgettes.

The green lentils are boiled until cooked, then mixed into a dressing of red wine vinegar and sherry vinegar (I substituted sherry for cider as this is what I had), olive oil, finely chopped garlic, sliced spring onions, salt and pepper.

For the courgettes, you slice them thinly (I used a selection of green and yellow), pop them in a colander and sprinkle with salt.  You leave them for at least half an hour, then wash them and pat them dry.

Chargrill them, then toss them in extra virgin olive oil, finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

And finely, the ham.  This was excellent quality, acorn-fed Spanish ham.  That’s it.  You don’t do anything to it, just lay out the slices on your plate, or tear them up a bit.

Altogether on a plate this is a beautiful combination of tastes and textures.  Eaten outside it is, of course, all the better.

Today we have been busy at the allotment enjoying this fabulous heatwave.  Covered in suncream we got about moving the ‘shed’ (it’s more storage than shed) forward about a foot so that we can get to the raspberries more easily.

Then we built a compost bin from old gates and a pallet.  We feel like proper allotment owners now.

Here’s the before…

And the after…

We stopped lots to eat delicious chunks of frosting coated chocolate brownie cake.

At lunch we sat on the grass in the shade of the car and devoured hunks of bread smeared with gooey camembert.

We cleared a sizeable patch of the allotment which I’m planning on turning into a herb garden with a small patch of grass where we can sit and picnic during the summer.

Then we filled out new compost bin with bits we had dug up and a well-rotted heap of rabbit droppings.

Our day finished with the first barbeque of the year and dinner outside. 

Sausages (from Little Heath Farm), lettuce, cherry tomatoes with basil and Parmesan, and bread.

It’s been one of the nicest, most relaxing and productive days we’ve had in a long time.  Rosy cheeks all round.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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