The theme for our last cook group get-together was summer food, and it fell to my partner and myself to host the group. It was fun planning the menu and finding the recipes. Here’s what we came up with:
- Grilled squash blossom stuffed with goat’s cheese and pine nuts
- Mango, Avocado and Prawn Salad
- Chicken breasts wrapped in Parma ham with creamy tomato sauce
- Foil grilled potatoes
- Char-grilled vegetables with shredded basil
- Summer fruit sabayon
I’ll start with the squash blossoms – they are delicious, and pretty easy to prepare: allow 3 squash blossoms per person, and use a good quality fresh goat’s cheese, the kind which mashes really easily. I’m spoilt as I can always get that kind of cheese from the Combebelle goat farm! Since there were seven of us I used two cheeses. To the mashed cheese add four tablespoons of pine nuts. The pine nuts have to be toasted beforehand to a lovely golden colour in a dry frying pan, and left to cool, before being mixed with the goat’s cheese. Add a little fresh thyme and some freshly ground pepper to the mixture and taste. You should not need to add salt, as the cheese will have already been salted. Next comes the fun part, where you stuff the mixture into the squash blossoms!!
First check the flowers – if they are male flowers (recognized by the thin, long stem attached to the flower) the stamens inside the flower(s) will need to be removed. Female flowers are usually at the end of a small courgette/zucchini, or there will be no stem whatsoever. Once the stamen is removed fill the flower with a teaspoon full of the cheese mixture, and delicately reshape the flower. Continue until you have stuffed all the flowers, then cover them with clingfilm, and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.
We cooked them over a charcoal fire on a lightly oiled grill. The cooking takes only seconds. If you have a removable wire grill I would suggest you use that, so you can lift them all off at the same time.
They were all eaten as quickly as they were cooked, and very delicious they were too!!
The mango, prawn and avocado salad was just what the title says: perfectly ripe mangoes and avocadoes, and peeled king prawns, dressed with lime juice and olive oil, and flavoured with red onion, chilli pepper and chopped coriander. You’ll find the recipe at the end of this post. The recipe for this salad was inspired by a dish prepared by Andonis Vassalos at Hotel Cuq-en-Terrasses in Cuq-Toulza.
For main course we prepared chicken breasts wrapped in Parma ham. The twist to the recipe is that you stuff sliced mozzarella and chopped basil under the skin of the chicken breasts, then wrap them in Parma ham. Unfortunately I could only get skinless chicken breasts, so we improvised a little ;). The Parma ham was laid on a piece of clingfilm and topped with the sliced mozzarella and the basil. The chicken breast was laid on top, and the ham wrapped round it with the help of the clingfilm. A few toothpicks helped to secure the ham.
The chicken breasts were baked in the oven until tender and juicy (having removed the clingfilm), and the accompanying sauce was made with tomato paste and cream. We jazzed the sauce up a little with some Worcestershire sauce, angostura bitter, and a tiny hint of smoked paprika, which worked very nicely!
To accompany the chicken we prepared foil-grilled potatoes and char-grilled vegetables with basil. The potatoes were cooked on the BBQ, in individual foil parcels, and flavoured with herbs.
They were delicious, with the potatoes slightly caramelised on the bottom. The full recipe is at the end of this post.
For the char-grilled vegetables we used a mixture of aubergine, courgette and pepper. The vegetables were grilled over a charcoal fire, and tossed in a dressing made with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. Shredded basil added a wonderful flavour.
This is a picture of the main course on a plate.
We finished our feast with a summer fruit sabayon – a deliciously light ending to this perfect meal.
Fresh raspberries are difficult to find in this area, but I was lucky enough to have a good crop in my garden. The peach season had just started, though if good peaches or nectarines are difficult to find, you could probably substitute other fruits (think of blueberries, black and redcurrants, blackberries etc.). The sabayon was prepared in advance, and poured over the fruit just before we were ready to have our dessert.
It takes no time at all to grill, so long as you remember to pre-heat the grill in time :)!
And here you have it – lovely caramelized egg foam, with the fruit just warmed through! And then it was all gone…
The recipes for Chicken breasts wrapped in Parma ham, char-grilled vegetables and the summer fruit sabayon came from very old issues of BBC Good Food magazine, and can be found by clicking on the links to the PDF files further down in the post.
Mango, Avocado and Prawn Salad
1 ripe mango
1 ripe avocado
20 prawns, cooked and shelled
½ red onion
1 red chilli pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. chopped coriander
8 lettuce leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
In a non-metallic bowl or dish mix the juice from one lime with the olive oil, and season with salt and a little freshly ground pepper.
Prepare the mango: cut the flesh from the stone, and cut it into 1cm cubes.
Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone, peel and cut the flesh into 1cm cubes.
Cut the chilli pepper in half, remove the seeds and cut into very fine dice. You may not have to use the entire chilli depending on the heat.
Put the onion half on the board, cut side down, and make a lengthways cut from the root end to the top. Then slice thinly across.
Add the chopped avocado, mango, onion and chilli pepper to the bowl, along with the prawns, and mix gently until all ingredients are well blended. Be careful not to overmix or mash up the avocado.
Leave in the fridge to marinate for half an hour or longer (up to four hours).
Cut four thin slices from the remaining lime and reserve the remainder.
Place two lettuce leaves on each of four plates, and heap with the salad, distributing the prawns equally between each plate. Sprinkle each serving with some of the chopped coriander, and garnish with a lime slice. Use the remaining lime to squeeze a little juice over each portion.
Serve with bread if liked.
1 large onion, sliced
30 g butter
6 tbsp. olive oil
Fresh thyme and rosemary
Salt and pepper
You will also need aluminium foil
Scrub the potatoes well; if they are new potatoes there is no need to peel them. Cut the potatoes into 5mm slices.
Prepare six pieces of aluminium foil, about 40 cm long. Smear the centre with a little of the oil, then distribute the sliced potatoes evenly between the six foil pieces, making mounds in the centre of each piece of foil. Top each portion with the sliced onion, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil, dot with a piece of butter, and sprinkle with thyme and rosemary if liked.
Bring the long edges of the foil together and fold over several times to make a tight seal. Fold the short edges up, and crease to complete the seal. Repeat to make six tightly sealed foil parcels.
Place around the edge of the pre-heated grill, close the lid and cook for approx. 40 minutes. Serve one foil parcel per person.
This is best made in a Kettle type BBQ, but could equally be baked in the oven at 220 – 240 centigrade.