No sand sandwich
Food for the beach should be simple, easy to transport, and pack a flavour punch, like this stuffed bloomer and these tasty meatballs that are best eaten cold, writes DOMINI KEMP
I’VE BEEN KEEN to make this bloomer style loaf for ages. I remember seeing it long ago in some fancy cookbook – and dreaming of a day at the beach when I could eat this happily with sand in my toes.
Sandwich-like creations that get better with time, that can be wrapped up tight and sliced without precision, are winners. Most sandwiches turn miserable in the sun, but this bloomer is better eaten after it comes out of the fridge and sits around for a while to let the flavours really develop.
Other contenders for perfect beach fare are Scotch eggs, but I think of them as being a bit too posh for the beach. Better sticking to bread, and preferably things that can be eaten with one hand.
Ideally, you would roast your own red peppers for the filling here, but there are some decent jarred ones around, and there are so many other flavours going on here, you’ll probably be quite grateful for the briny taste. Please feel free to change the filling to suit your guests. I left this one vegetarian as the other dish is made with minced beef, but you could also roast Portobello mushrooms in the oven and douse with some balsamic vinegar, thyme and olive oil. They could easily replace the aubergine as the “meaty” vegetable and I think they would be lovely with Wicklow brie or some other soft cheese and lots of rocket or basil leaves. Slices of cured meats would also be great, as well as artichokes.
The important thing is that there is balance to the flavours, so I’ve used mozzarella here, but have ensured there’s lots of flavour with the peppers and chargrilled aubergines.
The meatballs are based on a Donna Hay recipe from her most recent book, Seasons. She roasts the aubergine in the oven, but I wasn’t entirely convinced it was going to be tasty enough. So I sautéed it instead and sharpened up the flavour with a splash of sherry vinegar, garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes. Make sure you let the aubergine cool down fully before mixing it with the mince and other herbs because if you don’t, you’ll find that it ruins the texture as it starts to cook the mince slightly, which is not only risky – unless you cook them straight away – but also not very pleasant, texture-wise as it becomes pappy.
Hay serves hers straight from the oven, with tzatziki, but I found them much tastier when they had cooled down, and even after a night in the fridge, with just a really good squeeze of lemon juice on top. They are pretty more-ish, so can be served as is, but using them to fill up some wholewheat pita breads meant that this became another perfect dish to eat at the beach. Wrap them up in parchment and foil and again, these flavours taste fantastic when eaten in the sun. A strong tzatziki and lemon juice are all that’s needed. Obviously some chopped tomatoes are a good addition, but they tend to make everything too wet, so keep your packed lunches relatively dry by draining things well or using bread (like the bloomer – that can absorb oils, flavour and juices without turning to mush.
Makes at least six thick slices
3 red peppers
100ml olive oil