Summer salmon, and fishy bruschetta
Casual, off-the-cuff summer entertaining should be a breeze if you keep a couple of essential staples in stock
Grilled salmon and cucumber with herbed yoghurt. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
With the possible exception of the glorious long evenings, the Irish summer can feel far too short, but that doesn’t stop us entertaining when we have the chance. The great Irish traditions of hospitality and spontaneity combine to bring out the best in us, as we open our homes at short notice for gatherings of all shapes and sizes.
One of the best ways of perfecting casual summer entertaining is having a great store cupboard to draw on. That way you can keep the buying of fresh fruit, meat and vegetables to a minimum, and always feel reasonably confident you can rustle up something out of almost nothing. Ingredients such as lemons and oils and vinegars (for dressings) are excellent staples, while in the fridge there should be good cheeses, olives, and yoghurt and cream for sauces.
Recipe-wise, it’s good to keep things simple and light with dishes that showcase fresh flavours, fragrant herbs and the joy of all that seasonal produce at its ripest and most tasty. Think lots of springy, just-out-of-the-ground salad leaves and crunchy summer vegetables such as broad beans and peas that are literally popping with freshness.
Sounds easy, right? It is, really. And to prove it, this week I have two recipes that serve as examples of this philosophy of simplicity.
Bruschetta is hugely popular, if for no other reason than the fact that crunchy bread with delicious toppings appeals to a wide audience. This particular version is a showcase for a good store cupboard. Soft, yielding mascarpone, flavoured with onion, sundried tomatoes, anchovies and fresh herbs, is spread onto toothsome slices of sourdough. This is a handy option for an easy starter or casual buffet.
While still being simple and light, the other recipe here has a bit more polish. There’s something rather ladylike – and let’s face it, slightly 1970s – about the classic combination of salmon with cucumber. Here, however, it’s quite the modern Ms as the salmon fillets are served on a bed of oh-so-thin cucumber slices marinated briefly in vinegar, lime juice and dill, while on the side is a pillow of thick yoghurt laden with fresh herbs.
Even better for those of you who like to look fresh as a daisy when your guests come through the door, you can prepare the bruschetta, and certain elements of this dish – the cucumber and the yoghurt – in advance.
This means you can just grill or fry the fish minutes before you’re ready to serve. And voila, you’re off!