Give your barbecue a break and make these eat outdoors recipes instead

Carmel Somers: Gently spiced monkfish, tartare sauce and home-made buns; plus gazpacho

Photograph: Emma Jervis

Photograph: Emma Jervis


There’s something magical about eating outdoors. Everyone’s more relaxed than usual, less fussy about what you serve them than they might be indoors, and hungrier from all the fresh air – which also makes the food taste better. But the glorious weather of the past few weeks might mean you’ve about run out of ideas for what to cook for your next alfresco meal.

That’s where today’s recipes come in: we’re still using burger buns, but this time they’re home-made, and perfect for sandwiching some deliciously spiced monkfish – which we’ll cook in a pan rather than over charcoal, just to give your barbecue a breather. We’re also making a tangy tartare sauce to slather on the fish. Gazpacho, the chilled Spanish soup, makes a fantastic starter. Just be sure your tomatoes are very ripe, to keep it smooth and full of flavour.

It’s all a fantastic change from yet more meat.

Monkfish with nori, turmeric and fennel

I created this recipe when I wanted to cook fish quickly on the beach during a seaweed-cookery class. Monkfish can take turmeric’s strong flavour. Nori works great with all fish, and the raw marinated fennel adds freshness and texture. Serve the fish in the home-made burger buns and with plenty of tartare sauce; both of these recipes come next.

Serves 4

800g monkfish tail fillets or monkfish cheeks
olive oil
salt and pepper
2tbsp nori flakes
2 small pieces fresh turmeric, grated, or 2tsp ground turmeric
200ml fish stock, white wine or water
1 fennel bulb
1 lemon, zested and juiced

Remove the fish’s thin grey membrane with a thin-bladed knife. It will take a few minutes, but the fish will taste and look better.

2 Slice the fish into 1cm cubes and put in a bowl. Add just enough oil to coat. Then add the nori and turmeric with a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cover and store in the fridge for an hour or until needed.

3 Slice the fennel bulb as thinly as possible and mix well with the zest and juice of the lemon. Cover and store in the fridge for a couple of hours or longer if possible.

4 When you’re ready to eat, bring the fish and fennel to room temperature before heating a frying pan until it’s very hot.

5 Put the fish in the pan and give it a good stir. Cook for just under a minute on each side and remove. (You might have to cook the fish in two batches.) Transfer all the fish to the plate while you make a sauce.

6 Add the liquid of your choice, along with the lemon from the marinated fennel, to the pan and allow to simmer as you scrape the pan of any bits and pieces. Return all the fish to the pan, along with any juices from the plate.

7 Heat through and divide between four buns that have been spread with tartare sauce. Divide the liquid from the pan between the four buns, allowing the bread to soak it in. Stuff each bun with the marinated fennel and serve with extra tartare on the side.

Home-made burger buns

These are an easy alternative to shop-bought buns. Once you start you’ll never go back. While you are making them, double the batch and pop the extra in the freezer. I use a mixer with a dough hook, as the dough can be sticky.  

Makes 6

225g onions, sliced thinly
olive oil for cooking
125g yogurt
2tsp honey
1 egg
7g yeast
125ml warm water
125g wholemeal flour
425g strong flour
1tsp salt
poppy seeds (optional)
flaked salt

1 Cook the onions in oil in a medium pan, adding a little salt, until they’re nice and soft. Covering with a lid after a few minutes will help with this process. Allow to cool.

2 In the meantime, mix the yogurt, honey and eggs together. Then mix the yeast, water, two flours and salt together.

3 Mix the onions with the yogurt mixture, then mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

4 Depending on your flour you are using and the wetness of your onions, you will need to add some extra water to make a soft sticky dough. Start with 50ml and go up to 100ml if needed.

5 Leave it to rest for 10 minutes, then knead for one minute.

6 Repeat step 5 twice, keeping the dough covered between kneading. Leave to rise for one hour.

7 Preheat your oven to 220 Celsius. Knead the dough one last time for a minute, then divide it into six equal balls and shape into rolls. Place on a floured tray, giving each room to prove. Using your hand, flatten each bun before allowing them to rise.

8 Allow to prove until doubled in size or looking ready to burst. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes.

Tartare sauce

2 egg yolks
½ lemon, juiced
300 ml olive oil
salt and pepper
4tbsp parsley, chopped
1tbsp capers, chopped

Beat the egg yolks with the lemon juice in a bowl.

2 Whisk in the oil, a few drops at a time at first, then continue whisking and adding the oil in a steady stream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add the chopped parsley and capers. Alternatively, put all the ingredients, except for the oil, in a processor or blender and mix well. Dribble in the oil while the motor is running. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3 Allow to stand for at least 30 minutes, for the flavours to develop. Taste again and add a pinch of salt if you feel it needs it.

Photograph: Emma Jervis
Photograph: Emma Jervis


This cold Spanish soup sings of summer for me. Traditionally, gazpacho is served with chopped cold hard-boiled egg, croutons, and finely diced spring onion and red pepper. (I add these extras when cooking at home, but if I’m making this for a picnic I like to keep it simple.) The simplest way to serve it is in bowls, but it also looks lovely served in pretty china cups or small glasses.

Serves 4

1.5kg very ripe tomatoes
½ cucumber
4 cloves garlic
3 spring onions
1 large red pepper
125ml olive oil
45ml vinegar, to taste
salt and pepper
cayenne (just a pinch)
750ml cold water
Handful of breadcrumbs or 1 medium grated carrot

Roughly chop all the vegetables and mix with the olive oil, vinegar, water and breadcrumbs or carrot.

2 Add salt and pepper and liquidise or blend until very smooth. Tasting is very important here; you want to get a balance between the sweetness of the vegetables, vinegar and oil. Salt will help to bring the flavours through, so be patient and keep tasting until you are happy.

3 Let it rest in the fridge for a couple of hours, for the flavour to develop.

4 Before serving, give the soup a good stir, taste and season again if needed. Serve cold.

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