Friday, August 6, 2010

BBQ with friends

After a lovely, hot and sunny long weekend it was time to finish off with a BBQ with some friends before venturing off to watch the BC Day Fireworks. The weekend had been filled with visiting with family and friends, picnics in the park, a trip to the Filberg festival, leisurely walks and a cook club - you can’t get much better than that!!

Saturday started with a trip to our local farmers market to pick up some goodies for our picnic. After buying some delicious local cheese and some Bison pepperoni, we headed into town to grab a few more things to throw in the hamper (only because we were pretty late getting to the market!). Laden with cheese, ham, pepperoni, bread and lots of fruit we rambled down to a local park where we relaxed under some large trees and watched the world go by (and with it quite a few people tubing down the river!). Once mini Vanilla (and Mr. Vanilla for that matter) had woken from their post lunch naps we headed home before heading back out to friends for our monthly cook club. On the menu tonight was Vietnamese cuisine which was absolutely perfect for a hot summer night. The evening was another triumphant cook club and with it a new cuisine sampled and devoured.

Sunday was off to the Filberg festival – an annual craft festival held in Comox featuring over 100 artisans from across Canada. Top off a huge selection of pottery, artwork and jewellery (plus many more crafts) with live entertainment and a wide variety of food and you have got yourself a fantastic day out! The setting (the Filberg Lodge and gardens) was beautiful and the perfect host for such an event. We strolled around the gardens for hours looking at everything on display, with the aroma of all the lovely food filling the air and the dulcet tones in the background. I managed to snag myself yet more pottery (for my Birthday this year I was thoroughly spoilt with lots of original, beautifully crafted pottery) and a jar of orange chipotle mustard! After that it was off home where Mr. Vanilla slowly cooked some beef ribs for 3 hours on the barbecue (recipe will come soon!) which we ate outside with some coleslaw and salad as we watched the sunset.

If possible Monday was even more relaxed than the previous two days. We went for a walk, grabbed a few groceries for dinner and then relaxed at night with a BBQ with friends, before heading off to watch the fireworks which were beautifully set over the water and a spectacular ending to a pretty fabulous long weekend.

On the menu on Monday:

BBQ for Friends Menu


Barbecued Mozzarella Pizza

Grilled Steak Salad with Parmesan; Tomato salad;
Zucchini fritters with basil mayo

Mum’s Perfect Pav with rose-scented strawberries

For this menu I would recommend making the pav ahead of time. That way it is one less thing to worry about and all you are required to do before serving is souse the strawberries with the rosewater and whip some cream. I would then suggest making the pizza dough as again you can put it to the side and besides it needs a minimum of one hour to rise anyway so you may as well give it a head start! The tomato sauce would be next on my list as again once made it can be set aside as you don’t want it hot anyway. The zucchini fritters can be made next as they are served at room temperature and the dip takes 30 seconds and can be kept in the fridge. Following that it is plain sailing! Make the tomato salad and leave at room temperature. Cook the steak then leave to rest while you cook and eat your pizza (or of course if you are in no rush and happy to have a gap in between courses, cook the steak once you have eaten your pizza). After that all that is required is some light carving of the steak, the slices then casually scattered on top of a platter of mixed lettuce leaves (which I take out of a box) and the red onion slices. Adorn with parmesan shavings and hey presto dinner is served!

*Menu as is serves 4

Pimm’s is as much a part of the UK Summer as Wimbledon and strawberries – it just wouldn’t be summer without it! This is a must-have drink for sitting out in the garden and watching the world go by….. The recipe below is the standard mix so whether you are making it in individual glasses or in a jug (which I recommend as everyone will want a glass once they see it) you basically want one part Pimm’s to 3 parts lemonade. Cucumber is very traditional and although refreshing I actually prefer mine without it – you do as you please!

1 part Pimm’s No. 1
3 parts lemonade
Strawberries, halved
Lemon or Orange slices (or both!)
Mint leaves
Cucumber, sliced

Fill your glass (or jug) with ice then add the Pimm’s and lemonade. Add the fruit, mint and cucumber, stir and enjoy. Ahhh, the taste of summer!

Barbecued Mozzarella Pizza

This recipe makes 2 large pizzas so although you only need half of the quantity for tonight I strongly recommend following the recipe as is, then once the dough has risen and you are ready to make the pizza cut the dough in half and put 1 half in a freezer bag and freeze. It keeps well in the freezer and then the next time you have the urge for a quick pizza you have the dough already made! The same applies for the sauce but again just follow the recipe then either freeze the leftover sauce, or pop in the fridge and have with pasta later in the week.

Since this is a starter you want to keep it nice and thin and simple.

Pizza base:
2 tsp active dry yeast
½ tsp caster sugar
1 ½ cups/ 12flo oz warm water
4 cups plain or all-purpose flour
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt

Tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
400g tin of crushed tomatoes or passata
2 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
1 tsp of sugar
Salt and pepper

Olive oil (if you want you can use garlic or chilli oil)
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella, sliced or ripped apart
Fresh basil leaves
Maldon sea salt
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Place the yeast and sugar in a small bowl or jug and add the water. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. Meanwhile put the flour & salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Once the yeast has activated and foamed add the olive oil and then add it to the flour.

If you are using a stand mixer attach the dough hook and mix on slow until the dough forms a ball. At that point allow the dough to be kneaded for a further 2-3 minutes. If you are kneading the dough by hand, slowly incorporate the yeast and oil mixture with the flour and then knead until it begins to form a smooth dough.

Transfer the dough onto a floured board or work surface and continue to knead until it is smooth and elastic – you shouldn’t need to do this if you used a stand mixer. (It should be soft to the touch and should spring back if you press it gently.)

Sprinkle a little flour into a large bowl and then put the dough into it. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside in a warm place for at least 1 hour or until the dough has risen and doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic. Gently sauté for a minute, being careful not to brown it then add the tomatoes along with the oregano, chilli (if using), sugar, salt and pepper. Stir well then leave to simmer and reduce slightly for 30 minutes. When it looks ready, taste to check the seasoning and then set aside to cool.

To barbecue the pizza, divide the dough in half and freeze one half. Roll out the remaining piece of dough on a floured surface until fairly thin (although be careful not to go too thin as it will rip when you put it on the bbq). Brush the top of the pizza with some olive oil (this is when you can use the garlic or chilli oil if you like) then place the oiled side on a preheated barbecue over a very low heat. While the underside is cooking brush the top with some more olive oil. Once the bottom is golden brown, flip the pizza over then spoon the tomato sauce onto the cooked side (as much as you like). Top with thebuffalo mozzarella then put the lid down on the barbecue and leave for a few minutes, allowing the bottom to cook and the cheese to melt on top. When the pizza is ready, scatter over some fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good sprinkling of Maldon sea salt.

Grilled Steak Salad with Parmesan

 Although to some, serving only 2 steaks for 4 people might not seem like a lot, trust me for this meal it is plenty. The steaks are cut so thinly that there is a lot to go around and combined with the side dishes I can assure you no one will be left hungry.

2 Sirloin steaks
1 box of mixed salad leaves (the boxes I buy are 5oz/ 142g so if using bags or whole lettuces just allow roughly the same amount in weight)
1 good handful of rocket (arugula)
½ red onion, finely sliced (as thinly sliced as you can)
2 tbsp (approx.) parsley leaves
1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Small block of parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper

Season the steaks with a little salt and pepper on each side. Cook on the barbecue for 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare, then remove, cover with foil and leave to rest for a minimum of 10 minutes. Scatter the mixed salad leaves on a large platter then strew over the onion slices and parsley. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and drizzle with olive oil. When ready to serve thinly slice the steak and pile on top of the salad leaves. Give the steak a spritz of lemon juice then shave over pieces of parmesan. Serve with the zucchini fritters and tomato salad.

Zucchini Fritters with Basil Mayo

Ideal summer food when zucchini’s and basil are at the height of the growth season, these are a perfect accompaniment to the steak salad. Having said that however, I also love having them as a starter, for a lovely, light summery lunch or even packed in a picnic. Whenever you decide to eat them, this is a recipe you will want to make over and over again!

(Don’t worry I know I’m not American (or Italian for that matter) and I haven’t forgotten that back home we call them Courgettes, but for some reason to me, Zucchini just sounds that much more appealing!)

2 zucchinis/ courgettes (use green or if you can get them yellow zucchinis or a mix of the 2)
3-4 spring onions (scallions or green onions), finely chopped, plus 1 extra for garnish (optional)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped (or ½ tsp dried chilli flakes), plus 1 extra for garnish (optional)
Zest of 1 lemon
2oz/ ½ cup plain or all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp olive oil for frying
Lemon wedges to serve

Basil Mayo:
125ml/ ½ cup mayo
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the fritters grate the zucchini using a box grater or food processor. Line a baking tray with a clean tea towel then sprinkle over the grated zucchini. Wrap up to absorb some of the moisture from the zucchini. Meanwhile add the spring onions, garlic, parmesan, parsley, basil, chilli and lemon zest to a bowl and mix. Add the zucchini and stir well then add the flour, eggs and seasoning. Mix well so that it is evenly mixed.

Heat the oil in a frying pan then add a heaped tablespoon (more like 2 tablespoons) to the hot frying pan. Cook in batches until golden – roughly 2-3 minutes each side. Remove and cook until all the mix is used up.

While the fritters are cooking make the basil mayo by simply combining everything together in a bowl. Stir well then transfer to a nice serving bowl.

Once all the fritters are ready, serve warm or at room temperature with a good sprinkling of parsley, some extra finely chopped spring onion, chilli, wedges of lemon and the basil mayo.

Tomato Salad

To me this is probably one of my favourite salads ever and also the easiest to make! When tomatoes are in season in summer they need nothing more than some good quality extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and of course a few fresh basil leaves. For me it doesn’t get any better than that. Look around at local farmers markets for a selection of different tomatoes - the little yellow cherry tomatoes burst with flavour as well as looking fantastic, and if you are lucky enough, try and get a variety of heirloom tomatoes which come in all shapes, sizes and colours, including purple, green & striped!

For a delicious summer starter or lunch make the salad as below then rip apart a ball of buffalo mozzarella and scatter on top of the tomatoes. Heaven!

4 ripe vine tomatoes
225g/ 8oz mixed small tomatoes
Small handful fresh basil leaves
Good quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Maldon sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Slice the large vine tomatoes into roughly ½ cm thick slices then arrange casually on a serving plate. Cut the cherry tomatoes (both red and yellow) into half or if they are large 3 slices and arrange on and around the red tomato slices. Drizzle with some good quality extra virgin olive oil then sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and a little black pepper. Casually strew the basil leaves over all the tomatoes and leave at room temperature until ready to serve.

Mum’s Perfect Pavlova with Rose-scented Strawberries

Named after the ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova, a pavlova is my Mum’s signature dessert. Crisp and perfectly white on the outside, then soft marshmallow in the center, this is by far a family favourite. I remember my friends being absolutely delighted if I told them Mum had made a pavlova and would eagerly crowd the kitchen table waiting for a piece! So after all these years of beautiful pavlovas and since it is her recipe (and her pav’s are always perfect!) I had to call it ‘Mum’s Perfect Pavlova’!

You can top it with whatever fruits are in season but at this time of year when there are plenty of juicy, flavourful strawberries I can’t think of anything better. The rosewater is very subtle and really just seems to enhance the sweet, fragrant flavor of the strawberries. Thanks Mum!

6 large egg whites
340g/ 12oz caster sugar, plus 2 tsp for the cream
2 tsp cornflour
2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
500ml double or whipping cream, whipped
2 tsp rosewater
450g/ 16oz strawberries, hulled and halved (leave small ones whole)

Pre-heat the oven to 275F/ 140C/ GM 1.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add half the sugar and continue to whisk until you have shiny stiff peaks. I tend to sift my cornflour as otherwise I sometimes get little lumps, so if you want to avoid the risk of lumps sift in the cornflour, then using a large metal spoon, fold it in along with the vinegar and vanilla extract. When mixed in add the remainder of the sugar and continue to fold in. Gently pile the meringue mixture on a sheet of baking parchment and shape into a large meringue. Cook in the oven for 1 hour, then turn the oven off and let it cool down with the pav still inside. When completely cooled remove from the oven.

While the pavlova is cooling put the strawberries into a bowl and sprinkle over the rosewater then leave to infuse until you are ready to serve.

When ready to serve whip the cream with 1 tsp of rosewater and 2 tsp sugar until you have soft peaks, then pile the billowing cream on top of the pavlova and casually scatter over the rose scented strawberries.

A perfect leisurely, summer barbecue for friends!

*As for photos....I managed was some quick photos of the main course.... unfortunately we ate everything else before I had a chance to be snap happy!


  1. Love the sound of the fritters (beautifully presented i must say) and pizza - have you tried putting a wee splash of balsamic on your pizza before serving/eating? Nick taught me that one, its especially good when you've got chunks of not entirely cooked thru tomatos amoungst the basil & mozzerella...

  2. Thanks Sarah - sounds delish! I will definitely try that next time! (And will try and start including more vegetarian recipes) x


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