Writing my new cookery book has been a mammoth journey, and for this week's feature I have decided to focus on one of my favourite themes -- easy summer entertaining for friends and family.
I do lots of entertaining at home and I like to think that I have a few tricks up my sleeve. When people ask me what those tricks are, I tell them that they come down to two words: be prepared.
This week's menu can be prepared in advance. The Thai crab salad with smoked salmon makes a great starter or light lunch and it can sit in the fridge, ready to serve to your guests on arrival, as can the deliciously creamy rhubarb panna cotta.
This dessert is my take on stewed rhubarb and cream. If rhubarb isn't to your taste, then substitute some mixed-berry compote made from either fresh or frozen mixed berries.
People often say to me that pork can be a bit of a dry offering, so for the main course I have devised a fantastic recipe for a great pork loin, slow-roasted in apple cider. Cooking the pork in this manner makes for an extremely flavoursome option.
So, with some carefully thought-out advance preparation of these recipes, I hope that your guests will get to spend lots of time with you at your summer soirée.
This really is food to love!
'Food to Love' by Edward Hayden will be published in hardback by The O'Brien Press on May 5, price €24.99
SLOW CIDER-ROASTED LOIN OF PORK
The combination of flavours in the spice rub is absolutely fantastic with the slow-roasted loin of pork. The spice rub is also suitable for pork chops or pork fillet, and it gives a nice flavour to what can otherwise be a bland piece of meat.
YOU WILL NEED
1 large pork loin (approx 2kg/4½lb)
1 tbsp oil
10fl oz/300ml apple cider
1 tbsp sesame seeds
For the spice rub
2 sprigs of thyme, woody stems removed
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp honey
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
5-6 black peppercorns
½ tsp sea salt
For the gravy
1 tbsp plain flour
1 pint/600ml chicken stock
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp sage, chopped
Take your large loin of pork and, using a sharp knife, score the skin in a criss-cross pattern. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F/Gas Mark 6.
Put all of the ingredients for the spice rub into a pestle and mortar and crush, or, better still, pop them into a food processor and blitz until a chunky consistency has been achieved. Spread the spice rub on to the meat and rub or massage it into the skin of the pork, making sure that it gets down into the incisions that you have made in the skin of the pork.
Put the pork into a deep roasting tray and drizzle with a little oil. Roast for approximately 30-35 minutes in a hot oven. Reduce the heat to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.
Remove the tray from the oven, pour the cider over the meat, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, then cover the tray with tin foil and roast for an additional hour and a half. Allow the pork to rest for at least 10-15 minutes when it comes out of the oven. To make the gravy, remove the joint of meat from the roasting tray and place the tray (containing the remaining cider and pork juices) on a direct heat. Add in the flour and whisk until the mixture thickens. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock. Strain the gravy through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
Add in the wholegrain mustard and the teaspoon of chopped sage and serve drizzled over the pork.
CHILLI CRAB SALAD WITH SMOKED SALMON
In recent years, Thai cuisine has become very popular in Ireland. This salad fuses some quintessential Thai ingredients with fresh crabmeat. Crab is a very tasty shellfish; though it is often described as ‘poor man's lobster', in my opinion, its flavour is far superior. It's also a very good source of protein.
YOU WILL NEED
1lb/450g fresh crabmeat
½ red chilli
1 tbsp coriander, chopped
2 tbsps crème fraîche
Juice of ½ lemon or lime
6 slices smoked salmon
Mixed lettuce leaves
Place all the crabmeat in a large bowl and, with the tips of your fingers, check carefully to make sure that all pieces of shell have been removed, as they can be quite sharp. I normally wear disposable gloves when checking the crab.
Dice the chilli very finely, then add it to the crabmeat, along with the chopped coriander and crème fraîche. Season with the lemon or lime juice and cracked black pepper. Mix thoroughly and adjust the seasoning to suit your own taste. You can serve this in a variety of ways:
? Lay the salmon out flat on the plate, place a spoonful of the crab salad on the side and serve with some mixed lettuce leaves and a slice of brown bread.
? To make a smoked salmon and crab parcel, line a ramekin with smoked salmon, pile the crab salad in on top and then close the edges of the salmon over the crab. Invert this from the ramekin on to a plate to make an attractive-looking parcel.
? Spoon small quenelles of the mixture on to circles of toasted soda bread as very attractive canapés.
? Spoon the crabmeat into an unfluted scone cutter or tian ring (available from all good kitchen shops) and top with a thin layer of very smooth guacamole.
? Use as part of a starter seafood and shellfish tasting platter, serving the crab salad with smoked salmon, calamari, tempura prawns and smoked trout paté, for example.
RHUBARB PANNA COTTA
Feel free to vary the fruits. This dessert is quite rich, so is best served at the end of a light meal. Serves six.
YOU WILL NEED
5-6 sticks rhubarb
6oz/150g caster sugar
2 tbsps water
1 tsp grenadine syrup, optional
2 leaves gelatine
12fl oz/350ml cream
Begin by making the rhubarb compote. Chop the rhubarb into chunks and place into a medium-sized saucepan with half the sugar and the water. Cook on a medium heat for approximately seven to 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb has softened.
At this stage, add the grenadine (if using) for additional colour. Allow to cool. Select six fancy glasses in which to serve the panna cotta. I think Martini glasses or Champagne flutes are nice. Glass yogurt jars can also look very attractive. Divide the rhubarb compote between the glasses or jars. Fill the chosen glass about a third of the way up and leave to rest.
Meanwhile, soak the leaves of gelatine in cold water, ensuring that they are fully immersed.
Place the cream and the rest of the sugar in a large saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Take the boiling cream mixture off the heat.
Strain the water off the gelatine using a sieve, not your hands. Give it a good shake to get rid of excess water and add it to the boiling cream. Whisk the mixture continuously to make sure that the gelatine has broken down and is fully incorporated into the mixture.
Allow it to cool down slightly, and then, divide it between the glasses. Be careful when pouring in the cream mixture — try to keep it separate from the rhubarb compote. Transfer to the fridge to set for five to six hours, or overnight. Edward's tips: Feel free to substitute gooseberries, raspberries or any other type of fruit for the rhubarb. Sometimes, I just serve some panna cotta in a shot glass as a pre-dessert or as part of a dessert tasting plate.