Forget sweaty ham sangers and soggy egg sambos, Laura Mason has some tasty treats for all ages and tastebuds.
Make this lovely soft drink for sipping in high summer when strawberries and watermelon are plentiful.
You will need
4 large basil sprigs
500-600g strawberries, hulled
ice cubes, a few small basil sprigs, and extra strawberries or slivers of watermelon (optional), to decorate
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved, then add four basil sprigs. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat and leave to cool.
Cut the flesh from the watermelon and cut roughly into chunks. Put the melon and strawberries in a blender and process briefly, then push the mixture through a sieve to remove seeds and pips.
Discard the basil from the sugar syrup and stir the syrup into the watermelon mixture. Chill until needed and serve in glasses over ice. Decorate with a basil sprig and perhaps a whole strawberry or small sliver of melon.
I've yet to meet a child who doesn't like sausage rolls, and most adults seem to like them too. They are very simple to make and home-made ones are generally much nicer than bought. Makes 20 small sausage rolls or 8 large ones.
You will need
600g good-quality sausage meat (buy your favourite sausages and remove the skins)
Extra seasoning, to taste, such as 1 tsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves and 2 tsps finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
flour, for dusting
250g puff pastry, thawed if frozen
1 medium egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put the sausage meat in a bowl and stir it to make a homogeneous mass, adding the extra seasoning if needed.
Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to a rectangle roughly 32 x 15cm. Cut in half lengthways.
Divide the sausage meat into two and form into long rolls the length of the pastry. Put the meat along the long edge of each piece of pastry. Brush water down one side and roll up neatly, then cut each in 10 short lengths (for little rolls) or four (for large ones).
Transfer to a baking tray and brush with the beaten egg. Bake small rolls for 20-25 minutes or large ones for 25-30 minutes until puffed and golden. Cool on a wire rack.
The Provençal cousin of pizza, pissaladière is a mixture of very soft fried onions on a pastry base. It's good as an appetiser with drinks and is nicest on the day it is made. Makes 6-8 slices.
You will need
1 tsp dried yeast
140g strong plain bread flour, plus extra for dusting
40g butter, cut into pieces, plus extra for greasing
1 medium egg
½ tsp salt
For the filling
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes
½ tsp salt
a generous pinch dried thyme
10-12 anchovy fillets in oil
10-12 black olives
Put two tablespoons warm water in a small bowl and stir in the yeast. Put the flour in a large bowl and add the butter, then rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Stir in the egg, salt and yeast mixture, and mix well to form a soft dough - add a little more water if necessary. (Alternatively, put the ingredients into a food processor and combine for two minutes.)
Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for two hours. Meanwhile, to make the filling, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and stir in the onions. Lower the heat and leave to cook very gently. Cover with a lid for the first 20-30 minutes, then continue to cook gently, uncovered, to evaporate the juices. This can take an hour or more. The onions should be very soft, but still pale.
Put the tomatoes in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over to cover, leave for 30 seconds, then drain and peel off the skins. Cut the tomatoes in half and discard the core, seeds and surrounding pulp. Slice the flesh and add to the onions along with the salt and thyme. Cook more rapidly to boil off the tomato juice. The mixture should be moist but without much liquid in the pan. Turn off the heat.
Preheat the oven to 200°C and lightly grease a baking sheet. Knock back the dough then form it into a ball and pat it out with your hands to make a rectangle about 15cm x 30cm. The yeast pastry will be quite thin. Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet.
Spread the onion mixture over the pastry, leaving a 1cm border all the way round. Gently level it off. Criss-cross the anchovies to make a pattern over the top and punctuate with the olives. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 180°C and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked underneath. Serve warm or cold. This is also good as a substantial snack on the beach or as part of a larger picnic.
I've always had low tolerance for people with intolerances. Not, I hasten to add, people with actual bona fide allergies. I'm really talking about the malingerers. The people who use an affected intolerance as a way of being cosseted by waiting staff and getting preferential treatment.
Deliciously small and sweet, the blueberry is a lot more powerful than its modest size would lead you to believe. Nowadays hailed as a superfood, the blueberry has been enjoyed for many centuries by the Native Americans, who have long realised its potency in terms of high levels of antioxidants, as well as being hugely beneficial for the nervous system. It has also been claimed that the little purple berry packs a powerful punch for general brain health too, especially for improving memory - there's an incentive for anyone who, like me, walks into a room for something and then cannot remember what that something is!
Eggs are a comforting choice for supper. I always feel like it's a little retro to crack an egg at teatime, evoking a ham, egg and chips scenario. This week, I've soft-boiled an egg and served it with crumbled chorizo on toast. Meanwhile, I've hard-boiled an egg and served it with a delicate hot smoked salmon and potato salad. Recently, I've switched from free-range eggs to organic eggs. They're widely available and I believe an organic diet makes eggs taste richer. Try Butler's Organic Eggs from Carlow or Golden Irish organic eggs from Monaghan.