The summer is finally here! Every year I endure the same torturous wait for the British summer time to finish teasing us with the odd good day here and there, interspersed with weeks of rain and return to winter temperatures. We are yet to purchase a decent barbecue and so are making do with disposables until we get some time to browse. I’m not letting that hold me back though – the sun is out and so am I with my 1 foot square, flimsy, coal-filled tray – currently in disguise as a barbecue. Mackerel is always the first fish I think of when barbecue season arrives – or is it sardines? Maybe both the same. Those oily fish stand up so well to a good grilling and can take strong flavours – perfect for a bit of charring.
I’m a big fan of grilling everything you possibly can in the summer, which is why I always come back to this pineapple salsa. If you haven’t tried cooking fruit in this way – do – it’s super sweet and summery. I brushed the pineapple with a mixture of honey and oil, to add resilience and aid caramelisation . The honey-sweetness really enhances the flavour of the fruit, as does a good seasoning with salt and pepper. Check out Pim’s chilli-salt fruit booster for an elegant way to get the same effect. With all those punchy salsa flavours, I wanted to keep the mackerel simple, just a few coriander leaves, lemon juice and some (not so) finely shredded chilli – I was in the mood for fire!
Chris picked up the mackerel from our local fishmongers along with half a dozen oysters – a lovely surprise! A friend recently told me that it is better to serve oysters on seaweed rather than ice. This is to make sure that they don’t lose any flavour by being drowned in water should you get a bit over enthusiastic with the ice bed. We decided to use a mixture of both which looked very pretty. My friend also recommends using seaweed salt to enhance flavour and aesthetic appeal. I’ve some toasted nori stashed away and I really did mean to crumble some up with salt but the excitement got too much and I forgot. Deborah at Play with Food describes how she prepared oysters on a bed of seaweed which had little pockets of salty liquid along the stems – these could be squeezed onto the oysters for extra flavour. Love it!
I tasted my first oyster with Chris and his parents in their home in France. I remember being slightly nervous – what if I didn’t like oysters?! and really excited too. Everyone I know that loves food feels the same way about oysters. They were delicious, I haven’t looked back. We’ve been eating a few oysters recently but none have come close to the first time – it was the context that made them special. It’s such a complete sensory experience eating oysters, the beautiful shells, the pleasure of shucking and releasing the oyster and it’s liquor (Chris shucks, I release), the feel of it in your hand as you prepare your chosen seasoning and then the final experience of eating it – the delicate sequence of flavours and textures. That sounds pretentious and flowery but at least I mean it.
As we feast, we enjoy the view from our balcony, so many people in the park opposite the flat making the most of the sunshine- all the windows flung open, my ‘urban kitchen garden’ (post soon) flourishing on the balcony. I’ve got tomatoes, potatoes and herbs, lots of flowers, bay and my favourite sweet peas (just for decoration!). It’s my sanctuary away from the chaos of London. I just need some earplugs and I’m set….
Barbecued Pineapple Salsa
1 ripe pineapple, sliced fairly thick
2-3 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 red chilli (de-seed or not, up to you), chopped finely
1 small bunch coriander, chopped, leaves picked
1 small bunch mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon oil (I used groundnut as it is flavourless and takes high temperatures)
Salt and pepper
– Mix the oil and honey together with a good seasoning of salt and pepper and brush over the pineapple slices. Grill on the barbecue until caramelised and charred.
– Mix all the other ingredients except the herbs in a bowl. When the pineapple is ready, cut the flesh into chunks, discarding the core and mix through the salsa. Season with salt and pepper, stir through the herbs and serve.