Prepare your table for an alfresco feast with these mouthwatering summer recipes

Now is the ideal time of year for an alfresco lunch with family and friends. Alice Hart’s delicious mix of simple, seasonal dishes is easy to prepare and designed to be enjoyed in the great outdoors.

Set the scene for a spot of summer entertaining with these delightfully simple recipes.

See more recipe ideas in our entertaining section

Summer recipes

PLANNING THE MENU

A family feast works best with dishes made for sharing, without the formality of fixed courses. This menu serves eight hungry adults, but the starters and salads should serve six as part of a more humble spread. The salmon and layered meringue will be enough for many more, and leftovers will make wonderful second helpings or sandwiches. The recipes are suitable for cooking over a fire pit, barbecue or conventional oven; pick whichever is most convenient.

The smoothest mung bean hummus
Whole salmon stuffed with dill and served with a preserved lemon relish
Toasted couscous and charred vegetable salad with basil dressing
Black quinoa and bean salad with roast baby beets
Meringue stack with summer berries and vanilla cream
Gin and rosemary fizz

STYLE YOUR TABLE

Gather chairs and benches from around the house (ask each of your guests to grab one  for ease), and fill baskets with tableware  and utensils for cooking alfresco. With such colourful food, neutral crockery looks best. Glass tumblers work equally for water and wine, and can be stacked for transportation. An outdoor lunch like this is likely to run on into the evening, so have a couple of lanterns close  to hand for when it starts to get dark. 

Summer recipes

WHAT TO DRINK

A refreshing cocktail makes the perfect aperitif and this gin and rosemary fizz is a sophisticated tipple to enjoy before the meal. The breadth of flavours in these recipes require versatile wines that will complement a broad range of different ingredients.

See summer barbecue recipes for delightful alfresco dining

The nutty richness of an oaky chardonnay is a great match for the salmon. For a red alternative, try a bottle of fresh, cherryish pinot noir or Beaujolais that won’t overpower its subtle flavours. With the meringue, a bottle of inexpensive, Moscatel de Valencia or a sparkling rosé will bring this indulgent feast to a delicious finale.

Summer recipes

RECIPES FOR YOUR OUTDOOR FEAST

MUNG BEAN HUMMUS

Summer recipes

Serves 8 generously

Homemade chickpea hummus is never completely smooth, unless the cook peels each pea. Mung beans, on the other hand, make a fine-textured hummus that requires very little effort.

Ingredients

300g mung beans
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp light tahini, well-stirred 100ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Juice of 1 lemon, plus
extra to taste
Salt and black pepper
Handful mung bean sprouts
½ tsp paprika

Method

1. The day before your meal, cover the mung beans with plenty of cold water and soak for at least 8 hours or overnight in a cool, dark place.
2. Drain, rinse well and cover with fresh, cold water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the beans are completely tender but still holding their shape, then drain well. (The cooking time can vary slightly depending on the age of the mung beans.)
3. Blend the beans with the garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice until completely smooth. Season well with salt and pepper, adding more lemon juice if you like.
4. Serve the hummus drizzled with olive oil and scattered with mung bean sprouts and paprika (or store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days). Warm flatbreads make the perfect accompaniment; visit our blog, hglivingbeautifully.com, for a delicious flatbread recipe.

FIRE-PIT SALMON WITH PRESERVED LEMON RELISH

Summer recipes

Serves 8 generously

A whole salmon always makes an impressive centrepiece; even more so when cooked (enclosed in paper) over a fire pit or barbecue. To check that the salmon is ready without unwrapping it too much, insert a sharp skewer into the thickest part, just behind the head. Leave it for a few seconds, then remove and touch to your lip. If it’s hot, the fish is cooked.

Ingredients

For the lemon relish
3 preserved lemons, drained
and quartered
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
70g green olives, stoned and chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the salmon
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
1 bunch dill, chopped
2.4kg whole salmon, gutted
Salt and black pepper

Method

1. To make the relish, combine all the ingredients in a small dish. (The quantities are small as the powerful flavour of the relish means you only need a little.) Set aside.
2. Stuff the lemon slices and dill into the salmon cavity, seasoning well. Lay out a large sheet of baking paper and put the salmon on top. Wrap up tightly, twisting the ends like a Christmas cracker.
3. Prepare your fire or barbecue. At this point, it’s sensible to work outdoors. Take 12 sheets of brown paper or 12 double broadsheet newspaper pages, arrange them into layers of 2-3 sheets/pages and thoroughly soak with water. Wrap each damp layer around the salmon, finishing with a further slosh of water, then wrap the whole lot in a piece of wet hessian and tie into a neat parcel.
4. The fire or barbecue embers should be ashen, with no hint of flame remaining. Carefully place one small, wet log on the coals and cover with the metal grate. Lay the salmon parcel on top and cover with the barbecue lid or a metal dustbin lid for a fire pit.
5. Leave to cook for 50-60 minutes, depending on the size of the fish, until the salmon flesh is just cooked. Alternatively, wrap the stuffed fish in one layer of non-stick baking paper and one layer of foil and bake in an oven pre-heated to 180°C, gas mark 4, for 50 minutes, or until the fish just flakes when pressed.
6. Unwrap carefully and transfer to a platter. Serve with the relish.

TOASTED COUSCOUS AND CHARRED VEGETABLES

Summer recipes

Serves 8 as a side

With robust charred vegetables and a fragrant basil dressing, this salad is bursting with Mediterranean flavours.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
150g wholewheat giant couscous
3 red Romano or bell peppers, deseeded, sliced into thick strips
2 courgettes, sliced or pared lengthwise into very thin strips
6 baby aubergines, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

For the basil dressing
3 large handfuls of basil leaves
120ml extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and black pepper

Method

1. If using an oven, pre-heat it to 220°C, gas mark 8. Heat ½ tablespoon of the olive oil in a frying pan with a lid. Add the couscous and toast over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring, until golden brown and fragrant, then pour in enough water to just cover. Add a large pinch of salt, bring to the boil, partially cover with the lid and simmer for 6 minutes or so, until just tender but not mushy. Set aside to cool.
2. Toss the peppers, courgettes and aubergines with the remaining 1½ tablespoons olive oil. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for about 35 minutes, stirring halfway through, until soft and beginning to char. Alternatively, cook the oiled vegetables straight on the finely spaced bars of a barbecue or fire pit, turning often for 10-15 minutes, until charred in places.
3. To make the dressing, blitz 2 handfuls of the basil with the oil and lemon juice in a blender or small food processor with a good pinch of salt and pepper. The dressing should retain a bit of texture, so stop before it is completely smooth.
4. In a large bowl, combine the vegetables, couscous, remaining basil leaves and pine nuts
with a few tablespoons of the basil dressing, serving the rest alongside.

HERB SALAD WITH PUMPKIN SEEDS

Summer recipes

Serves 8 as a side

Feeding a crowd demands a few simple dishes that don’t require much preparation and this salad couldn’t be easier.

Ingredients

120g wild rocket leaves
Handful of mixed soft summer
herbs, such as fennel tops, parsley, chives and basil
5 fat asparagus stalks, trimmed and shaved into long strips
Handful edible flowers, such as viola or chive flowers (optional)
50g pumpkin seeds, toasted

For the buttermilk dressing
200ml buttermilk
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp caster sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
3 tbsp finely chopped chives
Salt and black pepper

Method

1. Toss all the salad ingredients together. To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together with a tablespoon of water and season to taste. Spoon the dressing over the salad to serve.

BLACK QUINOA AND BEAN SALAD WITH ROAST BABY BEETS

Summer recipes

Serves 8

The quinoa doesn’t have to be black, but I’ve used it because black food always looks so dramatic and this variety of quinoa is particularly crunchy.

Ingredients

20 baby beetroots, scrubbed, trimmed and halved, or quartered if on the large side
2 tbsp olive oil
3 sprigs thyme, plus extra leaves to serve
Salt and black pepper
30g butter
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
175g black quinoa
250g runner beans, trimmed
200g podded broad beans
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5. Put the beetroots in a roasting tin with the olive oil, thyme and plenty of seasoning. Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes, until the beetroots are almost tender. Remove the foil, stir in the butter and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes, until beginning to brown.
2. Meanwhile, put the quinoa in a saucepan with 500ml water. Bring to the boil, bubble briskly for a couple of minutes, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender but crunchy.
3. Slice the runner beans on the diagonal very finely. Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain, refresh under cool water and drain again. Blanch the broad beans for 2 minutes then refresh and slip each bean out of its pale green outer skin.
4. Fold all the ingredients together (including any liquid in the beet tin), adding a pinch of thyme leaves, the remaining balsamic vinegar and the extra virgin olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

MERINGUE STACK WITH SUMMER BERRIES AND VANILLA CREAM

Summer recipes

Serves 16

For a decadent finish this gooey-centred, crisp-edged meringue with soft vanilla cream, vibrant berries, grated chocolate and pistachios tastes as wonderful as it looks.

Ingredients

For the meringue layers
10 egg whites
Pinch of salt
120g light brown sugar
180g caster sugar
275g icing sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 vanilla pod, seeds only, or 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
2 tsp white wine vinegar

To assemble
900ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds only or
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
700g mixed summer berries, hulled or halved as needed
50g nibbed or chopped pistachios
30g dark chocolate

Method

1. Start with the meringue. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C (fan 120°C), gas mark 1, and line two large baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment. Whip the egg whites, salt, brown sugar and caster sugar together until holding stiff peaks.
2. Sift the icing sugar and cornflour over and continue whisking for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is very stiff and has a shine. Whisk in the vanilla and vinegar to finish.
3. Spoon a third of the meringue mixture onto one lined baking tray to make a swirled 5-6cm-high disc about 25cm in diameter. Use the remaining mixture to make two 20cm diameter discs and one
12-15cm diameter disc. Spoon tiny meringues around the discs with any remaining mixture.
4. Bake for about 1 hour until the meringues are set and crisp on the outside, but hardly coloured.
5. Switch off the oven, prop the door ajar and leave the meringues to cool for 30 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Store until needed for up to 48 hours in airtight containers.
6. To assemble the stack, lightly whip the cream with the icing sugar and the vanilla. Be careful not to over-whip – the consistency should be billowy and soft.
7. Put the largest meringue disc on a serving platter (don’t worry about cracks or crumbles). Top with a layer of cream and a single layer of summer berries. Put a medium-sized meringue disc on top and repeat the cream and berry layers. Top with the second medium-sized disc, layer in the cream and berries as before, then repeat with the smallest meringue disc, piling up the berries and cream more generously.
8. Shower the entire stack with pistachios and finish by finely grating the dark chocolate over the top. Serve any baby meringues alongside.

GIN AND ROSEMARY FIZZ

Summer recipes

Makes 400ml of syrup

Rosemary works so well with the botanicals in gin, but simply omit the alcohol to make a refreshing rosemary lemonade for the children. The base syrup can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.

300g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
4 sprigs rosemary, plus extra to serve
150ml lemon juice

For each serving
25ml gin
Ice
Lemon and lime slices or wedges
Sparkling water

1. Put the caster sugar in a saucepan with the lemon zest, rosemary sprigs and 300ml water. Gently heat through, stirring, to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool then strain and stir in the lemon juice.
2. To make each drink, pour gin and 20ml of the rosemary and lemon syrup into a tall glass with plenty of ice, citrus wedges and a couple of rosemary sprigs. Top up with sparkling water.

Photography/ Emma Lee

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