Eating outside this summer

We were having a really good of spell of fine weather this summer up to recently, and hopefully it will return again. So here are a few ideas for simple ways to enjoy outdoor eating.

My motto for eating outdoors is to keep it simple, with minimum fuss, and make sure all involved do their little bit to help. It can be very enjoyable to settle down while your other half does all the work, but probably not fair, and the kids need to at least do the clean up.

Breakfast by the sea or breakfast in a field

Irish summer days have a way of starting off great and by afternoon descending into a less than spectacular end to the day, so if the forecast is good, aim to head off at 9.30am Sunday. All you need is a camping gas single burner stove and a frying pan (be sure to bring a light non-stick one as a heavy pan will never heat up on a little gas ring ). Bring some sausages, eggs, black pudding, rashers, tomatoes, oil, and butter, and pick up a freshly baked soda bread or crusty rolls from your local shop. Fill a flask with hot water, a carton of milk, some tea, plus usual plates and cutlery. A great tip is to have a sturdy timber box to hold everything which can then be used to put the gas ring into, which will stop any breezes affecting the flame.

Even if you only go a few miles out the road to a field or explore any of the boreens that go down to the sea all over Galway, Clare, and Connemara, you and the kids will have a ball.

If you don’t fancy all the fry up, why not make a bowl of pancake mixture, put it in a container, cook them outside, and serve with maple syrup. In fact if you don’t want to get into the car to do all this, then do it in the back garden or let the kids do it while you supervise. They may not volunteer to cook breakfast in the kitchen but they will probably love to do it outside.

If planning an evening barbecue then your best friend is the oven in the kitchen, par cook the ribs, chicken pieces, potatoes, and even the steaks if you like them well done, then bring the food to the white hot barbecue for the final cooking and imparting of the chargrilled taste that is simply unequalled by anything you can do in the kitchen. When making your own burgers add plenty of herbs and some breadcrumbs to make the meat go further, and an egg to bind the mixture. One of the most useful tools in any kitchen, and especially for a barbecue, is a digital probe thermometer. In fact every kitchen should have one as it takes away all the guesswork and will stop you overcooking and undercooking everything from a burger to a turkey. I’m sure Anthony Ryan’s home store will have a good selection of these.

For dessert, it really is hard to beat fresh strawberries, and the easiest way to have them all nice and juicy is to slice and sprinkle with caster sugar and leave to marinate for a few hours. When serving you can add things like Gran Marnier, cracked pepper, or a really good balsamic vinegar.

As for wines; rose, champagne/prosecco, all are great, but you cannot beat a good shiraz with red meat, or many people’s favourite is a sturdy Chateauneuf Du Pape.

If you want to have a few neighbours over for a drink and a chat, why not set out two large platters with a selection of salamis, olives, Parma ham, and cheese, or my favourite, a plate or two of opened oysters sitting on a bed of crushed ice.

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