We edge ever closer to high summer, with its long Sunday lunches in the shade and sleepy afternoons. The days when all you really want is homemade pâté, some bread and a glass of rosé. Better make that a bottle. We had a salmon terrine this week – not the smooth, moussey kind, but something with a coarser texture, where flakes of salmon are marbled through crème fraîche, juniper berries and fronds of dill, an easily put together dish that will keep for a day or two in the fridge. No cooking involved, just some lazy chopping and gentle stirring.
I find such recipes endlessly useful in the summer, when the sun streams through the kitchen skylights and you will do anything not to turn the oven on. More importantly, perhaps, is that peace of mind that goes with having something ready made in the fridge. A light lunch that demands nothing more of us than to make a few slices of brown toast or hand round a box of crispbread or wafer-thin carta di musica.
If I am going to cook at all this week, the matter will be done as briefly as possible – a few chilli-flecked crab cakes or prawn patties, fried for a few minutes, then wrapped in curls of crisp iceberg lettuce. I season them with lemongrass and lime, mint leaves and coriander. They usually follow a dish of ridged tomatoes, sliced thickly and dressed with finely chopped shallots and salt. Dessert will most probably be fruit – raspberries, heavy with juice and splashed with the merest spray of framboise; apricots grilled and served with crème fraîche, or peaches torn apart and served on a platter with soft sheep’s cheese and honey.
A terrine of two salmons
As always, the devil is in the detail and this terrine of salmon and crème fraîche is best when only lightly mixed together, giving you an open texture. You can make it in advance. I say serves 6 or more, but you could easily double that if you intend to offer it before lunch, oiled on crisp biscuits or toasts, with glasses of cold rosé. Serves 6-8
smoked salmon 200g
hot-smoked salmon 400g
crème fraîche 400g
breakfast radishes 6
shallot 1, medium sized
dill 4 tbsp, chopped
juniper berries 6
lemon juice a squeeze
pea shoots 2 handfuls
crispbread to serve
Finely chop the smoked salmon and put it into a mixing bowl. Break the hot-smoked salmon into large flakes and add to the smoked salmon. Put the crème fraîche into the bowl with the salmon, but do not mix it just yet.
Chop the radishes very finely. Peel the shallot, dice very finely, then add, together with the radishes and chopped dill, to the salmon. Lightly crush the juniper berries and add to the pâté with a little ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Fold everything together very gently, without crushing the large salmon flakes.
Transfer to a terrine or china dish, press down gently with the back of a spoon and cover with clingfilm. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Serve with crispbread and something green and fresh, such as pea shoots or watercress.
This will keep in good condition for a day or two, but no longer. Keep covered and refrigerated.
Prawn cakes and lettuce parcels
These are at their most delicious when they have a coarse texture. I find that adding the prawns at the last minute gives a satisfyingly rough-edged result. It is well worth leaving them to rest in the fridge for half an hour before cooking. They will firm up during this time and hold together better as they cook. I find them particularly delicious with a small dish of citrus-scented soy – the delicious ponzu sauce – for dipping. Serves 3
fresh white breadcrumbs 100g
coriander 20g (leaves and stems)
Thai fish sauce 2 tsp
mirin 2 tbsp
lemongrass 2 stalks
garlic 1 clove
prawns 250g, raw, shelled
groundnut oil 2 tbsp
iceberg lettuce 1
watercress 1 bunch
mint leaves 18
coriander leaves 18
Put the breadcrumbs, coriander leaves and stalks into the bowl of a food processor. Add the Thai fish sauce and mirin. Thinly slice the lemongrass and add to the crumbs. Peel the garlic and ginger and add them to the bowl, then process for a few seconds.
Add the prawns and process briefly, until they are finely chopped. Take care not to overwork the mixture. You should be able to see small pieces of prawn.
Roll the mixture into 6 balls, flatten slightly, then place them on a tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.
Wash the lettuce leaves and watercress, thinly slice the cucumber and remove the mint and coriander leaves from their stems, then place everything in a bowl of water with ice cubes.
Heat the groundnut oil in a shallow pan over a moderate heat. Place the prawn cakes in the hot oil and fry for 3 or 4 minutes on each side, until they are lightly browned.
Drain the lettuce, cucumber, watercress and herbs and shake dry. Place 3 large lettuce leaves on a serving dish. Put a couple of smaller leaves into each one, then divide the green leaves between each set of leaves. Place a hot prawn cake in each one and serve.