The scent of mint rises from the tub on the patio. Fresh and fragrant, it urges me to pick it. Hands smelling of that light tang, I carry a bundle into the kitchen. On my windowsill are pots of basil and coriander – both plants that don’t like the cold, wet Northern Irish weather – their smell lingers in the air.
I pull handfuls from the pots, where the herbs mingle growing together as a jungle. Together with the mint I hold the greenery under the facet, cold water runs through. I roughly chop the herbs, scattering them over a large bowl of baby salad leaves and a spicy rocket.
What isn’t there to love about this most ancient of fruits, its bright ruby seeds marking my knife, as I cut it in half, and then leaving just a hint of pink on my lime after I slice it with the same knife. Pomegranates are a nutrient dense, antioxidant rich fruit, which come from Iran – they are remarkably good for you. I love the ruby red jewels which bring joy to any dish.
The easiest way to get the seeds from this beautiful fruit, is to cut it in half, then hit the back of it with a wooden spoon, or curved spatula, the seeds will fall out. Be careful as the juice colours everything it comes into contact with, and you don’t want any of the bitter white pith. Let the seeds fall over the salad leaves
Mango’s are simply difficult to cut because of their large stone. Cutting down either side of the stone, turn the mango over, then make a criss cross pattern in the flesh without cutting through the skin. Then push the skin to form a little hedgehog back shape, and using your knife cut out the cubes, and drop over the salad.
Mangos are high in fibre, pectin and vitamin C, and one cup of sliced mango gives 25% of the daily needed dose of Vitamin A.
Squeeze lime juice over the salad, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil a grind on some pepper and then toss and serve.
This salad combines, fresh scented ingredients, with soft sweet mango flesh, and the crunch of pomegranate seeds. The sweet, citrusy and light flavours are refreshing.
As one of my favourite salads I serve it frequently
▪ 2 bags of mixed baby leaf salad
▪ 1 bag of rocket
▪ Seeds of 1 Pomegranate
▪ 1 mango cut into cubes
▪ Juice of 1 lime
▪ Bunch of mint chopped
▪ Bunch of coriander chopped
▪ Bunch of basil chopped
▪ Freshly ground Pepper
▪ Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)
1. Prepare all your ingredients
2. Toss everything together in a large bowl, including oil, lime and pepper
I love salad, fresh flavours, scented with herbs and this salad ticks all the boxes. Roast meat, especially BBQ I enjoy but I hate the heaviness of roast dinners – everything cooked, and drenched in gravy – my idea of the worst meal on earth.
But combine this salad with its light delicate fragrant flavours with roasted meat, and you have a perfect meal.
Watermelon – how I love you. Oh how I love you.
Some health facts about watermelon – There are only 30 calories to every 100grams of Watermelon – and it contains vitamins such as A, C, E, D, niacin, thiamine, B6, B12, acid Pantothenic. It’s rich in antioxidants.
It seems like no time at all has passed since I was buying Watermelon’s last Spring Summer, and not they are back on the shelves, the rich green hull, hiding the delight of ruby red flesh.
Watermelon’s sweetness sits brilliantly in this salad, as it is intensified by the saltiness of the cheese. Savoury, and refreshing all at once, this salad when you make it once will quickly become one of your table’s summer staples.
The great thing about this recipe is you can mix it up – depending on how you feel – the herbs can be muddled or substituted, you can use black or green olives, olive oil or no olive oil – remember this salad is to be refreshing, not heavy and nor greasy – and you can add a scatter of finely sliced onion if you wish.
▪ 1/2 Watermelon – cut into rough chunks
▪ 1 block of feta cut or crumbled into pieces
▪ Bunch of mint finely chopped – you can substitute basil, parsley or coriander – or mix them up
▪ Green Olives quartered
▪ 1 cucumber roughly chopped
▪ Juice of one lime
▪ Drizzle of herby olive oil optional
▪ Black Pepper
1. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, toss gently with the lime juice and freshly ground pepper
2. Drizzle with Olive Oil – serve. This salad is brilliant as a late night dinner, on a platter at a lunch party or served with grilled or BBQ’d meats
Cucumber Gin and Tonic
If you’ve ever been offered a gin with a slice of lemon from a jar, one cube of ice, and flat tonic, you will know without doubt, a good gin and tonic, needs good friends, slices of fresh lemon and lime, lots of ice, and a great glass.
And, that’s another thing that is crucial when you are making a good drink – have the right glasses. I love crystal, with their superfine rims, and chunky heavy base. A good glass makes a drink feel good in your hand.
There are lots of superb cucumber gins on the market at the moment, but this one from Marks and Spencer is delicious; filled with zingy flavours, it tastes light and flavoursome.
I have made this drink layering ice and cucumber, covered with cucumber gin and a generous sprig of fresh mint pushed into the glass before serving. Use plenty of ice; we always need a good few cubes of ice rattling around in the glass because it lifts a normal drink from good to sublime. The scent of both the mint and the cucumber linger in the air, just above the glass, as it is reached to the mouth, enhancing the flavour experience of the drink.
Start with a leaf or two of slightly bruised (to release its flavour) mint, then layer ice, then a wedge of cucumber, and another cube or several of ice – the amount of ice cubes, will depend on the size of your glass, and a wedge of cucumber until you have reached a ½ inch from the top of the glass. I like to use highball glasses.
The mint and cucumber have been layered with ice – now it’s time to pour in a generous splash of Cucumber Gin. I aim for three fingers approximately, and top up with a good tonic, preferably not a low calorie one. This is the time to step out.
Then finish the dressing of the drink with a generous piece of lightly bruised mint pushed into the side of the glass.
Aha isn’t that lovely, the light fizz, the aroma of the drink as you move it to your lips, that sublime refreshment as you drink it down.
Yes, life really does feel more civilised with a G&T in hand.
This month Nicky is
Drinking – Bushmills Whiskey Mint Juleps and Cucumber Gin and Tonics
Reading – Meringue Girls a fun, fabulous book that is a firm favourite in my kitchen. The recipes are all based around different takes on the meringue. Go buy a copy, immediately for yourself or as a present. Meringue crumble, chilli lemongrass meringue pie, rainbow meringues, giant meringues, they are all here.
Eating in – OX, this Belfast restaurant is exquisite, everything is beautifully executed: food, service, drinks and atmosphere.
By Nicky Cahill
If anyone has any food related questions or ideas for products they’d like Nicky to try, do get in touch.