Recipe: Pack the perfect picnic as summer rolls on

This Aubergine, Strawberry and Feta Salad with Balsamic Dressing, by Di Curtin, is a great salad to pack in a picnic
Recipe: Pack the perfect picnic as summer rolls on
Aubergine, Strawberry and Feta Salad.

OUR Covid-19 lockdown experience is gradually dissolving into the past, as more and more businesses open and life is returning to the ‘new normal’. Handwashing, sanitizing and social distancing are now part of everyday life, as people go about their daily business. And whilst there’s once again a buzz about the place, we have lost some of the joys of an Irish summer, through the lack of tourism and the usual seasonal gigs and festivals we are so used to enjoying this time of year.

Being lucky enough to live by the sea, I always feel there’s an air of holidays about every day, no matter the weather or season! Coastal County Cork has its fair share of great beaches and lots of places to swim, sail or kayak if you’re a water baby. So if you’ve got spare time on your hands or find yourself with some holiday leave, this is a great time to explore what your county has to offer!

PACK A PICNIC

A day out always requires a picnic. This weekend, I’ve created a great salad which you can transport easily to eat on the go. Seasonal strawberries combine with richly flavoured roasted aubergines and crumbly feta cheese in a salad with piquant Balsamic vinegar in the dressing. Serve with crusty bread on the side, or use the salad as a side dish for sliced cold chicken or cold poached salmon. Very yummy either way!

Scouring farmer’s markets in Cork, you’ll be bound to find some homegrown soft berries from local growers. Raspberries are less widely grown than strawberries in Cork, but enterprising small holders do grow them. Alternatively, larger Irish commercial growers like Keelings in County Dublin also supply them to supermarkets.. Try and grab some this weekend for a fresh fruit salad to finish your picnic.

Peaches from warmer climes are now in season. Make sure they are ripe, then slice and mix with raspberries in a colourful and healthy dessert, dressed with honey and lime. Delicious.

AUBERGINE, STRAWBERRY AND FETA SALAD WITH BALSAMIC DRESSING

Ingredient (Serves 4)

2 medium aubergines 

Extra virgin olive oil for brushing and dressing 

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Pinch of dried red chilli flakes 

300g strawberries, hulled and quartered 

150g Feta cheese 

Few whole fresh basil leaves 

2 tbsp pecans, sliced 

Balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Method: 

  • Slice aubergines into rounds.
  • Brush with olive oil both sides and season.
  • Heat a cast iron griddle pan till smoking.
  • Lay the slices in a single layer in the pan. Cook for a few minutes, until the underneath is charred.
  • Turn over the slices to char other sides. Cook the aubergine in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Place each finished batch on a plate while you cook the remaining slices.
  • When you have all the aubergines cooked and on the plate, sprinkle with chilli flakes, drizzle with olive oil and season. Turn over gently with fingers, being careful not to break the slices.
  • Arrange aubergine slices on four serving plates.
  • Scatter the strawberries on top and crumble feta cheese over each plate.
  • Crumble the feta on top and strew the basil leaves over. Finish with the sliced pecans.
  • Drizzle each plate with a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a little extra oil before serving.

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