First, Make The Sauce: 4 Easy Recipes To Try This Summer


Let’s hear it for the leftovers. They are the Rolling Stones of food. When the glamour has gone and they become wrinkled on the outside, we can at last love them for who they really are inside, for the familiar pleasure they give us, and not just the way they look.

I’m not really talking about leftover ingredients here. No matter how exciting the food waste warriors try to make them, they have a tendency to judge and nag at you, all limp and needy and unsexy, from the crisper, guilting you into cooking them into something chewy and worthy. No, I mean finished, ready to scoff dishes you have already dug into in their fresh, pristine form.

I for one love hangover-busting cold pizza when the mozzarella has gone slightly rubbery, or a lasagne with crunchy edges or a caved-in pavlova whose fruit and soft meringue middle have melted into a gorgeous syrup together. Everyone likes a good old pick at a chicken carcass when the guests are long gone, or mopping up the lukewarm crunchy bits left in the roasting pan with bread. Just as we all know that a chocolate cake, or tagine, or curry are always better the next day.

Many wines benefit from a long airing of course and even when slightly flat, leftover champagne is always a good idea (in a Buck’s Fizz if you must) on a Sunday morning after the party. I remember fondly my distinguished ex aunt-in-law in Bordeaux who used to serve exceptional wines from the region and would brazenly finish up anything left in bottles and guests’ glasses in the kitchen after the meal. How could you possibly pour a 1982 St Emilion down the kitchen sink?

And then there’s the cheeseboard. You know it can never be perfectly neat and tidy again but why not just straighten up that chunk of Coolattin? Or made a perfect half circle with the Og? These little nips are always the most delicious.

Finishing a week-long recipe photo shoot a couple of weeks ago, the leftovers were on another level. I found myself alone and hungry in a large kitchen with a fridge full of half-used bunches of fresh herbs, half a wheel of Cashel Blue cheese, a large Durrus and five or six assorted bowls of leftover sauces, dips and powders, all part of the contents of my upcoming French book.

Friends were immediately invited to celebrate and eat it all up, and I needed to shop in a very different way for them. With all my flavour boosters already in place, I was looking for lots of versatile, neutral ingredients to best show them off. I bought good bread, asparagus, salad leaves, chicken thighs and charcuterie and started assembling the feast.

My rather messy cheeses were sliced and fanned out with the charcuterie, dried and fresh fruit into a large and super trendy aperitif platter. (I’m still kicking myself I forgot to snap it for Instagram.) The chermoula and buttermilk Green Goddess sauce sat next to flatbreads for dipping, I roasted the asparagus and served it just warm with a chunky pecan and pecorino pesto.

Half the peanut sauce marinaded the chicken thighs and the rest was served alongside accompanied by a big salad dressed simply in olive oil and lemon for some freshness next to all the heat and spice. Pudding was a light and refreshing chilled honeydew melon with a sprinkling of tarragon sugar.

So this summer, start your menu planning with a couple of really lively sauces, powders and pestos and go from there. They look beautiful in colourful bowls, and setting everything on the table at once makes for super-relaxed and informal eating with everyone trying a little of everything. Prepare your apéritif (or just cheese) platters well in advance and make them pretty. It’s such an easy, inviting way to spoil your friends and keep kitchen toil fuss to a minimum.

Have a wonderful summer!

Four recipes to try:

Melon Carpaccio with Tarragon Sugar

Tarragon is my new basil. I’m using its grassy, aniseed flavour everywhere at the moment, in hot and cold sauces. This is a great way to jazz up a sub-standard melon, and if it’s a good one, enjoy the delicious leftover green flecked juice the next morning.

For 4; 10 minutes preparation

1 largish honeydew melon, peeled, cut into thin slices

4 tbsps sugar

3 tbsps tarragon leaves

Arrange the melon on a large flat platter.

Blitz the sugar with the tarragon a few seconds in a mini blender. Don’t leave them too long or the sugar will be too damp.

Sprinkle the sugar over the melon slices and serve.

Buttermilk Green Goddess Sauce

More tarragon! My friend Jess Murphy, chef and owner of Kai Restaurant in Galway, tells me this is an Alice Waters recipe. It is supposed to be used in a crisp, chopped green salad, but I’ve been serving it with steamed veg, fish and even all on its own as a dip for aperitifs. Go easier on the garlic if you like, I tend to use vampire-chasing amounts.

For 4; 3 minutes preparation

1 tbsp chopped chives

1 tbsp fresh parsley leaves

1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 anchovy filets

1 garlic clove


100g mayonnaise, (shop bought is fine)

250ml buttermilk

Blitz all the ingredients apart from the mayonnaise and buttermilk into a fine paste. Whisk the mayonnaise and buttermilk together, then whisk in the green paste. Season with pepper – it probably won’t need salt, but check to suit your taste.

Chicken in Peanut Sauce

Slightly retro now, perhaps, but Thai flavours are always a crowd pleaser. I roasted the chicken here but you can of course pop it on the barbecue.

For 6; 5 minutes preparation. 30 minutes resting. 30 minutes cooking

6 nice fat chicken thighs, organic, Irish if possible

1 red or green Thai chilli, deseeded

1 garlic clove

200g smooth peanut butter

200ml coconut milk

2 tbsps dark brown sugar

2 tbsps fresh lime juice

2 tbsps soy sauce

2 tsps fish sauce

Blitz all the sauce ingredients in a mini blender.

Rub the thighs all over with half of the sauce and leave to rest in a roasting tin.

Pre heat the oven to 180?C. Roast the chicken for 25 to 30 minutes, turning once halfway through. When the thighs are sizzling and golden, remove from the oven and serve with crunchy green salad and vegetables and the rest of the sauce.


Such a warm, aromatic, sweet combination of tastes in this increasingly popular condiment. It’s wonderful as a dip for flatbreads, but also as a marinade for barbecued fish, lamb and pork.

For 4/6; 5 minutes preparation.

180ml olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 small red chilli, deseeded, chopped very finely


Whisk all the ingredients together and leave the sauce to rest for a good hour at room temperature before serving.


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