Donal Skehan’s al fresco dining recipes — wood-fired fennel salmon, steak with blistered veg, and a summer fruit galette

The end of summer is nigh and I am doing my very best to soak up the last of it. Sea swims while the sun shines, pizza nights in the garden and as many barbecued dinners as my family can handle. As the back-to-routine feeling hangs over us like a Sunday night, the food I am cooking is what’s keeping me present in the season. The three recipes I share with you this week are a celebration of the best of late-summer cooking.

wood-fired pizza oven is an investment, but a great addition to your outdoor eating experience if you have the dedication and interest. I’m only a year into owning one and, beyond pizza, it’s a highly effective way of cooking a number of ingredients. Vegetables roasted and licked with smoke and flame, prawns in a bubbling garlic and chilli butter mopped up with crusty bread, and whole roast pieces of fish are all easy to cook with great results.

One of my favourite things to make is the wood-fired fennel salmon with roasted vegetables and homemade aioli. The key to flavouring the fish is to make a fennel seed and lemon salt. Give it enough time and the fish will take on the citrus and aniseed flavour that intensifies while it cooks in the hot oven. Any leftovers of the aioli here will keep well in a jar in the fridge for up to two days. Serve this platter-style to the table and allow everyone to enjoy.

A speedy summer supper that has plenty of flavour is the quick-cooked steak here with blistered vegetables and a fish sauce dressing — If the weather is good, try cooking this on the barbecue rather than indoors to give it that lovely smoky flavour. Use whatever vegetables you have to hand. They are delicious charred alongside the spiky, salty dressing.

Lastly a summer stone fruit galette — a stunning dessert that is a showstopper for al fresco eating and is ideal made with summer fruits. You can skip the frangipane if you want to simplify the recipe slightly, but it does add an irresistible sweet and indulgent layer. The rough-puff pastry has a high butter content, so you need to cook this tart at a high temperature. If some of the butter leaks out while baking, don’t panic — it will still be utterly delicious.

Wood-fired Fennel Salmon with Roasted Veg & Aioli


Wood-fired Fennel Salmon with Roasted Veg & Aioli. Picture: Donal Skehan

Time: 1 hour 10 mins Serves: 6

500g baby potatoes, halved
1 large courgette, roughly chopped
2 red onions, halved and then quartered
350g cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
Small handful rosemary, roughly chopped
Small handful thyme, roughly chopped
Large handful rocket leaves, arugula
2 tsp chive flowers, roughly chopped

For the fennel-salted salmon:
1 tbsp sea salt
Zest of ½ lemon
1 tbsp fennel seeds
950g salmon fillet, skin on
1 tbsp olive oil

For the lemon aioli:
1 egg yolk
Juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
Small handful parsley, roughly chopped

1. Add the potatoes, courgette, red onions and cherry tomatoes to a large bowl. Season with plenty of salt and pepper and pour over the olive oil. Add the herbs and toss to combine.
2. Transfer the vegetables to a roasting tray and add to a wood-fired pizza oven heated to 200C/400F for 30 minutes. If you’re using a regular oven, ensure it is preheated to 200C/400F/ Gas Mark 6. Halfway through, toss the vegetables to ensure even cooking.
3. While the vegetables are roasting, add 1 tablespoon of sea salt, lemon zest and the fennel seeds to a pestle and mortar. Season with a pinch of black pepper and grind to create a well-mixed powder.
4. Spread the fennel-salt mix over the salmon with the olive oil. Ensure the salmon is evenly coated on both sides. Leave to marinate while you make the lemon aioli.
5. Add the egg yolk, lemon juice and mustard to a bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and whisk to combine.
6. Add the garlic clove with a sprinkle of salt to a pestle and mortar, smash to create a paste and add to the egg mixture. Continuously whisk to combine and slowly pour in the oil a few drops at a time and then gradually pour a steady steam. Don’t add the oil too fast and ensure it’s completely incorporated before adding more. Whisk until completely emulsified before stirring through the parsley.
7. After 30 minutes, spread out the vegetables on the roasting tray and make room for the salmon. Add the salmon and transfer back to the oven for a further 20 minutes.
8. Once the salmon and vegetables are fully roasted, remove from the oven and serve on a platter, drizzling with the aioli and scattering with the rocket leaves and chive flowers. Give the salmon a final squeeze of lemon juice and enjoy!

Steak with Blistered Summer Vegetables


Steak with Blistered Summer Vegetables. Picture: Picture: Issy Croker © Hodder & Stoughton

Time: 20 mins Serves: 4

450g sirloin steak, excess fat trimmed
Olive oil or groundnut oil, to drizzle
1 tbsp fish sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Baby Gem lettuces, quartered
Bunch of spring onions, trimmed
Bunch of asparagus, woody ends snapped off
2 courgettes, thinly sliced lengthways
Bunch of coriander, leaves picked
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp olive or groundnut oil
1 tbsp sesame oil

1. Put the steak in a dish with a drizzle of oil, the fish sauce and plenty of black pepper. Set aside.
2. Place a griddle pan over a high heat. Toss the vegetables in a little oil, then griddle them for 2-3 minutes on all sides, or until lightly charred. Tip into a serving dish.
3. Remove the steak from the marinade, add to the pan and griddle for 1-2 minutes each side. Remove from the pan and set aside to rest.
4. To make the dressing, put the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar into a bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Then whisk in the oils.
5. Slice the steak into generous slices and arrange on top of the griddled veggies. Scatter with the coriander leaves and peanuts, drizzle over the dressing and serve.

Fruit Galette


Fruit Galette. Picture: Donal Skehan

Time: 1 hour 35 mins + chilling time Serves: 6-8

250g plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
Good pinch of sea salt
160g unsalted butter, frozen for at least 1 hour
3 medium free-range eggs, 1 beaten for glazing
1 tsp cider vinegar
80ml ice-cold water
6 ripe peaches
125g blueberries
1 tbsp demerara sugar
3 tbsp apricot jam
Lightly whipped cream or crème fraîche, to serve

For the frangipane:
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 medium free-range eggs
100g ground almonds
25g plain flour

1. Put the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and, using a box grater, coarsely grate the frozen butter into the bowl and toss to coat the strands in the flour. In a measuring jug, whisk together 2 of the eggs, vinegar and cold water until combined. Make a well in the centre of the flour and butter mixture and pour in the liquid.
2. Using two large forks, gently toss all the ingredients together until the dough takes shape and begins to hold together. Turn the dough out and bring together quickly with your hands and shape into a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 210C/410F/Gas Mark 7 and line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to form a 40cm circle, then slide onto the lined baking sheet. Chill in the fridge while you make the frangipane.
4. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs one at a time and then fold through the ground almonds and flour. Spread this mixture across the base of the pastry, leaving a 5cm border around the outside. Return to the fridge while you prepare the peaches.
5. Halve and remove the stones and then slice each half into 4 wedges. Arrange these in concentric circles on top of the frangipane so they stick up out of the almond mixture. Scatter all over with the blueberries.
6. Bring the edges of the pastry up and in and crimp into a pretty wheel around the outer layer of peaches. Brush the pastry edges all over with the beaten egg and then scatter all over with the demerara sugar.
7. Bake the tart for 30-35 minutes, or until the frangipane and pastry are golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool until just warm. Melt the apricot jam with a tiny splash of water in a pan, then strain to make a smooth glaze. Brush this all over the fruit so it glistens, then serve with lightly whipped cream or crème fraîche.

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