Yesterday I woke to the thrumming of rain against the large hosta beneath our bedroom window. The leaves are as tough as the waxed cloth of an expensive umbrella and almost as broad. It was as loud as someone throwing gravel against the glass and it took me a second to remember where I was.
We’re in West Cork, where the rain can be heavy and insistent enough to wake you one moment, and then, by the time you’ve laid the fire and dressed yourself to face it, it’ll give way to a clear hyacinth blue sky. Which is what happened yesterday morning.
We took our lunch to the beach, a little westward-facing shingle cove a few miles along the coast at Toe Head. We sat in the blustery sunshine watching the dog flirt with the frothy white edges of the tide as we ate lunch. Egg salad sandwiches, crisps, KitKats, orange juice and a thermos of strong tea… I’ve eaten this, or slight variations of this, on beach picnics all my life. It made me think of the things I make every year in the invariably-sparsely-equipped kitchens of houses we’ve rented for the summer. I thought I’d share some of them with you – the kind of dinners I make when I can’t weigh anything or whizz it in a blender, the sort of dishes that don’t mind terribly if you bake them in scratched 70s Pyrex, improvise a lid with tin foil, subject them to a temperamental oven, or let them fend for themselves while you linger over drinks in the pub. These are my recipes for summer rentals, though of course they taste just as good at home too.
Egg salad sandwiches
I like to use a bought, French-style mayonnaise for these. It has a little mustard in it and tastes pleasingly eggy. But use whatever you prefer. For ‘something green, chopped up’, I use either rocket or chives, though I often hanker for classic egg-and-cress and wonder why I don’t grow cress on blotting paper on a sunny windowsill as I did when I was a kid. It makes me a little sad that we live in an age when cress is almost as difficult to find as blotting paper.
If you’re the kind of family who has a cooked rasher or two of bacon left over from breakfast, chop that up finely and stir it in too. We’re not, so sometimes I cook a couple especially to mix in with the egg. A finely-chopped spring onion is also a good addition.
For four to six people:
5 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
A generous spoonful or two of mayonnaise
Something green, chopped up
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bread, slices or soft rolls
Optional: A couple of cooked rashers of bacon, finely chopped; a spring onion, finely chopped
Gently stir together the eggs, mayonnaise, green thing of choice, bacon and/or spring onion if using, and season well with salt and pepper. Spoon the salad onto white bread or brown, slices or rolls. Avoid sand.
Today’s holiday reading:
‘Liz sat under the mulberry tree. The fruit was scarlet and black among the dark leaves. Outside this circle of shade, the garden burned and blazed with the hot colours of the bean-flowers, of montbretia, golden-rod, geraniums.
“My dear Arthur,” she had written on a piece of paper; but it had blown away across the flower-border, and, too lazy to fetch it, she had begun again on another sheet.’
A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor