Summer buffet

Why not host an after church buffet with these tasty recipes from Michele Guinness?

I do love August. With half the world taking some holiday during the month, there’s a less stressed, more mellow feel in the air. The traffic is less frenetic, people stop to chat over the fence and children’s voices float happily across the gardens until the sun sinks to its rest. I catch up with friends I never see at any other time of the year - schoolteachers, for a start!
By the end of the month, as summer begins to wave goodbye, and they begin to get out the marking again and rally themselves for a new academic year, I grab every last opportunity to revel in those last, long, lazy days, piling an array of food, buffet-style, on the kitchen table so that folk can grab it and take it into the garden, or, if it’s pelting with rain (as it so often does up North) gather with a plateful in the sitting room. This is especially fun on a Sunday after church.


I’ll never forget how it felt to go home alone in those early days as a Christian, when I had no family support. In the Jewish community it would be unthinkable to allow someone to eat alone on the Sabbath - unless they wanted to, of course. It takes a bit of spontaneity to open up our homes at the last minute - so why not have something ready in the freezer, just in case?


Make no bones about it - fish is my favourite! It’s full of protein, low in fat - and fresh salmon is relatively affordable. What I love about serving salmon “en croute” is that it looks impressive, stays wonderfully tender due to being steamed in the pastry, and goes down well with an interesting salad
Salmon En Croute


Large fillet serves 4-6.


1.5 kg (2-3 lbs) whole fillet of salmon, skinned, or 4 fillet pieces
1 sheet puff pastry (there are two in a 425g pack)
200g (7oz) herb and garlic cream cheese
A sprinkle of spice-it-up all purpose seasoning
  • Roll out the puff pastry sheet until it is big enough to wrap right around the whole fillet, or to wrap around each of the individual fillets when divided into 4 rectangles.
  • Wash and dry the salmon, then lay it on the pastry and cover with the cream cheese. Sprinkle with a little seasoning.
  • If you’re using the whole fillet, brush the pastry on either side of the salmon with cold milk, then, cut those edges horizontally into strips, fold the top and bottom pastry edges up over the salmon and plait the strips over the top - until the salmon and the cheese are enclosed.
  • If you prefer, or if you are making individual portions, simply fold the pastry over the salmon into an envelope. Brush the top of the pastry with the milk to ensure it goes golden when cooked.


The individual portions can be frozen at this stage, taken out, and baked as and when required - for 1, 2 or 4 people (or you can use both sheets of pastry for 8 fillet pieces, double the cream cheese and have 8 portions sitting in the freezer).
  • Place on a baking sheet and cook in a fairly hot oven, gas mark 5, or 190c for 25-30 mins (less in a fan oven), until the pastry is crisp, or a little longer if cooking from frozen.
  • For a very special treat, you can substitute the salmon with sirloin steak.
  • Serve with a rocket and avocado salad, and a hot new potato salad. For the hot potato salad, simply boil the new potatoes and, when cooked, drain, return to the pan, add some chopped red pepper, black and green olives, 2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing, and toss together in the pan to warm through again.
Summer Fruits Trifle


Serves 6-8


This is a quick and easy, and nothing compares with its amazing bitter sweet taste.


250g (9oz) packet cantuccini biscuits
4 tablespoons sweet wine, cassis or fruit juice
About 1.5kg (2-3 lbs) mixed summer fruits, especially strawberries and blueberries


250g (9oz) double cream
500g (1lb 2oz) carton custard
250g (9oz) thick vanilla yogurt
250g (9oz) carton low fat creme fraiche
  • Place the cantuccini biscuits in a trifle bowl and moisten with the wine or fruit juice. Cover with the chopped summer fruits.
  • Whisk the cream and mix half with the custard and yogurt. Spread over the fruit.
  • Mix the remaining whipped cream with the creme fraiche and cover the trifle with it.
  • Decorate with a few pieces of fruit or some toasted chopped almonds.

    Eat within 2-3 hours or the fruit juices will make the trifle very liquid underneath - not that it really matters as it tastes so good.