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Primavera Orzo Salad with Fresh Peas, Asparagus, Mint and Feta

22 Apr Orzo Primavera

Primavera Orzo Salad

Spring has definitely sprung. The wild flowers are wafting their sweet fragrance in the mornings where I run with the dog so my thoughts turn away from steaming hot soups and comforting stews towards lighter flavours and all things fresh and green.

Spring Flowers

I bought some fresh peas in their pods from the farmers’ market on Sunday. There is nothing more spring-like than peas, except for maybe asparagus. This recipe has both. In fact it has all my favourite spring flavours in one dish. There’s also fresh mint, dill, lemon, spring onions, spring garlic and feta. Is it singing to you yet?

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Orzo, in case you don’t know, is a rice shaped pasta. If you can’t find it (I got mine in Eroski, believe it or not, in the Moroccan section) you could use any small-ish pasta shapes or even cooked rice. The good thing about orzo is that it doesn’t go all flabby and stick together when it is cooked so it is perfect for salads.

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You toss all the ingredients and the dressing over the cooked orzo while it is still hot so all the flavours get absorbed and start to mingle. Leave it to cool to room temperature then you can store it in the fridge. The feta and fresh herbs are best stirred through just before serving. This is an ideal lunch that would be easy to take to work or for a weekend picnic.

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Primavera Orzo Salad with Fresh Peas, Asparagus, Mint & Feta Recipe

Serves 3, vegetarian.

  • 300 g uncooked orzo (or other pasta shapes)
  • 2 or 3 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • 1 baby leek (or more spring onion), finely chopped
  • 1 spring garlic/green garlic/ajete, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 100 gr shelled fresh peas (or frozen)
  • a handful of fresh chopped dill
  • 12 fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 100 g Greek feta
  • toasted pine nuts (optional)

Cook the orzo in lots of boiling salted water for about 8 minutes until al dente and drain.

Meanwhile, cook the spring onions, baby leek and spring garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat with a pinch of salt some black pepper, the thyme, oregano and chilli flakes until softened. Mix this with the drained cooked pasta in large bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and season with salt & black pepper. Leave to cool.

Trim or snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut into 1 inch pieces. Shell the peas. Cook the peas & asparagus in boiling salted water for 3 minutes then drain and add to the orzo, Stir everything together well.

Leave to cool to room temperature. It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge from this point. When ready to serve stir through the crumbled or cubed feta and the chopped herbs. Taste for seasoning, add more salt or lemon juice if required.

Serve topped with some tiny mint leaves, dill fronds and toasted pine nuts, if using. I forgot to put mine on for the photos, duh…

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Say hello to spring even if it is raining where you are!

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Have a lovely week whatever the weather.

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Warm Roasted Beetroot, Carrot, Lentil and Goats Cheese Salad with Dill Hazelnut Pesto

25 Oct sm-91

This salad started with these beautiful organic beetroot & carrots from the market.

It’s the colours that I love, and their rusticness or is that rusticity? I couldn’t resist them anyway and wanted them both to star in something lovely. Something where they were roasted to bring out their natural sweetness.

The warm mellow sweetness of beetroot is always perfectly enhanced by the cool sharpness of a mature goat’s cheese. Enter an extremely mature goats cheese that a friend of mine Jeanne bought when we went to the Luna Mora festival in Guaro this September.

She very kindly gave me a huge wedge of it to try a few days later. I think she just wanted to get it out of her fridge to be honest, it is very stinky, but very good.

Luna Mora is held every September in the small Andalucian village of Guaro.

The festival of Luna Mora which translates as The Festival of the Moorish Moon is a celebration of Andalucia’s Muslim, Christian and Jewish history. There are colourful performance artists and hundreds of stalls line the narrow streets giving it a souk vibe. Tourists and locals flock to enjoy the spectacle and ambience.

The festival is held over two weekends and when night falls, the streets are illuminated by over 20,00 candles and lantern. It really is an unforgettable sight that creates an extremely special atmosphere and explains why nearly 50,000 people visit this festival every year.

For more information on The Festival of Luna Mora, and other things to do and places to visit in the spectacular province of Andalucia have a look at The Andalucia Diary. Andrew knows all there is to know about what to do and where to stay as well as having a beautiful holiday cottage to rent in the village of Guaro itself with breathtaking views of the Sierra de las Nieves.

So back to the food and the smelly goats cheese. This is actually two recipes merged together. Warm Roasted Vegetable & Lentil Salad from Alli at Pease Pudding and Puy Lentil Salad with Goats Cheese, Beetroot & Dill Vinaigrette from My Little Paris Kitchen.

Dill and beetroot are another classic combination that works so well. Even if you think you don’t like dill you have to try this. Dill is now my new favourite herb. I used to loathe it. But since working over the summer with an Iranian family I learnt a lot of new Persian dishes that I will be sharing shortly. And they put dill in everything, I love it.

I changed the dill vinaigrette to a pesto to make it a bit more robust and less of a salad really. It’s beautiful with hazelnuts, quite sweet but you could use walnuts or almonds, whatever you like.

Warm Roasted Beetroot & Lentil Salad with Goats Cheese & Dill Hazelnut Pesto

Serves 2-3, vegetarian, gluten-free.

  • 200 g beetroot, peeled & cut into small wedges
  • 200 g carrots, peeled & cut into batons/wedges
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the prepared vegetables on two lined baking sheets (keep the carrots separate from the beetroot or they will turn pink too) drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper & thyme leaves, toss to coat and roast for about 25 minutes or until soft to the point of a knife. Depending on the size, the carrots may be cooked before the beetroot.

  • 250 g dried Puy lentils (they hold their shape when cooked and taste delicious)
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  1 sprig of thyme
  • 500 ml veg stock
  • salt & black pepper

Wash the lentils under cold water then put them in a sauce pan with the stock, bay leaf, thyme, salt & black pepper.  Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, partially covered, or until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Then drain and discard the bay leaf & thyme. Meanwhile make the dill pesto.

  • a handful of fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • a small handful of toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • a squeeze of honey (1 /2 tsp to start with)
  •  a squeeze of lemon
  • salt & black pepper
  • olive oil
  • about 150 g goats cheese

Blend the  dill, vinegar, hazelnuts, lemon juice, honey, salt & pepper with a good glug of olive oil until you get a chunky pesto consistency. Taste and add more salt, honey, lemon juice as required. I like it quite sweet , it works nicely with the dill.

Pile some warm lentils on a plate and top with the warm roasted vegetables, pieces of goats cheese and drizzle over the dill pesto. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a few sprigs of dill.

Buen Provecho!!

Warm Roasted Red Onion Salad with Spicy Walnut Pickle Dressing

14 Jun Red Onion & Walnut Salad

As most of you will already know, I am a huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi. Obsessed would be an appropriate word for it. His Mediterrasian recipes (a mix of Middle Eastern & Mediterranean) combine all of my favourite ingredients and flavours in a way that is impossible to resist. This is one of said recipes. It came up on my Twitter feed from The Guardian food section a few Sundays ago and I knew that I wanted to make it straight away.

Don’t you love it when that happens? You are pondering what to make for lunch with the (sometimes) minimal contents of your fridge. You stumble across a recipe that you are desperate to make and you actually have all the ingredients in the house. Food Serendipity I like to call it, and it makes me smile.

Warm Roasted Red Onion Salad with Spicy Walnut Pickle Dressing

Serves 2, vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi at The Guardian

  • 2 medium red onions
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  •  rocket/watercress or mixed leaves
  • a handful of coriander/parsley leaves
  • some crumbled Greek feta or goat’s cheese (optional)

For the Walnut Pickle Dressing:

  • 30g walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 0r 1 red chilli (depending how hot) deseeded & finely chopped
  • 1/2 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tsp sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Peel the onions and cut off the tops and bottoms. Cut each onion widthways into two or three slices about 2cm thick (see pic. above) and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes, until cooked and golden-brown on top. If they haven’t browned much you can pop them under the grill for a few minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

While the onions are cooking, put all the ingredients for the walnut pickle in a small bowl, season with salt & black pepper, stir and set aside. It gets better the longer you leave it.

To serve, put the salad leaves and most of the coriander/parsley in bowl, tip over about half of the walnut pickle and toss to coat evenly. Divide this between your serving plates, arrange the onion slices on top, tip over some more walnut pickle, crumble over the feta and finish with some more coriander/parsley leaves.

This spicy, robust salad is perfect as a lunch dish on its own but would also be a fantastic accompaniment to a spring/summer Sunday roast (especially beef), if you can’t be bothered with all those potatoes and vegetables. It’s a lighter and easier option for this time of year and is equally good served warm or  at room temperature. The onions could even be done on the barbecue and served as a side dish alfresco if the weather is being kind to you…..

Back By Popular Demand…..

Things That Made Me Smile Today 

Rufus enjoying our favourite hill walk, a treat for all his fans out there epsecially you Greg.

While we enjoyed the wild flowers too…..

Have a great weekend!

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad with Pistachio and Parsley

5 Jun Watermelon Salad

I know it may be a little early in the season for watermelon where you are, or it may even be getting on for winter but I got a baby watermelon in my organic veg box this week. Look how cute it is.

Look, I put it next to a lemon for you so you can see how small it is. Watermelon is one of the ingredients in my favourite summer salad and it is definitely feeling a lot like summer here so this is what I made with it.

Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad with Pistachio & Parsley

Serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Nigella Lawson

  • 1/4 small red onion, very finely sliced
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 400 g watermelon, rind & most of the seeds removed then cut into approx. 4 cm triangles
  • 100g Greek Feta cheese
  • a handful of fresh parsley leaves, left whole
  • 5 or 6 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 black or purple olives, halved & stoned
  • black pepper
  • extra virgen olive oil
  •  a handful of shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • lemon wedges to serve

Put the finely sliced red onions in a small bowl and cover with the lemon juice. Leave to soak while you make the rest of the salad. This makes the flavour less harsh and turns them a pretty magenta colour.

Place the watermelon triangles in a beautifully random arrangement on your serving dish/plates. Cut or break  the feta into similar sized pieces as the watermelon and scatter them amongst the watermelon. Tear off sprigs/leaves of parsley and do the same. 

Tip the bright pink onions and their juices over the salad, add the olives, drizzle with a little olive oil and top with the chopped pistachios and a grinding of black pepper. Serve with extra wedges of lemon if you like.

This is me sending some much needed sunshine in the form of this beautiful salad to all the people in the UK celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee in the cold and rain.

This is my 93-year-old Grandad at a Jubilee garden party yesterday. He is wearing ski gloves, a shawl and a blanket over his legs. This is the 4th of June by the way, a typically English summer’s day!!

Sending you some sunshine Grandad, Enjoy!!

French Red Potato Salad with Spring Onions, Garlic and Fresh Herbs

25 May French Potato Salad

This is what I made with the gorgeous red baby new potatoes that I bought at the market on Sunday. I also roasted some with garlic, rosemary, olive oil , salt and pepper.

They were really lovely too. I roasted them for about 45 minutes I think until they were crispy and slightly caramelised with the garlic.

This potato salad is not rich and drenched in mayonnaise. There’s a time and a place for those but this is a lighter more elegant take on the classic. The warm potatoes are tossed with white wine and veg stock and then left to absorb all of the liquid. Wine-soaked potatoes, am I good to you or what?

You then toss it in a vinaigrette and throw in the spring onions, spring garlic and loads of fresh herbs. You can eat it warm or at room temperature, with a glass of that white wine that you have already opened.

French Potato Salad with Spring Onions, Garlic & Fresh Herbs

Serves 2-3 as a side dish, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Prep time: 10 mins, Cooking time 20 mins Resting Time 10 mins

  • 500 gr baby new potatoes, red, white or a combination
  • 1 tbsp good white wine, one you would/will drink
  • 1 tbsp veg stock
  • 1+1/2 tbsp Champagne vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4  tsp black pepper
  • 5 tbsp extra virgen olive oil
  • 2 spring onions/scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 spring garlic (they look like spring onions), finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 5 or 6 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 6 or 8 basil leaves, rolled and finely shredded

Put the whole washed potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water and cook for about 20 minutes (or longer if larger) until just cooked through. Drain in a colander, cover with a tea towel and leave to steam for 10 minutes.

Put the wine and stock in a medium bowl and cut the warm potatoes in half or quarters into the bowl. It doesn’t matter if they crumble and start to break up. That’s what mine did and it was lovely. Toss in the liquid and leave it to soak in before proceeding.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, 1/4 tsp salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and continue to whisk to make an emulsion. Pour this over the potatoes, add the spring onions, garlic and herbs and season well with salt & pepper. Gently toss everything together until evenly distributed. Taste for seasoning.

Serve warm or at room temperature as part of a buffet or as a side dish with whatever you like.  It would be perfect for a Jubilee party or barbecue too.

Bon Appetit!!

Tunisian Spiced Aubergine with a Soft Poached Egg

9 Nov Poached Egg & Tunisian Aubergine

This is another 0ne of those aubergine dishes that you have to try even if you think you don’t like aubergine. We are coming to the end of the season here now so it maybe your last chance to change your life. Or your eating habits anyway..

This is dish from Delia Smith (we love Delia) and she got it from an Elizabeth David recipe. It is supposed to be served at room temperature, drizzled with olive oil and served with some warmed pita breads on the side, a blob of greek yoghurt and fresh herbs on the top. Continue reading

Jerk Roasted Squash with Fruit and Nut Rice Pilaf

21 Sep squash side close

I made some of this Jerk marinade/sauce to use up some of the hundreds of scotch bonnet chilli peppers I have at the moment. The plant/bush has actually flowered again and is now producing even more.

I also made another batch of my Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce …..

The first thing I made with the jerk marinade was Jerk Baked Feta. I don’t have any pictures of it because I made it at night and we ate it all, sorry (not sorry really), but I will definitely do it again, it tasted amazing.

All you do is put the 200 gr block of Feta onto a large rectangle of foil, spoon over 3 or 4 tbsp of the jerk marinade and coat it well. Wrap up the feta in a foil packet and bake it for 10-15 minutes at 180 C. Unwrap your fragrant cheesy parcel and dive in with some  good pita or roti bread.

A customer at the restaurant, Norman, gave us a bag full of these beautiful squash. In my new guise as “Jerk Addict” I knew I was going to give it the jerk treatment. The sweet butteryness of the squash is enhanced by the spicy, zingy jerk marinade, they are made for each other, seriously.

I served this with a Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf I found in my new Caribbean cookbook. Spice It Up by Levi Roots and drizzled it with some of my Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce mixed with some Greek yoghurt to tone it down slightly.

Jerk Roasted Squash with Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf

serves 3, vegan, gluten-free

For the jerk roasted squash:

  • 1 bunch/handful fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, then crushed
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns, then crushed
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tsp allspice berries, then crushed
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 6 scotch bonnet chillies (mine are small) use 4 large deseeded
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 limes, zest of 1, juice of 2
  • 140 ml olive oil
  • 1 medium squash

Put all the ingredients for the jerk marinade (not the squash) in a processor and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer to a sterilised jar and seal. Refrigerate until needed. This makes about 200 ml.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Wash the squash and slice off  a little of the top and bottom. Leave the skin on. Slice the narrow end into 1-2cm discs (see picture above). Then cut the fatter end in half lengthways, scrape out the seeds and slice each half into 1-2 cm half moons.

Line 2 baking sheets with foil and place the squash circles on one tray and the half moons on the other. Drop about a teaspoon of the jerk marinade onto each disc and swirl it around to coat the top. Turn the disc over and do the same on the other side. Do the same with the half moons. Drizzle both sets of squash with a little olive oil and put both trays in the oven. The discs on the top shelf and the half moons on the middle shelf.

Cook for 30 -40 minutes depending on the thickness of your slices. The half moons will be ready before the discs. You want them to be really soft when you test them with a knife.

Serve hot or at room temperature with the Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf.

For the Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf:

Serves 3, vegan, gluten free. Adapted from Spice it Up by Levi Roots

  • 150 gr long grain rice, I used a wild rice mix
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 50 gr sultanas (or dried tropical fruit mix)
  • 25 gr almonds, roughly chopped
  • 350 ml veg stock
  • the juice of 1/2 lime or orange
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt & black pepper

Rinse the rice in a sieve until the water runs clear and leave to drain. Heat the olive oil in a large pan with a lid over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until softened then add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring for another 2 minutes.

Next add the rice to the pan, stir to coat in the oil and spices then add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Season well with salt & black pepper and boil hard for a minute. Then reduce the heat to very low and cover with a lid. Leave to cook for about 15 minutes until tender, try not to stir but make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Check seasoning and serve immediately garnished with some fresh thyme.

Serve the dish drizzled with some Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce if you like it fiery. Or mix it with some greek yoghurt for a more manageable heat.

This jerk marinade is amazing. You can use it for chicken, fish or pork but try the foil baked feta and squash too. You may surprise even the most stubborn carnivores with this recipe.

I also used it as a salad dressing with some more olive oil and lime juice. I used some of the leftover roasted squash, chopped up with some chickpeas and mixed it into a salad with the jerk dressing and a splash of hot pepper sauce. Really good lunch dish..

Things That Made Me Smile Today……..

 The Eucalyptus trees are starting to shed their bark, covering the ground with cinnamon- like curls….

It reminds me of a programme I saw about the cinnamon producers in Sri Lanka. Strips of  bark from the cinnamon tree are layered together, one curl inside another and then it is expertly rolled into the cinnamon sticks we buy and use for cooking. Amazing to watch….

It is one of the few signs of autumn we get here, and the first nod towards the changing season…..

Hello Autumn!

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