Tag Archives: salad

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!!

Spiced Cauliflower and Red Onion Savoury Picnic Cake

23 Apr Cauliflower Picnic Loaf

Gourmet picnics are big news in Cape Town, espsecially in the winelands. Well it makes sense doesn’t it? Most of the wine estates have beautiful grounds, so why not make use of them. While we  were in South Africa we enjoyed three picnics. The first at The Roundhouse overlooking the stunning coastline around Camps Bay. The second at Bramon Wine Estate just outside Plettenberg Bay where our table sat amongst the Sauvignon Blanc vines. And the third at Boschendal, one of the oldest traditional Cape Dutch wine estates in Franschhoek, dating back to 1685.

We sat under ancient trees enjoying the view, while our picnic was prepared.

Ordered the wine, one of my favourites: the Boschendal Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend a lovely wine with a slight apricot blush.

They actually offer a Vegetarian Picnic option which is a first. It included a duo of potato salads, quiche, salad, sweet chilli vinaigrette, sundried tomato & spinach wraps, red pepper pate, caramelised onion pate, chocolate & macadamia nut brownies, cheese & biscuits, red onion maramalade and a french stick. We had trouble finishing it all.

Le Pique Nique, as it is called, is very good value, you get a lot of food and can enjoy their fine wines surrounded by Agapanthus, my favourite plants. I am a little obsessed with them actually.

So, inspired by the picnic food idea and eating outside. I came across an Yotam Ottolenghi recipe for a Cauliflower Cake. Ottolenghi is another one of my obsessions, I love his food and find it endlessly inspiring. See this post and this one for proof of his influence over my recipes.

He makes a big round cake in a 24 cm cake tin, I halved the recipe and cooked mine in a loaf tin. I also added some more spices because I can’t help myself. It’s kind of like a quiche without the pastry.

Spiced Cauliflower & Red Onion Savoury Picnic Cake

Makes 1 loaf, vegetarian. Can be doubled to fill a 24 cm cake tin.

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi Prep time: 20 mins Cooking time 45 mins

  • about 400 gr cauliflower broken into medium florets 
  • 1/2 large red onion, peeled
  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 5 medium eggs
  • a handful of fresh chopped coriander
  • 90g spelt flour (or plain)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 80-100g grated manchego or vegetarian parmesan
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Heat the oven to 180C. Put the cauliflower florets in a large saucepan, cover with water, add a teaspoon of salt, bring to the boil then lower the heat and and simmer for 10 -15 minutes, until quite soft. Strain, and leave to drain in the colander.

Meanwhile prepare the batter. Cut a few 1/2 cm rings off one end of the onion, set aside to decorate the top of the cake and roughly chop the rest. Heat the oil in a pan and on a medium heat sauté the chopped onion and rosemary for about 6 minutes, until softened and slightly caramelised. Remove from the heat and leave to cool down.

Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl, and add the parmesan, one teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper.

Add the eggs and coriander to the cooled onions and whisk. Then add the egg mix to the flour mix and whisk to eliminate lumps. Add the cauliflower and fold in gently, trying to keep some florets whole.

Use baking paper to line the inside of the loaf tin. Brush any visible sides of the tin with oil and dust with flour. Tip in the cauliflower mix, even out the top with a spatula and arrange the onion rings on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes (for both sizes of cake), until golden brown and set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The reason I called this a picnic cake is because it is equally good served warm with a lemon & olive oil dressed cucumber salad with fresh mint as a light evening meal or served room temperature the next day as part of a picnic lunch, wherever you happen to be, office, lawn or beach.  Just cut yourself a slice and relax.

A very nice glass of wine always helps too….

For more information about Boschendal Wine Estate visit their website here.

Ensalada de Tomate y Ajo

10 Aug IMG_0143

Antonia, the lady that does the washing up at the restaurant, gave us a tub full of her homegrown cherry tomatoes yesterday.

I thought about roasting them but I really did not want to put the oven on today. It’s far too hot for all that so I made my favourite summer salad instead, Ensalada de Tomate y Ajo (Tomato and garlic salad).

I first had this salad in Bar Sardina, a restaurant/tapas bar in Alhaurin that has been around for 92 years, apparently. They are well-known for their fresh seafood especially the Conchas Finas which are like a cross between a scallop (they have a coral) and a clam. They are indigenous to Malaga and are traditionally served raw, with a glass of Fino (dry sherry).

Being a vegetarian, it is normally quite difficult to find something to eat if you go out to typically Spanish restaurants . Fortunately Bar Sardina has three dishes that I can order, all of them being fantastic. This salad is so simple but so delicious, which is what for me, sums up Spanish cuisine. It’s all about the ingredients and letting them do what they do best.

The best, in season, sweet tomatoes are mixed with lots of fresh garlic, drizzled with Andalucian extra virgin olive oil, good Jerez (sherry) vinegar and seasoned with sea salt, black pepper and some fresh parsley. That’s it.

Ensalada de Tomate y Ajo Recipe

serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 400 gr ripe tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 tbsp extra virgen olive oil
  • 2 or 3 tsp good Jerez (sherry) vinegar
  • sea salt & black pepper

Wash the tomatoes and cut them into halves or quarters for cherry tomatoes or into wedges for normal tomatoes. Mix them with the garlic and parsley in a bowl and drizzle them generously with olive oil, then add the sherry vinegar.

Leave to marinate for a while if you can and then season well with the sea salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust vinegar/seasoning.

Tip into a serving dish, garnish with a little more parsley and serve as part of a meal like the Spanish do.

Or you can do like I did and eat it with some of my sundried tomato & basil focaccia (or any nice bread) to soak up the gorgeous garlicky, tomatoey juices.

This is the perfect simple summer salad, enjoy this right now when tomatoes are at their best.

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

The pomegranate flowers turning into the fruit…

Another sure sign that Autumn is just around the corner.

I’m so looking forward to the cooler weather….!

Slow-Roast Tomato and Quinoa Caprese

25 Jul DCIM100MEDIA

These Roma tomatoes, also known as Plum tomatoes or, here in Spain, tomates Pera (pear tomatoes) are all beginning to ripen here now.

When I am out with Rufus in the morning I see the farmers and their wives with their straw hats and gloves on, picking them from row upon row of tomato plants and storing them in crates.

They are really cheap at the moment so you can buy a lot for very little money. One of my favourite things to do with these tomatoes is to slow-roast them. It intensifies the flavour, you can make a load and keep them covered in oil in the fridge.

All you have to do is cut them in half, put them on a lined baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, salt & pepper and put them in a low oven for 2 hours, or more if you like them more dried.

You can use them in salads, pasta dishes, serve them on burgers, in sandwiches, tortillas, quiches, pizzas or a quick bruschetta. They transform anything ordinary into something a bit special. And it’s so easy.

If you try making these once you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. They’re such a handy thing to have around. And so cheap at the moment, it would be rude not to really.

They’re great for picnics too.

Tomatoes and basil were made for each other. They are what summer is all about. The Caprese salad is one of my “go to” summer dishes because all the ingredients are at their best and it is really quick and easy to make.

Now feel free to just use these tomatoes in a “normal” Caprese with some soft, milky buffalo mozzarella and lots of  torn basil leaves if that is all you can manage in this heat. I wouldn’t blame you at all.

But I couldn’t really call that a recipe could I? I’d feel like I was cheating you somehow.

I used quinoa in this recipe but you could just as easily use cooked rice, couscous, orzo or even pasta as the base.

Quinoa is so good for you, an amazing source of protein if you are vegetarian or vegan and it’s gluten-free. If you’ve never tried cooking with it before you should give it a go. Don’t be scared, it’s easy to work with, really versatile and is nice to eat. It absorbs flavours really well too. I cook mine in veg stock rather than water which makes it even tastier.

Slow Roast Tomato & Quinoa Caprese Recipe

serves 4, vegetarian, gluten-free

For the tomatoes:

  • 8 large , ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & black pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C and line a baking tray with baking paper.  Cut the tomatoes in half, lengthways and place them, cut side up on the tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar then sprinkle with the sugar and season with salt & pepper. Put in the oven for 2 hours, or longer until they have started to dry out.

Leave to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge with any juices until half an hour before you need them. Bring them back to room temperature before serving to get the most out of the flavour. If you want to store them for  longer than a few days, cover them with some olive oil. But I doubt they’ll last that long.

For the Quinoa Caprese:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 400 gr quinoa
  •  about 1 litre veg stock
  • 40gr pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • a big handful of basil leaves
  • 3 sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 or 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 200 gr mozzarella
  • 6-8 slow-roast tomato halves (see above)
  • salt & black pepper
  • chilli oil (optional)

Cook the quinoa by putting it into boiling veg stock, lower the heat slightly and simmer for 12 -14 minutes until you can see the curlicues in every grain and it has absorbed all, or most, of the stock. Add some boiling water if dries out. Drain, if necessary, and leave to cool.

Meanwhile  fry the onions in the olive oil over a medium high heat for about 5-8 minutes until softened and caramelised.

Fluff up the quinoa with a fork to separate the grains and stir through the onions and any oil from the pan. Tip in any tomato juices, the sundried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Tear or finely julienne the basil and add half to the quinoa and season with salt & black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. You can refrigerate it at this point, just bring it back to room temperature before serving.

To serve, pile the quinoa onto a large serving dish or into individual bowls and arrange the slow-roast tomatoes on top. Tear off  bite size pieces of mozzarella, scatter it around the tomatoes and top it off with the rest of the basil. Drizzle over some chilli oil or olive oil at the table.

Enjoy the taste of summer in a bowl!

Things That made Me Smile Today…..

Rufus cooling off in the spring…

Giving our plants on the terrace a quick shower…

Stay cool!!

Alhambra Inspired Chargrilled Nectarine Fattoush Salad

22 Jul DCIM100MEDIA

The Washer Up’s dad came to stay for a few days and we decided to take him to the Alhambra in Granada.

In 40 degree heat.

 Alhambra translates as The Red Fortress. Its palaces were built in the middle of the 14th century for the last Moorish kings of Spain and their court.  It is a World Heritage site and a unique and beautiful example of Muslim art and architecture.

The majority of the palace buildings are built in the same style, with all the rooms opening out on to a central courtyard.

The Alhambra was extended by the different Muslim rulers who lived there but each new section followed the theme of “Paradise on Earth” by using column arcades, elaborately decorated archways, fountains with running water and reflecting pools.

Blue, red and a golden-yellow, all somewhat faded with time are the main colours used for tiles and decoration.

 The Alhambra was made into a  city, complete with an irrigation system composed of acequias (water channels) for the gardens of the Generalife located outside the fortress.  These acequias are still used today throughout Andalucia for irrigation.

 Generalife means Gardens of the Architect. The Palacio de Generalife is a villa dating from the beginning of the 14th century. Whilst fountains and flowing water are a common feature around the Alhambra, they are particularly prevalent in the Palacio de Generalife.

The gardens of Generalife were definitely my favourite part of the Alhambra. It may have something to do with all the running water cooling the air and the shade created by the trees. The flowers were beautiful too.

You can actually imagine Arabian princesses running around giggling and hiding behind trees from handsome princes. As you can probably tell I read a book before going: Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving. 

It was published in 1832 and immediately attracted pilgrims to Granada from all over the world. He was an American diplomat, historian & traveller who actually lived in the Alhambra for a while.

It paints a romantic, colourful impression of local legends and traditions as well as telling enchanting tales of Moorish  princesses, towers, love and war. I would definitely recommend reading it if you are thinking of visiting or are interested in the history of Moorish Spain.

The picture below is of the Washer Up’s dad, Jim Burns. He is a published poet and writer and a recognised authority on 1930′s -1950′s Beats & Bebop Jazz. He is also an expert on the Spanish Civil War and 19th Century European art and history.

He is 75 and fared better than us on this exceedingly long, hot day. We walked around the Alhambra for around 6 hours in the blazing sun.

He didn’t even fall asleep in the car on the way home. We were listening to Miles Davies though.

Like father like son. The Washer Up loves his music too. He’s more into early punk than jazz but his dad bought him the first Sex Pistols record Anarchy in the UK when it was released in 1976. He was 13.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad made with toasted or fried pieces of pita bread, fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables. Fattoush belongs to the family of dishes known as fatta which means crushed. Stale flatbreads are used up by crushing or crumbling them into the dish, a lot like the Italian Panzanella salad. 

This is a salad we served at the restaurant. Instead of using stale pita we cut soft flour tortillas into triangles, deep-fried them and sprinkled them with sumac and cumin while still warm. This way you get crispy, spicy crackers to eat with your salad and it also makes for a more dramatic presentation. You just arrange them pointy side up around the serving bowl.

They are also great for dipping in hummus.

The basic ingredients for a fattoush salad are: salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, radish, mint, parsley, sumac, fried bread, olive oil and lemon juice.

With that as your starting point you can add whatever else you like: feta, olives, dates, peppers, garlic, pomegranate seeds, the list goes on….

I like to add a little sweetness to counteract the sour lemon juice and sumac. Chopped dates are lovely but I had a fruit bowl full of gorgeous looking nectarines just desperate to be included.

I remembered seeing a recipe in the Ottolenghi Cookbook (I know, I’m obsessed) for a chargrilled peach salad with speck and orange blossom.  I didn’t need any more encouragement than that. Any excuse too use my new griddle pan and I’m happy.

Chargrilled Nectarine Fattoush Salad

serves 2, vegan

  • 2 nectarines, stoned & sliced into wedges (not too soft, firm but ripe is best for grilling)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon rind (optional)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 big beef tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cucumber, halved, deseeded & cubed
  • 2 spring onions (or half a Spanish spring onion), sliced diagonally
  • 2 or 3 radishes, thinly sliced (I didn’t have any)
  • 1 bag mixed salad leaves, or a mixture of rocket and cos lettuce, chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 5 or 6 mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
  • 1 soft flour tortilla, cut into eighths (or some stale pita, torn into pieces)
  • sunflower oil for deep-frying
  • sumac & cumin for sprinkling
  • salt & black pepper

 Toss the nectarine wedges with some olive oil, salt & pepper in a bowl. Heat up your griddle pan and cook the nectarines for a minute or so on each side until they get some nice charcoal lines all over. Remove to a bowl and cook the rest, if necessary then sprinkle over the orange blossom water and leave to cool.

Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium high heat. You can tell when it’s hot enough by sticking a corner of tortilla in and seeing if it sizzles. Carefully put the tortilla triangles (2 batches will be best you don’t want to overcrowd the pan) into the hot oil and cook for 10-20 seconds or until they are a golden colour. Be careful they burn quickly.

Remove to a bowl lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle over some salt, cumin and sumac. Do the same with the rest and leave to cool. Once cooled they can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.

Put the garlic, salt, lemon juice, preserved lemon and olive oil into a large bowl with the tomatoes, sumac and cumin and stir together well.

Just before serving add the cucumber, spring onions, radishes, salad leaves, fresh herbs and any other ingredients (except the nectarines) to the bowl and toss everything together. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Either serve in one big bowl/ serving dish or in individual dishes. Arrange the chargrilled nectarines on top and place the tortilla crackers around the edge of the plate so it looks like a crown. Sprinkle over a little sumac and take to the table.

It’s a royal looking salad fit for the last Moorish King of Spain.

A word of advice, if you are thinking about going to the Alhambra, I wouldn’t recommend going in the summer, May or October would be nice. I’ll try and remember that next time!

Middle Eastern Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

4 Jun DCIM100MEDIA

Tabbouleh (or tabouli) is a Middle Eastern salad traditionally made with bulgur wheat, tomato and spring onion. Loads of finely chopped fresh parsley and mint are added then it is dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. It is so simple to make and has bags of flavour from the fresh herbs. The lemon juice lifts all the other flavours making it a refreshing, easy and delicious salad which can be served on its own,  as an accompaniment to grilled meat or fish or as part of a mezze.

This is one of my favourite lunch dishes. I vary the ingredients slightly every time according to what I have in the house. I’ve replaced the bulgur wheat with quinoa to keep it gluten-free but you could use couscous as well.

This time I added my Chermoula Seasoning and some harissa paste to the quinoa while it was cooking as well as throwing in some juicy raisins to plump up in the cooking liquid. Some flaked almonds on top give it some added texture but it is really all about the fresh herbs and lemon juice. Whatever you do don’t skimp on the herbs….

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad Recipe

serves 3, vegan, gluten-free

  • 150 gr (1 cup) quinoa, rinsed in fine sieve
  • 450 ml (2 cups) veg stock
  • a handful of raisins
  • 1 tsp chermoula seasoning
  • 1 tsp harissa paste (optional) or a big pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 small red onion or 2-3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, deseeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon peel (or the zest of 1/2 a lemon)
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a large handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • a large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
  • a handful of flaked almonds
  • salt & black pepper
  • small mint leaves for garnish

Put the rinsed quinoa, stock, raisins, chermoula seasoning, harissa paste, salt & pepper in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and you can see the curlicues in each grain. Leave to cool.

Stir through the chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumber and preserved lemon or zest. You can keep it in the fridge like this, in an airtight container until you are ready to serve it.

To serve, stir through the herbs, lemon juice and olive oil and taste for seasoning. Tip into a serving dish and top with some flaked almonds and extra mint leaves.

Enjoy!!

Things that made me smile today…..

Thistles…

Double Layer Hibiscus…

Tequila Sunrise anyone…?

Have a great weekend!!

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