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Middle Eastern Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

4 Jun

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!!

Sesame Soba Noodle Salad with Spring Onions, Chives and Awards

14 May

I’ll start by saying a big thank you to Kimberli at Kimberli’s Kitchen for passing a Versatile Blogger award onto me. Go and check out her blog, she makes lovely cookies!

The rules of these things are that :

  1. You must thank the person who awarded you by linking back to their post (check)
  2. You have to list 7 interesting things about yourself  (Seven! Oh dear) 
  3. You have to pass the award on to 15 other new or newly discovered blogs. (That’s the easy part)

The following blogs are new (or new-ish) to me and I find them all inspiring in different ways…

Journeys of Your Life. Andrew is living the dream and doing his round the world trip in style. Stops in New York, Peru, Thailand, Bali, India and more. Jealous much?!

A Meandering Mango Bhavani takes some of the most beautiful pictures of food I have seen. I want to be that good!

Pearl & Pine Sarah has an understated and beautiful blog. Her food is simple and elegant. I love her photos of Seattle it makes me want to live there even though it seems to rain all the time!

The Culinary Taste Rita lives in Tuscany with her husband and little boy Lapo. She makes simple, seasonal Italian inspired food and she has just written a children’s book for her son’s first birthday.

Beloved Green Clarkie makes delicious food that you want to eat. Her step by step photos are always gorgeous and she has a soft spot for beautifully designed things.

Two Tarts Sarah are Dulcie are two friends who like to cook and make things from scratch. They show you how to make things like ricotta and mascarpone and then give you a list of gorgeous recipes to make with them. They also post full menus for entertaining which is really brilliant.

Chocolate Chilli Mango As the name suggests, Viviane is obsessed with chocolate and uses her Italian genes to come up with some beautifully delicious sweet things that may have an exotic Aussie twist!

KO Rasoi Sanjana makes the most mouth-watering Indian vegetarian food out there and photographs it beautifully.

Alexa Marsden Alexa is an artist and photographer who also has a  beautiful vegetarian/vegan food blog. Some people can just be too talented you know!

Sweet Caroline’s Cooking Caroline is, as the name suggests, very sweet. Her happy, smiling face greets you when you arrive at her blog and you immediately feel at home. Home cooked beautiful food at it’s best. Margarita cupcakes, need I say more!

Mission Delectable Kirsten lives in San Francisco and I love every delicious recipe she posts. Her photos are light and beautiful, and her dog is just gorgeous!

Moderate Oven Dani makes healthy, seasonal dishes for her family using local produce and has a beautiful vegetable garden to pick from too. So jealous!

A little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock n’ Roll Mama J muses on food, family, music and life. Her vegetarian food is always what I want to eat right now. She also takes beautiful pictures of flowers!

Rufus’ Food & Spirit Guide Rufus is not a spirit guide in the yogic sense (as I thought when I first read it!). What he does do is make interesting, eclectic recipes and amazing cocktails. I love that combination!

The Taste Space  Janet/Saveur posts delicious vegetarian recipes with a definite world flavour. Think Middle Eastern, Asian and Mexican with a whole lot more thrown in. My idea of heaven! 

Okay so that’s my 15 new- ish finds. I really hope you check them out and have a good look round. You won’t regret it and if you feel like leaving a comment don’t forget to say who sent you…..

So back to the recipe while I struggle to find SEVEN interesting things to share about myself….

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat so they are gluten-free. They are also delicious. They have a nutty whole-wheat flavour which goes perfectly with the sesame oil. You can serve them hot in a stir fry or noodle broth but I actually prefer them cold which is how the Japanese serve them. Something about the cold bringing out the flavours and textures I think. They are also extremely more- ish (not Moorish). You can definitely eat a large bowl by yourself, no problem. Which is fine because they’re good for you.

This is our little chive plant which is growing on our roof terrace. It’s beautiful purple flowers make it stand out from the rest of the herbs so I wanted to do a recipe using chives as a main ingredient. This is a Nigella recipe that I make quite often, I just added the chives, it’s delicious…

Sesame Soba Noodle Salad with Spring Onions & Chives

serves 1, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe

  • about 100 gr soba noodles (about 200 gr cooked)
  • 3 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • a bunch of chives, finely chopped
  • 25 gr (or more) sesame seeds, toasted

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat until golden brown, and tip them into a bowl. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add some salt. Put in the soba noodles and cook them for about 6 -8 minutes (or according to packet instructions) until they are just tender. Have a bowl of iced water waiting to plunge them into after draining.

In the bowl you are going to serve the noodles in, whisk together the vinegar, rice wine, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil. Then add most of the spring onions and chives into the bowl with the cooled, drained noodles and mix together thoroughly before adding most of the sesame seeds and tossing again.

Leave the sesame noodles for about half an hour to let the flavours develop if physically possible.  If not, serve straight away garnished with the remaining, spring onions, chives and sesame seeds.

Okay so here we go: Seven “Interesting” Facts you may not know about me……

  1. I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years (that’s scary)
  2. When I was 13 I saw an episode of the TV show MASH where they had a pet lamb. By the end of the show they had to eat it. I never ate meat again.
  3. I developed breast cancer 2 years ago aged 36. I’ve just finished my treatment which was 6 months of chemo & lapatinib (a clinical trial) followed by an operation to remove the tumor. Then 6 weeks of radiotherapy and then a year of Herceptin.
  4. I now feel better than ever and attribute my swift recovery to a combination of conventional treatment, healthy diet (during treatment I stopped eating dairy (cow) products and all sugars, including fruit), reiki sessions and some alternative medicines such as Salvestrol, LDN and Melatonin. Salvestrol and LDN I will continue to take for the rest of my life.
  5. We used to own a restaurant where I designed the menus but I never went in the kitchen, except to make tea.
  6. None of my friends and family can believe that I now cook because from the age of 18 I lived on a diet that consisted of Marks & Spencer’s mashed potato and hummus, and I NEVER cooked!
  7. My ambition is to publish a vegetarian/vegan cookbook that will be a  vegetarian culinary journey around the world.

Enjoy!!

Warm Potato Salad with Asparagus, Broad Beans and Hazelnut Mint Pesto

28 Apr

This is a great alternative to all those rich mayonnaise based potato salads. It is spring on a plate. Fresh, seasonal, delicious and completely guilt free. I served it warm as a side dish with dinner and then cold for lunch the next day. Both ways were lovely. It would be great for a barbecue or buffet too.

I bought some beautiful baby new potatoes from the market along with fresh asparagus & broad beans. This formed the base of my salad now I just needed  a dressing. My mint plant on the roof terrace is growing like mad with all the rain so I had to use it. A basil pesto would work really well too but I think the mint with the new potatoes is heavenly. The hazelnuts add a slight sweetness which rounds off the flavours and brings it all together.

Warm Potato Salad with Asparagus, Broad Beans & Hazelnut Mint Pesto

serves 2 -3 as a side dish, vegan, gluten-free

  • 300 gr baby new potatoes, cut into 1/2 cm slices
  • 1 bundle fresh asparagus, woody ends snapped off and cut in half or thirds
  • 200 gr broad beans
  • 50 gr toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh mint (keep mint stalks) plus leaves for garnish
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 finely chopped small spring onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a grinding of black pepper

Put the potatoes and mint stalks in a large pan of cold, salted water, bring to the boil & cook until just tender. Add the asparagus & broad beans to the potatoes and cook for another 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and remove the mint stalks.

Meanwhile make the pesto. Process the hazelnuts, mint, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt & pepper to a paste. Taste and add more salt if necessary. If you need to add more liquid use olive oil, lemon juice or a bit of veg stock.

If you like you can peel the broad beans at this point if the skins are tough and you want a brighter green colour. Tip the potatoes, beans, asparagus and spring onions into a bowl, pour over the pesto and mix everything together well. Check seasoning again.

Serve straight away sprinkled with some chopped hazelnuts and mint leaves or store, covered in the fridge until about 10 minutes before you want to serve it. Let it come to room temperature then garnish as above.

This is a really elegant, flavourful side dish that can be adapted to what is in season or what you have in the fridge. Green beans would be nice if you don’t have asparagus and try swapping the mint/hazelnut for parsley/almond pesto.

It has just occurred to me that this is the perfect dish to take to a Royal Wedding party tomorrow. Everyone seems to be watching it on TV at someone’s house and taking something for the buffet. I must be the only person who won’t be watching it. It’s The Washer Up’s only day off so we are going out and getting our hair cut instead…. It’s not like I won’t see the dress or anything. I’m sure there’ll be nothing else on the TV for days……..

Good Luck Kate, you’re going to need it!!

Bhelpuri – A Spice Roasted Chickpea Salad

27 Apr

 

  I know I said it always rains at Easter but this year was ridiculous. On Thursday afternoon (the day before Good Friday) the sky turned an ominous shade of black and we were treated to one of the scariest thunder storms I have ever experienced. The loudest clap of thunder and lightning strike simultaneously conspired to blow up my modem and the electrics in the house. No internet, no TV, no shops open to buy a new modem and no processions to follow and photograph. Just rain, buckets full of it. The kind of rain that comes in the back door while you are mopping the flood at the front door. So I apologise for my recent absence and lack of Semana Santa documentation but I’ve just come back online today and I wasn’t going to go out in that rain and nor, I believe, did Jesus…

So, thankfully, now it has stopped raining and the sun is shining. The electric is back on and the new modem is working. I have lots of recipes to catch up with so I will get on with it. I bought some wholemeal puffed rice from the health food shop and was reminded of a salad we served as a special at the restaurant called Bhelpuri. Bhelpuri is a type of  Mumbai street food. There are many different versions some including potatoes rather than chickpeas but the common ingredients are puffed rice, tamarind chutney, onion, chilli, tomatoes & coriander. It is a dish with many different textures and flavours. The crispyness comes from the puffed rice and also crumbled puris ( a type of fried flatbread) as well as sev (a fried crispy noodle snack) also found in Bombay mix. I couldn’t find any Bombay mix here so I just used the puffed rice.

Let’s start with the spice roasted chickpeas. These are extremely addictive. You will be lucky if they make it into the Bhelpuri. I had to physically restrain myself from eating the whole lot straight off of the baking tray. They are a really tasty, healthy snack on their own and would be great as a nibble with drinks. I got this easy, delicious recipe from Alexa Marsden. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you….

Spice Roasted Chickpeas Recipe

vegan, gluten-free, adapted from Alexa Marsden

  • 1 jar/tin cooked chickpeas 400 gr, rinsed & drained
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Sharwood’s medium curry powder (do not use that horrible generic yellow curry powder) or see the original recipe for a spice breakdown
  • salt & black pepper

After you have rinsed and drained the chickpeas leave them to air dry.  Pre heat oven to 180 C. Mix the curry powder, olive oil, salt & pepper in a large bowl then add the chickpeas and toss to coat evenly. Arrange them in one layer on a lined baking sheet and put it on the lowest rack in the oven. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes shaking the pan half way through. Leave them to cool if you are physically able then tip into a bowl to serve with drinks or see Bhelpuri recipe below.

This is my recipe for Bhelpuri. I researched it and found that every recipe is different. I have given you a list of suggested ingredients You don’t have to use them all. There are no amounts you just add what you think, mix it all together, taste and adjust to your liking.

My Bhelpuri Recipe

serves 3-4 vegan, gluten-free

  • 4oo gr spice roasted chickpeas (above)
  •  puffed rice
  • sev (or Bombay mix)
  • roasted peanuts or cashew nuts
  • crushed puris or poppadoms
  • 1/4 onion or a few spring onions, finely chopped
  • diced cooked potatoes
  • 1 green or red chilli, finely chopped
  • tamarind chutney/ syrup
  • mango chutney
  • lemon juice (essential)
  •   handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tomato, deseeded & diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, deseeded & diced
  • little gem lettuce leaves to serve

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and season with salt & pepper. Add vegetables, chutney, lemon juice and coriander, mix to coat everything then taste and adjust to your liking. Serve in a big bowl or on a small lettuce leaf and top with more puffed rice, sev (Bombay mix) and coriander leaves.

Enjoy!!

Avocado Bean Salad With Lime, Cumin and Coriander Dressing

18 Apr

I just had to share with you my latest “go to” lunch salad. It’s quick, easy and delicious. It’s also vegan & gluten-free but that’s not the point. The point is that I’ve had it for the past three days and I still love it. That is a record for me as I have an extremely short attention span when it comes to food. I get bored really quickly, I need new things all the time. So here it is my new favourite salad, until I get bored and find another one…..

Avocado Bean Salad with Lime, Cumin & Coriander Dressing

serves 1, vegan, gluten-free

  • a big handful of rocket/mixed leaves
  • 1 small avocado, stone removed and chopped
  • the juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1o0 gr cooked red beans or pinto beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 spring onion/scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 spring garlic, green parts, finely chopped
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 or 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a handful of sunflower seeds
  • fresh coriander leaves

Put the salad leaves in a large bowl with the chopped avocado and squeeze the lime juice over the avocado to stop it turning brown.  Add the rest of the ingredients apart from the sunflower seeds & coriander leaves and toss with your hands to coat everything evenly. Pile the salad into a bowl or large plate and top with the sunflower seeds & coriander leaves. Serve with an extra wedge of lime on the side if you like.

This would be really good with an ice cold bottle of lime wedged Coronita or even a classic Margarita…….Salut!

I have a fantastic recipe for the rest of the can of beans that I will post in the next few days , so save them. Get ready for South American Bean Cakes with Arepa Bun and Tomato Chilli Salsa…!!

Mediterroccan Tapas Mezze

6 Apr

This is a bit of a mish mash of different mezze & tapas dishes that I wanted to try. I bought a tin of whole roasted peppers after seeing Jamie Oliver stuff them with ground almonds, Manchego cheese and breadcrumbs for one of his 30 Minute Meals. This is a tin of Pimientos del Piquillo.

This is taken from Iberia Nature “Pimientos del piquillo (piquillo peppers) come from Navarra. These small red peppers are charred over wood charcoal or old vines, then peeled by hand, marinated in olive oil with herbs, and eventually eaten either alone, in a salad or stuffed. The flavour of canned or jarred piquillo peppers is so extraordinary Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Ferran Adrià and many other famous chefs use them. Indeed 99% of Spain’s cooks (amateurs or pros) use canned or jarred piquillos. In general, I’d never recommend a canned product over a fresh one, but in this instance I will.  In the case of piquillos, the essential flavour may actually be enhanced by the preservation, and the texture is definitely improved”.

Here in Andalucia one of the most popular ingredients used for stuffing the peppers is Bacalao, (salt cod) mixed with a kind of bechamel sauce. I have been caught out before in tapas bars when we first came here thinking the stuffing was mashed potato because that is what it looks like. Also when you ask most Spanish people if something is vegetarian they say yes even if it contains fish. I have always wanted to make a my own version of this dish as it looks so appealing.  I used some leftover mashed potato mixed with Jamie’s ground almonds, Manchego cheese, breadcrumbs and sherry (Jerez) vinegar to create the stuffing and used a piping bag to fill them. Much easier than trying to do it with a spoon.

Another recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a while is Foul Mdammas. A Middle Eastern dish made with fava beans/broad beans, tomatoes, lemon juice herbs & spices it is a fresh & seasonal salad. The recipe came from the beautiful Orange Blossom Water . I used frozen broad beans for this recipe which I peeled after cooking but you don’t have to. I just prefer the bright green colour and don’t really like the texture of the outer skins. I topped my Foul with some crumbled Feta because I couldn’t resist.

I haven’t made Hummus for a long time which is strange because it used to be my favourite thing. I think I may have OD’d on it slightly. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it was all that I ate for a long time when we had the restaurant. I didn’t have time to eat properly so I would just grab some crackers and hummus. I, not surprisingly, got sick of it and never wanted to see it again. I think I am now ready to rediscover it’s charms as a delicious, nutritious snack high in protein, fibre and iron.

Of course you need some sort of bread on a mezze / tapas plate. Something to use as a vehicle for all the delicious goodies. A scoop or shovel, if you like, to carry the food to your mouth. I bought some Atta the other day which is a soft wholemeal flour used for making chapattis. This was the perfect excuse to debut the new purchase.

I followed the recipe on the back of the flour packet and added in the flavours from my Leek & Fennel Seed Flatbreads to spice them up a bit. So there you have it, my justification for the fabulous  fusion of flavours on one plate. I’ve said it before, the southern coast of Spain is only eight miles from Morocco at the narrowest point across the Atlantic. Well that’s my excuse anyway….

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers Recipe

serves 2 or 3 as a tapa, vegetarian, adapted from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals

  • 1 jar/tin pimientos del piquillo or whole roasted peppers there are 8 in a 450 gr tin
  • some cold mashed potato (about 2 potatoes worth)
  • about 50 gr Manchego cheese, grated
  • 50 gr ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary plus extra for topping
  • 1/2 tsp sherry (Jerez) vinegar (or balsamic)
  • salt & black pepper
  • wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Put the cold mash, manchego, almonds, chopped rosemary, Jerez vinegar, salt & pepper into a processor or bowl and blend until incorporated. Taste for seasoning.

 Put the mixture into a piping bag (or freezer bag with a corner cut off) and pipe the mixture into the peppers until full. Put in an ovenproof roasting dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, some chopped rosemary and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

Foul Mdammas Recipe

serves 2 or 3 as part of a mezze, vegetarian. Adapted from Orange Blossom Water

  • 200 gr frozen broad beans
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
  • the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp preserved lemon peel, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • parsley leaves and Feta (optional) for garnish

Cook the beans according to the instructions on the pack, drain under cold water and peel when cool enough to handle. You don’t have to peel them but I think it tastes much fresher. Add the rest of the ingredients apart from the garnish and mix well. Check seasoning and serve garnished with extra parsley leaves & some crumbled Feta if you like.

My Hummus Recipe

makes about 5oo gr, vegan

  • 1 tin/ jar cooked chickpeas, drained, rinsed & dried
  • 2 or 3 tbsp tahini paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1  or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon peel (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp yemeni lemon pickle (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  • sesame seeds
  • chilli oil

Put everything (except sesame seeds & chilli oil) in a food processor or bowl and blend until smooth.  Taste and add more salt/lemon juice/tahini/olive oil if required. Hummus is such a personal thing you need to tailor it to your taste. Blend again and store in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to serve, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and a little chilli oil (or olive oil).

Leek & Fennel Seed Wholemeal Chapattis Recipe

makes 4, vegetarian

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 leeks, cut in half lengthways, rinsed and finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • 300 gr wholemeal chapatti Atta (or wholemeal bread flour)
  • cold water

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat. Add the fennel seeds and when they start to pop add in the leeks, chilli flakes a pinch of salt and black pepper. Saute for about 3 minutes until the leeks are cooked and slightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Put the flour into a large bowl with 1/2 tsp salt and mix. When cooled stir the leeks through the flour to distribute evenly. Add cold water bit by bit until you have a stiff dough and it stays together in a ball. Knead the dough for 3 or 4 minutes, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Divide the dough into four balls and roll each ball out on a floured surface to about 2 or 3 mm thick. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and cook the chapattis turning frequently until golden brown. Rub with a little oil or ghee and keep warm under a clean tea towel (or warm oven) while you cook the rest. Serve immediately.

Buen Provecho! 

    

Local Goat’s Cheese and Pear Salad with toasted almonds and rosemary honey dressing

31 Jan

 

Today while walking the dog I walked past lettuces, Romaine, Lollo Rosso and Cos …

Almond trees with their beautiful barely pink blossom….

A bee on wild rosemary flowers…..

Some unexpected pears amongst the ever present mandarins……..

And some goats which reminded of my visit to the local Goat’s Cheese producer “El Pastor del Valle”….

 This just shows how my mind works and proves that I am thinking about food all the time. While I am walking the inspiration and ideas come from all around me and somehow work themselves out into a finished dish….

This salad can be served for lunch or as a starter. It would also work as a dessert/cheese course after a meal or with drinks. Just arrange the pears, cheese, almonds and honey on a board with some biscuits and let everyone help themselves. The flavour combination of sour sharp goat’s cheese, sweet honey, juicy pears and crunchy almonds is a lovely alternative to the Stilton, Pear & Walnut classic….

Goat’s Cheese & Pear Salad with Toasted Almonds and Rosemary Honey Dressing

serves 2 vegetarian

  • 2 pears, peeled, cored, sliced
  • about 150gr goat’s cheese (I used a hard goat’ cheese but you can use a soft rind) sliced
  • a handful of toasted almonds, plus extra for garnish
  • some mixed lettuce leaves (a big handful each)
  •  about 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  •  1 tbsp sherry (Jerez) vinegar (or balsamic)
  • 2 tbsp rosemary honey (just use normal honey and add about 1/4 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary if you don’t have any)
  • salt & pepper
  • rosemary flowers to garnish (if you can find some) but not too many they are very strong

Wash & pick your salad leaves and put them in a large bowl with the sliced pears, cheese and toasted almonds. Pour the olive oil, vinegar and rosemary honey into a small bowl and whisk together well. Season with salt & pepper and taste, you can add more oil/vinegar/honey to your taste. Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and toss together with your hands. Pile onto your serving plate(s), add a few rosemary flowers onto the cheese & pears and top with some more toasted almonds…

 It really is that simple, enjoy!!

    

My Big Fat Greek Salad with Grilled Halloumi

11 Jan

If you’ve never tried Halloumi cheese before, buy some. I promise you its delicious. It’s a Cypriot sheep’s milk cheese and I would go as far as to say it is my favourite cheese. Even saying that makes me feel bad about Feta. I love Feta too it’s just that Halloumi is more difficult to get over here. So, when I do see some, I buy 3 blocks because I know they will sell out quickly and not get any back in for weeks. I think it’s a case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder“. Does that apply to cheese too? I think Feta suffers from being slightly more (dare I say it) common. Now I feel really awful.

The best thing about Halloumi is it doesn’t melt, it cooks. This means you can grill it on a dry pan or griddle and serve it as you would chicken like the Grilled Halloumi Sandwich  that I have posted before. The texture is actually quite meaty when it’s cooked and its salty flavour stands up really well to loads of fresh herbs & lemon juice. This salad is the perfect backdrop from which your Halloumi can shine. In the interest of fairness and equality Foil Baked Feta would be a great alternative if you can’t get hold of any Halloumi…..

Greek Salad with Grilled Halloumi

serves 2 vegetarian

  • 1 pack halloumi 240gr sliced into 1/2cm slices
  • 1 big tomato chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber diced
  • 1/2 shallot finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • a handful of black olives (I left them out because I don’t like them)
  • a handful of rocket
  • 1 little gem lettuce heart, cut into quarters, lengthways
  • sea salt
  • 1 lemon
  • a handful of chopped coriander or parsley. Stalks as well.
  • a handful of chopped mint
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 red chilli (deseeded & chopped) optional
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • coriander/parsley leaves for garnish

Put the little gem wedges on the plate, drizzle with a little olive oil, lemon juice & a little sea salt. Put the tomatoes, cucumber, shallot, olives, oregano & half the fresh herbs in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil &  a good squeeze of lemon juice, season with salt & pepper and set aside. In a shallow dish large enough to hold the Halloumi slices mix together about 4 tbsp olive oil the juice of half the lemon, cumin, sumac, chilli, black pepper and the rest of the fresh herbs.

Heat a non stick frying pan or griddle to hot. (Don’t add any oil). Put the Halloumi slices in the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides. When the halloumi is browned put the slices into the dish with the marinade and cover it in the marinade. (You may need to add more oil/lemon juice). When all of the Halloumi is in the marinade add the rocket to the tomato salad and toss together with you hands. Pile this on top of the little gem wedges then arrange your Halloumi slices on top and around the salad. Pour over the remaining marinade and serve garnished with the coriander/parsley leaves.

You could also serve some toasted pita wedges on the side to soak up the delicious marinade juices. This is a dish you could serve to hardened meat eaters and they wouldn’t notice it was vegetarian. It’s so good, please try it!

Roasted Squash, Red Onion and Quinoa Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing

4 Jan

This little squash growing on the ground on one of the farms where we walk the dog was the inspiration for a quinoa (keen-wah) salad I made for lunch yesterday. Quinoa originated in the Andean region of South America where it has been an important food for 6,000 years. It is so highly regarded because of its nutritional value, having a high protein content, essential amino acids and fibre. 

This is the first time I have cooked with Quinoa. After all the indulgence over Christmas this is my attempt at healthy eating. I roasted the squash & red onion the night before for dinner and had some left over to put in this salad. Make sure you season the quinoa well it soaks up lots of flavour…

Roasted Squash, Red Onion & Quinoa Salad with Tahini Dressing

serves 3 or 4, vegetarian

  • 1/3 squash or pumpkin about 500 gr cut into 1 cm dice
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into eighths (wedges)
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary leaves finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • 2 or 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup quinoa about 200 gr
  • 1 cup water 250 ml
  • 1 cup veg stock 250 ml
  • salt & pepper
  • a handful of chopped pistachios (I used walnuts but pistachios would be better)
  • a handful of sultanas

For the dressing

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 0r 3 tbsp tahini
  • the juice & zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp hot water from the kettle (maybe more)
  • 1/ tsp salt

First roast the vegetables. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees. Put the squash cubes & red onion wedges on a lined baking tray, drizzle with the olive oil & balsamic vinegar, sprinkle over the salt, pepper, chilli flakes & rosemary and toss together with your hands to coat the veg. Roast in the preheated oven for about 20 – 25 minutes until the squash is tender but not mushy. Remove from the oven & leave to cool.

Meanwhile cook the quinoa. Put the quinoa, water, veg stock, salt & pepper in a medium saucepan and heat until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed about 15 minutes. You may need to add more liquid. It is done when you can see the curly swirl in each grain. Fluff up with a fork, leave to cool and toss with the squash, onions, pistachios & sultanas. Check for seasoning.

Make the dressing. Whisk together the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, zest & olive oil. Add the hot water & salt and continue whisking until you get the desired consistency. Add more hot water/oil/lemon juice if you need to. Pour half of the dressing over the quinoa salad and mix to coat evenly.

Serve the salad at room temperature with some extra tahini dressing on the side….. You could also crumble over some feta or goat’s cheese for extra flavour.

Enjoy!

  

  

 

Avocado “Caesar” Salad with parmesan croutons

3 Jan

Sometimes inspiration for lunch is staring you right in the face. This is what we saw growing today while walking the dog…

Rows and rows of beautiful bright green lettuces growing next to avocado trees….

Some avocados were just lying on the ground so I had to rescue one. They would rot otherwise. I bought the lettuce though. I bought some lettuce hearts or little gems as they are sometimes called. An original Caesar salad is made with Cos or Romaine lettuce. The smooth avocado is the perfect contrast in texture to the crunchy juicy lettuce and the parmesan croutons have to be big. Don’t bother with those bags of smelly centimetre cubes you can buy. Homemade croutons taste so much better…

This is my vegetarian interpretation of a Caesar dressing. It doesn’t have any anchovies in it but feel free to add a couple if you like that sort of thing. You  could also make your own mayonnaise, this is my quick, cheat version using good store-bought mayonnaise.

Avocado “Caesar” Salad with Parmesan Croutons

serves 2 vegetarian

For the croutons:

  • about 10 cm of a baguette or other rustic bread cut in to 2cm cubes
  • 2 or 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • finely grated parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium high heat. Throw in the bread cubes/chunks and fry until browned on all sides (about 2 or 3 minutes). Line a bowl with kitchen paper, put the cooked croutons in the bowl, sprinkle with salt, black pepper & finely grated parmesan. Shake them around a bit to coat them in parmesan and set aside. They are best served immediately but can be kept in an airtight container for a couple of  days.

For the Salad & Dressing:

  • 1/2 a large avocado
  • 2 little gems or lettuce hearts
  • some shaved parmesan
  • 3 heaped tbsp good mayonnaise
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 or 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 or 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp finely grated parmesan
  • parmesan croutons (see above)

To make the dressing put the mayo, lemon juice & parmesan in a bowl and blend with a stick blender or balloon whisk. Slowly trickle in the olive oil while blending or whisking until you reach the desired consistency. I like it quite thick. Taste it and add more lemon juice/parmesan/olive oil to your taste. When you are happy with your dressing cut the core end off the lettuce hearts then cut them lengthways into quarters/wedges. scoop out the avocado and slice it lengthways. Lay the lettuce wedges on your plate and place the avocado slices in between. Drizzle a good amount of the dressing all over the letuce wedges with a spoon, top with the croutons and shave over some fresh parmesan.

Enjoy!

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