Thursday, 14 August 2008

Nectarine and Gorgonzola Salad with a Beetroot Vinaigrette

This is an ideal summer salad, whose heady blend of flavours is outshone only by the bright and vivid colours it creates. I'm a big fan of beetroot dressings because let's face it, it is super cool to have such an intense fuschia colour on your plate. I'm also learning to love the many wonderful ways you can incorporate fruit into a savoury meal. Creamy cheese is somewhat of a treat for us and it was wonderful to pair it with rockett grown on our windowsill. Unfortunately, the only downside is that I can't take credit for the recipe. It is of course a brainchild of the genius himself, Ottolenghi. Original recipe here.

I am so pleased with this dressing though, that it will be my entry for this month's No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa of Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen as this month's theme is Salad Dressings.

Nectarine and Gorgonzola Salad

1 endive, leaves separated

Handful of rocket leaves

1 nectarine, cut into sixths

Thin slice of Gorgonzola, crumbled

Almonds with the skin still on and cut into chunks

Beetroot Dressing

2-3 large slices of beetroot (preferably home cooked - either bake or steam)

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons cider vinegar (I love Aspall's unpasteurised)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove

3 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the beet, honey, vinegar, mustard and garlic clove using a hand blender. Once blended, add the olive oil slowly until a thick, creamy consistency has been achieved.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Stuffed Sardines with Red Pepper Stew

Yet another simple but incredibly tasty fish recipe from me. I am often drawn to vegan cooking and love to cook with vegetables, whole grains etc however I just can't keep away from fish. Nutritious, versatile and delicious, fish is our common ground between my vegetarian preferences and the boy's full on carnivore cravings. The original recipe was taken from this month's Observer Food Monthly and is an Angela Hartnett Italian creation.

Stuffed Sardines with Red Pepper Stew

Sardine fillets - 4 per person

2 sweet romero peppers

garlic cloves

olive oil



fresh basil

flat leaf parsley


bread crumbs

zest of 1 lemon

Slice the romero peppers lengthways and thinly. Saute them in olive oil with 2 garlic cloves. Once starting to cook, add water and thyme and simmer until soft, but not brown.

Meanwhile, mix 4 anchovies, 1 garlic clove, 2 tbsp breadcrumbs, the lemon zest and a good handful of flat leaf parsley in a food processor or with a hand blender. Stuff the sardine fillets with the mixture and bake in a lightly greased dish for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Serve atop the red pepper stew.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Smoked Trout, Beetroot and Horseradish Salad

Another very simple yet flavoursome fish recipe, this was ideal for tonight's hot and sticky temperatures. This was partly a combination of a Daily Green recipe and a UKTV Food recipe made using some beautiful smoked trout purchased at the weekend in the new Chegworth Valley farm shop on Kensington Church Street. There is just something about beetroot and horseradish which make them one of my favourite flavour pairings. Beetroot also works well with wasabi.
Smoked Trout, Beetroot and Horseradish Salad
2 beetroot (slow roasted in tin foil for an hour or more until soft)
2 smoked trout fillets
handful salad leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp horseradish sauce
garlic clove
1 heaped tbsp goat's milk yoghurt
Slice the whole roast beetroot and put two thick slices in to blend along with a garlic clove, the goat's milk yoghurt, the olive oil, the white wine vinegar and the horseradish sauce. Blend until smooth and creamy, using a hand blender.
Scatter a good handful of salad leaves on a plate, top with the remaining slices of beetroot and some chunks of smoked trout before decorating with dollops of the hot pink beetroot dressing.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sumac Salmon

I bought some sumac in The Spice Shop, which just happens to be across the road from our flat. I originally bought it for an Ottolenghi recipe but was curious to find some more ways to use it. A brief internet search sourced this simple find - there is something immensely satisfying about recipes which use very few ingredients yet whose flavours are intense and strong. I am constantly looking for new and exciting ways to cook fish, so this one pleased me on a number of fronts. I found the original recipe here:
Sumac Salmon
2 salmon fillets
balsamic vinegar
lemon juice
Rinse salmon fillets and pat dry. Put in a dish and dust liberally with sumac, probably around 1/2 teaspoon per fillet. Top with a good glug of balsamic vinegar and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 mins to 1 hour.
Once marinated, steam in bamboo steamers wrapped in greaseproof paper for 10 minutes or until cooked through.
Serve with steamed vegetables. Once plated, drizzle freshly squeezed lemon juice on top and season with salt and pepper.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Poached Chicken with White Beans and Salsa Verde

This is a beautiful summer recipe which can be served warm or cold. I'm a relatively new convert to salsa verde, but the intense flavours are incredible. I found the original recipe at Times Online.

Poached Chicken with White Beans and Salsa Verde

2 organic chicken breasts

1 onion

2 bay leaves

6 peppercorns

1 lemon

1 spring rosemary and/or thyme

white beans - soaked overnight and cooked for one hour

baby spinach

1 big handful parsley

1 handful fresh basil

1 handful fresh mint

6 anchovies

1 tbsp capers

olive oil

garlic cloves

If you are using dried beans, set them simmering whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place a deep frying pan on the hob and fill with enough water to cover the chicken fillets. Add half an onion, the peppercorns, half a lemon (sliced), the bay leaves, the thyme and rosemary to the water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the chicken breasts and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the fillets from the water (the original recipe advises to leave them in but I find this makes them tough) and slice on a diagonal into hearty chunks.

Make the salsa verde by blending the parsley, basil, mint, 2 garlic cloves, 6 anchovies, the capers and a good glug of olive oil. I used my trusty hand blender to whizz up the sauce.

Mix the cooked white beans in a bowl along with shredded spinach leaves (I also used a handful of rockett), a glug of olive oil and the juice of the other half of the lemon. Season with salt and pepper and toss until well combined.

Pile the beans and spinach into the centre of a plate, top with the chicken chunks and spoon dollops of the lovely fresh salsa verde on top.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Swiss Chard with Chickpeas and Feta

This is not a particularly photogenic dish (especially not when it's been papped at my desk during a muggy midweek lunchtime) but it is absolutely one of those recipes where the simplicity and brevity of the list of ingredients belie the complexity and richness of the flavours. I'm always interested in finding great ways to use the more unusual leafy greens (chard, kale, cavolo nero etc) and in my mind, this sits well on its own as a main dish, but can also be served on the side for those who prefer a more substantial main course. I got the original recipe from Abel & Cole (whose boxes I was a huge fan of until I moved to Portobello Road where I could buy my veggies literally outside my front door) but I can't find it on their site now.

Swiss Chard with Chickpeas and Feta
1 bunch Swiss Chard
1 cup chickpeas (soaked overnight and boiled for an hour)
2 cloves garlic
olive oil
3 spring onions
chopped fresh dill
feta cheese

Rinse the chard, chop it roughly and transfer it still wet to a frying pan. Add a splash more water and sautee it in a mix of olive oil and water, along with the garlic cloves, until the leaves soften and reduce. I don't like to overcook mine so usually only take 5 mins or so. Thinly slice the spring onions and add them to the frying pan, along with the chickpeas and chopped dill. Combine the ingredients well and transfer to an oven proof dish. Season with salt and pepper before baking for 20 minutes. Add a scattering of chopped feta cheese to the dish and grill for a final 5 to 10 minutes or until the feta begins to brown.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

On a Blog Roll

Part of the reason I started my own blog is because I spend a fair amount of time on other people's blogs, using them as inspiration for my own cooking at home. I hoped that one day other people might find my recipes as useful as I do theirs. This week, I seem to have done a big round up of recipes from some of my favourite blogs and it has really made me realise what a fantastic resource the blogosphere is for cooking. It's now become my number one option when I have an ingredient I don't know what to do with, or an idea which needs fulfilling.

101 Cookbooks - Warm, Nutty, Cinnamon Quinoa Porridge

Starting with breakfast, this is a wonderful recipe from 101 Cookbooks, absolutely one of my top favourite sites ever. Cook rich red quinoa with almond milk and water, flavour it with agave and cinnamon before enriching it with berries and walnuts. I made two batches and had the second batch cold at work.

Corn Pancakes with Tomato Sauce

This simple but effect recipe is from one of my new favourites, Diet Dessert and Dogs. I will admit that I am a bit of a puritan when it comes to the type of ingredients I will cook with and it was fantastic to discover someone with the same beliefs (flax instead of eggs, spelt instead of wheat, agave instead of sugar). Believe you me, there are now plenty of Ricki's recipes on my To Do List. Not only that, but I actually used a half a cup of cornmeal (a newly discovered ingredient) which gave the pancakes a really nice texture. I served them with slices of avocado covered in piri piri spice and freshly cooked corn on the cob, which is just coming into season here.

Mango Peanut Curry

The boy outright sneered at this when he walked through the door tonight. "Oh" he said. "Tofu. You know I don't really like it". "It's homemade!" I said, "it's completely different". He took a bite and grudgingly conceded that homemade tofu was indeed a world away from the slimy wobbly shop bought stuff. He took a second bite, slathered in peanut butter, paused only to say "Oh my god this is good" before actually licking the empty plate a mere nanosecond later. This recipe was from Unique Little Bits, another great inspiration for dinners and light bites. It's basically an easy massaman style curry - peanut butter, coconut milk and Thai curry paste but it's creamy flavours are unbelievably good. I never would have thought of using mango in a curry but this was actually Lisa Rene's entry for the Cinco de Mango and I can definitely testify to its success.

I made my own tofu for this dish following Fuss Free Flavours recipe and am starting to think I really need a tofu press now. Maybe I am just becoming more and more like Chocolate and Zucchini as I'm starting to think I'll soon need to seek professional help for my addiction to kitchen gadgets!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Savoury Pesto Tomato Muffins

I've been toying with the idea of doing a savoury vegan spelt muffin for a while now but couldn't find a recipe, so I decided to bite the bullet and make up my own. I'm pleased to say that they were a huge success - wheat-free and healthy yet bursting with flavour and texture.

Savoury Pesto Tomato Muffins

1 cup wholewheat spelt flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup almond meal

3/4 cup almond milk

pinch of salt & freshly ground black pepper

dried mixed herbs

pinch of onion powder

pinch of garlic granules

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp water

3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

handful of chopped sundried tomatoes

handful of toasted pinenuts

handful of halved cherry tomatoes

Mix the spelt flour, cornmeal and almond meal in a bowl until well mixed. Add the salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic granules, baking powder and baking soda and combine. Add the flax mixture and almond milk and stir until a smooth batter is formed but don't overmix. Stir in the fresh basil, sundried tomatoes, pinenuts and cherry tomatoes, reserving a little of each to decorate. Pour a dollop of the mixture into muffin cases and top with a halved cherry tomato and a scattering of toasted pinenuts and basil leaves. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Bear in mind that the cherry tomatoes do make the muffins quite moist so the skewer might not come out totally clean even when the muffins are cooked.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Summer Salads

I always prefer to eat lightly in the evenings rather than heavy dinners, particularly in summer where the long evenings and fresh ingredients seem to insist on this. Here are a couple of light summer salads we've been enjoying in the past couple of weeks.

Asparagus, Fennel, Pea, Mint and Feta Salad

Baby spinach leaves

1 bunch of asparagus

shaved fennel

feta cheese

handful of peas

handful of mint

handful of sesame seeds (unhulled)

olive oil

white balsamic

Boil the asparagus and peas for a couple of minutes and refresh under cold water. Throw the salad ingredients together and drizzle a little olive oil and white balsamic vinegar over.

Beetroot, Chard and Caper Salad

baby chard leaves
handful of curly parsley
white wine vinegar
olive oil
Wrap the beetroot in tin foil and roast it in the oven for at least an hour (depending on size of beetroot). Once cooked, the skin is easy to peel off. Slice the beetroot, arrange over baby chard leaves. Sprinkle capers and chopped curly parsley on top. Top with a light salad dressing of olive oil and white wine vinegar.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Simply Beautiful Cocktail

In Saigon, drinking was a really big part of my life but after leaving there, I really felt like taking a break and actually barely drank for more than a year. Nowadays, I like the odd tipple but definitely have a weakness for good quality cocktails. No sugary syrup or grenadine, no colas or other fizzy drinks and I'm even looking into buying some organic spirits such as Square One Vodka. We needed a little pick-me-up on Monday night so I created the below cocktail which was absolutely divine, it is somehow so much easier to fool yourself that drinking is good for you if you mix it with pure fruit and fine ingredients. We didn't know what to name the new cocktail, but Al Green was playing in the background so we named it after that particular song which seemed pretty apt.

The Simply Beautiful Cocktail
One big glug of vodka
One big glug of cassis
One frozen banana
One handful of frozen blueberries
One handful of frozen raspberries
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
Juice of one pomegranate (just cut in half and juice each half on a citrus juicer as you would an orange)
Half a cup of almond milk
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Simply blend all the ingredients in a good quality high speed blender or use a hand held blender.