Friday, 10 July 2015

Warm Butternut Squash Salad

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of salads. They are so easy to make, and you can create all sorts of flavour and texture combinations. And to top it all, they are healthy and good for you too. So here is one that I made recently, as a comforting treat after a busy week. 

Serves 2

½ butternut squash
4 carrots
a small bunch of fresh lemon thyme
4 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
125g baby button mushrooms
¼ iceberg lettuce
¼ red pointed pepper
½ courgette
100g umbrian lentils
100ml dry white wine
rapeseed oil
freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180oC. 

While the oven gets warm, peel the butternut squash, slice and chop it into small squares. Wash the carrots and slice them into 2cm pieces. Place both butternut squash and carrots in a baking tray, drizzle with oil and use scissors to chop a bit of lemon thyme over them. Turn to make sure the oil is evenly covered, and place in the oven for 1 hour or so until the pieces are soft. 

Place the lentils in a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Boil for 25 minutes or until soft. Drain.

Peel and finely chop the shallots and garlic, and sauté in a pan with oil. Add freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Chop some lemon thyme over it to taste. When the onions are soft, add the white wine, and leave to reduce. Any wine is ok, but I find a dry or at least medium works better as they add more of an edge to the taste. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer, and add the lentils.  

Chop the lettuce and spread out on two plates. Finely slice the red pepper lengthways and spread over the lettuce. Use a julienne slicer and make the courgette into fine strips (if you don’t have a julienne slicer just finely slice it lengthways). Add the courgette to the plates.

Spoon the baked vegetables over the salad, and add the onion and mushroom mix to the top. Sprinkle a few drops of oil over the salad, and serve while it’s warm. 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Banana & Date Smoothie

This smoothie is rather thick and yummy, and can be enjoyed as a breakfast on its own, or maybe as an afternoon snack. It is both filling and full of energy, so should keep you going for a little while. And it is easy to make as well!

2 bananas
5 dates
3 tablespoons soya yoghurt
a pinch of ground cardamom
a pinch of ground cinnamon

Peel the bananas, take the pips out of the dates, and add all ingredients to a food processor or smoothie maker. Whizz until you have a smooth mixture. Pour into a glass, and enjoy!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Shaved Courgette Salad

As it has been very hot here recently, I fancied something quite light and refreshing for my lunch today. And it had to be something that was simple to assemble, as I was far too warm to have any energy for complicated cooking. A look in the fridge revealed that I had the ingredients for a salad, and a few minutes later I was ready to go back out into the sun with my plate of tempting greens.

Serves 1 as a main salad or 2 as a starter / side salad

a handful of spinach leaves
1 medium sized courgette
1/2 red pepper
a handful of tomberries or cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon of pine nuts
the zest of ¼ lime
the juice of ¼ lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Place the washed spinach leaves on a plate or in a bowl. Use a mandolin slicer or similar device to finely slice the courgette lengthways and place the strips on top of the spinach leaves. Finely chop the red pepper, and scatter the pieces on top of the courgette. Add the tomberries, or slice a few cherry tomatoes in half and add these. Finally scatter a few pine nuts on top.

Zest a quarter of a lime, and also juice this quarter. Add to a small jar along with the olive oil and maple syrup. Shake well, and pour over your salad.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Cherry Chocolate Brownie Cake

This is one of those cakes that doesn't look like much, but is deliciously moorish once you start eating it. It's fairly straightforward to make, and can be made in advance and stored in the freezer until you need it. The recipe is taken from the Swedish TV programme 'Go' Kvall'

For the cake
150g butter
150g caster sugar
150g dark chocolate
4 eggs

For the glaze
150g butter
90g icing sugar
150g dark chocolate
4 eggs
30g icing sugar

For decoration
a handful of cherries 
some chocolate sticks
100ml whipping cream

Pre heat your oven to 150 C.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the sugar. Remove from the heat. Finely chop the chocolate, and add this to the melted butter. Mix until it is smooth and all the chocolate has melted. Split the eggs, and add the egg yolks to the mixture. Leave the mixture to cool a little bit. 

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff and carefully fold into the chocolate mix. It's a good idea to add a little egg white at a time, as that makes it easier not to beat out all the air you have worked to get into them. 

Grease a 24 cm cake tin and pour the mixture into it. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes until baked. Take the cake out of the tin and leave it to cool down. It will sink a little bit in the middle. 

Make the chocolate glazing while the cake cools down. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add 90g icing sugar. Finely chop the chocolate and add to the melted sugar mix. Remove from the heat, and mix well until all the chocolate has melted. Split the eggs, and add the egg yolks to the chocolate mixture. Stir well. Leave the mixture to cool for a little while, then whisk the egg whites and add the remaining icing sugar into them when they are starting to get stiff. This should turn into a soft meringue, and it should hold soft peaks when you hold the whisk up. Carefully fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture.  

To decorate; whip the cream and place in the middle of the cake. Add a handful of putted cherries, and finally add the chocolate decorations. 

Pour the chocolate glazing over the cake, and place in the freezer until you need it. It will keep for 8 weeks in the freezer and 4 to 5 days in the fridge after you have defrosted it. Allow 4 hour to defrost after removing from the freezer. Decorate while it is defrosting. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Green Quiche

Fast food anyone? This quiche only took me about 15 minutes to make, and then it stayed in the oven for 40 minutes while I sat outside reading my book. Not much more effort than calling for a take-away.

You can make two individual quiches like I've done here, or you can make one larger one, it depends on what oven-proof dishes you have handy.

I was lazy today and used ready made (shop-bought) gluten free pastry, but you can make your own instead if you prefer.

This quiche is lovely served with a small side salad.

Serves 2

100g petit pois peas (frozen)
100g broadbeans (frozen)
50g samphire
400g shortcrust pastry
1 tablespoon oil for greasing the dish
1 egg
100ml double cream
250g mozzarella cheese
a large pinch of dried mixed herbs
a pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Turn the oven on to 180oC and let it pre-heat while you make the quiche.

Bring water to the boil and add the peas and broadbeans. Let them simmer for 5 minutes before adding the samphire, then simmer for another 4 minutes. Drain.

Grease your oven-proof dish(es) and place the pastry in it. I'm lazy and tend to just press it out into the dish, but you could do it properly and use a rolling pin to roll it flat then add it. Up to you. Make sure the corners don't get too thick and clumpy.

Tear the mozzarella cheese into small pieces and scatter on the base. Grate some black pepper over it, and then add the boiled greens.

Mix the egg and the double cream in a bowl, and add a large pinch of dried mixed herbs. Pour this mixture over the quiches.

Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes until the egg and cream mixture has set.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Purple Potato Salad

You don't necessarily need purple potatoes for this recipe, but I just couldn't resist them last time I went shopping. They are so beautiful and inviting, and so vibrant when you cut into them. Of course they lose a lot of their colour when boiled, but you still end up with thrillingly blue tatties.

I think a potato salad goes with most things; Sunday roast, boiled greens, juicy salad, barbecue, ... and the list goes on. I had mine with boiled asparagus and a salad, and it was delicious.

Serves 2

4 medium size potatoes
2 handfuls of broadbeans (frozen)
2 eggs
4 spring onions
2 tablespoons of sour cream
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
a pinch of freshly ground pepper
a pinch of freshly ground sea salt

Wash your potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces (you're going to chop them up anyway, so you might as well save on cooking time by chopping them before boiling). Place in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to the boil. Add the frozen broadbeans, and let the water get back to boiling. Boil until the potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes.

While the potatoes and broadbeans boil, also boil your eggs until they are hard-boiled but not green, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Finely chop the spring onions, and place with the rest of the cold ingredients in a bowl. Drain the boiled veg. and the egg, and shell the egg. Chop the egg into pieces, and mix all the ingredients together.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Asparagus & Samphire Salad

A warming salad can be just the thing to round off a warm summers day. It's light and delicate, easy and quick to make, and gently warms you while the temperature drops and the evening draws in. There are unlimited possibilities for ideas, but here's one which contains samphire, a salty march vegetable that's both tasty and nutritious. And being quite salty, it's perfect for a warm day when you need to replenish some of the salt you lost during the day.

Serves 2

20 cherry tomatoes
2 eggs
200g broadbeans (frozen)
2 bunches asparagus
80g samphire
a few salad leaves
4 stalks of spring onion

Turn your oven on to 180oC  and slice the tomatoes in half. Place them on a baking tray and roast for about 15 to 20 minutes then remove from the oven.

While the tomatoes are roasting, boil the egg to your preference. I like them hard-boiled but not green, so I boil them for 6 to 7 minutes. Shell your egg and leave it in hand-warm water until you need it.

At the same time as you start boiling the eggs, also bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the broadbeans and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the asparagus, leave to boil for 4 minutes, and finally add the samphire and cook for a further 4 minutes. (If you are using tinned broadbeans, drain them, and add them last when the sampire has only got one more minute to cook.)

Tear the salad leaves into pieces, and place on plates. Finely chop the spring onion and scatter then over the salad leaves. Drain the greens and add to your plates. Then divide the tomatoes evenly, and finally slice the eggs lengthways and place round the edge of the plates.

If you want you could add a little drizzle of olive oil, or even a vinaigrette. The Lemon and Maple syrup vinaigrette goes quite well.