Pistachio, pomegranate & herby rice

We’ve well and truly hit BBQ season. I love the whole shabang, I like making plates and bowls of food that people can dip into, and I enjoy the consideration process about which textures and tastes will mix and match the best. When done right BBQ’s are food festivals. They bring people together in the sunshine to enjoy old classics mixed with new tinkerings and tastes.

This salad is a perfect addition to any BBQ spread. It’s more impressive and interesting than your average rice. The fruity sweetness from pomegranate and lemon works really well with the salty crunchy nuts, making it pretty god damn moreish. I wouldn’t worry what to match this one with, it goes with fish, meat or just a bit of green salad. If you’re lucky you might have enough left after guests to just enjoy a simple bowl on it’s own the next day.

rice salad_4

Weights and measures

You don’t need to worry about following specifics too firmly on this kind of thing. It’s nice to prepare for people coming with music on and a feeling of freedom in the kitchen, rather than the prescriptive panic of half measures and exacting teaspoons.

Roughly speaking you need the following for 6 servings:

  • 500g cooked basmati and wild rice (about 180 grams pre cooked weight)
  • 2 generous tablespoons pomegranate seeds (plus extra to sprinkle on top)
  • 2 generous tablespoons of crushed pistachios (plus extra to sprinkle on top)
  • 2 big handfuls chopped mint
  • 2 big handfuls of chopped basil
  • Juice from a lemon
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

rice salad_1

How to make:

  1. Cook your basmati and wild rice according the instructions. Make sure you don’t overcook it. The basmati should be soft and fluffy rather than soggy. Leave it to thoroughly drain and cool before you mix in the other ingredients.
  2. Add the fruit, nuts and herbs, give it a good mix
  3. Mix the lemon and oil together separately, then add to the rice dish. You might not need all the oil suggested, just add half, some salt and pepper and taste first. You can tweak to add more lemon, more oil and more seasoning to your own tastes.
  4. Cover until you’re ready to serve. Make sure this doesn’t go to the table straight from the fridge, room temperature is best alongside your hot BBQ food.
  5.  Before you serve, sprinkle with more pomegranates and nuts

Enjoy xx

Champions chutney

Okay, tenuous link in the title because it’s Wimbledon men’s finals day, but this chutney is seriously for winners. I made a big batch of chutney a few weeks ago that just didn’t make the grade. So I’ve spent time trying out some tweaks this week. The result is this really sunny, crowd pleasing chutney. It’s a gem, delivering an intensity of flavour and a wonderful warmth with every bite.

Champions chutney

To make around 3 x 500ml jars as shown above, you will need:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 white onion
  • 200g chopped aubergine
  • 600g chopped ripe tomato (I used big fresh tomatoes)
  • 200g runner beans chopped into 1cm pieces
  • 800g chopped courgette
  • 3 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 200g honey
  • 350ml cider vinegar
  • A little seasoning

To make:

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in a large heavy duty pan for a few minutes until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the spices and seeds then fry together for 2 – 3 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped vegetables. The size of the these depends on your own preference. It’s nice to have some chunkiness to a chutney, but you don’t want it too rustic. Give everything a good stir before pouring in the honey and vinegar. The liquid should just cover the vegetables.
  4. Let the chutney come to a boil, give it a good old stir and then turn down to a constant simmer, with the lid off. You need the liquid to evaporate over the next 1 1/2 to 2 hours and the vegetables gently soften. You can’t leave it to its own devices for the whole time. You need to give it the occasional thorough stir. Towards the end you’ll need to keep stirring to make sure it doesn’t dry out or start sticking.
  5. The chutney is ready when the liquid has reduced right down, leaving you with a thick sumptuous pot of sticky vegetables.
  6. Once you are happy, pop on a lid and leave to cool. Then re taste and check seasoning, before adding to jars. Make sure you stir well and distribute evenly in the jars.

I was lucky enough to pick my own vegetables for this chutney from the most idyllic working farm in Andalusia. The care and attention taken to nurture the produce is amazing. It undoubtedly makes a difference to the taste and romance of every dish made from such a wonderful place.

Spot the three of us in the sunflower field. Magical x

Sunflower_1

Courgette pickle pots

Wow. Seriously, check out the beauty of these vegetables. I’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of two fantastic batches of produce from a finca in Spain. It excites me to cook with such honest fresh veg. I feel privileged to know the person that picked them and slightly embarrassed about some of the other packaged produce sat in my fridge from the supermarket.

Courgette pickle_1

So the season brings us green beans, courgettes and peppers. In abundance! I’ve been flicking through some of my old recipes as well as reading about other peoples take on courgette cake, stuffed peppers, roasted vegetables, fritters and stews.

First up this week, a wonderful warming pickle. This lively sharp pickle carries a subtle heat and makes a perfect partner for summer plates. Try with cheese and salads, or put a pot on the table when you serve up your next BBQ.

Courgette pickle_2

This recipe makes two 500ml pickle pots as shown here. If you have lots of vegetables, then double or quadruple the recipe to make more. If you use vacuum sealed kilner jars it will keep for around 4 months.

It’s really easy to make. Although I guess its fair to say that the better the vegetables, the better the taste.

To make two pickle pots you need:

  • Around 500g courgette (ribboned with a peeler or you can slice thinly with a knife)
  • 4 finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp english or dijon mustard
  • 500ml cider vinegar
  • 1 cup (about 250ml) maple syrup
  • Salt

To make:

  1. Cover the courgettes with water and sprinkle with salt, leaving for an hour.
  2. Heat the maple syrup and cider vinegar on a low heat to melt the syrup in to the vinegar.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the liquid, stir well, remove from the heat.
  4. Drain the courgettes and dry gently with kitchen roll.
  5. Mix everything together and divide into 2 jars. Pour the liquid in as equally as you can.
  6. Tighten the jars and leave the pickle to develop its flavours in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Fresh from the field:

Courgette pickle_4

Enjoy x

Seville orange and mint salad

This time last week we were returning from a weekend in the sparkling city of Sevilla. Steeped in history, yet youthful in feel, it is a welcoming, warm and charismatic place to visit.

Seville offers some amazing culinary options with bodegas and tapas restaurants of varying degrees of formality lining the cobbled streets of the old town. Whilst there we sampled some amazing food, from modern tapas to a classic fine dining experience in the famous Alfonso 8th hotel. A real old treat.

Famous for its flamenco and its oranges, I managed to return with some dodgy dancing shoes for my daughter, marmalade and some orange infused oil. The latter of these inspired this wonderful fresh salad.

Orange oil and mint_1 v2

Orange oil and mint_3 v3

To make two generous salads or a large accompaniment for a meal for four, you need:

  • Mixed soft salad leaves
  • Half an orange chopped into small chunks
  • Half a large mango sliced thinly
  • Quarter of a small red onion finely chopped
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds for the top
  • Optional crumbled feta

For the dressing you need:

  • 50ml orange infused oil. This will work well with olive oil, but add some orange peel into the dressing to bring out more orange flavour
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of greek yoghurt
  • Juice from half an orange (may need more once you have tasted at the end)
  • Around a tablespoon of fresh finely chopped mint
  • Salt and pepper to season

Orange oil and mint_2 v3

There is no real recipe here, but here’s the basic steps:

  1. Prepare your salad in a bowl or plate. Layer the ingredients with leaves, fruit, then crumbled cheese (optional) and warm toasted nuts on top.
  2. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and taste. You may need to tweak the flavours to your liking.
  3. Pour the dressing generously over the salad and eat straight away.

Heavenly. Enjoy x

 

‘Straight up’ hummus

Not ANOTHER hummus recipe! The internet isn’t short of hummus that’s for sure. I fell into the idea of making this particular hummus after a sidelines chat with a dad at our sons rugby sessions. He owns a great deli that makes amazing smooth and very authentic Israeli hummus.

Hummus_new2

He wouldn’t part with his recipe ratios, but he did give me enough to go on. He also gave me these key important rules:

1. Don’t use canned chickpeas. Soak the chickpeas overnight and then slowly cook the them.
2. Don’t use oil to blend and loosen, but instead use the juice from the boiled chickpeas.
3. Make the hummus while the chickpeas are warm – this how you’ll get a smooth finish.
3. Keep it simple, stick to the traditions by just finishing with oil and paprika.

To make plenty of hummus (probably 4 shop size pot’s worth) try the following ingredients:

  • 250g chickpeas
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1.5 tablespoons of tahini
  • Juice of half to a whole lemon
  • Around 300ml of water from the cooking process – but this will vary from batch to batch.
  • 2 tablespoons of greek yoghurt – optional, I have made successfully both with and without

Method:

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in water. Then rinse well before cooking in water till soft. The water will need topping up and you need to keep checking on them. But it should take around 2 hours.
  2. Drain the chickpeas, but save the water.
  3. Add the crushed garlic (don’t be stingy if you like garlic, just go for it), half a lemon, greek yoghurt (optional) and then start pouring in the water while you blend.
  4. Taste, season and tweak as you need to for your own taste buds. I also think it’s best to walk away for a bit and leave all the flavours to settle in together and then re-taste.
  5. Try get some hummus eating action when it’s just been made. Generously drizzle with oil and sprinkle with paprika.
  6. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.

Hummus is actually the Arabic word for chickpeas, which strictly speaking means you must have chickpeas in your hummus to make it a hummus at all. The varied alternatives out there are great, I’ll never turn down a quirky dip. However I do like the idea that this batch stayed close to the authentic ingredients and method.

Hummus_new1

Enjoy x

Roasted vegetables with saffron dressing

I loved the whole BISH BASH BOSH concept that Jamie Oliver introduced us to in the late 90’s. He transcended the austere and seemingly grown up world of traditional TV chefs and authors, making cooking and creation more accessible for real 20 somethings like me. I loved it. Glass of wine in one hand, music on and a sense of relative chaos around the kitchen. There were sizable chunks of roughly chopped this and that, with glugs of olive oil and plenty of balsamic on the go. His recipes always turned out well and tasted great. Happy days.

Fast forward 15 years. Add pets, a husband and two children. I am now often clutching the Dyson Animal rather than the wine whilst preparing food for everyone. Some days there’s quite a bit of clutter and unintentional BISH BASH BOSHING. Other days I face culinary rejection from critics under the age of 6.

However, when there is calm and space of mind, I find complete peace in my time carefully preparing and creating good food. I have a stronger set of principles about what I eat these days. I actively look for ways to create good food that makes us feel nourished and whole. Knowing this means I enjoy the taste of delicious, well sourced food more than ever.

This recipe was adapted from my friend Natalie’s Ottolenghi cookbook. It features recipes from two bright chefs who produce beautiful mindful food.

Roasted vegetables with saffron dressing

This salad is stunning. It is vibrant, healthy and wholesome.

If you can, prepare your vegetables carefully and with love. Take time to taste the dressing. Leave the ingredients to settle a little before re-tasting and serving up. The vegetables will keep well in the fridge for up to 2 days and the dressing for 3 or 4.

Saffron_1

For a salad for 4 try this with:

  • 2 aubergines cut into 1-2 cm slices
  • 1 butternut squash cut into 1-2 cm slices
  • olive oil to brush vegetables
  • Lambs lettuce
  • 20g toasted pine nuts

For enough dressing for above with leftovers:

  • A small pinch of saffron strands
  • 3 tbsp of hot water
  • 180g greek yoghurt
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 – 3 tbsp lemon (go by taste)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Saffron_2

To prepare the salad:

  1. Infuse the saffron in the water for a few minutes. Pour the infusion into a bowl with the other dressing ingredients plus a little salt. Whisk up till you get a smooth sauce, then chill.
  2. For the vegetables, brush with oil on both sides and lay on an oven tray, roasting at 220 degrees C for around 25 – 30 minutes till golden. Let them cool before serving.
  3. Assemble either as a large salad or as individual servings.

I have served this with grilled goats cheese and roasted beetroots too. It is a very robust dressing and has enough flavour to stand up well to cheese, fish or white meat.

Enjoy x

Mango chutney

I have procrastinated about making mango chutney for some time. I’m a massive fan, but when I look at recipes out there and see ‘1 kg of sugar’, I shudder a bit and shelve the thought for another time.

It was the mangos that led the way though. I found a greengrocer selling ripe mangos and felt I had to face up to it. So with a little experimentation, I have made my first, very lovely, honey sweetened mango chutney.

mango_1

mango_2

I like mango chutney with curry dishes, but I’m also partial to a generous helping on salads or with some pan fried fish. On this basis I’ve developed a mildly spiced but softly sweet chutney, one that compliments rather than over powers.

salad_2

To make the chutney jar shown I used:

  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • 2 teaspoons of coconut oil (or your preferred oil)
  • ½ teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 250 ml white wine vinegar
  • 100 ml honey

How to do it:

  1. First peel the mango and chop as much flesh from the fruit as you can. Put in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and cover in cling film overnight.
  2. The next day sauté the onions in oil. Take your time over this, you want the onion really soft.
  3. Pop the garlic into the oven whole to roast for 15 minutes. You can then just squeeze out what you need as a soft pulp. It’s perfect in this form for a chutney.
  4. Add the garlic and spices, keep on the heat. If the onions and spices start to stick to the pan at the bottom just add a little water. You want to take up to ten minutes on steps 3 and 4 together.
  5. Add the mango, honey and white wine vinegar, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down to a gentle simmer. Don’t put a lid on the pan. Also don’t be put off by the smell of vinegar.
  6. You have to be patient now and over the course of an hour to an hour and a half keep visiting the pan and stirring gently. You want to reduce the liquid till it’s sticky and soft.
  7. Once it has reduced down, leave to cool, then check seasoning and add to a jar. (I didn’t add any more salt to this than the original sprinkle to the mango).

The taste really develops as this cools and then again intensifies once added to the jar.

Try it with…

The salad shown works amazingly well with the chutney. It’s just a simple lambs lettuce salad with white balsamic, feta, chickpeas, pine nuts and chia seeds.

salad_1

I hope you get time to try and enjoy.