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.

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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

Pack a punch pesto

This bright and bold pesto is the most versatile thing to come out of our kitchen. I’ve been making it for years and always have a few small pots in the freezer. They’re portioned up, ready to pull out for emergency planning shortages or last minute guests.

It is garlicky, earthy and incredibly moreish. It brings to life almost anything you throw at it including oven roast mushrooms, grilled goats cheese, pasta, roast chicken and fresh fish.

Pack a punch pesto

How to make:

I rarely use ‘cups’ and ‘handfuls’ as a way to measure a recipe, but this pesto really calls for it. It’s a good recipe to make your own, tweaking the ingredients as you taste.  Every time you make it you can throw a few different greens in or try a little more or less oil. You literally cannot go wrong on this one.

If you follow the guide below you will create a rich and thick pesto which is great as a dip or a marinade. From there you can thin it out with oil to make a lovely sauce to cover roast vegetables, pasta or to drizzle on salads.

  • 1/2 mug of toasted pine nuts
  • 1 mug of freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 handfuls of kale, cavelo nero or spinach, roughly chopped, woody stems removed
  • A few generous glugs of olive oil
  • A few pinches of sea salt
  • About 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped (I love garlic so use less if you’re not a big fan)

Simply blitz all the dry ingredients and then add the oil to the food processor. Taste, then tweak the flavours or add more oil to your own preference.

A couple of ideas of how to serve:

Pan fried salmon served with warm pesto and an avocado, grape and seedy salad:

Salmon and pesto

Rocket and spinach leaves, balsamic roasted olives and vegetables with pan seared tuna:

Tuna and pesto

If you’re interested in moving to a a cleaner way of eating, moving the shop bought condiments to the bin is a good place to start. They are high in sugars and salts and usually have added preservatives too. Getting to grips with a few simple recipes like this one, gives you your own healthier options for sauces to accompany your proteins. See my Romesco-ish recipe for another simple and easy to make sauce.

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

Mackerel with Sunshine Slaw

I really like this one. It’s a super healthy plate of crunchy raw vegetables topped with a simple piece of fish.

I’ve playing around with various yoghurt dressings for the coleslaw. With the final version featuring freshly squeezed orange and lime, I can happily now call this a Sunshine Slaw. It’s bright colours and zesty taste, make it a perfect clean spring salad.

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For around 500g of coleslaw you will need:

  • 400/450g crunchy vegetables – made up of grated carrot, grated beetroot, finely chopped red onion and plenty of shredded red cabbage
  • 100ml natural yoghurt  – you may choose to add a little extra once you’ve tasted at the end
  • 1 tablespoon of oil – try safflower or olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
  • juice from half a lime – just squeezed by hand
  • juice from half an orange – just squeezed by hand
  • Seasoning (be fairly generous – but taste to make sure it works for you)

The full batch contains around 300 calories – not a fraction of a regular mayonnaise coleslaw.

Mac1

To make the coleslaw:

  • Simply mix it all together and taste.
  • The seasoning and various elements of the dressing may need a little tweak at this stage because the vegetables, oil, yoghurt, vinegar we use are not all uniform. Just be guided by your palette and what tastes good to  you.

For the final plate:

For a small lunchtime salad serve around 100g of the coleslaw with around 80g mackerel per person. Simply pan fry fresh mackerel or serve cold mackerel. I tried and loved both but the cold mackerel option is definitely a quicker prep. If you buy pre-cooked fish just check the packet for any added extras. Most will contain some salt, but there’s no need for extra preservatives. You can easily buy this fish without.

The sustainability debate

Mackerel has been both on and off the recommended ‘fish to avoid’ list due to concerns about over fishing in the North East Atlantic. However since 2013 this fish has been on the ‘fish to eat’ list managed by the Marine Conservation Society. Line caught mackerel is by far the best way to source mackerel. Read more about the eco information.

The positive virtues of mackerel

As for the health benefits, mackerel is a widely recommended oily fish. It is rich in essential vitamins and minerals with both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. It also contains protein and the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10, which is associated to the elimination of cancerous elements from cells. Read more on the health benefits.

I hope you get time to try this sunny salad.

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.

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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.

Butternut squash sticky salad

I’ve had another super-sized vegetable to deal with. This towering butternut squash was at least 3 times the standard you see in the vegetable aisle.

B Squash 2

So yes, there’s a medley of squash on the food board this week. The exact dishes depend on how creative I’m feeling as the week goes on. The starter for ten features the usual suspects of butternut squash soup, butternut squash risotto and roasted squash. I’d like to think the end plates feature a bit more excitement than these initial working titles.

First up though, the squash had it’s first outing yesterday, in the form of a big bold salad. We had friends over for lunch and enjoyed this as a side dish to the main event.

I am leaving out the exacting measures on this recipe. There’s no way to go wrong, you won’t break it if you dial up certain flavours or pare down depending on your preference. Just aim for a variety of textures on your leaves and make sure you keep tasting the dressing till it’s spot on.

I used a simple balsamic dressing for this one. I think you should always buy the best balsamic you can – or just not bother. The cheap stuff tastes tart and too vinegary, a negative input rather than a sweet and rounded addition to the salad.

For the salad I used:

  • A butternut squash – or in this case around a third of the squash
  • A big sprinkle of pumpkin seeds
  • Lots of fresh rosemary
  • Lambs lettuce
  • Crispy gem lettuce chopped quite finely (just adding for extra crunch)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Fresh mint
  • Crumbled feta
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Pre-heat the oven to around 150 degrees Celsius
  2. Firstly chop the butternut up into cubes and lay in single layer on a roasting tin, sprinkle over the rosemary and a little even drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of seasoning.
  3. Whilst cooking make a simple dressing with a 3:1 ratio of oil to balsamic. Add a little dijon mustard and some seasoning. Keep tasting and tweak the oil / balsamic to get it exactly as you like. My dressing was quite thick and rather sweet in taste. It only needed to be used sparingly to add plenty of flavour to the leaves.
  4. Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes then add the pumpkin seeds, leaving in the oven for another 15 minutes until the squash is sticky and soft and starting to brown a little. The rosemary should snap easily when you pick it up. By this point the smell will be so inviting. It’s worth making just to welcome people in to your home.
  5. Leave the squash to cool and dress the salad. Always remember to dress the leaves not the whole assembled salad. I always get my hands in to make sure there is an even covering. Don’t drown the leaves, your plate shouldn’t be greasy and soggy.
  6. Assemble the salad in a clean bowl scraping in any sticky crunchy bits from the roasting tin.
  7. You can then crumble over some feta and mint or leave just as it stands. If I were eating this on my own I would be just as happy without the dressing and feta.. But food is about the audience as much as the cook. I wanted to make this a massive crowd pleaser.

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There was a little bit left which I kept in the fridge and enjoyed with fresh leaves for lunch today. It would have tasted pretty good with some brown or wild rice too.

Hope you enjoy this or something similar soon.