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Halloumi Salad

This vibrant salad is bursting with flavours; the peppery salad leaves and red onion are delicious with the cool herby yoghurt and salty halloumi. I’m going to be honest, I quite often find salads the most boring thing to eat, but a well thought out salad with balanced flavours is actually quite a delicious little dinner.
I’m trying my hardest to be good at the moment, and failing quite miserably for the most part. You may or may not have seen my previous post on indulgent chocolate buttons. I’m constantly torn between my love of food and not wanting to be fat, a battle I fear I’ll always face. But, when I am disciplined enough to be healthy, I feel quite chuffed with myself, especially when a healthy dinner turns out to be so tasty. So, if you are like me and practically turn your nose up at the thought of having a salad for dinner, just give this a go, it’s truly delicious.
It’s hard to beat grilled halloumi, but if you’re not a fan feta would work well too; essentially, it’s the salty element of this salad that I love the most. Even my meat eating carnivore of a boyfriend was happy to have a supper without meat, for once! This dish would make a wonderful side for a BBQ too now that we are coming into Spring.
  
* 250g Halloumi
* 100g Watercress, spinach and rocket salad
* 225g vine tomatoes
* 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 50g croutons (either bought or homemade)
* 150g low fat natural yoghurt
* Handful chopped basil
* Handful chopped dill
Preheat the oven to 160⁰C.
Mix the chopped basil and dill into the yoghurt and set aside.
Remove the tomatoes from the vine, cut in half and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for about 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, assemble the salad; place the salad leaves, red onion and croutons in a large salad bowl, top with the roasted tomatoes and yoghurt dressing.

Place a griddle over the heat and add the halloumi and fry for about 4-5 minutes on each side ensure both sides are lightly browned. Pop the halloumi on top of the salad and serve immediately. 
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Indulgent Chocolate Buttons

Every now and again you come up with a recipe that is just spectacular, and this one is. Giant chocolate buttons encrusted with delicious dried fruit and crunchy nuts, utterly delicious! I started out thinking I’d make some chocolate bark, but changed my mind and thought giant button shaped treats would be much more decadent. I’m visiting a friend on Thursday for dinner, so I’m planning on taking a few as a gift, they’ll make the perfect after dinner treat. These would also be lovely for a Mother’s Day gift, there is surely nothing better than a homemade edible treat?
You don’t have to stick to the same ingredients I’ve used, you really can pick any combination of dried fruit and nuts to suit your taste, just make sure the flavours complement each other. I think the salty pistachios and cashews work beautifully with the sticky sweet cranberries and apricots. You could also try using different chocolate, white, plain, milk or dark would all be equally delicious.
I used a combination of 70% dark chocolate and milk chocolate. I love the bitterness and depth of flavour you get from dark chocolate, but combined with the milk you get a slightly more subtle flavour that would suit most pallets. Use the very best chocolate you can afford, trust me it’s worth splashing out a little. The taste of these little jewel embellished treats is only going to be as good as the quality of chocolate you use.
I’m looking forward to experimenting with various flavour combinations; I think hazelnut or honeycomb would be delicious. We have the children over the weekend so I’m guessing they will jump at the chance of making a batch of these chocolate buttons, perhaps with popping candy, marshmallows or Smarties. I’d recommend using milk chocolate for the little ones as dark would be too bitter.


* 150g Green & Black’s 70% dark chocolate
* 200g Green & Black’s milk chocolate
* Handful of shelled pistachios
* Handful of salted cashew nuts
* Handful of dried cranberries
* Handful of dried apricots, roughly chopped
* Baking parchment paper
Start by placing a saucepan of water (about 200ml) on the hob; position a glass bowl on top of the saucepan, ensuring that the glass does not touch the water. Heat water until just boiling, and then turn it right down to a simmer.
Break the chocolate into individual squares and place into the bowl, stir constantly with a spatula, if you continue mixing the chocolate will melt evenly and become liquefied and silky smooth. One the chocolate has melted completely, remove from the heat and place to one side.
Lay out a large section of baking parchment paper and roughly stencil out circles, to your desired size. I found a small drinking glass was the perfect size to draw around. Spoon the chocolate mixture onto the drawn circles and scatter with the fruit and nuts, ensuring that each chocolate button has a couple of pieces of each.
Leave the chocolate buttons on the counter for a couple of hours, at which point they should be hard and dry. Peel them carefully from the parchment paper and place into containers and refrigerate.
These buttons are best eaten cold straight from the fridge and washed down with a nice cup of tea.

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Crispy Duck Pancakes



Who doesn’t love crispy duck pancakes? Drizzled with sweet, sticky plum sauce I just can’t get enough of them, especially when the duck is extra crispy. Quite often Rich and I order them from our local Chinese takeaway, not bothering to attempt them at home, until now anyway.
But, having found three duck legs reduced to just £2 at the supermarket I couldn’t resist picking them up. I’m fortunate in the respect that I live next door to a co-operative supermarket; which can be super useful when you run out of something, or forget to pick something up. But, perhaps what I love best about it is that it’s great for bagging a bargain; I normally pop across at the end of the day when they are reducing everything and see what cheap treats I can pick up. So, this time it was duck legs, and we knew exactly what we wanted to do with them; attempt, for the first time, crispy duck pancakes.
There is a certain technique to ensuring the meat is super tender, but the skin is super crispy. It wasn’t without a bit of re-search that we realised steaming the duck first helps to keep it really moist, then deep frying it crisps up the skin so nicely. I’ll take no credit for this particular recipe as it was Richard’s wonderful dish and he really did do a splendid job.
1 ½ pints of vegetable oil
10 pancakes
2 duck legs
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp Szechuan pepper corns
Bunch of spring onions
Cucumber
Plum sauce
Start by rubbing the duck legs with the five spice and peppercorns, then place them in a steamer over boiling water. Steam the legs for about 40 minutes, until the meat is really tender and cooked through.
Remove the duck legs from the steamer and set aside on kitchen paper to absorb any excess water. Heat a pan of vegetable oil on the hob and carefully place the duck legs in and fry for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oil and place them onto the kitchen paper for a second time to drain the excess oil. Shred the meat from the bone and place in a warmed dish to serve.
Serve with steamed pancakes, chopped spring onions and cucumber and plum sauce. 
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Homemade Hummus



There is something about this pale, thick and delicious Middle Eastern dip that I just adore. Of course I’m a fan of the store bought stuff, but nothing beats making your own, and when you realise just how simple it is you’ll mostly make it yourself in future. You can experiment with the recipe and make various flavour fusions. I’ve stuck to a plain hummus this time, but you could try lime and coriander, lemon and garlic or sun-dried tomato. The possibilities are endless.

Hummus is perfect served with bread sticks, raw vegetables or toasted pita bread, simply brush the pita bread with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toast under the grill for about 5 minutes – the pita comes out so crispy and delicious.

Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas, drained
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Method:

Place the chickpeas in a blender (keep a few aside) and add the lemon juice, sesame oil and garlic. With the blender on full, slowly pour in the EVOO until you have the right consistency. You want the hummus to be thick, but not so thick that it’s a solid lump when you stir it.

Season to taste a serve in a bowl drizzled with a little of the EVOO and a few of the whole chickpeas for decoration.