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Salsa Verde

There is something amazing about Salsa Verde. Perhaps it’s the versatility of it; it really does go with everything from meat and fish to vegetables and potatoes. The perfect accompliment to a summer barbecue. It’s a recipe that packs a punch, so if you appreciate strong bold flavours, you’ll fall in love with it for sure.

Salsa Verde translates simply to ‘Green Sauce’. There are literally millions of versions out there, Italian, French, Spanish, Mexican. You name it, almost every country appears to have their own version incorporating different herbs and cold raw ingredients. The recipe below is my perfect balance of flavours.

A small amount of this Salsa Verde will totally transform any dinner into something truly remarkable. It keeps well in the fridge and even gets better with time. That’s if you have any left; it was so popular with my barbecue guests I had none left to save. Much to my disappointment.

You can keep it refrigerated for about a week and a half, or you could freeze it. Pop it into ice-cube trays and use them to jazz up pasta dishes and soups.

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Roasted Vegetable Quinoa with Lime and Mustard Dressing

Howdy foodies. Apologies, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy, working, studying and wedding planning. The wedding is just over 3 months away. Eek! Jemima has also been running me ragged, leaving my blog somewhat abandoned. I have been busy in the kitchen though, I’m finding my stride again. And, we’ve been putting the outside kitchen and terrace to use for barbecues, hence this post tonight; to tell you all about a special summer veggie dish I made last weekend.

This really is a super simple and deliciously tasty quinoa dish, and it was a huge hit. Strangely, not only amongst my female guests as one might expect.

Richard often pulls a funny face at the mere suggestion of something like cous cous or quinoa. Like it isn’t manly enough for him or something. That said, he really enjoyed this recipe. Having to admit defeat and confess that it had “loads of flavour” in his words, although it probably pained him to say, no doubt. He sees food like quinoa as a ‘fad’ that nobody actually likes. I admit that plain quinoa would be bland, boring and quite frankly a chore to eat. Throw in the mix though some delicious roasted vegetables and a zingy dressing and it’s transformed into a bright summery dish that is a pleasure to eat.

The dish will serve about six to eight people as a side dish, or it would stretch to four weekday lunches for work. I know I enjoyed the left over portion for my lunch yesterday. I would say this is fine to keep in the fridge for around 4-5 days, just pop it in an airtight container to keep it fresh.

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Butternut Squash & Feta Quinoa Salad



When I’ve nothing scrumptious left over from dinner the night before, or simply don’t have time to make lunch I pop to the supermarket in search of a ready-made salad or sandwich. Let’s face it, from time to time most of us end up eating packaged flavourless and quite often disappointing lunches we’ve grabbed on the way into the office. However, a few weeks back I was pleasantly surprised by a Tesco packaged salad – it was utterly delicious, but at £3 a pop it’s a little over-priced.
I decided I’d have a go at making it myself – and it was just as good. I didn’t follow the ingredients list exactly; as you well know these supermarkets love an ingredients list that’s as long as your arm. But, I ensured all of the big flavours were captured and it really was great.
The best thing about this salad is that its part of the Tesco Healthy Living range, so we know it’s good for us. I made a big bowl as a side dish for our barbecue and everyone loved it. This salad is so easy to prepare, the only cooking involved is the roasted vegetables. I bought the bulgur wheat and quinoa already cooked, so it’s really just a case of assembling the ingredients. What could be easier than that?
Cooked Bulgur Wheat and Quinoa (I used a mixed bag)
500g butternut squash (about half a large squash), cubed
Pack of feta cheese, cubed
100g cooked soya beans
1 can chickpeas, drained
Half a red pepper, diced
Half a yellow pepper, diced
Two handfuls of raw spinach, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g low fat natural yoghurt
Bunch of mint, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by placing the peppers and butternut squash onto a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and season. Place in the centre of a pre-heated oven on 180⁰C for 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile re-heat the bulgur wheat and quinoa and place in a large bowl. Add the soya beans, chickpeas, spinach, red onion and half of the mint – season well and mix to combine. Once the peppers and squash have cooled add them to the bowl too. Top with the feta and mix carefully to ensure you don’t break the feta up. The salad is now ready to serve.

To make the dressing, mix the yoghurt, lemon zest, juice and remaining mint in a smaller bowl. Serve this on the side. 
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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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An Italian Dinner Party

I’m certain that a few people will loathe me for saying this, but it’s too bloody hot to eat at the minute. Maybe it’s the muggy weather, but food seems to be the last thing on my mind. There I said it. Truth be told, it’s been an awful week anyway, which may be another reason I’ve taken a side step from the kitchen. My good friend Richard decided to fall out of a window and break his back and his ankles. Ouch! So, with working and doing my Florence Nightingale bit I’ve not even had time to think about pulling out pots and pans, nor, quite frankly, could I be bothered to.
Anyway, enough about me and what I’ve been up to, I wanted to share this recipe/ menu plan with you in light of how busy I’ve been this week. This really is the simplest menu to put on for your friends. Everything can be served cold, which is perfect in this weather, and it also means you can prepare everything ahead of time – no last minute rushing around and working up a sweat which, lets face it, isn’t difficult in this weather.
You’ll notice the Italian theme with the menu, yes; I’m still stuck on Italian food. It’s so simple and tasty, what’s not to love? I decided to take the Jamie Oliver approach with this menu, by which I mean sticking everything on a big platter and letting people help themselves, it’s easier and a huge platter of steak looks great in the centre of the table, doesn’t it?

Italian Canapés

For the arrival of my friends I made some canapés. Perhaps the easiest thing to prepare, but they look really impressive and colourful, people comment on the effort you’ve made, when it actually takes you no longer than 2 minutes, great! Make the canapés by poking a little ball of mozzarella, a sun-dried tomato, a piece of Italian cured meat and a little basil leaf onto a cocktail stick. I’d make about a dozen for four people. Serve with some Italian olives.



Bruschetta Starter

You can’t get more Italian that bruschetta, it’s a simple, colourful and wonderfully rustic starter to serve for a crowd. And, you can be as creative as you like when it comes to the toppings. I’d recently seen a recipe for goat’s cheese and dill bruschetta in Olive magazine, so I knew that was a must, but with one of my friends being pregnant, I wasn’t entirely sure which cheeses were safe, so I thought I’d make few other variations.
Slice and toast the ciabatta bread, remove from the oven and rub with a raw garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil and top with any of the following combinations:
  • Chopped cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella
  • Soft goat’s cheese, dill and semi-dried tomatoes
  • Mozzarella, salami and semi-dried tomatoes
  • Mozzarella and salsa verde

The variations of toppings are endless. Experiment and create different types to suit your guests. I had a pregnant friend, a friend who doesn’t eat goat’s cheese and a friend who’ll eat anything (you know who you are!). Serve your bruschetta as is, or with a bowl of king prawns and a quick homemade lemon, mustard and mayo dip.


Homemade Italian Salsa Verde (for the main)

2 garlic cloves
80g fresh basil, roughly chopped
80g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
60g fresh mint, roughly chopped
6 anchovy fillets
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp good Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blend the garlic and herbs in a blender until very finely chopped (you may prefer to do this by hand). Add the other ingredients and blend to combine, pouring in the oil slowly whilst still blending. You should be left with a thick pesto like consistency; it may be a little thinner, which is fine.
The salsa verde will keep in the fridge for 1-2 days

Steak Salad with Salsa Verde and New Potatoes – Main Course

Take a large serving platter and scatter with rocket, watercress and baby spinach.

Using rump or sirloin, season and fry the steak for as long as necessary. I like mine rare so a couple of minutes each side is enough. Rest for 10 minutes and slice thinly. Arrange the stake on the bed of salad and drizzle with a little olive oil, parmesan shavings and toasted diced ciabatta bread. Serve with homemade salsa verde and buttered new potatoes. 



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It’s time to clean off the BBQ



I honestly can’t think of a better way to welcome the summer months than a huge hunk of flame grilled steak, or a hefty sea bass baked on the BBQ. Or, perhaps you’re a simple sausage or burger person? Either way, there really is nothing more exciting than that first BBQ of the year. Imagine the sun shining, friends seated around a table that’s laden with grilled meats and fish, freshly made potato salad and, of course, some form of refreshing alcoholic concoction you had fun throwing together at the last minute. Now, that’s my idea of heaven. If only I had a garden of my own (sighs).  
I was however lucky enough to be invited for a little BBQ a couple of weeks back, a dinner date that turned into a BBQ because the sun was shining. So you’ll see from the pictures that this was a pretty impressive selection of food for the two of us. Surf and Turf anyone? The date may not have progressed anywhere, but hey, the food was certainly tasty and I got my first BBQ of the year out of it; happy days.
I’d recommend splashing out on the nicest meat you can find, if you’ve a local butcher, pop along and see what they suggest. One decent sized quality piece of steak is better than a selection of gristly burgers and sausages right? But, if you are partial to a sausage, opt for one with a high percentage of meat.
So, if you’ve yet to dust off, clean down or even purchase a BBQ, then wait no longer. Although there are many wonderful things here in Blighty, the weather certainly isn’t one of them (most of the time anyway), so make the most of it, spend as many of the warm days as possible in the garden, experiment with your barbecued food and try something new. Invite the family, your friends or indeed the neighbours, get everyone to bring something (perhaps the salad) and enjoy the sunshine whilst it’s here.


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Minted lamb kebabs with a Greek style salad

Friday is upon us at last. And today I have a treat in-store for you, a little Greek feast that can be on the table in just 15 minutes. You’ll have everyone thinking you have slaved away for at least an hour.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting bored of this drizzly gloomy weather already, holidays and sunshine seem such a distant memory. So I’m all about bringing some colour back to your table with this fresh and delicious Greek meal.


The crisp salad and tangy, slightly salty feta work wonderfully with fresh tomatoes and black olives. Combined in a pitta with the spiced lamb, a scattering of pomegranate and a drizzle of mint yoghurt, it’s heaven on a plate.

This meal is ideal for serving big numbers as you can prepare it all ahead of time, just double your ingredients per couple attending. Pile your kebabs on a large board with the pitta breads and yoghurt dip, scatter with pomegranate and garnish with a bunch of fresh mint – it’s a real show piece. Serve with a shot of Ouzo for a real Greek dinner party feel. Just make sure your guests don’t get carried away and smash all your plates!
for the Lamb Kebabs                                                      for the Greek Salad
300g diced lamb                                                             2 baby gem lettuces, roughly chopped
200g natural yoghurt                                                      Handful of cherry tomatoes halved
1 large red onion, chopped into chunks                         Handful of black kalamata olives
1 tbsp cumin                                                                    ½ red onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp mint sauce                                                            200g block of feta cheese, diced
2 tbsp fresh pomegranate                                              8 fresh mint leaves
4 pitta breads
Combine the lamb pieces with the cumin and 100g of yoghurt, place in the fridge and allow to marinate for 20 minutes. Meanwhile add the mint sauce to the remaining yoghurt, stir well and divide into 2 ramekins place this in the fridge along with the lamb.
Make your kebabs by threading the onion and lamb onto 4 skewers, alternating the lamb and onion pieces (this may be a little messy with the yoghurt, so get stuck in). Place the kebabs on a grilling tray and grill for 5 minutes on each side.
Place the lettuce in a large bowl, cover with tomatoes, olives, onion, feta and sprinkle over the mint leaves. Lightly toast the pitta breads, cut in half and assemble on a board with the yoghurt and mint dip. Place the kebabs in the middle and cover with fresh pomegranate seeds (arils).

Serves:                                  2
Preparation Time:                5 minutes
Cooking Time:                     10 minutes