Green Mimosa Salad

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Brrrr…. it was chilly last night – and again this morning.

Living on a boat comes with its own share of fears. Sinking – obviously is the big one. But at this time of year flooding is another. You only have to watch the London Boaters forums to spot boats capsizing; boats becoming untied from their moorings and boat owners suffering thousands of pounds of damage due to the weather.

On Tuesday we had to have all our ropes loosened for fear of the boat being pulled over by the extraordinary rising tides. Yesterday, in response to the very high tides on the Thames, the Thames barrier was raised and the risk of flooding to areas of London was removed. For us. No damage and no issues. Phew!

Pleased that I’d come home to a safe boat I got the stove going, and set to making this very simple yet unusual dish for our dinner last night.

A traditional mimosa salad is a layered salad with a grated egg yolk base. This isn’t that. This really is quite different – much like the Quinoa risotto isn’t really a risotto!

Taken from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook – this recipe uses the dressing that is usually made with the mimosa salad and dresses tenderstem broccoli and asparagus instead. The eggs are kept separate and don’t see the dressing until you eat it!

The dressing is simply a Chardonnay White Wine Vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard and a finely chopped shallot, seasoned well. To this you add your lightly steamed broccoli and asparagus – and then some thickly sliced avocado.

Meanwhile, some hard boiled eggs are grated, seasoned, and mixed with creme fraiche and lemon zest. You can then either stir in some chopped dill – or keep it separate like I did.

There’s nothing else to this dish. It is very simple and very tasty. It’s visually very pleasing too.

Make sure it is seasoned well or it is in danger of being a bit bland. If you don’t have tasty enough avocados (they can be a bit tasteless this time of year) squeeze half a lemon over them to pep them up a bit.

I loved it – but didn’t feel as full up as I have from other meals. Maybe I was just cold. It was very cold last night!

This week has been a week of very simple dishes. This was done in less than 30 minutes. Tomorrow I have more time so I plan on spending a bit more time in the kitchen. I’ll be making the last three dishes I’ve chosen from Anna Jones’s book and then I’ll move onto something different.

Winter Root Soba Noodles with Pickled Greens

IMG_3887Last night was pretty hair raising wasn’t it. 50MPH winds! The boat was all over the place. But I still managed to make this for dinner. Fortunately the wind died down by bedtime so it wasn’t a frightening night.

Over a year ago I bought a load of Black Soba noodles from Amazon and when I saw this recipe in Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook – I figured this dish just had to be made.

Serving this I figured I really need some different coloured bowls. Black Soba Noodles in a black bowl isn’t the best way of showing off this dish. I’ll go on a little hunt for some nice big bowls of varying colours.

This is a pretty simple dish. It can be done in 20 minutes easily – depending on your knife skills because the only real preparation is the julienning of the beetroot and the carrot and grating a bit of ginger.

Whenever I go to the shops I buy this big lump of ginger and throw 90% of it away once it’s changed to some weird blue colour. Yesterday I saw this tiny thumb sized piece and popped it on the scales in Morrisons – 3p! How cool is that!

If its fresh, buy it when you need it – and only what you need. It’s false economy otherwise.

Anyway, you fry a little grated ginger in some olive oil and then add your julienned beetroot and carrot and a little water. Wait for the water to be absorbed which softens the vegetables a little bit and then put to one side. That’s a five minute job.

Meanwhile cook the Soba Noodles as per the instruction. I just dunk mine in boiling water – leave for 5 minutes and drain them. They are pretty quick and it’s very easy to overdo them.

Also meanwhile, pick the stalks off some kale and shred it with your hands. As I’ve said before Morrisons already do bags of shredded kale, they just don’t take the stalks out – it makes all the difference to spend five minutes tidying it up. Over the kale pour some brown rice vinegar, maple syrup and a little salt. Scrunch it all up with your hands and leave it for 5 minutes. That’s your pickled greens done.

Finally you add a little more maple syrup, tamari (dark soy sauce), sesame oil, juice of a lime and some black sesame seeds to the winter vegetables and then throw in the Soba Noodles and give it all a good mix. And that’s it.

Serve it like I did with the pickled greens alongside the noodles (and a little chopped coriander garnish) and you have yourself one very tasty dish.

This dish is going to make it into my ‘make it regularly’ list. I love the simplicity and the contrasting textures. I kept my beetroot and carrot crunchy rather than over softening them – and the crunch of the vegetables is awesome alongside the noodles and the pickled kale.

The only real shame is the way the purple from the beetroot bleeds into the carrots making them a bright red. I guess this could be solved by doing them separately but them that’s more washing up! You could also have used normal soba noodles rather than black ones – but I think it is quite striking.

There are so many flavours in this dish and it is very filling and satisfying. I love kale. I really love beetroot. It’s a winner for me.

We chomped through ours whilst watching ‘Friday Night Dinner’. If you haven’t seen it – you must! You’ll wet yourself laughing. It certainly took our mind off the weather outside.

Quinoa Risotto with Mashed Peas and Greens

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I made this on Friday – another recipe from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook.

I do love Quinoa and have made some pretty awesome things with it in the past. For me this wasn’t one of them.

The whole dish was lovely. The addition of the feta, parmesan, pine nuts and pea puree were the highlights of the dish – adding salty flavours (the cheeses), crunch (the nuts) and a sweet freshness (the peas). But the risotto was a bit of a let down. It was a little bit bland.

The quinoa is cooked in a similar way as a risotto – but not quite. After frying a couple of thinly sliced leaks in oil you add the quinoa until it start to pop. You then add white wine and lemon juice – let that absorb – and then finally add the stock until that is absorbed. The whole thing takes around 30 minutes. Sometimes that quinoa just refuses to budge.

Once you’ve got your gloopy porridge consistency your quinoa is done. Stir in some shredded greens until they wilt. Finally stir in some grated parmesan to give it a cheesy risotto feel.

While your waiting for your risotto you blitz some peas with some mint and basil until it’s smooth – then add seasoning and the juice of half a lemon. I could eat the puree on its own – maybe on toast or just as a dip – it was amazingly sweet and fresh.

Assembly is simply puddling your risotto in a bowl, crumbling some more parmesan and then some feta, some toasted pine nuts and of course the awesome peas puree.

All in all this is a good dish but you just expect a bit more. The greens and the leeks get lost – you just wouldn’t know they were there.

Making this again I’d have to give the quinoa more zing – it needs more citrus I think. It’s a shame to rely on the dressings to make the dish nice – the quinoa should have been the highlight and it wasn’t.

I’ll experiment and see if I can make it better.

 

 

 

 

Bacon Granola

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I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made this – and many thanks too to Nigel Slater. This recipe comes from his latest book ‘A Year of Good Eating’.

Ordinarily I would probably have missed this recipe – but chance brought me to it. Previously I had not owned any of his cookbooks – I just wasn’t drawn to them – I think I was put off by the long narratives and story telling – but how foolish I had been.

I happened to buy a cookbook from an actual shop (rather than Amazon) as a last minute Christmas present but decided after I got home that the cookbook was totally inappropriate and not suitable for human consumption. The book seemed to be popular simply because the authors thought it best to swear their way through every recipe. Anyway I took it back – got store credit – and chose the Nigel Slater book instead.

What a great decision that was!

As luck would have it I had a spare couple of hours to kill one day while picking up my daughter. I sat in a pub with a pint and worked my way through this book, page by page, checking out every single recipe.

If I’m honest I think I will probably make everything from this book – excluding maybe a small handful of fish dishes that don’t interest me – but this was the very first recipe in the book.

Sounds weird doesn’t it – bacon granola!

In fairness it isn’t granola at all. But who cares. We have it at least once a week. It fulfils Freya’s desire to have a bacon sandwich – but she doesn’t get the bread and she’s still satisfied.

It’s so easy to make – and you can modify the recipe based on what you have to hand – that said I rarely deviate unless I run out of almonds.

Simply buy a packet of smoked streaky bacon, cut it into little pieces and fry it in a pan with a good chunk of butter until it gets crispy (but not too much). Having the pan up high helps this – and means you get it made a lot quicker. There’s nothing worse than making this when it’s only 1 degree on the boat and you’re wearing little more than a dinosaur onesie!

Once the bacon is done you throw in some rolled porridge oats. Stir these in so that soak up the juices from the butter and the bacon and then add whatever makes you happy. Here I’ve added cranberries, skin on almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds.

I’ve added other nuts with equal success; I’ve also added popped quinoa and used up pots of those ‘pour over the top of salad’ nut and seed pot things that people sometimes buy you. I reckon you could tip pretty much anything from a Graze box into this (excluding the chocolatey things!).

Give it a good old stir to warm it through. I’ve usually turned the pan off before I add all the other stuff but I use cast iron cookware and it keeps its heat for ages.

Serve it with a dollop of really good creme fraiche.

I don’t think you’ll ever have a better breakfast – although we’ve also had it for lunch and probably at least once for dinner!

It’s so easy – really quick – all in one pan – and give you a warm tummy and lots of energy to keep you going through the day.

 

Smoky Beans and Sweet Potato Hash Browns

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This dinner was a game of two halves. The beans – awesome; the fritters – not so good.

This recipe is taken from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook, and was one of those where I kind of figured what the result would be before I made it. In fairness even the author doesn’t sing its praises; simply saying ‘a good quick dinner’ – I should have known better!

On one side we had a homemade take on baked beans, only so much better than what you get in a tin – while on the other side we had hash browns which ended up being more like mini frittatas.

A lot of recipes substitute potato for sweet potato and hope it will work. Unfortunately it doesn’t work here. The sweet potato is flavoured only with a small amount of cumin seeds and is bound together with egg. It didn’t take a lot of working out to realise these patties were going to be eggy and generally lacking in taste. For me they were a bit of a fail.

I’ve made fritters with sweet potatoes before and they have been better because the potato has been roasted first and the flavours have been developed by adding spring onion or soy sauce. Blitzing the roasted veg with other ingredients and then forming the patties seems more successful. These raw ones are disappointing. You can’t really get enough flavour into them, they don’t tend to keep their shape unless you are very careful with them and they tend to lose their integrity as you eat them.

Perhaps a pinch of chilli flakes would have woken them up a bit. I might try that some other time.

The beans on the other hand were excellent. Having fried a shallot with some smoked paprika and adding some really tasty cherry tomatoes you add cannellini beans, a little thyme and a dash of balsamic vinegar. These are super tasty and would be a great side. I could see myself whipping up a big batch of these and having them with burgers and fries or something like that.

Not such a successful dinner – but very healthy and a great bean discovery.

 

 

Moroccan Chickpea, Carrot and Date Salad with Paprika Dressing

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I have to say I didn’t see any food like this when I was in Morocco – more’s the pity; There are only so many tagines you can tolerate before you get bored!

This is another really tasty dish from Superfoods by Julie Montagu. Not only is it really colourful but it is full of interesting flavours.

It’s very simple and very quick to make but does benefit from marinating for an hour or so to let the citrus and paprika dressing develop. I didn’t use old spinach (honest) – it just goes that way after an hour.

This is yet another dish that uses dates. Dates are amazing although they do tend to have a consequence (if you know what I mean). It also uses chickpeas (which I used earlier in the week) so it might start to feel familiar if you’ve already had the sweet potato and quinoa bowls or the kale salad.

There is next to no preparation for this dish other than chopping a red onion, grating a couple of carrots and pitting a few dates – oh and talking the lid off a tin of chickpeas and draining them.

The sauce is a combination of olive oil, tamari (soy sauce), cumin, paprika and the juice of a lemon all whisked together and poured over the salad ingredients. Add a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves and give it all a good stir.

It’s very tempting to eat this straight away without letting it marinate – especially when you are hungry – but it does make all the difference.

You do feel like you are ticking all the boxes when you eat this – protein, leaves and gorgeous sweet dates all zinged up with lemony dressing. It’s great – and it’s very cheap to make – give it a go.

 

 

 

Radish and Avocado Salad with a Chia Tahini Dressing

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Another great dish – especially if you like radishes – is this one from Julie Montagu’s Superfood cookbook.

Again crazy simple – but for me this one is only good within 30 minutes of making it. Leave it too long and the dressing loses itself in the salad ingredients – to the point that you wouldn’t even know it was there. So make it – and eat it straight away.

All you do is chop and slice stuff; some radishes, a couple of red peppers, a red onion, a spring onion, and an avocado. To this you add a handful of kalamata olives (I removed the stones from mine), and a handful of torn or chopped coriander and the dressing.

The dressing needs to be blended. It’s made up of chia seeds, tahini, cumin seeds, lemon juice, parsley, tamari (dark soy sauce), honey, salt and chilli powder.

I bought myself a new toy over Christmas. The NutriBullet just wasn’t good enough for breaking down things and is so frustrating to empty and clean; so I bought myself a high speed blender that was more up to the task. I now have an Optimum 9200 – which is a strong contender to the Vitamix and almost half the price. It blitzed through those ingredients in seconds and is far easier to clean, empty and use!

Anyway, I digress. The dressing is poured over the salad ingredients and then you simple toss them together and serve.

As I said before the dressing on this is amazing; but if you’re making it in advance (for your lunch perhaps), keep the dressing separate and pour on at the last minute.

This is a great salad; full of crunch and flavour – I loved it and will be making it again.

Kale, Sumac and Crispy Rice Salad

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Here’s another recipe from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook.

Kale, Sumac and Crispy Rice Salad is a dish I’ve made before but not with all the correct ingredients. It was one of those where I improvised a bit when I was not really up for cooking and it wasn’t as good as it could have been. More on that later!

Unlike yesterday’s Sweet Potato and Quinoa Bowl, this dish can definitely be made in 20 minutes. It doesn’t get much simpler than this – especially if you buy your Kale from Morrisons; they sell it already shredded in bags so you don’t have to do too much.

Cook some brown basmati rice until it is ready; usually around 15 minutes – and while you are waiting do the rest.

Shred your Kale (if it isn’t already) and squeeze the juice and zest of lemon over it. Add some salt and scrunch it all together for a minute to allow the acid in the lemon to start breaking down the tough Kale.

To the Kale you add some chopped spring onions and some roughly chopped Medjool dates. Last time I made this I used some regular dates but it wasn’t so good as the dates were too firm and chewy.

When your rice is cooked, drained and cooled a bit you dry fry it in a frying pan to remove all the moisture – then fry it again in some coconut oil to crisp it up. You need to be careful here not to over crisp the rice as it become very crunchy and difficult to eat – so keep an eye on it and test it from time to time – as soon as it seems like it’s firming up turn the pan off and sprinkle with some salt.

Finally, bringing it all together, we make the dressing which is simply the zest and juice of a lime, some Sumac, and some olive oil – shaken then poured over the Kale and Crispy rice.

Crispy rice might not be everyone’s cup of tea; but it adds a lovely contrast to the Kale if you get it right – just don’t overdo it!

I loved this dish. It makes loads, and you feel like you are overeating because your bowl is so full – but then you realise it’s just Kale and power on through enjoying the citrus hit with every mouthful. I can thoroughly recommend this very easy dish.

Back to the dates; what are Medjool dates and why are they preferred in this book?

Medjool dates are picked when their ripe and juicy, and don’t last as long on the shelf, which is why they’re typically much pricier. Regular dates are picked when they’re rock solid and inedible and are then steamed for a while to loosen them up. They have a longer shelf life, and are much cheaper.

I’m lucky enough to have a Syrian supermarket on my High Street and they have lots of dates to choose from; but only one box of Medjool dates – £7.99 for a box – but it’s a big box and it will last!

 

 

Cabbage, Carrot and Flaxseed Coleslaw

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In the rush that was Christmas I bought two cookbooks. One I already had – but I needed to get over the £20 spend to get free delivery on Amazon so I also bought ‘Superfoods’ by Julie Montagu.

There had been a lot of chatter about Superfoods around that time – especially when one team on the Apprentice had an embarrassing moment misunderstanding what Superfoods were all about.

A quick flick through the book got me excited. Unlike other healthy living books this one generally gets by with using easy to get ingredients. Proof of the pudding was this dish.

The Cabbage, Carrot and Flaxseed Coleslaw is in the ‘Sides’ section of the book – and the recipe is enough for 4-6 people – but we just ate it as a main.

It’s incredibly easy to make – much like most of the recipes in the book – I think I had it made in less than 15 minutes. And there’s no cooking either; it’s all completely raw.

All you do is shred a savoy cabbage and a purple cabbage, grate some carrots, finely slice a red onion and toss into the mix a handful of mange tout.

To the coleslaw base to add a dressing made up of olive oil, garlic, dill, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar and the juice of a lemon.

Mix it all together and serve with a generous sprinkling of flax seeds.

If you can’t find flax seeds buy linseeds. They are the same thing.

This salad was amazing on its own and would be the perfect accompaniment to any other dish I think – maybe a BBQ once the weather gets better in 6 months time!

Loved this book – and loved this recipe – thoroughly recommended!

 

 

Gently Spiced Sweet Potato and Quinoa Bowls

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Wow I haven’t blogged about food for a long time. Well my New Year’s Resolution is finally getting some attention so I’m back.

My excuse? Well I just haven’t cooked anything new. My wife started a new job (no longer working with me) and it just became easier for both of us to eat at lunchtimes and not really do anything special in the evenings.

Also, a new Wetherspoons opened next door to our office so I’ve been eating junk for 2 months.

But yesterday I decided to stop going out at lunchtimes – get a bit healthier and lose some of the weight I’ve gained. I need to – my wife is losing weight like nobody’s business!

So this dish is the first of many dishes I plan to make from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook. I do like her books – and they please Freya as she wants to eat less meat than we have been doing lately; so expect lots of vegetarian dishes for a while.

This recipe is in the ‘make in the time it takes to set the table’ category – i.e. 15 minutes. I tell you now – that is impossible. It can’t be done – not by me anyway – and I can do the Jamie’s 15 minute meals on time.

Breaking it down this dish is essentially quinoa boiled up in some vegetable stock. When that is done you add that to some spring onions, garlic, sweet potato, carrots and chick peas – which you will have been pan frying for 10 minutes or so to go tender. Oh there’s a little bit or turmeric in there too!

Sweet potatoes and carrots are notoriously unpredictable when it comes to them going soft. It took some time before I considered my vegetables to be ‘ready’ and I love a bit of crunch.

To top it off you fry some spring greens in coconut oil and a squeeze of lemon.

This dish is incredibly tasty. If you are on a budget this is incredibly cheap to make too.

I was planning on serving up two dishes yesterday – the other being a Kale and Crispy Rice dish – but there was plenty here for two with some left over for lunch.

Hopefully I’m back for good this time – and hopefully I’ll lose a stone before I got on holiday in March!