Saffron chicken and Herb Salad

Another epic salad from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook, this fresh plate of loveliness really hit the spot for lunch today. Wednesday’s are just meetings, meetings, meetings, and fitting in eating is a real challenge.

I think the title of this dish is a bit misleading. I think I’d rebrand it as ‘Roast chicken breast with an orange, honey and saffron glaze – served with a fennel and herb salad’. OK – maybe that is too long winded, but at least it is clearer!

In reality the chicken breast is simply roasted in the oven, and an orange glaze is poured over it when it is ready. The salad is not really just a herb salad, more a fennel salad with some herbs; definitely more fennel than anything else!

The orange sauce is the only thing that takes any time with this dish. Once that is on you can get everything else done with ease. Preheat the oven, season some chicken, roast it, rest it, break it into bits. Slice some fennel, add some mint, coriander, chilli, lemon juice and olive oil – and that’s done too.

The orange sauce is a segmented orange (take out all the pips) with some honey, as much saffron as you can spare, and a small amount of water – which you boil then simmer for an hour until it is all ‘glazey’.

Once the chicken has rested, pour over the glaze then toss it all together and eat. Really really easy.

This is a keeper and I think ANY white meat or fish or even Tofu might work with this sauce and salad. I liked it so much I will probably make it again later with the other parts of the chicken and perhaps serve it with another side.

Salt and Pepper Tofu – Two Ways – sort of…

These two dishes are essentially the same – just subtly different. Both are salt and pepper tofu, just the accompaniments differ. But why so much tofu?!

Even before lockdown we planned all our meals at least a week in advance. We had bought three packs of tofu to cook meals from the ‘itsu 20 minute cookbook’ – my favourite of the ‘really really quick’ meals books I own.

Due to skipping a couple of meals and the ‘leg of lamb that lasted 4 days’ saga we skipped the tofu meals in favour of food that was closer to expiry. Obviously you can’t do this forever – tofu has a lifespan too – and we ended up with out of date tofu!

Whilst watching Australian Masterchef Season 12 (it’s on – watch it – it is sooooo good) one of the competitors made a tofu dish where they served it cold, pressed, uncooked, raw basically. I wasn’t impressed – so I decided to come up with something myself.

All I have done here is press the tofu for an hour, toss it in white pepper, sea salt and cornflour and fried it until a little bit crispy. Using white pepper allows for a more subtle peppery flavour – black pepper can be overpowering if you use too much!

The one on the left is fried in left over pork fat (from a dish I made the other day) and the one on the left if fried in olive oil. The pork fat one was much more crispy – but obviously far less vegetarian.

The one on the left has pickled red onion (slice and leave in white wine vinegar), sushi rice, steamed broccoli, cucumber and red chilli – and a little herby sauce (left over from another meal).

The one of the right is just boiled new potatoes, hard boiled egg, cucumber, radishes, braised red cabbage, more pickled red onion – and a Satay sauce from the Gado Gado recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. The meal is almost the Gado Gado recipe but it is supposed to have green beans, bean sprouts, croutons and crispy onions – which I didn’t have to hand. I will try it again when I next plan some meals. The addition of the crunchy stuff will definitely make this a better meal.

The Satay sauce took forever to make – and I’ll talk about this another time. Suffice to say it took at least 90 minutes to make, is very very nice – and was more spicy than I expected.

One more pack of tofu left! Let us see what we are having later today!

Spicy beetroot, leek and walnut salad

Yesterday, I suggested that the Healthy Burgers and Green Salad we had would have been better with this dish. The garlic in the green salad kind of beat the burgers into submission. This on the other hand was the perfect accompaniment. There’s a lot more effort into making them, but it is worth it in the end.

I somehow managed to forget to have my breakfast shake so burgers and salad for lunch seemed like a good plan.

I’d roasted the beetroot in foil the night before. Nice little trick, if you aren’t in a rush, is don’t roast them for 90 mins in the oven (that’s a lot of oven energy for some beetroots) – roast them for 40 mins – turn the oven off and just leave them til the oven is cold. They’ll still cook, and you’ll cut down on your energy bills. After all you’re eating the beetroot cold anyway – and you have to wait for them to be cold before you can peel the skin off. Works a treat for me – seems less messy too, as most people are impatient and start peeling before they are actually cold – and the juice just gets everywhere!

The leeks are simmered until they are tender, refreshed, then cut into chunks – and while that it going on you make a dressing of walnuts, chilli-flakes, garlic, oil, tamarind water (if you have it – I’ve used a small amount of fish sauce before, or an anchovy – something Umami will do it), and cider vinegar.

When you’re ready pop it all on a bed of rocket and sprinkle some pomegranate seeds over the top, and a drizzle of olive oil.

One thing I don’t like about whole pomegranates is you never know how plump and colourful the seeds will be (in this picture they are really pale). You can buy the seeds already popped in a plastic pot but I don’t like the plastic waste. I’d rather the wormery had the husk than worry about whether the plastic will get recycled!

This was a far more balanced accompaniment to the turkey burgers. And filled a nice little spot in my tummy until dinner time. Right – back to work! Adios!

Healthy Burgers and Green Salad

Let’s try a straight-forward title – because these two dishes combined would make for quite the long title.

The Burgers – ‘Turkey & Courgette Burgers with Spring Onion & Cumin’ – and the Salad ‘Feta, Parsley & Barley Salad’ both come from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. Both were packed with flavour – if a little heavy on the raw garlic.

We chose this meal today out of necessity more than anything else. Many of the ingredients were in desperate need of cooking – or going in the bin. Especially the fresh herbs. There’s only so long you can keep cut coriander and parsley before if starts to yellow. I remember on Masterchef Australia a few years ago that George Calombaris swore that the only way to store herbs was rolled in kitchen towel – but this has never worked for me. If anyone has any great tips I’d love to know how to prolong their life.

The initial plan for today’s dinner was a Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad (with the Turkey burgers) but the beets needed 90 mins in the oven and we didn’t really want to wait that long to eat dinner, so we subbed in the Barley Salad instead. In hindsight, the beetroot would have been better – as the garlic and parsley did somewhat overpower the burgers. I love strong punchy flavours but Freya struggled. Fortunately we have enough for the same burgers tomorrow – this time with the beets – so we will see if the balance of flavour is better.

As much as lockdown is terrifying and frustrating, it has given me a new-found desire to cook again. It has made me plan meals better; portion control better; and it has also made me take more pride in my kitchen. I wash up as I go, have become more methodical, and leave the kitchen spotless after every meal. It is so much easier to cook in a tidy clean kitchen when you know where everything is, and what you have, and that you don’t need to clear up before you start the next meal!

Back to the food. There’s so much in these burgers; turkey, courgette, spring onions, coriander, mint, garlic, cumin and cayenne. It was hard to believe a single egg would bind it all together. But it did – sort of! You just chuck all this stuff together and fry them off in batches. I made half the burgers that were suggested – and will have the others tomorrow.

The accompanying dip is a triumph. One to keep for almost any other dish; sour cream, yoghurt, garlic, lemon (zest and juice), sumac and olive oil all mixed together and seasoned. I added some more of my preserved lemon salt for a bit more punch. This punchy yoghurty healthy sauce/dip really worked well with the burgers; I think it’d also work nicely with baked salmon, chicken and other lighter meats.

The salad was pretty simple too. Apart from the barley prep (boil it for 30 mins) everything else is raw. Marinate some feta in oil, za’atar, cumin and coriander seeds and then chop parsley, spring onions, cashews, green pepper and garlic. Throw it all together and serve with a squeeze of lemon and a little all-spice.

I definitely overdid the garlic in this. Or should I say – the garlic cloves were just massive – I should have used half as much as the hit from the parsley AND the garlic was a bit much for Freya.

This is a great healthy meal. Just go easy on the garlic!

Pan-fried mackerel with golden beetroot and orange salsa & Basmati & wild rice with chickpeas, currants & herbs

Nice snappy title! fish, salad and rice probably would have done.

We rarely have fish. In fairness before lockdown we barely had meat either. But doing the vegetarian and vegan thing is a harder work when you struggle for availability of items and also need to keep them ‘alive’ and fresh for 2-3 weeks.

So for lockdown we aren’t trying too hard to be vegetarian. There are bigger things to worry about; so meat and fish are back on the table. This is the first fish dish I’ve cooked this year (I think).

Both dishes (the rice dish is a completely separate dish) are from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. This is a great book indeed and I never tire of cooking from it.

The mackerel is marinated in harissa, cumin and salt. I used rose harissa as we seem to have 3 jars of it. While it infuses into the fish, boil some beetroots (golden ones), then when the are cold, dice them with oranges, lemons, olives, herbs and chilli flakes – and a good glug of oil.

When the salad is ready, get a pan REALLY hot and add the mackerel for less than a minute (it says longer but I disagree), take the pan off the heat, then serve it with the salad. We added the rice as it didn’t feel like a complete meal.

The rice is pretty epic. Just rice is never a good side. This rice has Wild rice (which takes forever to cook) basmati rice, and chickpeas, as well as curry powder, onions and lots of herbs. Oh and currants – the currants make this dish. The recipe asks you to cook the wild rice first then the basmati separately, but I cheated somewhat, guessed when the wild rice had 12 mins to go and chucked the basmati in with it. Obviously this could have been a fail but it worked out fine.

This rice would be perfect for any dish I think – or BBQ if we ever get outside with friends again!

Freya wasn’t a fan of the beetroot and citrus salad. I lapped it up – thought the two things went really well together. The mackerel was a triumph too. The rice I will make over and over!

We still have many meals on the list before our 10th May Ocado delivery. Watch this space for more yummy stuff!

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.

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.

Radish, Cucumber and Red Onion Salad with Mint and Orange Blossom Dressing


Now here is a salad that you just have to make.

Also from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour this salad is incredibly simple and amazingly tasty.

All you do is thinly slice a load of radishes, a whole cucumber and some red onion and dress it with a dressing made from olive oil, honey, lemon juice, orange blossom water, mint, and seasoning.

Just mix it all up and add some toasted pine nuts. Serve it straight away.

If you leave it too long the acid in the dressing will draw moisture from the cucumber and it will get wet very quickly.

This is one of the best salads that I’ve had for a while and it accompanied the Saffron and Lemon Chicken beautifully.

Smokin’ Super-bean, Egg and Tuna Salad

Saturday 13th was the eighth leg of our Year and Day Monopoly Board Pub Crawl challenge.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, before you get married there is a tradition of a Stag and a Hen event; where the men all go and do something for their last day of freedom and the women all do the same. Over the years these two events have tended to get merged into one and everyone just goes out together prior to the wedding and has a good old party – usually very much geared towards the consumption of large amounts of alcohol.

If you live in London, are very much inclined to more than just few drinks in the evening, and love a challenge, then Monopoly Board Pub Crawl is the thing to try. Many try. Many fail.

We decided to put our own spin on this event by having a drink (often more) in every pub in every street on the Monopoly Board – instead of the traditional one drink in one pub on each street. We also decided to do one colour of the board per weekend and spread these out over the year – instead of the traditional all 26 streets in one day rule.

Anyway, yesterday we were round to the Yellow part of the board and we had a great time. We also had a fly over from the Red Arrows – although they were perhaps celebrating Trooping the Colour rather than our wedding jolly!

With Browns, Light Blues, Light Purples, Oranges, Reds, Two Stations and now the Yellows complete all that is left is the Greens, the Dark Purples and Two stations and we’ve completed the whole thing!

When we are done we plan to choose our favourite pub from each street and attempt the event in the traditional style – 26 pubs in 12 hours.

Anyway, nothing to do with food !

We had this salad on Friday and it is packed with fibre and protein. There’s nothing to it really. It’s just very tasty and far better and cheaper than anything you’ll get from the pick and mix salad bar in a supermarket.

Simple mix tinned, flageolet, kidney and black eyed beans in a bowl with tinned tuna, tinned sweetcorn, a red onion, a tomato, lemon juice, olive oil, mint, basil, garlic, a green chilli, smoked paprika, and sugar in a bowl and leave for a while to let the flavours develop.

Serve with some sliced spring onions scattered on top and a quartered hard boiled egg on the side.

Personally I think the egg is unnecessary in this dish. You could easily leave it out. It was very filling as it was.

This was really simple and really yummy. And ready in no time at all. All you need is a knife and a tin opener. I didn’t even need that as all my tins were ring pulls!