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.

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.

 

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!

 

 

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.

Saffron and Lemon Chicken


Seems I’ve been a bit slack in posting about food of late. Truth be told I’ve not really been making anything particularly exciting.

This weekend saw Freya and myself celebrate our first wedding anniversary and preparations for various festivities got in the way of normal cooking habits.

After a pretty hectic weekend – which saw a large number of us complete the marathon 26 pub Monopoly Board Pub Crawl – I settled back into normality with this very tasty dish from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour.

This dish has relatively few ingredients, and does benefit from a long marinade, the longer you leave it the better it will get. That said, the first batch I grilled was excellent after just 1 hour of marinating.

In a bowl you slice 4 white onions, and add to it the juice of 5 lemons, greek yoghurt, turmeric, quite a bit of sea salt, and some saffron which has been infused with water for 10 minutes or so. Give the whole thing a good mix, add the diced chicken breast and leave in the fridge for as long as you can.

Like I said, I cooked up our first batch after an hour but I think we’ll be eating this for a couple more days – so I’ll let you know if it starts tasting better.

The marinade breaks down the chicken beautifully and it tastes so tender after just 15 minutes under the grill.

I served this with a very nice radish salad and a naan bread – and it was a spot on dinner.

I’ll certainly be making this again – it could be one of my go-to dishes when I want to impress – because impressive it is – and very very simple.

Nigella’s Calabrian Lasagne

  
We don’t often do pasta. Too many carbs!  But for some reason I felt Freya needed a lasagne to cheer her up a bit. 

The Brits tend to make their own version of lasagne and I imagine it is a million miles away from anything the Italians make. 

On Australian Masterchef this year one guy made a lasagne the English way (adding cheese to a white sauce) and he was suitably chastised by Marco Pierre White for not making a proper bechamel and using th wrong type of cheese – oh and doing the layers in the wrong order. 

I tend to make my lasagne different to most as well so I thought I should try an Italian version. Now granted you can’t normally trust Nigella to do anything authentic but this lasagne did remind me of one I’d had in Italy many years ago.

This lasagne has no white sauce. It doesn’t even have buckets of minced meat. Oddly, it contains slices of cooked ham and hard boiled eggs. Sounds strange – but it was amazing.

You can make this (well up to the point it goes in the oven) in less than 20 minutes. It is very easy. Most of the stuff from the Nigellissima book can be achieved by anyone – even if you do lack the rich language and voluptuous figure that comes hand in hand with her recipes. It is hard to believe it is one of her recipes because it is broadly quite healthy. Compared to the desserts in the book – which are guaranteed to give you heart failure! That said, she does say it is great for soaking up alcohol; so it clearly has a purpose!

Anyway, how do you make it!?

Well first you hard boil some eggs. You’ll need these to be peeled and cold so do those first. While they are on the go you make a very runny tomato and meat sauce by frying some onions, adding some mince, adding red wine, then a lot of passata and the same again of water.

I had to shift my sauce to the pressure cooker as my pan wasn’t big enough to hold 2.5 litres of sauce!

While the sauce is on a rolling simmer for 10 minutes or so you can peel your eggs!

Then you simply ladle the sauce into the bottom of your dish, add dried lasagne sheets, add another layer of sauce, then add slices of cooked ham (that stuff you put in your kids sandwiches!) and some sliced/chopped hard boiled egg.

Build up the layers until you’ve filled your dish (I did 4 layers) and top with one last layer of sauce and a load of grated parmesan.

Cover it in tin foil (I had a panic! I thought I didn’t have any) and wrap it tight and pop it in an oven for an hour. And it’ll be done.

Something awesome happens while it’s in the oven. The pasta layers all ripple and all the sauce soaks into the pasta leaving it so beautifully cooked. Being under foil effectively steams it too so you won’t get any hard uncooked bits. British lasagnes are all flat and regimented and predictable but this one is quite amazing. You don’t even miss the white sauce. And it isn’t a meat overload. The dots of mince here and there are all you need – it’s pretty special!

If you’re feeling cheated on the cheese you can always use more or try a stronger cheese but I found it perfect just the way it was. And was the ham and eggs odd? No. They were a great addition indeed.

Nice dish. I’ll definitely make it again. And we’ll definitely be eating it again today as we barely dented the batch that I did make!

Haloumi, Courgette and Mint Fritters with a Wild Rice Salad with Peas (and Green Harissa)

Last night we were supposed to meet up with an old work colleague but it didn’t work out. Just as well really given the expensive meal we had out on Monday at Hawksmoor Bar in Seven Dials.

This comforting and very filling dish comes from Mildred’s. This is the second thing I’ve cooked from their book.

We’d already had Latkes the day before – and these are similar in concept – but I really fancied them so I chose to ignore the fact that I was frying stuff off in a pan; a few extra calories and grams of fat won’t hurt once in a while. We’d have done far worse if we’d have eaten out.

One of the dangers of frying at the moment is Freya has just reupholstered our sofa on the boat with a beautiful Laura Ashley fabric. It’s quite amazing what she’s managed to achieve for a first attempt. The cushion covers are perfect; complete with contrast piping. BUT: The sofa does back on to the island unit of the kitchen. So the hob is directly above it – and any splashes from a frying pan are heading straight for the sofa.

We already have a plan to add a sort of splash back to the work surface to prevent such things but for now I just have to be extra careful. The beautiful sofa is covered in old throws – hiding all the great work – sad times!

Anyway. These fritters are pretty easy to make. You grate a slab of haloumi into a bowl, add chopped red onion, chilli, garlic, mint and lemon rind and mix together. You then add grated courgette (with all the water squeezed out of it), eggs and fresh breadcrumbs and form a blob of mixture.

Once you’ve let it rest a while you form egg sized balls (rolling them in flour) and fry them in a pan; pressing them down as you fry them to make them more patty like! I found this to be quite messy – the mixture was quite sticky – I probably could have squeezed more liquid from the courgettes – but I was being impatient.

We had 4 each together with the salad – which was pretty yummy too.

The salad is made from Wild Rice (which I couldn’t get so I used a Basmati and Wild Rice Mix), which you cook and allow to go cold, spring onions, cucumber, mint, coriander, parsley, green chillies, lemon juice and rind and frozen peas that you’ve allowed to thaw. Mix it all together its nearly done!

I didn’t thaw the peas. I chucked them in with the rice while it was cooling, much quicker!

The rice has ‘Green Harissa’ stirred through it and this takes some time to make. Once you’ve made it though you have tonnes of the stuff for future recipes as you can keep it in a jelly jar and store it in the fridge – I don’t see why it wouldn’t keep.

The Green Harissa is made by roasting a handful of green peppers in a very hot over until they pop, skinning and deseeding them and blending them together with cumin and fennel seeds, sumac, chilli fakes, coriander, mint, parsley, lemon juice and rind, spring onions, peas and garlic – oh and a lot of olive oil.

You need to blend the harissa until it is really smooth. I used my Nutribullet but it really struggled with the quantity I was blending. I tasted it and it was very runny and bitter and then I realised I’d forgotten to add the peas (I only noticed as I’d left them on the side and they were the only spare ingredient left out). After these were added it was much thicker and tasted much better!

Most of the Harissa went into a jar. You only need about 100mls for the Salad – I had over half a litre left over!

This dish took a while to make. Fortunately we’d had a snack of stuffed vine leaves from our local Syrian supermarket in Brentford ‘Al Shaaam’. They always have everything I need for the type of cooking I enjoy and they are far cheaper than Morrisons. The staff there are so friendly and helpful – even more so now that Ramadam is over!

I really recommend this dish. If you make it to the recipe you’ll have enough for 2 meals easily. It makes a lot more than you think – and as tempting as it is to go back for seconds there is that waistline to look after!