Golden Beetroot, Fresh Goat’s Cheese, Baby Spinach and Toasted Walnut Salad

When I went to work in California back in the 90’s it was a revelation of the importance of ingredients. This concept, of not merely buying but “sourcing” was only just beginning in London at the time, but in California everything was obtained from specialist suppliers.

What a long way we have come with every menu in town listing artisanal this and rare breed that. Anyway, one of the ingredients I was most excited about seeing all those years ago was all the different varieties of beetroots in the farmers market.  Deep golden yellow, creamy white, deep purple and even pink and white striped. So it brought back memories when I saw that Riverford where now growing bunched golden beetroot and this recipe is in honour of them.

Golden Beetroot, Fresh Goat’s Cheese, Baby Spinach and Toasted Walnut Salad

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

A couple of handfuls (about 70g) baby spinach leaves

450g beetroot, any colour, roasted, peeled and cut into wedges

150g soft goat’s cheese, crumbled

75g toasted walnuts

To roast beetroot, scrub and wrap individually in tinfoil. Roast in the oven at 180C for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserts easily. Leave wrapped up until cool. Unwrap and slip off the skins with your hands.

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and Dijon mustard together in a small bowl. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the spinach in a bowl. Add half the dressing to the spinach mixture and toss well. Divide among 4 serving plates (or leave in the large bowl if desired), then scatter with beetroot, goat’s cheese and toasted walnuts. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve immediately.

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Saag Paneer

I don’t know why but I had never tried Saag Paneer. Whenever I go out for an Indian meal,  I guess I have always opted for Saag Aloo and so it never got a look in. Well that is a thing of the past. It is sublime. An Indian spiced, creamed spinach – what a great combination.

Neither did I know that you can make your own Paneer. I have to admit though that I didn’t. I got mine from Waitrose!

Saag Paneer

Coconut oil

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 ripe tomatoes

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

100 ml double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the paneer: OR 1 block of ready made Paneer (226g)

1.5 litres whole milk

1 lemon

To make the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin and place over a bowl. Heat the milk in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Gradually add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, stirring continuously so the curds and whey separate. Carefully pour the mixture into the sieve so the curds collect in the muslin. Place under cold running water to get rid of any whey, then gather up the muslin and squeeze out the excess moisture. Keeping the muslin bundle in the sieve, cover it with a plate and top with a few heavy weights (a couple of tins work well). Place in the fridge for 1 hour 30 minutes to set.  cut the

Cut the paneer into 2cm chunks. Heat some coconut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the paneer and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.

Peel and finely chop the onion and finely grate the garlic and ginger. Return the pan to a medium-low heat, adding a splash more oil, if needed. Add the cumin seeds, fry for 1 minute, then add the onion and cook for around 8 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Halve, deseed and very finely chop the tomato, add to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile blanch the spinach in a pan of salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dry tea towel to cool. When cool enough to handle, use the tea towel to squeeze the excess water from the spinach. Roughly chop.

Stir in the spinach, cover and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the cream, paneer and a splash of boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further minute or two with the lid off, or until reduced to a deliciously creamy consistency. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Asparagus, Broad Bean and Pea Salad with Farro, Feta and Baby Spinach, Crisp Prosciutto

Whilst lurking around in an Italian deli last week in Putney, I stumbled upon the whole selection of the Bartolini Range.  Up until that moment I had only known of their Farro Perlato, but it appears that they have a brilliant selection of lovely pulses, pastas and cereals all from Umbria.  I bought some lovely looking Borlotti Beans, Cannellini Beans and Chickpeas as well as Orecchiette and Trofie Pasta.

Farro is the Italian word for Emmer wheat. It is a wheat grain, actually a kernel, that resembles barley and is specifically grown in Italy but grows wild in the Middle East.  It is hulled but not “polished” and therefore retains a rustic character both in taste and consistency. Like the other grains in the wheat family, Spelt and Kamut, Farro is botanically closer to ancient varieties of grains and has a high vitamin, mineral and fiber content.

Anyway, I love the stuff and often put it into all sorts of soups. But it works equally well in salads too.

Asparagus, Broad Bean and Pea Salad with Farro, Feta and Baby Spinach, Crisp Prosciutto

1 Bunch of Asparagus, snap off ends and cut the rest into 1 inch pieces

200g podded Broad Beans, (or frozen)

200g shelled peas, (or frozen)

100g Farro

100g Feta

Large handful of Baby Spinach

4 slices of Prosciutto or Parma Ham

Mint

Lemons

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

First cook your Farro in plenty of salted boiling water until cooked and nice and chewy.  Drain and allow to cool.  Whilst still warm dress with a dressing make of some freshly squeezed lemon juice, some extra virgin olive oil and lots of salt and pepper.  Allow to cool completely.

Cook the asparagus in lots of salted boiling water for about 3 minutes, until tender. Remove and refresh in lots of cold water.  Next put the peas in the water.  Bring it back to the boil and cook until tender.  Refresh.  Finally cook the Broad Beans in the water and cook for about 3-5 minutes.  Refresh and shell when cool. Place your slices of Ham on some tin foil and bake for about 10 minutes in a medium hot oven until crisp.  Remove and allow to cool.

Finally mix the Farro with the asparagus, broad beans, peas and freshly chopped mint.  Check for seasoning.  Just before serving toss through some baby spinach leaves.  Pile onto a large plate.  Crumble the feta on top and finally crumble the crisp ham over.

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Sausages with Lentils, Crème Fraiche, Mustard & Spinach

Usually I have a glut of vegetables of one sort of another, but at the moment I appear to have a glut of lentils. I must have read some article proclaiming the virtues of lentils and how super good they are for you and then subconsciously I must have picked up a bag every time I went shopping for the next month. Subsequently, this week, I have not one, but two lentil dishes for you. The first is a classic combination of lentils, crème fraiche and mustard served up with spinach and sausages. It is not exactly a stew, but it is nice to keep it a bit soupy. You can use any sort of spinach or some other greens, such as chard, kale or cavalo would work too, but you might like to blanch them first.

Sausages with Lentils, Crème Fraiche, Mustard & Spinach

Serves 4

8 good quality pork sausages

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

6 rashers streaky bacon, chopped

1 large leek, shredded, washed and drained

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

Small bunch of fresh thyme, tied into a bundle

2 cloves garlic, grated

250g lentils

Couple of large handfuls of fresh spinach, striped from stems and washed

250ml crème fraîche

1-2 tbsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cook the sausages for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are evenly browned and cooked through.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Fry the bacon until crispy and then stir in the chopped vegetables and the thyme bundle. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and are beginning to brown. Add the lentils and the garlic. Stir well and add 1 ½ pints of water. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the lentils are tender. Add water if necessary but by the time the lentils are cooked, you want most of the water to have cooked away. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the thyme bundle, squeezing out the remaining juices. Stir in the crème fraiche and mustard and then the spinach. Return to the heat and cook the spinach until just wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning and add the sausages. Serve hot.

Spinach Wilted With Raisins, Pinenuts and Balsamic

The spinach looks so pretty at this time of year with its pink tinged stems and lush green leaves, I thought that I would cook a dish just in honour of it.  And I was particularly pleased with this Sicilian influenced dish with chilli, pinenuts and balsamic, lending the spinach a delicious sweet and sour flavour. Works well with others greens, such as chard too. You can use either true spinach or baby spinach but if using baby spinach you also have the option of turning it into a salad and leaving it raw.

Spinach Wilted With Raisins, Pinenuts and Balsamic

1 red onion

2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced

extra virgin olive oil

350g spinach

50g pinenuts, toasted

50g raisins

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Pinch chilli flakes

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and finely slice the onion. Sweat it gently in a little olive oil and some salt for about 10 to 15 minutes until beginning to caramelise. Meanwhile, strip the spinach from the stems, wash it and left to drain in a colander for as long as possible.  Soak the raisins in a little boiling water. Add the garlic to the onions and fry for a minute or two more. Add the spinach with another pinch of salt and wilt until cooked. Add the balsamic and reduce until dry. Check seasoning and add the drained raisins, pinenuts and chilli flakes. Serve hot or warm.

Braised Spinach and Cannellini Beans

Sad to get back from holiday but lovely to get home to a lovely box of fresh vegetables. It is such a great time of year for produce, it really is a pleasure cooking and not the chore that I have to admit, it sometimes does feel.  First up, I knocked up a really quick and easy recipe of Braised Spinach and Cannellini Beans. You can use any mixture of greens you like from mustard greens to kale to Cavalo Nero, but if you are not only using spinach and your greens are tougher, you will have to blanch them first in boiling water for about three minutes. Then drain and when cool, squeeze out the excess water before adding to the garlic oil. I decided, rather decadently, to add a little cream during cooking, as it goes so well with spinach and cannellini beans alike. You could serve this pilled on to a piece of Bruschetta or equally delicious, alongside a grilled lamb chop or a piece of roast fish. Adapt your herbs, depending on what you are serving it with. An anchovy might be nice too!

Braised Spinach and Cannellini Beans 1

Braised Spinach and Cannellini Beans

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1 large bunch greens (such as spinach, mustard greens, kale, or Cavalo Nero) thick stems removed, spinach left whole, other greens cut into 1-inch strips and blanched first

1 can cannellini or haricot beans drained

2 teaspoons of very finely chopped rosemary

100mls double cream

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in large heavy bottomed saucepan, over a medium heat. Add the garlic and dried crushed pepper; stir until garlic is pale golden, about 1 minute. Add the spinach by large handfuls and stir just until beginning to wilt before adding more, tossing with tongs to coat with oil. Add a good pinch of salt and any blanched, drained greens you might have. Remove the greens with a slotted spoon and gently squeeze any juices back into the saucepan. Add the beans and the rosemary, the cream and a little salt and pepper. Reduce down until you have a creamy consistency. Add the greens back and stir well. Allow to boil for a minute or two. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve warm.

Braised Spinach

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds

Finally the aftermath of moving house is calming down, it is too wet for me to start the epic job of putting the allotment to bed for winter and I don’t have any Riverford lunches this week, and as a result I actually had some time to do some cooking this week.  It is often difficult to find the time to experiment with new recipes for my Riverford Lunches and Dinners and I always feel that I need to keep on finding new and exciting ways of using veg, if I am going to keep on inspiring you. I opted for a large veg box (original) and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Large veg box Wk 17

I was very keen to test out a salad recipe that my sister in law served up last weekend for lunch and everyone was bowled over by. It comes for Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem which is one of my favourite cookbooks but I had somehow managed to overlook this recipe. It is a perfect blend of sweet and sour, crunchy and chewy and salads really don’t get much better than that. 1 am sure with its combination of almonds, dates and spinach it has got to be pretty good for you as well.

Spinach Salad with Almonds & Dates

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds

1 tablespoon wine vinegar
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 ½ ounces dates (100 grams), preferably Medjool, pitted and quartered lengthwise
Salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (30 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 small pitas (about 3 1/2 ounces, or 100 grams), roughly torn into 1 1/2 -inch pieces
½ cup whole unsalted almonds (75 grams), coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sumac
½ teaspoon chili flakes
5 to 6 ounces baby spinach leaves (150 grams)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put vinegar, onion and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain any residual vinegar and discard. Meanwhile, heat butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add pita and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring all the time, until pita is golden. Add almonds and continue cooking until pita is crunchy and browned and almonds are toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and mix in sumac, chili flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside to cool. When ready to serve, toss spinach leaves with pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add dates and red onion, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

Red Onions

Vegetable Fritters

As always in late summer, I am overrun with courgettes and spinach so it was really nice to find a recipe which combines the two. They are also a good way of using up any broccoli including purple sprouting, peas, sweet corn, carrots, beetroot, cauliflower or a favourite of mine – Jerusalem Artichokes. You can vary the spices and herbs accordingly. I tried several attempts to perfect these fritters and turned to Japanese Tempura recipes to fine-tune the results. Another variation is Pakora, an Indian version made with gram flour, the batter encases the vegetable which is cut in larger pieces and results in a crisp outer shell and the vegetable inside is almost steamed, onion bhaji being the most famous example.

It is fun to choose a fitting dip to accompany your fritter of choice. You can go Asian, try a salsa – verde or rosso, a yoghurt based dip or a flavoured mayonnaise add some chilli or try guacamole. But if you are short on time, they are just delicious with a wedge of lemon or lime.

The feta can be replace with the more traditional Robiola cheese but it is hard to find. If you have never paid a visit to Vallebona I strongly recommend it. As a supplier to some of the best Italian restaurants in England, they have a beautiful shop in the middle of the most unpromising site of Weir Road Industrial Estate in Wimbledon. As soon as you walk in the door you are overwhelmed with their wonderful array of fabulous cheeses, meats, wines and breads all sourced fresh from Sardinia. Go on a Saturday and they have tasting. I have to warn you that it is not cheap, but I guess food this good is always going to come at a price. They now are open for pre-booked lunch and pop-up dinners. I haven’t been, so let me know if you go.

Courgette Fritters 1

Courgette, Spinach, Feta and Herb Fritters
It is possible to replace the flour with something gluten-free such as buckwheat flour but add ½ tsp of baking powder to add a little lightness.
4 courgettes (approx. 500g)
1-2 handfuls of true spinach
3 spring onions (finely chopped)
20g Parmesan (grated)
150 grams feta cheese
1 small bunch dill
Zest of a large lemon
50 grams self-raising flour
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs (beaten)
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Coarsely grate the courgettes. Put in a bowl with the chopped spring onions. Add the chopped dill, parmesan, lemon zest, flour, egg yolks and season well with salt and pepper. Stir well and then crumble in the feta and add the spinach. Whisk the egg whites into firm peaks and gently fold through the courgette mixture. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan and drop dessertspoons of the mixture into the hot oil, flattening the little cakes down with the back of the spoon as you go. Keep them quite small so they are easy to flip. Cook these little patties for about 2 minutes each side until golden, and then transfer to kitchen paper and then a couple of waiting plates.

Courgette Fritters 2

Spinach and Feta Filo Pie

Finally for this week – spinach! The types of spinach available from Riverford vary throughout the year and although they will work with any spinach recipe, the cooking methods will change.

With true spinach or baby spinach it wilts easily and can be cooked without blanching. Simply melt a little butter in the bottom of a heavy based saucepan. Make sure the bottom is coated with butter as it will stop the spinach sticking. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and cover. Steam for a minute or two. Remove the lid and stir. Cook covered for one or two minutes more until all wilted. Tip into a colander, spread out well and allow to drain. Perpetual spinach is actually a chard and from the beet family. It has a much longer season and is easier to grow. This type needs to be blanched in salted boiling water for one to two minutes. Remove and spread out on a dry tea towel to drain. When cool, use the tea towel to squeeze excess water from the spinach. This then should be lightly sautéed with olive oil or butter and seasoned to taste.

Today we are making a Spinach and Feta Pie based on the Greek classic “Spanakopia” and it occurred to me that it could also be easily made using spring or summer greens which I promised you more recipes for. I love this pie, still warm, for lunch with a side salad.

Another way I like to use up my spinach is in Spinach Empanadas. I simply cook the spinach and add some grated Parmesan and salt and pepper. That is it. You can buy ready-made Empanada pastry oinline which comes frozen and you keep in the freezer until wanted just like Filo. I might try experimenting with some different filling for those too as it is a great way of getting vegetables in the kids and they can go in their lunch box too. Cornish pasties are the English version and just as delicious. Let’s face it – anything in good, golden brown, flaky pastry is going to be yum!

Filo and Feta Pie in dish

Spinach and Feta Filo Pie
400-600g spinach
Large knob of butter
4 spring onions
50g freshly grated Parmesan
200g crumbled feta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
60 g (2 oz) butter, melted
8 sheets filo pastry

Depending on spinach cook as above. Heat some butter in a heavy-based frying pan and add the shredded spring onions. Cook for a few minutes and then add the drained spinach. Cook for a few minutes to remove all excess water. Season well to taste with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Allow to cool. Add the beaten egg and stir well. Next and the Parmesan and crumbled feta. Preheat the oven to moderate 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Lightly grease a 20 × 30 cm baking dish, preferably metal. Lay 4 sheets of filo pastry on the bottom, brushing between each sheet with a butter. Top with the spinach and cheese mixture. Finally top with the remaining filo sheets making sure each one is well brushed with butter. Brush the top with any of the remaining butter. Bake for about 30 minutes in the bottom of the oven or until the top is golden brown and the bottom is cooked through as well. Cut into pieces and serve warm.

Spinach

Baby Spinach, Wild Rice, Broad Bean, Grilled Asparagus & Courgette Salad with Crispy Onions

Finally for this week, another really delicious salad and a meal in itself. I am back to grilling veg again and although I know that grilling courgettes maybe a bit laborious, I cannot think of a vegetable which is more elevated by this simple process. The rather tasteless courgette absorbs the smoky flavours of the grill and is transformed into something quite exceptional.

The crispy onions are another favourite of mine and are such a marvellous addition to so many dishes. You can make up a batch and they will keep crispy for up to a week in an air-tight container. The oil, which you can re-use each time you make a batch, also serves as a delicious dressing and gets more intense the more times you re-use it.

I love adding a couple of handfuls of shelled broad beans to my salads. Their pale green colour so quintessentially says “spring” so get them whilst you can because along with the asparagus, they will be finishing soon.

I love the chewy texture and nutty taste of Wild Rice and it is super good for you too. It is a little hard to get hold of so stock up on it when you see it because it is one of my salad ingredient staples.

Crispy Onions

Crispy Fried Onions

Thinly slice a few large onions. Cut off the top end of the onion and peel the rest of it. Slice as thin as possible. A Mandolin is really good for this or you can use a food processor. Place a saucepan on a high heat and add about an inch of vegetable oil. You don’t want to use too much oil as the more intense the flavour the better. Heat the oil to 180⁰C using a thermometer. Add the onions slowly and deep fry until light golden brown. Be careful not to burn, stirring regularly, especially in the corners where the onions will cook most quickly. Remove with a slotted spoon, straight into a colander lined with kitchen paper over a bowl. Break up any clumps and leave to crisp up. Season lightly with salt. When cool pour the oil into a bottle for further use.

Courgette, Asparagus & Broad Bean Salad

Baby Spinach, Wild Rice, Broad Bean, Grilled Asparagus & Courgette Salad with Crispy Onions

Serves 2 as a main

A Couple of handfuls of baby spinch (washed)

200g broad beans

1 bunch asparagus

50g Wild Rice (try Tilda)

2 courgettes

Crispy fried onions (see above)

Olive oil

Sea salt

First put your rice in a saucepan with plenty of cold water and a good pinch of salt. Boil gently for about 20 minutes until pleasantly chewey to eat. Drain. Meanwhile put another pan of water on the boil. Snap amy woody end off the asparagus and drissel with a little olive oil and sea salt. Slice the cougette into flat ribbons. A mandolin is brilliant for this, otherwise use a sharp knife. The slices should be about the thickness of a £1. Heat your grill or light you BBQ. Once the water is boiling add the shelled broad bean and boil for about 2 minutes. Drain and immediately refresh in cold water. Whilst you are grilling the courgettes and the asparagus, slip the broad beans out of their skins. Put the drained rice in a large bowl and add a tablespoon of the onion oil and a large pinch of salt. Taste it and notice how the flavour has come alive. Add the spinach and broad beans and gently mix. Tip onto plates and pile the courgettes and the asparagus (cut into 3cm lenghths) on top and finish with some crispy onions.

Asparagus