Labneh with Roast Beetroot and Sweet and Sour Red Onions

I know this is maybe a little weird, but I recon this is honestly the nicest thing I have made in quite a while. It is strangely moreish and I polished off the whole lot whilst writing this blog.

Lebanese food has always been one on my favourites and I always order Labneh as part of the meze. But it is so easy to make your own. Buy the best yogurt that you can.

Labneh with Roast Beetroot and Sweet and Sour Red Onions

Serves 2

250 g Greek yogurt

1 kg raw beetroots

Sweet and Sour Red Onions

1 large red onion

1 tbsp. dark muscovado sugar

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

a few sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley

Mix the Greek yogurt with a good pinch or two of salt and wrap in a clean J-cloth, fasten with string and hang it over a bowl over night to strain it. I hang it off the tap over the sink.

The next day, pre-heat oven 180C. Scrub the beetroot and wrap each one in tin foil. Put in the oven for about 45 mins to 1 hour. A skewer should insert easily into the centre of the beetroot. Leave to cool. Then make the sweet and sour onions. Peel the onion and slice as finely as you can, into rings. In a bowl, combine the sugar and ½ a teaspoon of sea salt with the vinegar, stirring until dissolved. Add the shallots and leave to stand for 45 minutes, stirring every so often. Unwrap the beetroot when cool and with your hands, slip off the skins. You can use surgical gloves if you like.

Unwrap the strained yogurt and tip it into a clean bowl. Spread over the bottom of the bowl and up the sides. Arrange slices of beetroot on top. Season lightly with a little salt and pepper. Scatter over the onions and finish with parsley and maybe a drizzle of olive oil.

Peperonata

Peperonata is a Sicilian pepper stew and amazingly, for such a simple recipe, no two versions seem to be the same.  I add not only capers and basil but Balsamic vinegar to mine, just to really nail that sweet and sour kick, but I also leave out the tomato which is often present in other versions.  Use the best Balsamic you can, which not only means one obviously from Moderna, the home of  Balsamic vinegar but also one that has also been aged at least 12 years.  A decent one will set you back at least £12.00 for 250ml but it will be worth it.  You will not need very much and it’s mellow sweetness and integrated acidity will add an amazing depth and complexity to many sauces especially tomato based ones.

I love this pepper stew, not only on its own with a rocket salad but also with meat or fish, especially wild salmon or mackerel.  The acidity works really well to cut the oiliness of the fish.  All you need is a few boiled new potatoes and you have a little taste of much needed sunshine.

 Peperonata

6 peppers (red, yellow and orange are best)

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 medium-sized bunch of basil, roughly chopped

A handful of baby capers

A splash of very good balsamic Vinegar (Aged 12 years at least)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by slicing the peppers in half, scooping out the seeds and slicing into one-inch strips lengthwise. Now place a medium-sized heavy- based pan over a gentle heat. Add a tablespoon of the olive oil and allow to warm through. When the oil is warm but not hot, add the onions, a pinch of salt and sweat for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and sweat for a further 10 minutes – the onions should not have browned at all. Add the peppers and stir to combine. Cook until the peppers are soft and almost falling apart; this should take about 45 minutes. Give the capers a good squeeze to get rid of any excess vinegar and add to the peppers. Drizzle with balsamic and season with freshly ground black pepper and salt.  Cook until the vinegar has the right sweet and sour balance.   Add the basil and taste for seasoning. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

 

Grilled Sweetcorn Slaw

Another salad featuring the wonder cure Apple Cider vinegar. This is quite an unusual recipe in that the slaw is lightly pickled and if there is one thing more fashionable and fashionably good for you it is pickled food.

Grilled Sweetcorn Slaw

Makes tonnes so feel free to half the recipe. Yotam Ottelenghi

100 apple cider vinegar

200ml water

¼ white cabbage, shredded (300g net)

3 carrots, julienned or grated (175g net)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced (140g net)

4 corn cobs, lightly brushed with olive oil (600g gross)

2 red chillies, finely chopped

20g picked coriander leaves

20g picked mint leaves

Olive oil

Salt and black pepper

Dressing:

50g mayonnaise

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1½ tsp sunflower oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 clove garlic, crushed

Place the vinegar and water in a small saucepan along with 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Place the cabbage and carrot in a bowl, pour over two-thirds of the salty liquid and set aside to soften for 20 minutes. Pour the remaining liquid over the onion and, again, set aside for 20 minutes. Rinse the vegetables and onion well, pat dry, place together in a large bowl and set aside.

Place a ridged char-grill pan on a high heat and, when it starts to smoke, lay the corn over it. Char-grill for 10-12 minutes, turning so that all sides get some colour (this will create quite a lot of smoke). Remove from the heat and, when cool enough to handle, use a large knife to shave off the corn in clumps and add to the salad bowl.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad and stir gently. Add the chilli, coriander and mint, along with a grind of black pepper, give everything another gentle stir and serve.

Kohlrabi, Apple and Beetroot Salad

Vinegar seems to be the latest thing. Not only is it fabulous for cleaning your house, but it turns out it is fabulous for you too. Whereas white vinegar is best for your house, apple cider vinegar is the one that is best for you. New research means doctors and scientists are calling it one of the ‘functional’ foods – foods that are not only nutritious but help prevent and protect against disease.

It contains the same important nutrients as apples – including pectin, beta-carotene and potassium – plus enzymes and amino acids formed during the fermentation process.

Its high potassium content encourages cell, tissue and organism growth, and the enzymes help boost chemical reactions in the body.

It also contains calcium, which maintains healthy bones, helps transmit nerve impulses and regulates muscle contraction, and iron, essential for healthy blood. Magnesium is another component, with many beneficial effects on the body, especially the heart.

Low potassium levels can make us feel permanently tired, and potassium-rich foods help prevent age-related illness.

It also enables the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid, which aids digestion. We lose acid as we age, but apple cider vinegar can help prevent common digestive disorders as we get older.

And if that was not enough, apparently it can help with dementia as well. Is there nothing vinegar cannot do?

Here are two salads this week which feature vinegar. Oh, and lots of healthy vegetables too!

Kohlrabi, Apple and Beetroot Salad

This salad probably serves about 12 people. I halved it and still had loads!

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

2 large kohlrabi

3 apples (cox is best)

2 medium beetroot

Bunch of coriander, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish

1 garlic clove, crushed

55ml apple cider vinegar

50ml extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Peel the kohlrabi, cut in half and slice thinly. Core the apples and slice to the same thickness. Peel the beetroot and grate coarsely on a cheese grater or shred on a mandolin.

Mix together all the vegetables in a large bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well, taste and season – you can afford to be generous with the salt. Pile up on a serving plate and garnish with extra chopped coriander.

Marsala Frittata

And for my final Frittata, this might even have been my favourite, which I wasn’t expecting, as I mainly decided to make it because I liked the name!

Marsala Frittata

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil

3 onions, thinly sliced

1 tsp. Garam Marsala

1 tsp. ground cumin

200g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 fresh red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped

Small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

4 large eggs, beaten

Pre-heat oven to 170C. Heat some oil in a medium non-stick, ovenproof frying pan. Tip in the sliced onions and cook over a medium heat with a pinch of salt, for about 10 mins until soft and golden. Add the chilli and spices and fry for 1 min more. In a bowl lightly whisk the eggs. Season lightly and add the tomatoes, the chopped coriander and the onions. Wipe out the frying pan. Add a dash of olive oil. Put the pan back on a medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and leave on the heat, just until the bottom and sides begin to set. Put in the oven until just firm, about 10 minutes. It is up to you whether you flip the frittata over or serve it the same side up. Cut into wedges and serve with a nice salad.

Onion and Thyme Tart

It is onion season. Riverford are using Barbosa new season onions grown by their friend Pepe on his organic family farm in Spain. They have a slightly fresher, sweeter flavour than standard onions, and as they don’t have a ‘set skin’ they are easier to peel too. Try them in this onion tart. It makes a fabulous starter or a great lunch with some crisp green salad on the side. I know pasty sound tricky but this one is really easy so give it a try.

Onion and Thyme Tart

Serves 8 / Tart tin 10” – 25cm

For the pastry

175g plain flour

80g butter, cold and cubed

Pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

1 egg

For the filling

4 large onions, peeled and very thinly sliced

Olive oil

Butte

Bunch of thyme, tied into a bundle with string

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ pt double cream

3 egg yolks

80g grated Parmesan

Put the flour and butter for the pastry, and salt if using, in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 170C.  Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Use a small piece f pastry dipped in flour to really push the pastry into the edges of the tin to avoid it shrinking. Get a round piece of grease proof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes or until the pasty is very light golden brown. Meanwhile sweat the onions gently in a heavy bottomed saucepan, with some butter, a glug of olive oil, the thyme and some salt and pepper. Cover and cook very slowly for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until beginning to caramelise. Remove from the heat. Remove the thyme and squeeze all the juices out into the onions. Add the cream and the yolks and the grated parmesan cheese. Season to taste. Pour into the tart case and cook the tart for about 20-30 minutes, until set and lightly golden brown.

Grilled Courgette Salad with Chilli, Mint and Lemon

I never have enough recipes for courgettes so I was pleased to come up with two this week. This really light, refreshing salad is perfect when you are having a BBQ. Just grill the courgettes along side everything else. If you want to make it more substantial scatter with feta or crumble some grilled Halloumi over the top.

Grilled Courgette Salad with Chilli, Mint and Lemon

Serves 2

3 courgettes, ends trimmed, cut into long strips, a mandolin is great for this

Extra virgin olive oil

1 fresh red chilli, seeded, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ lemon, juice only

1 lemon zest

handful fresh mint, roughly chopped

Toss the courgette strips in a bowl with the olive oil (just enough to coat the courgette), and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat a BBQ or a ridged grill pan until smoking hot and griddle the courgettes in batches, about four minutes per side, being careful not to crowd the grill pan. They should be tender, but with a crunch to them in the middle. If the strips are not quite cooked, leave them on the grill pan for longer, but watch the heat as you don’t want them to burn. Don’t be tempted to move the courgette while it is cooking or you won’t get the char-grill marks across the flesh. Check seasoning.

Mix some lemon juice, olive oil and salt together to make a dressing and use this to dress the griddled courgettes. Add the chilli and mint and lemon zest and serve.

Tomato Salsa with Coriander, Chilli and Lime

I have served up this salsa at the Wimbledon Guild Fair for many years and it is always a firm favourite. It is such a versatile salsa, it goes with almost anything. Lovely dolloped over a piece of grilled fish, or equally delicious alongside a nice steak. It can be piled into wraps, Tacos, Quesadillas, on sweet corn fritters, with croquetas, excellent with avocado, in a burger or on nachos or on a chilli.

I have used this salsa in countless recipes on this blog but I have never actually featured it on its own. So here it is. Having said that the recipe is vague as it really is up to you to get the balance of sweet tomatoes, heat from the chillies and sour lime that you like. I am not keen on a lot of raw onion, but others are. I like lots of fresh coriander instead.

Anyway, I will be serving up at Holy Trinity Fair tomorrow, so come along to the Riverford stand if you would like to try some!

Tomato Salsa with Coriander, Chilli and Lime

1 fresh red chilli (very finely chopped)

1 spring onion or ½ a small red onion (very finely chopped)

6 large tomatoes (cut in 1/8ths ) or 15 cherry tomatoes tomatoes (quartered)

Juice of a lime

Small bunch of Coriander (finely chopped)

Glug of good extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Mix chilli, lime juice and olive oil together.  Season well.  Stir in rest of ingredients.  Allow to sit for a few minutes and check seasoning again.

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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Chilled Courgette and Basil Soup

It is almost too hot to eat. The hottest day for 41 years apparently. There is only one thing that sounds enticing. Chilled Soup. This delicious and vibrant Chilled Courgette and Basil Soup will cool you down.

Chilled Courgette and Basil Soup

Serves 4

2 onions, peeled and finely sliced

4 courgettes, cut into thin slices

Extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

sea salt and ground white pepper, to taste

1¼ pint water (or chicken stock)

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

2 tablespoons good quality pesto or make your own (recipe below)

A handful of spinach leaves, rocket or watercress

Cream or olive oil to serve

Fry the onion gently with plenty of olive oil in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the courgettes and a good pinch of salt and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, until the courgettes are completely collapsed and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Season well with salt and pepper and add the water and pesto. Bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the leaves. This will make your soup an appetizing green. Liquidize with a hand blender. Stir in the creme fraiche and adjust seasoning. Add more pesto if necessary.  Serve with a swirl of cream or olive oil.

Pesto

½ a clove of garlic, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 good handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked and chopped

A handful of pine nuts, very lightly toasted

A good handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Extra virgin olive oil

A small squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Pound the garlic with a little pinch of salt and the basil leaves in a pestle and mortar, or pulse in a food processor. Add a bit more garlic if you like, but I usually stick to ½ a clove. Add the pine nuts to the mixture and pound again. Turn out into a bowl and add half the Parmesan. Stir gently and add olive oil – you need just enough to bind the sauce and get it to an good consistency.

Season to taste, then add most of the remaining cheese. Pour in some more oil and taste again. Keep adding a bit more cheese or oil until you are happy with the taste and consistency. You may like to add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end but it’s not essential. Try it with and without and see which you prefer.

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