Chilled Salad Soup with Crème Fraiche & Herbs

Finally some real sunshine at the weekend, almost summeresque and as always in the heat, I get to thinking about chilled soup.

Here is a recipe for one of the best and a great use-up of any salad leaves you happen to have. You can use anything from rocket to batavia, watercress to baby gem. I like a big handful of fresh spinach too, for a beautiful deep green hue. There is baby spinach in the boxes now so you can just chuck it straight in. Don’t forget the herbs. I particularly like basil or chives. For the base you can use spring onions, leeks or bunched onions, whatever you have. The potatoes can be any variety too and you don’t even have to serve it chilled – it is delicious hot too!

Chilled Salad Soup with Creme Fraiche & Herbs

Chilled Salad Soup with Crème Fraiche & Herbs

Good glug of extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, peeled and chopped (could be a few spring onions)

250g potatoes, peeled and chopped into even sized pieces

450g to 500g assorted green lettuce & salad leaves (such as batavia or baby gem lettuce, sorrel, watercress, rocket, spinach and nettles)

Herbs of your choice – mint, chives, basil etc,

250ml Crème Fraiche

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Sweat the onion down in a good glug of extra virgin olive oil for about 10 minutes or so until just beginning to colour. Add the potatoes and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for about another 10 minutes or so. Cover with water and cook just until the potatoes are soft. Add more water if necessary.  Remove from the heat and stir in all the greens/herbs and whiz up with a hand blender. Adjust the consistency. It should not be gloopy but also not too thin. Add the Crème Fraiche and check seasoning. Serve hot or cold. You can add a swirl more of Crème Fraiche or add a few freshly chopped herbs.

Spinach

Saffron Basmati Rice Salad with Lentils, Roasted Cauliflower and Crispy Fried Onions

With the weather finally warming up a little, I have got a couple of salads for you this week, but because it is not quite summer yet, they are quite hearty ones with plenty of filling pulses and grains. The other thing they have in common is the unusual salad ingredient of crispy fried onions. I used these on this blog, back in May last year in a Baby Spinach, Wild Rice, Broad Bean, Grilled Asparagus & Courgette Salad. These super delicious crispy onions liven up all manner of salads and the oil can be incorporated in the dressing, working particularly well with rice, lentils or grains.

Crispy Fried 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 carefully 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.

Saffron Basmati Rice Salad with Lentils, Roasted Cauliflower and Crispy Fried Onions Crispy Fried Onions

Saffron Basmati Rice Salad with Lentils, Roasted Cauliflower and Crispy Fried Onions

Crispy Fried Onions

1 cauliflower

100g lentils (I used Puy lentils but you can use any)

150g Basmati rice

A pinch of saffron

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp. cumin seeds

Small bunch of coriander

Rinse your basmati rice for 10 minutes or so until the water runs clear. Cover with an inch and a half of water, a good pinch of salt and a generous pinch of saffron. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until tender. Add more water during cooking if necessary. When cooked, drain and refresh in cold water. This is a salad and it is important that the rice is fluffy and separated. Allow to drain again for at least an hour, if not more. Cook the lentils very gently in plenty of water for about 15-20 minutes until tender. You want them to still have a little bite and texture. Drain for at least half an hour. Meanwhile roast your cauliflower. Cut it into even size florets and toss in a little of the onion oil, plenty of salt, freshly ground pepper and the cumin seeds. Mix well and lay out in a single layer in a roasting pan. Roast in the middle of the oven at 200°C (400°F) for 20 minutes, then give them a good toss to ensure even cooking. Roast for 10 minutes more or until the edges are brown and crunchy. In a bowl mix the rice with some of the onion oil, plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Immediately you will taste the great combination of saffron and subtle onion flavours. Add the lentils and cauliflower and check for seasoning. Add a handful of crispy onions, saving some for the top. Pick the leaves from the coriander and mix through the salad. Pile onto a serving plate and heap crispy onions on top.

brown onions

Turlu Turlu

Good to my word, I tried out a fresh tomato sauce, just to see how it turned out. As far as I know, there are two schools of tomato sauce. The Italian version which consists of no more than olive oil, garlic and tomatoes and maybe a little basil, or the French version which can contain pretty much anything. I believe that this is because the Italian version relies heavily on superb ingredients, including very good tinned Italian plum tomatoes, so I decided to opt for the French. I used some onion, celery and garlic in my base, sweated down with olive oil and I added some wild dried Oregano. The results where certainly good enough for this week’s recipe of Turlu Turlu. This is a sort of Turkish Ratatouille, and just the sort of recipe I love. It literally means hotchpotch and can incorporate any number of different vegetables mixed with chickpeas, tomato sauce and lots of herbs. It is a great use up dish and I had a whole array of vegetables in the bottom of my fridge, which all went in, including beetroot, parsnips, red onions, red peppers, courgettes, sweet potatoes, fennel and carrots and of course, the tomatoes. But you could have added potatoes, squash, green peppers, cauliflower, aubergine or any other vegetable you have to hand.

veg for Turlu Turlu

This recipe seems a little more complicated than it is, but only because I insist on separating the vegetables up which cook better on their own. They need a lot of room and different times and this way, all your vegetables are perfectly roasted. It is worth the effort.

As for my tomato sauce – I am not sure it was good enough to just serve on its own with pasta but I will keep working on it and let you know how I get on.

Turlu Turlu 2

Turlu Turlu
Serves 4
1 red onions, cut into into 8 wedges through the root
1 large red bell pepper, de-seeded, and cut into large bit-sized chunks
1 head fennel, cut into into 8 wedges through the root
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into large bit-sized chunks
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into large bit-sized chunks
A few beetroot, peeled and cut into large bit-sized chunks
3 courgettes, cut into 1cm slices, slightly on the diagonal
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, or to taste

For the sauce
6 Large ripe tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 small onions, finely sliced

1 tin chickpeas, drained
Freshly chopped coriander
Freshly chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Toss the red onion and red pepper with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray and put in the oven. Toss the fennel with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray, making sure as much surface area as possible is in contact with the tray and put in the oven. Combine the root vegetables – parsnips, beetroot and sweet potato. Toss with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray and put in the oven. Toss the courgettes with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray, make sure as much surface area as possible is in contact with the tray and put in the oven. You will have to check your veg regularly, and rotate veg to ensure even cooking, When your veg are cooked and a little caramelised remove them. Each tray will slightly different time. Meanwhile make your sauce. Sauté the onion and celery slowly in plenty of olive oil, for a s long as possible. Meanwhile, put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Cut a small cross in the top of your tomatoes. Add them to the pan of boiling water and boil for 1-2 minutes, until the skins begin to come away. Remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of cold water. Remove the skins and roughly chop. Add the garlic to the onions and fry a minute more before adding the tomatoes. Cook down gently until the tomatoes have completely dissolved, Season with salt and pepper and oregano. Puree with a hand blender.

Just before your final tray of veg is ready, add the chickpeas and tomato sauce to the tray and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Then remove and add all your veg together. Stir gently to avoid mushing up the veg. Allow to cool slightly before adding your herbs. Serve warm or room temperature.

Turlu Turlu 3

Grilled Chicken with Almond Dressing, Avocado and Vegetable Salad

It is not only Omega 3 which provides good fats. Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are also good. A moderation of saturated fats is also acceptable from whole milk, coconut oil and grass-fed meat but tran-fats should be avoided at all costs in commercially baked goods, packaged snack foods, margarine and commercially prepared fried foods.
To make sure you are getting enough good fats (Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated) stock up on avocados, olives, nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews and walnuts), seeds (sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds), flaxseed and fatty fish.
Luckily I had a couple of Avocados in my box this week so I set about making up a new salad. I am particularly pleased with the salad dressing which turned out really creamy and fresh, I just used tarragon, which always goes well with chicken and some basil for added zing. I also like chicken cooked in this butterflied method as it cooks in minutes as it is so thin, and stays really juicy and tender. Finally, of course you can add any other vegetables you have to hand and your salad leaves are up to you too. I used a mixture of rocket, watercress and a few sprigs of mint mixed through the green Batavia lettuce in my box this week.

Chicken Salad with Almond Dressing 2

Grilled Chicken with Almond Dressing, Avocado and Vegetable Salad
Dressing
50g almonds, soaked
A few sprigs of what herbs you fancy – coriander, basil, parsley or tarragon, leaves picked
100ml extra virgin olive oil

2 x 150g chicken breasts
Zest of a lemon
Dried oregano
Extra virgin olive oil
Mixed salad leaves and maybe a few sprigs of herbs
1 bulb fennel
1 carrot
1 small courgette
1 ripe avocado
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
lemon wedges, to serve

For the dressing drain the almonds, add the olive oil, the herbs, a good pinch of salt and pepper and some water and puree with a hand blender until smooth and creamy. Add more water to get a good consistency and check for seasoning.

Take each chicken breast and cut it through the from one side to the other, stopping just short of the edge. This is difficult to explain so please follow link. Unfold the chicken breast and lay flat. Season with salt and pepper, dried oregano and lemon zest on both sides. Drizzle with olive oil.
Shave the fennel, courgette and carrot with a mandolin. Peel and thinly slice the avocado. Dress the salad and shaved vegetables with a little olive oil and a small pinch of salt. Arrange on plates. Heat a griddle pan of just a large frying pan. Arrange the avocado on the plates with the salad. Grill the chicken on both sides until just cooked. Place on top of the salad. Drizzle with almond dressing and serve with a wedge of lemon.

Chicken Salad with Almond Dressing

Roast Aubergine and Cherry Tomato Pasta with Basil

Finally, for this week, a delicious pasta dish. When I was at then River Café (sorry, it is a week of name dropping) we often used to make this delicious Melanzane al Funghetto, which actually means aubergines cooked in the style of mushrooms, though I have no idea why! Anyway, I am sure that I will probably cook it on this blog very soon, but today I wasn’t looking for a side dish, I wanted a quick supper, so I decided to add some pasta.

Roast Aubergine and Tomatoes

I then thought that it might be nicer to roast the aubergine instead of frying it, to make it less oily and then I thought some little roast cherry tomatoes might be nice so I have called it Roast Aubergine and Cherry Tomato Pasta with Basil and I have to say, it was very nice.

Roast Aubergien and Cherry Tomato Pasta

Roast Aubergine and Cherry Tomato Pasta with Basil
Serves 2
1 large aubergine, cut into chunks
10 cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled
1 tin plum tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of chilli flakes
handful basil leaves, shredded or torn
handful of drained capers
200g pasta such as penne or fusilli
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 180C fan. Heat some of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Very thinly slice the garlic and fry until just golden brown. Add the tin of tomatoes, the balsamic vinegar, the chilli flakes and some salt and pepper. Let the sauce bubble away slowly on a low heat. If it gets too dry add a little water. Meanwhile toss the aubergine chunks with some of the olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and tip onto a roasting tray. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and put them onto the roasting tray as well. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 20-30 mins but check the aubergines regularly and move around to ensure even cooking. Meanwhile cook the pasta and drain. Tip the cooked aubergine, basil leaves and capers into the tomato sauce and stir gently. Check the seasoning and adjust. Tip in the pasta, stir and tip into serving bowls. Scatter with the roast tomatoes and serve straight away with parmesan if you like.

Roast Aubergine Pasta Sauce

Harissa Roast Vegetables with Coriander and Preserved Lemon Cous Cous & Tahini

This week I opted for a medium veg box less roots, and I have to say, I haven’t been quite so excited about my vegetable selection for a while. Sometimes I struggle for inspiration, for what to conjure up with yet more vegetables, but this week I could have used up my box three times over. The sight of parsnips and Brussel sprouts fills me with joy and is one of the few things I really look forwards to about winter – shorter days, central heating, layers of clothes, colds, mud and rain – no thank you but seasonal winter vegetables, being earthed up after a whole summer in the ground – now that’s a treat.

I started by putting nearly the whole box in one dish. A Moroccan inspired Harissa Roast Vegetables with Coriander and Preserved Lemon Cous Cous. I put in the red onions, the parsnips, the aubergine, the cauliflower and the courgettes. Then I threw in half a butternut squash I had left after making last week’s muffin. Had I had carrots, sweet potato or peppers in my box, they would have gone in too. You could serve this with Cauliflower Cous Cous, my obsession of the last few weeks but this week I was yearning for the real thing.

When it comes to Harissa, they vary in heat, so be careful. My favourite is Rose Harissa which is packed with flavour, without being overtly hot, so you can use generously.

Roast Veg in Tray

Harissa Roast Vegetables with Coriander and Preserved Lemon Cous Cous & Tahini
Serves 4
½ butternut squash, squash into bite-size pieces (you can leave skin on the squash, it’s up to you).
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into large bite-sized chunks
3 courgettes, thickly sliced 1 ½ cms
½ cauliflower broken in to large florets, each cut in half
4 garlic cloves, leave skin on
2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges through the root
1 aubergine, cut into large bite-sized chunks
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp Ras el Hanuot
2 tbsp harissa paste
6 tbsp. Olive oil
2 tbsp. Tahini
1 lemon
200g couscous
Bunch of fresh coriander
4 small preserved lemons, seeds removed and finely chopped
Sea salt

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Mix the harissa with 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, the Ras el Hanout and the cumin seeds. Add a teaspoon of salt. Use this to coat the vegetables before roasting. It is important that they have enough room, spread out on baking trays. Some veg, such as courgettes and aubergines benefit from having a tray to themselves if you want to make sure they brown. Root vegetables such as parsnips and squash which cook in similar times can share a tray. They cauliflower, onions and garlic cloves go together on another. Roast for 15 minutes before checking and moving around the veg to ensure even cooking. Check again after another 15 minutes and remove or give longer. They should all be golden brown and tender.

Meanwhile, make the Tahini dressing by very simply adding the juice of half a lemon to the Tahini with a large pinch of salt. Stir in enough water to make a smooth, creamy consistency. Check seasoning and add more salt or lemon juice to taste.

Meanwhile put couscous into a large bowl and put the kettle on. Mix the final tablespoon of olive oil in with the cous cous and a large pinch of salt. Massage the oil into the cous cous and then cover with boiling water. Set aside for 10 mins. Fluff up with a fork.

Meanwhile, chop your coriander and preserved lemons and add to the cous cous when ready. When the roast veg are ready, toss together, check seasoning and pile onto of the cous cous. Drizzle with the Tahini sauce.

Cous cous

Aubergine, Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Curry with Cauliflower and Coconut Rice

I actually managed to get away for half-term but returning to the hell of the school run, now that the clocks have changed and it is darker and gloomier, soon knocked any feelings of recuperation out of me. With winter setting in, I am turning to more warming, comforting suppers and nothing cheers me up more than I good curry. The autumn vegetables at this time of year really lend themselves to Indian food and I like to roast them to cut down on oil and keep more texture. However, because the ingredients are cooked separately it is important to let the finished curry sit for a while to allow the flavours to infuse. It is even better the next day.

Following my theme of the last few weeks, I have carried on experimenting with cauliflower, this time serving my curry with “cauliflower rice.” You can add all sorts to your cauliflower rice. For this Indian version, I particularly like the addition of the coconut oil but as I was serving it with curry, I let it at that. But you can turn it into a dish in its own right by adding amongst other things, onions, cumin seeds, chilli, ginger, garlic or herbs such as coriander.

It might even be nice to try versions from other countries. How about a Spanish version with Chorizo and peppers. Watch this space!

Roast aubergine

Aubergine, Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Curry
Coconut oil
3 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 aubergines, cut into 1” chunks
1 head of cauliflower, large outer leaves removed
3 garlic cloves
Large knob of garlic
1-2 fresh red or green chilli
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp cardamom seeds, (not pods) freshly ground in a pepper-mill (try a good Indian or health food shop)
2 large handfuls of perpetual spinach (or 1 large handful of true spinach)
1 tin chickpeas
1 tin plum tomatoes
Large bunch of fresh coriander, washed and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰C. In a heavy bottomed saucepan gently fry the onions in some coconut oil for about 15-20 minutes until really soft and just light golden brown. Meanwhile toss your aubergine in some oil, season with salt and pepper and lay out on a baking sheet, lined with grease-proof paper, with plenty of room to allow it to cook evenly. Roast in the oven until golden brown, about 35 minute. Redistribute from time to time.

Remove the core of the cauliflower and break or cut into even sized florets. You can use the small inner leaves. Do exactly the same with the cauliflower as the aubergine.

Roast Cauliflower

Meanwhile scrape the ginger with a teaspoon to remove the skin. Apparently the most nutritious layer of the ginger is just under the skin, so do this carefully. Grate finely. Peel the garlic and grate finely as well. Cut the chillies in half and remove the seeds. Finely chop. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli (only add one chilli to start with. You can always add more but you cannot take away once it is in.) Cook for one minute more and add the spices. Fry for one minute before adding the tin of tomatoes. Refill the tin with water and add too. Use a spoon to break up the tomatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Add the drained tin of chickpeas. Allow to gently bubble away for at least half an hour. Check the seasoning.

Meanwhile if using perpetual spinach, remove the leaves from the stems and blanch the leaves in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to dry, spread out on a tea towel. When the cauliflower and aubergine is cooked add to the tomato base. Use the tea towel to squeeze out any excess water in the spinach and roughly chop. Add to the curry with the coriander, stir well and allow to sit for at least half an hour, whilst you cook your rice, before serving.

Cauliflower cous cous

Cauliflower Rice
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets.
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Sea salt

Using a food processor, whiz up the cauliflower until evenly all very finely chopped. You can use a grater to do this instead. Heat the coconut oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the cauliflower. Season with sea salt. Cook, stirring regularly until the cauliflower is tender. The releasing moisture from the cauliflower will gently steam it. Do not allow to colour.

Aubergines

Rainbow Stir-Fry

Finally for this week, I needed to use up practically everything else in my veg box. I noticed that when my box arrived what a great array of colours the vegetables where at this time of year. I have been reading a bit about how eating all the different coloured vegetables, or eating a rainbow as it is called, is a really good way of making sure that our bodies get all the nutrients and vitamins that we need . It is almost like nature has highlighted the fruit and veg that we need by colour coding them.

With this in mind, I decided to make a Rainbow Stir-fry with what I had in my box. Red onions, carrots, sweetcorn, red peppers and mushrooms. Unfortunately I was missing purple, although I think the red onions might count, but if you like you could put some red cabbage in too. Anyway, most importantly it tasted great and looked pretty colourful too.

Rainbow stir-fry

Rainbow Stir-Fry
Serves 2
100g egg noodles
Sunflower oil
Large knob of fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1-2 fresh red chillies
2 small red onions
2 large carrots
½ a cabbage
1 red pepper
1 ear of sweetcorn
8 mushrooms
Sesame oil
Mirin
Soy sauce
Chinese cooking rice wine
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Put a pan of water on to boil. Cut the chilli in half, remove the seeds and finely chop. Scrape the ginger with a teaspoon to remove the outer layer and grate. Peel the garlic and grate it. (A microplane in really good for this.) Cut the cabbage in half, remove the core and finely shred. Peel the carrots and cut into julienne or coarsely grate. Peel the onions, cut in half and finely slice. Cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds and membrane and cut into thin strips. Cut the mushrooms into slices. Cut the sweetcorn of the cob. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook for 6 minutes or as instructed on the packet. Drain and dress with sesame oil to prevent sticking together. Heat a large wok. Add some sunflower oil and add the chopped chilli, garlic and ginger. Fry for a few minutes. Add all the rest of the vegetables and stir fry for 5 minutes or so. It is important to keep the veg moving all the time as the name stir fry implies. When the veg is well wilted, add the sauces to taste. You want a balance of sweet and salty. Taste until you have it right. Add the noodles and maybe a little more sesame oil to taste. Add the freshly chopped coriander, stir well and serve straight away.

Removing corn kernals

Mexican Tostadas

Finally this week, I have been focused on Mexico. I think it just must just be the sort of vegetables that are in season right now – cherry tomatoes, chillies. sweetcorn, avocadoes and chard all lend themselves handsomely to Mexican flavours and as sweet potatoes appear back in the boxes, I am sure I will be making a whole lot more. Mexican food may at first seem complicated but the essence of it is a selection of fillings which pretty much always comprise of a few staple ingredients – meat or vegetables with chilli (a huge assortment), black beans, re-fried beans, avocados, lime, sweetcorn, cheese, sour cream, queso fresco, salsa of some sort and coriander. These can be put together in any combination of your choice. Then there is the choice of vessel.
I decided to make Tostadas which are little, fried corn tortillas. You can do this quite simply yourself by buying ready made all corn tortillas but if you wished you can make your own. There is a recipe in Thomasina Mier’s book Mexican Food At Home but beware – it does require the purchase of Masa Harina flour, unless you already have some in the store cupboard.
If you didn’t fancy Tosdadas, which just happen to be my particular favourite when we occasionally visit to Wahaca, the following recipes would make equally tasty fillings for a Burrito, Taco or a Quesadilla, maybe with a little extra cheese.

 
To make the Tostasas
All corn tortillas
Vegetable oil
Lay the corn tortillas flat stacking them neatly on top of each other and using a pastry cutter, about 8 cms, cut three stacks of rounds. If you trim up what you are left with, you should have perfect shape for Tortilla chips. Heat about 200ml of oil in a shallow frying pan until it is sizzling hot (you can test it with a piece of off-cut tortilla – the oil should really sizzle when it goes in) and fry them in the hot oil until crispy and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt. Fry the Tortilla chips the same way and serve with the salsa or avocado dip.

Chard and sweetcorn

Swiss Chard and Smoky Pan-Toasted Sweetcorn
Kernels from 2 ears sweet corn
1 tsp smoked paprika
Pinch of smoked chipotle chilli
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 handful red, yellow or green chard
Pinch of smoked chipotle chilli
Sea salt
Cut the sweetcorn from the cobs. Do this by first removing the husks and then top and tail each cob to give it a secure base and cut each one in half. (As in photo)

Removing corn kernals

Stand each piece upright and using a sharp knife cut downwards releasing the individual kernals. Heat a large heavy frying pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Add a little oil and the corn kernels and cook, shaking the pan and stirring, until the kernels brown, about 5 minutes. Be careful because the corn can pop. Season with salt and add the chilli and smoked paprika. Shake well and remove corn from the heat.

Steamed Chard

If the chard has a large stalks (this is not usually the case early in the season) separate the chard stalks from the leaves and chop both leaves and stalks roughly, keeping them separate. Add the stalks to a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 2 minutes and then add the leaves as well and blanch briefly. Remove and spread out on a dry tea towel to cool. When cool use the tea towel to squeeze out as much water as possible. Cut the garlic into very thin slithers. Heat a little more olive oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic until just turning light golden brown. Add the Chard and season with salt and mix well. Fry briefly and remove from the heat. Add the corn and stir through and check the seasoning. I like these topped with sour cream.

Cherry Tomato and Black Beans Salsa

Cherry Tomato, Black Bean and Coriander Salsa
8 ripe cherry tomatoes
½ tin of black beans (drained)
2 spring onions
1 lime
Small bunch of coriander
1 – 2 small fresh red chilli
Sea salt
A glug of extra virgin olive oil

Cut your tomatoes into quarters and chuck them in a bowl. Finely shred the spring onions and add them. Squeeze the juice from the lime and add ½ to the tomatoes with a good pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil. Roughly chop the coriander and add that two. Remove the seeds from the chilli and finely chop. Add ½ to begin with. Stir in the beans well and check seasoning. It should have a good kick, so if it is too mild add more chilli. Add move lime or olive oil to taste. Top with creamed avocado.

Creamed Avocado
This is simply Guacamole without all the ingredients. Since the same ingredients are in the salsa, there is no need to add them twice. I especially omit the chilli as the salsa should have more than enough. The avocado topping is there to cool your mouth down.

1 avocado (perfectly ripe)
Juice of ½ a lime
Tbsp. of sour cream
Handful of coriander, washed, drained and finely chopped
Sea salt.

Mash up the avocado until completely smooth. Add the lime, sour cream and finely chopped coriander. Add salt to taste.

Beetroot Tostadas

Beetroot, Cumin Seed, Sour Cream and Coriander with Feta
This one is not strictly Mexican. In fact I have no idea if they have beetroot in Mexico. However I just felt that these Mexican flavours go so well with beetroot, I had to try it and I was really pleased with the results.
Most Mexican recipes call for queso fresco, which literally means fresh cheese. It is hard to find in England unless you make your own but feta cheese is a good substitute.

1 large beetroot
1 tsp cumin seeds
1-2 tbsp sour cream
Large handful of coriander, washed, drained and finely chopped (save a few extra leaves for decorating.)
100g feta

Pre-heat oven to 180⁰C. Wash the beetroot and trim of the tops and tail. Wrap it well in tin foil and put in the oven. Cook for about 40 minutes to 1 hour. A skewer or knife should insert and pull out again without any effort. Allow to cool until you can handle. Slip off the skins with your hands. (You can wear disposable gloves if you have any.) Finely dice the beetroot and put in a bowl with the cumin seeds, sour cream and coriander. Season well with salt and taste. Serve with crumbled feta and a few extra coriander leaves.

Washed Chard

Vietnamese Lettuce and Beef Wraps

Vietnamesse Wraps closeup

Finally for this week one of my favourite sorts of recipe. It is one of those when you manage to somehow conjure up a delicious dinner from almost nowhere. All I had left in the box was a green Batavia lettuce, some carrots and a cucumber. All I had in the fridge was one fillet steak. We can learn a lot from Asian recipes as they have long understood that meat and fish are costly and they know how to make expensive ingredients go along way. This is of course a healthier way of eating too and the idea that the vegetables should be as important as the accompaniment is very trendy at the moment. Although the list of ingredients often looks long and complicated, it really is store cupboard stuff and it really could not be quicker and easier to make.

Just time for “Kitchen Kit of the Week” – a microplaner is a grater reinvented. The story is, a Canadian housewife decided to use one of her husband’s favourite woodworking tools and discovered that it was the best orange zester she had ever used. There is a whole range available now but I suggest a fine one, for effortlessly grating ginger and lemongrass like you have never seen. Pick one up on Amazon or at Lakeland.

Vietnamese Wraps

Vietnamese Lettuce and Beef Wraps

You can make the dipping sauce and marinade the meat the day before.

For the marinade

1 fillet steak

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce (Nam Pla)

1 tsp caster sugar

1-1½ tsp toasted sesame oil, to taste

For the dipping sauce

1 tbsp. rice vinegar, to taste

2 tsp. caster sugar, to taste

1 tbsp. Fish sauce (Nam Pla)

1 stick lemongrass

1 lime, juice only

1 fresh red chilli

For the wraps

1 carrot, cut into fine julienne strips or grated

½ cucumber

3 sprigs mint, leaves picked and chopped

½ small bunch coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped

1 lettuce such as Batavia or baby gem

Lime wedges, to serve

For the marinade, put the steak into a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix until coated evenly. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight if possible.

Meanwhile make the dipping sauce. Mix the rice vinegar, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice together. Finely chop the red chilli. If you like it hot then leave the seeds in, if not remove them. Remove any tough outer leaves from the lemongrass and trim the bottom. Grate using a microplaner starting at the bottom and grating until nearly three quarters of the way up. (If you do not have a microplaner, chop very finely). Add with the chilli to your dipping sauce and taste. Adjust the flavours as necessary – adding a little more sugar if it’s too sour, or more rice vinegar or lime juice if too sweet.

Next peel and grate your carrots and cut your cucumber into julienne. A mandolin is good for this. Separate and wash the salad leaves and leave to drain. Pick the leaves off the herbs.

In a large heavy-based frying pan, heat a dash of oil. Shake off any excess marinade from the steaks and cook for 2-3 minutes on either side – depending on their thickness and how rare you like your steak. Tip over the marinade and remove and rest on a plate for five minutes.

To serve, arrange the lettuce leaves on a serving plate. Fill the lettuce leaves with carrot and cucumber. Add a small handful of herbs. Slice the rested steak, and top each leaf with a slice or two of steak, tipping any resting juices over the top. Serve with the dipping sauce and lime wedges on the side.

Lettuce