Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing

I love the sweet and sour combination of this crunchy salad. Adjust the dressing until you have the perfect balance.

Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing

You can use any cabbage in this salad even red cabbage works.

For the Thai Peanut Dressing

2 tbsp creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from one lime

1 tablespoon soy sauce (use gluten-free if needed)

1 tablespoons sugar

1-inch square piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Nam Pla

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

For the Salad

½ pointed cabbage, shredded

3 carrots, peeled into ribbons

1  cucumber, halved lengthwise, de-seeded, halved lengthways again and chopped into 1cm chunks

1 cos lettuce, sliced into 1cm slices and broken up

2 medium spring onions, thinly sliced

1 bunch freshly chopped coriander

For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a blender and process until completely smooth. Use to dress the vegetables and serve straight away.

A Modern Petits Pois à la Française

I love growing peas. They are so perfect from begging to end. The flowers are so pretty and there is nothing nicer than seeing the kids picking the pods and popping sweet, young peas straight into their mouths.

This Petits Pois à la Française is a classic dish of braised peas, but I like to make a rather more modern version, cooking it for much less time to keep it fresh and vibrant, both in colour and taste.

A Modern Petits Pois à la Française

(serves 4)

75g butter

1 large cos lettuce (I used Batavia)

400g freshly podded peas

The white part of 6 spring onions, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Large pinch of sugar

Several mint sprigs

Wash and drain the lettuce.Melt the butter in a large, stainless-steel pan. Add the spring onion and fry for a few minutes without any colour. Add the peas and the lettuce to the pan with a pinch of salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar (optional). The peas should cook in the water released from the lettuce whilst it braises. This should only take a few minutes. If necessary, add a dash of water. When the peas are cooked and the lettuce wilted, add the mint sprigs. Check seasoning. Serve warm.

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Tacos with Re-fried Black Beans, Roast Butternut Squash and Feta

I seem to be writing a “100 easy recipes with butternut squash” blog at the moment.

I also seem to be finding it increasingly difficult to come up with ideas for family meals. My children are finally of the age when we can have a family supper all together in the evening, after years of cooking separate meals for us and the kids. This does however limit what we can eat, as pleasing everyone seems almost unachievable. I am always trying to think up new and enticing ways of presenting vegetables to persuade the kids to eat them. This week I bought some Tacos which always go down well. I offered a little shredded, left over chicken for my daughter, who does not do “spicy” and knocked up some guacamole for my son, who doesn’t like meat. If you offer a selection of different filling, it is almost possible to keep the whole family happy, as least for a while.

Tacos with Re-fried Black Beans, Roast Butternut Squash and Feta

Tacos with Re-fried Black Beans, Roast Butternut Squash and Feta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, very finely grated

Large knob of ginger, very finely grated

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 Chipotle chilli, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried marjoram or handful of fresh oregano

1 tablespoon tomato puree

2 tins black beans

1 packet corn tacos

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced

Small bunch of coriander, leaves picked

Shredded lettuce

A little feta, crumbled

Guacamole (see link)

Whatever else you might like to add – sour cream, tomato salsa, grated cheese,  shredded cooked chicken or sweetcorn

Heat oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat; add onion and celery. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook about 1 minute more. Add chilli, the salt, the herbs, spices and tomato puree. Stir and cook 1 minute more. Stir in beans with a little of their juice and cook for 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile roast your butternut squash. Cut into quite small dice, toss with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking tray in a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 30 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelise.

Make up your tacos as you like, but I like to  first add some re-fried beans, tops with some shredded lettuce and coriander leaves, scatter on some butternut squash, add a big dollop of guacamole and finish with a little crumbled feta.

Roast Butternut Squash 1

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

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