Lentil Salad with Celery, Carrots, Chilli and Parsley

This is one of those recipes which really does not sound or look that exciting but always tastes much more than its sum of ingredients.  I think it is the combination of chilli and celery which is such a refreshing mix of hot (spicy) and cold, the nutty lentils and really good olive oil which works so well.

Make sure you choose Lentils which hold their texture when cooked like Le Puy Lentils or Castelluccio.  There should be more vegetables in proportion to the lentils. You can add other vegetables that you have to hand such as peppers of any colour or fennel. Adjust the amounts of all the ingredients according to your taste.

Lentil Salad with Celery, Carrots, Chilli and Parsley

Serves 8 as a side

200g Lentils

200g carrots, chopped very finely

200g celery, peeled and chopped very finely

200g cucumber, seeds removed and chopped very finely

1 Fresh red chilli

1-2 lemons

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Large handful of parsley, roughly chopped

Cook the lentils in plenty of salted cold water.  Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes until just cooked.  Do not over cook as they will not retain their texture which is very important for this salad.  When cooked, drain and allow to cool.  When still warm, mix with the dressing of freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper.  Be generous, it should be quite juicy. Allow to cool completely before mixing with all the other ingredients.  Adjust seasoning.  Serve scattered with a little more freshly chopped parsley.  Try using some leaves of baby gem lettuce as a “spoon.”

Kohl Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing

I can’t avoid it any more. The dreaded Kol Rabi has turned up in my box this week. I have to admit, I am not a great fan. It’s the smell that gets to me, of old turnips, not the taste which is really unobtrusive and the texture is crunchy and present. So I set about finding the perfect dressing for a Kol Rabi slaw. I wanted something with a bit of an attitude as Jamie Oliver says, something with a bit of guts to camouflage the smell and transform my slaw into something special. After scouring through hundreds of slaw dressings I found this one, which although I was most dubious of due to the strange mix of ingredients – balsamic vinegar with ginger and coriander! And also lime and honey, which always reminds me of cough sweets! But the reviews were glowing. Apparently it comes from TGI Fridays. Unfortunately, that I have ever been to one, so I can’t testify to it being true or not. I made a few changes, including quartering the amount of honey, but I have to say, it made a pretty good Kol Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing. Just ready for the BBQ season!

Kohl Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing

1 Kohl Rabi, peeled

3-4 carrots, peeled

Dressing

1 fresh chilli, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic

Large knob of fresh ginger root, scraped

2 limes, juiced

1 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Small bunch of coriander

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Whiz the whole lot of dressing ingredients up with a hand blender. Adjust seasoning. Coarsely grate the Kohl Rabi and carrot. A food processor is good for this, but otherwise use a grater. There should be about an even amount of each. Dress and serve.

Kale Caesar Salad

I seem to have been hearing endlessly about this Kale Caesar Salad from The Field Kitchen. First of all I heard how it was the best thing Guy had eaten in years, then the recipe turned up in my box twice and now it is on the Riverford website, so being a great Caesar Salad fan, I thought I’d better give it a go. And, I have to say, it was worth the publicity.

I am not very keen on raw kale, even if it has been scrunched. This popular fad is when you sort of cure your kale by mixing it with salt and lemon juice and leaving it for a while so that it begins to soften a bit and hopefully become a bit more palatable. Often recently I have been served up huge bowls of the stuff in various creations and as I chew my way laboriously through it, someone will inevitably announce “And it is so good for you too!”, to which I always reply, although not usually audibly, “Well thank God it has got something going for it!” But this salad really is a pleasure – and it is good for you too!

Kale Caesar Salad

This makes a huge amount of dressing. You can keep it in the fridge for a few days for other salads, or half the amount.

2 garlic cloves, peeled

10 anchovy fillets or capers

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Juice of 1-2 lemons

2 eggs

250ml olive oil

kale, preferably curly

Parmesan, shaved – use a peeler

For the eggs – 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar

For the croutons

A few slices sourdough bread, torn into bit sized chunks

Extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic

Boil a small pan of water. Add a dash of white wine vinegar. Gently crack your eggs straight into the water. Boil gently until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a piece of kitchen towel.

Add to a blender (or use a hand blender) the eggs, the anchovies, the mustard, the red wine vinegar and the lemon juice. Blend. Slowly add the oil, bit by bit until smooth and completely blended. Check seasoning. Add salt and pepper if you like. Toss with the kale and leave to sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, heat about an inch of olive oil in a small pan. Add the peeled garlic cloves. Fry until they are golden brown and remove. Add the bread. You may have to fry it in batches. Fry i=until golden brown and drain on kitchen towel. Season lightly with sea salt.

Top the salad with croutons and shaved parmesan.

Roast Butternut Squash and Red Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing

It is nearly Halloween and the fields are full of pumpkins so I thought I would devote this week purely to them. If you are passing any of the four Riverford’s farms celebrating “pumpkin day”, be sure to pay them a visit. Apparently it’s a real family friendly event with plenty to keep everyone entertained, including pumpkin carving, face painting, wildlife spotting, chilli stringing, Christmas food and drink tasters and plenty of organic refreshments. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it as I’m off to Sardinia for, hopefully, a little last sun before winter truly sets in. However, these pumpkin recipes, with their beautiful, bright orange colours, are full of sunshine too.

First up, a variation of salad from Ottolenghi.  Unusually for a Ottolenghi recipe it has surprisingly few ingredients in it (and I even managed to cut some of those down) and it is really very easy and quick. You don’t even have to peel the squash.

roast-butternut-squash-and-red-onion

I wanted to serve my version as a salad so I added couple of handfuls of wild rocket leaves. Remember you can use one of the many different varieties of pumpkin to replace the butternut squash. Try kabocha which also does not need peeling. Don’t forget that Riverford are selling a Squash Box right now with a selection of at least three different varieties for £9.95.

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Roast Butternut Squash and Red Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing

1 large butternut squash (around 1.1kg), cut into 2cm x 6cm wedges

2 red onions, cut into 3cm wedges

50ml olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

3½ tbsp tahini paste

1½ tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp water

30g pine nuts

A couple of handfuls of salad leaves, such as rocket

A little extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt, mixed to make a salad dressing

Heat the oven to 180C. Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and toss well. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions: they may cook faster than the squash, so may need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water & a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to the consistency thin cream, adding more water or tahini as necessary.

Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and half a teaspoon of salt, cook for two minutes, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown, then tip the nuts and oil into a small bowl.

To serve, dress the leaves with the salad dressing and scatter them on a large plate. Top with the vegetables. Drizzle over the tahini dressing. Scatter the pine nuts on top.

selection-of-pumpkins

Fig, Salted Almond and Bufala Mozzarella Salad

I get very excited about new produce from Riverford and so, I was thrilled to see that they are now supplying figs from Spain and I couldn’t wait to give them a try.

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This is a super simple salad that we used to serve at The River Café. It is nothing more than an assemblance of fabulous ingredients, but when your ingredients and that good, you really don’t need to do very much to them. I added some salted Catalan almonds, which I always pick up when I see them because they remind me of holidays. (If you can’t find them, you can always make your own.)

salted-catalan-almonds

I also drizzled some truffle honey on my figs. I know this is not for everybody, but if you do like truffles then do check it out. Marks and Spencer stock a really great one for £6. But is you are not a truffle person, a drizzle of aged balsamic works well too. You could play around with the cheese too. I imagine that Burrata would be pretty amazing, but to tell you the truth, I find them just too rich! Tallegglio or even Gorgonzola would be delicious too. What ever you decide to add, I am sure you will agree, it looks beautiful and tastes great.

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Fig, Salted Almond and Bufala Mozzarella Salad

Serves 2

Couple of handfuls of rocket

Few sprigs of fresh mint

Few sprigs

1 ball good quality bufala mozzarella

2 ripe figs

Extra virgin olive oil

Handful of salted Catalan almonds

Drizzle of expensive aged Balsamic or truffle honey

Sea Salt

Mix a little olive oil with a pinch of salt and dress the leaves. Pile on to a large plate and top with slices of mozzarella and fig. Scatter over the almonds and the herbs and drizzle with truffle honey or balsamic vinegar.

black-figs

Pear, Blue Cheese, Endive and Watercress Salad with Candied Pecans

Pears are at their best right now and what better way to have them than in this delicious autumnal Pear, Blue Cheese, Endive and Watercress Salad with Candied Pecans. Sweet pear, salty blue cheese, bitter leaves and crunchy pecans – what a great combination.

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Pear, Blue Cheese, Endive and Watercress Salad with Candied Pecans

Few handfuls of watercress

2 heads of chicory, red or white

½ a lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

1 firm pear

Some candied pecans (or walnuts) recipe below

Blue cheese, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola

Good aged syrupy balsamic vinegar

Pick out and discard any tatty watercress leaves, then place into a serving bowl. Trim the bases of the chicory, then slice them and add to the bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice into the jar, removing any pips. Add the extra virgin olive oil to the jar with a pinch of salt. Put the lid securely on the jar and shake well. Have a taste and see whether you think it needs a bit more lemon juice or oil. Dress the watercress and chicory and pile onto a large plate. Cut the pear in half and finely slice, avoiding the core. Scatter with pecans and crumble over the blue cheese. Drizzle over the balsamic and serve.

candied-pecans

Candied Pecans

There are more complicated recipes for Candied Pecans than this, involving egg whites, vanilla and cinnamon, but I think for a salad this recipe is better. You can use walnuts instead.

110g / 1 cup pecan halves

30g / 2 tablespoons butter, salted

30g / 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180 C. Melt butter and sugar over medium-high heat. Add pecans and toss to coat. Spread on grease proof paper and toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Stir once or twice whilst cooking. Make sure they do not burn.  Allow to cool.

pears

Super Green Salad with Thai Dressing

I had never heard of fresh Edemame until last week, when I saw them mentioned on Riverford’s Website. I had only ever had the frozen variety, which I love, so I was keen to give them a go and I am pleased to say that they are great. It is so nice to be using fresh, seasonal veg, rather than something from the freezer. I decided to make up a salad in honour of them.

I came up with a Super Green Salad. You are free to play around with the ingredients, as long as they are green. I think asparagus or peas would be a nice addition, when in season, but you could even try adding green apple. I wanted a really zingy, fresh dressing so I turned to Thai flavours for inspiration, with not only fresh lime, but fresh lime leaves as well, to really add zest.

It makes a fabulous lunch on its own, or since my theme this week, is making a little good meat go further, you could add a couple of slices of rare, thinly sliced steak and make it into a Thai Steak Salad. Either way, with all its super healthy ingredients, I think it will leave you feeling good about yourself.

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Super Green Salad with Thai Dressing

Add the ingredients in the quantities the at you like.

A mixture of cooked Wild and Brown Rice  – you can buy this ready cooked if you are in a hurry like me

Cucumber, finely diced

Cooked edamame (the frozen ones are cooked already and only have to be defrosted)

Ripe avocado, finely diced

Spring onion, finely chopped

Pumpkin seeds

Pistachio nuts

Freshly chopped mint

Freshly chopped coriander

Fresh lime leaves, very finely chopped  (large Salisbury’s or Thai Supermarket)

Thai Dressing

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Small piece fresh ginger, finely grated

Add all your salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix up the dressing ingredients in a separate small bowl, stirring well to ensure that the sugar is dissolved. Dress the salad. Check seasoning. You may need a little salt or more dressing. Serve immediately.

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Roast Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Red Pepper Salad

And finally for this week, another recipe full of sun-shine. Grilling your peppers may be a bit of a hassle but it is well worth it for the fabulously, smoky flavour that infuses with their natural sweetness.

Grilled Red Peppers

Add some spicy chorizo, roast sweet potato and coriander and you have a delicious salad which will brighten up any meal.

Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Red Pepper Salad

Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Red Pepper Salad

Serves 2

2 sweet potatoes, diced with skin on

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. of ground cumin

A pinch of cayenne pepper

200g chorizo, diced

2 red peppers

Small bunch coriander, freshly chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sherry Vinegar

Salad leaves, rocket, baby spinach or watercress

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Toss the sweet potatoes with 1 tbsp. oil and the spices and transfer to a baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, roast your peppers. You can do them on a griddle, under the grill, on a BBQ, in a very hot frying pan or even straight in the flame of the gas. You need to char all the sides until black. This give the pepper a delicious smoky taste and also makes it very easy to remove the skin. When charred put in a bowl covered with clingfilm or into a piece of sealed tupperware. This will make the peppers steam and makes removing the skins even easier. When cool enough to handle, slip of the skins and remove the stalk and skins. Tear into strips. Heat the rest of the oil in a frying pan and fry the diced chorizo until cooked. Deglaze with a splash of sherry vinegar. Add a glug of good olive oil to make a dressing. Mix the chorizo with the cooked sweet potatoes, red peppers and coriander and gently stir through the salad leaves to dress. Check the seasoning and serve.

Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Red Pepper Salad 2

Fresh Borlotti Bean, Red Onion and Tomato Salad with Anchovy and Rosemary Dressing

It is always exciting when fresh Borlotti beans are around but their availability time is really short so make sure you order yours straight away. It is always such a pleasure to cook fresh beans – no need to soak overnight and cooked in about 30 minutes as opposed to hours. I also feel that they always absorb other flavours better so be sure to add plenty of rosemary and garlic when cooking yours.

Borlotti Beans 2

This is a simple salad of Borlotti Beans, Red Onion and Tomatoes with Anchovy and Rosemary Dressing. They are just flavours which go so well together, it is simple but delicious. Serve alongside roast lamb or a piece of grilled fish for a spectacular Bank holiday lunch.

Borlotti Bean, Red Onion and Tomato Salad with Anchovy and Rosemary Dressing 1

Fresh Borlotti Bean, Red Onion and Tomato Salad with Anchovy and Rosemary Dressing

1 small red onion

Red wine vinegar

Fresh Borlotti Beans (shelled)

Cherry or vine Tomatoes

Couple of cloves of garlic, peeled

Small bunch of rosemary

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the red onion as thinly as possible and macerate in a little red wine vinegar. Cover your beans with plenty of cold water in a saucepan. Add the garlic cloves. Tie the rosemary up with some string or even an elastic band. You want to stop the spikes coming off your rosemary bundle, because they are not very nice to eat and you just want the flavour to infuse whilst cooking. Add to the beans and cook for about 30 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, make your dressing (below) and cut your tomatoes in half or quarters, depending on size.

When your beans are cooked, drain off the water and mash the garlic cloves into the beans. Allow to cool for a while. Remove the rosemary. Season well with salt and pepper.  Drain the onions of excess vinegar and add to the tomatoes and beans and toss with plenty of dressing.

Borlotti Bean, Red Onion and Tomato Salad with Anchovy and Rosemary Dressing

Anchovy and Rosemary Sauce

1 tbsp. fresh young rosemary leaves, very finely chopped

6 anchovy fillets

Juice of ½  lemon

75mls very good extra-virgin olive oil

Place rosemary leaves in a mortar and grind as finely as possible. Add anchovy fillets and grind to a paste. Add lemon juice, mix well, and then, stirring constantly, add oil, a few drops at a time. Transfer sauce to a small bowl.

Borlotti beans in shell

Nutty Superfood Salad

It is so much easier to eat healthily in the Summer I find. I actually crave salad, whereas in the Winter I crave stodge. Occasionally I pick up lunch on my way home from work, before I pick up the kids. Unfortunately, in my line of work, your job is to cook other people lunch, not cook or eat your own! Marks and Spencer is probably best for ready-made salads. Although I know that Waitrose also do a range. Most of the ones I have tried, may sound nice, but are usually disgusting. They always seem to try just a bit too hard, chucking in any combination of trendy ingredients – black quinoa seeds, Camargue red rice, cranberries, amaranth leaf, black barley –  and the dressings are always really nasty – too much japenese rice vinegar and Yuzu!.

The other day I bought a selection of two different salads, both which unannounced contained seaweed!  Surely if you are going to add seaweed to your salad, you would mention it in the name, not just hidden in a long list of ingredients which are far too small to read with human eyes. Well my eyes anyway. I couldn’t work out what this slimy, sort off-fishy taste was in my salad. Narrowed it down to the Wakame which was eventually mentioned in the list of 30 ingredients, now that I had been forced to put my reading glasses on. I even like seaweed, on say nori rolls, where it is meant to be, but this was disgusting and both pots of salad ended up in the bin. However, I am pleased to say, after much trial and error, I finally found a ready-made salad that I really liked. Marks and Spencer Nutty Superfood Salad. Featuring green beans, peas, broccoli, carrots, black-eyed beans and quinoa plus peanuts, almonds and pistachios, it is absolutely packed with delicious ingredients. It comes two ways, either on its own or served alongside a dollop of cannellini bean hummus and with a soy and ginger.

It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but it is super easy. Make up a large batch and dress it as required. What is so fab about making it yourself, is you don’t have to skimp on your favourite expensive ingredients, which inevitably the supermarkets always do!

Nutty Superfood Salad 1

Nutty Superfood Salad

To serve 4

2 Broccoli florets, shredded

1 Handful of peas

100g French beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 large carrot, finely chopped

100g spelt (wheatberries, barley or farro) you can buy ready cooked

100g soya beans

200g cooked black eye beans (or another type of bean – haricot, cannallini)

50g quinoa (You can buy ready cooked)

1 tsp. poppy seeds

1 handful pumpkin seeds

1 handful peanuts

1 handful pistachios

1 handful almonds

A little freshly chopped coriander

For the dressing, mix together:

2 tbsp. soy

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp sesame

1 tsp honey

Juice ½ lime

½ tsp. chilli paste

Put three pans of water on to boil. In the first add the quinoa. Cook 12-15 minutes until all the quinoa has gone squiggly. Drain well. In the second add the farro, cook for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain well. In the third pan, add a pinch of salt and then the green beans. When cooked, add the shredded broccoli, bring back to the boil and add the peas and soya beans. Bring back to the boil and drain. Drain well.

Combine the salad ingredients.

Mix the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over each portion or alternatively, toss through the entire lot in a large bowl.

Nutty Superfood Salad