Salade Niçoise

Finally for this week, the weather managed to stay bright just long enough for me to make one of my favourite quick lunches, Salade Niçoise. I was inspired by the lovely French beans and tomatoes around at the moment but you could try it with runner beans instead. I am however an avid believer that a Salad Niçoise simply has to contain tuna and anchovies to be permitted to bear the name. I made it with a fresh piece of grilled tuna but you can use tinned if you prefer. The anchovies in my recipe are only used to season the dressing but by all means add some extra if you are inclined. You can get delicious marinated anchovies or Boquerones if you shop around.

This recipe is from Alastair Little who is credited as being the inventor of Modern British cooking, which is what inspired the entire revolution in food that began back in early 90s. His fantastic book “Keep it Simple” is now out of print but you can still pick up second hand copies if you try. Alistair always amazed me by his inclusion of tomato ketchup in this dressing, but it really works!

Salad Nicoise

Salade Niçoise
Serves 2
2 fresh tuna steaks
8 new potatoes
4 tomatoes, cut in eighths
Small handful of French beans, topped
½ small red onion, very finely sliced
4 eggs, cooked for 6 minutes in boiling water, halved
A handful of good pitted black olives
Small handful of capers
For the dressing
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
4-6 anchovy fillets
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Juice ½ lemon
1 tsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp Worcester sauce
1 egg yolk
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Boil the eggs for 6-8 minutes, depending whether you prefer a soft or harder yolk. Drain and refresh.
Boil the potatoes in salted water for 12-15 minutes until tender, then drain. Cut into halves or quarters depending on size
Boil or steam the beans for 5 minutes. Refresh in cold water, then drain.
Make the dressing: Whiz everything together with a hand blender. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.
Peel the eggs, cut into halves.
Heat a ridged griddle pan on the hob or a hot barbecue for 5 minutes. Cook the tuna steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on how rare you like your fish.

French Beans

Charred Corn, Scrunched Kale and Sweet Potato Salad

Judging by how quiet the roads still are, I am assuming that most people are still away. And with the rather disappointing weather of late, who would blame them. But I am back from my holidays in the South of France so it is time to get blogging again and I will be concentrating on healthy eating. As always the markets in France were piled high with fantastic vegetables. They really put the English to shame in their conviction of taste over appearance on the veg front. No perfectly uniform, identical greenhouse grown Dutch vegetables here. All sorts of knobbly and imperfect specimens make it to the market stalls which are inspected and chosen with much consideration, conversation and examination.

Market France

But as fantastic as the vegetables were, it appears to have been the Croissant and cheese that made the biggest impact on my diet and weight. So now I am back, I am focused on “healthy eating” and thought I might try a few recipes from a new book I just bought “A Modern Way to Eat” by Anna Jones. I was particularly looking for a new recipe for sweetcorn and thought that “Charred Corn, Scrunched Kale and Sweet Potato Salad” sounded wholesome.

I have never been a massive raw kale fan so I was keen to see how the “scrunching” works which Anna says is equally good with spinach, Cavolo Nero and spring greens. “I keep the kale raw, which might seem a bit unusual. I love to eat kale raw – but I always scrunch it with lemon or lime juice and a pinch of salt first. This does something amazingly fresh and different to it – the cellulose breaks down, so it softens and sweetens into buttery little ribbons. It is a super-quick and because you aren’t cooking it all the nutrients stay intact” and I have to say that that it did make a difference and the whole salad was really delicious. I just changed the honey for maple syrup and added a little chilli to the sweet potatoes. The caramelised beautifully but keep an eye on them as they burn easily.

Charred Sweetcorn, Sweet Potato and Kale Salad

Charred Corn, Scrunched Kale and Sweet Potato Salad
4 sweet potatoes, washed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon runny honey
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g head of curly kale
Juice of ½ a lime
2 corn on the cob
1 ripe avocado, peeled, destoned and sliced
For the dressing:
Juice of ½ a lime
A handful of cashews (soaked overnight if you have time)
½ a bunch of fresh coriander
2 tablespoons coconut milk

Method

Preheat your oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6.

Place the sweet potatoes on a roasting tray with the paprika, cumin, honey, a good splash of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Toss together, then roast for 40 minutes, until soft on the inside and charred and caramelised outside.

Strip the kale from its stems and rip or chop it into little bite-size pieces. Put into a large bowl, squeeze over the lime juice and add a pinch of salt. Use your hands to scrunch the kale for a minute or so, then place to one side.

Next, heat a griddle pan until screaming hot. Add the corn and char it on each side, turning it from time to time. Once charred all over, let it cool, then cut the kernels from the corn cobs and add them to the bowl of kale.

Put all the dressing ingredients into a blender with 2 tablespoons of water and a good pinch of salt. Blitz until almost smooth and grassy green.

Taste, and add more lime juice or salt if you think it needs it.
Add the sweet potatoes to the kale and corn, then add the avocado to the bowl too.

Pour over the dressing and toss the lot together.

Sweet Potatoes

Kohl Rabi

This week I started with a medium vegbox less roots which contained wet garlic, bunched onions, broad beans, garden peas, swiss chard, mixed salad leaves, mini cucumbers, red pepper and the dreaded kohl rabi,

I decided to get to work straight away on the Kohl Rabi as it is one of those vegetables that no one really knows what to do with. Looking like an unwanted alien, it is of the cabbage family but with the smell of mild turnip. It actually doesn’t taste of anything much but it has a great texture. So many recipes seem to be merely an excuse to get rid of it, so I wanted to try embrace it but use gutsy enough flavours to hide the rather unappetizing smell – unless you are a turnip lover. On the plus side, kohl rabi is really good for you. Higher in vitamin C than oranges it is a powerful antioxidant and contains phytochemicals which appear to have an anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

I have researched long and hard on your behalf and come up with three salads which most celebrate the Kohl Rabi.

Kohl Rabi Remoulade

Kohl Rabi Remoulade
Remoulade is usually made with raw celeriac and delicious with cold meats.
1 medium kohlrabi
A squeeze of lemon juice
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Grain mustard
4 tbsp. Mayonnaise

Peel the kohlrabi and cut it into matchsticks about 3mm thick, either by hand or using a mandolin. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Season well and mix in the kohlrabi.

Asian Coleslaw with Peanuts & Chilli

Asian Coleslaw with Peanuts & Chilli
½ large kohl rabi, peeled and finely grated
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
100g beansprouts (optional)
2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts
1 bunched onions, finely sliced
Small bunch coriander
For the dressing:
1 tbsp thai fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp lime juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red chilli, finely diced

Whisk all of the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and set aside. Pick the leaves from the coriander. Mix together all the vegetables, add the coriander leaves and toss with the dressing. Pile on a serving plate. Sprinkle with the roasted peanuts.

Kohl Rabi and Fennel Salad with Dill

Kohl Rabi and Fennel Salad with Dill
Great with fish, especially fatty fish like salmon or mackerel as the sharpness of the lemon cuts the fattiness of the fish.
I head of Fennel, tough outer leaves, stalk and tops removed, very finely sliced preferably on a mandolin
½ Kohl Rabi, peeled and very finely sliced preferably on a mandolin
½ lemon, juiced
Very good extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Small bunch of dill, finely chopped

Mix the lemon juice with a good pinch of salt. Mix well and add the olive oil, about 3 times as much oil as lemon. Taste and adjust. Add the fennel and kohl rabi and most of the dill. Serve with a little more dill or fennel fronds sprinkled on top.

Kol Rabi

Potato Salad

Finally for this week – New Potatoes – and what better in this heat than a delicious potato salad. I got a bag of Lady Crystal in my box which are particularly good for salads. No need to peel, just wash well and boil in plenty of salted water until tender. A blunt knife should insert easily. I like to cook them whole but make sure that you choose similar sized potatoes so that they cook evenly. I cut them into bite sized chunks as soon as they are cool enough to handle. You can leave your potatoes to cool in the boiling water or drain them but never refresh them. What you add to your potato salad is up to you. I like to think what it is accompanying: with a nice piece of salmon I might add dill, with a steak, some capers and thyme or a handful of finely slice spring onions, with a lamb chop some mint or rosemary and a few shelled broad beans. With cold meets I might add some finely diced pickle cucumbers, with a piece of roast cod, some freshly shelled raw peas and some basil, with BBQ chicken some tarragon and lemon zest. The possibilities are endless. What I never use however, is mayonnaise. I much prefer a base of a nice mustardy vinaigrette made with Dijon mustard, maybe with a little grain thrown in too, red wine vinegar and good olive oil. Always season well with sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Try and dress the potatoes whilst they are still warm and they will drink up some of the dressing and don’t refrigerate as it tastes much better room temperature. And there you have it – the perfect potato salad!

Spring Onions

Braised Summer Greens with Pulled Ham Hock, Broad Beans, Peas & Lentils

I am very excited about peas in salads at the moment, especially baby fresh, uncooked ones. They are like a little crunchy explosion in your mouth. My pea harvest at my allotment has been particularly good this year and some have even managed to make it to the table. In past years the entire harvest has gone straight in the kids mouths. Anyway, back to this week’s box – summer greens and broad beans to use up, I came up with this rather successful recipe. Not quite salad, not quite a side, not quite soup, we ate it as a main and it was very enjoyable. As always with my recipes, it is easily adaptable and any greens would do including chard, kale or any sort of cabbage. You may have to adapt the cooking of the greens with a tougher variety of green such as kale but this method of cooking greens with olive oil and garlic is my favourite and is delicious just on its own.

I am a great fan of ready pulled ham hock. Although I know it is an easy enough to make your own and you end up with all that lovely ham stock, anything that saves a little time in the kitchen, helps. You can now buy it quite readily from good supermarkets or indeed, Riverford do their own.

When it comes to lentils for salads the ones from Le Puy in France are the most superior. They hold their shape and texture far the best and although you may see cheap imitations they are never as good. Merchant & Gourmand stock some fine ones and although they also do a ready cooked variety they are never as good as cooking them yourself.

With the weather as it is this June it is hard to know whether you want to eat salad or soup – well, this recipe really can be either, add some lettuce and you have a salad, add some stock and you have soup. I am always amazed how much the two can have in common.

Braised Summer Greens with Lentils, Broad Beans etc

Braised Summer Greens with Pulled Ham Hock, Broad Beans, Peas & Lentils

1 packet of summer greens

100g of cooked broad beans (boiling water for 2 minutes and refresh in cold)

A handful of fresh shelled peas or frozen

50g Puy lentils

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 cloves of garlic, very finely sliced

1 packet pulled ham hock

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shred the spring greens finely and wash well. Do not remove too much of the water. Put the lentils in a saucepan with plenty of cold water and cook gently for about 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Drain off some of the water, but not all. Stir in the mustard and add a glug of good olive oil and season with salt to taste, whilst they are still warm. Heat a large saucepan with a good glug of olive oil. Add the very thinly sliced garlic and cook until the garlic is golden brown. Add the greens and sauté for a few minutes until the greens are tender. Season with salt to taste. Meanwhile shell the peas and slip the broad beans out of their skins. Mix the lentils with the greens and the ham hock. Check seasoning. Heap into bowls and scatter with peas and broad beans and serve.

Broad beand shelled

Fattoush Salad with Radishes and Broad Beans

Box week 5

Tempted once more but the promise of broad beans, radishes and home-grown mini cucumbers, none of which are quite ready at my allotment, I opted this week for a small vegbox (less roots). It did not disappoint with some of the fattest radishes I have seen, albeit a little dirty, but nothing a quick wash did not fix. Straight away one of my favourite salads came to mind, which I am pretty happy to live of all summer if needs be. This is a basic Fattoush, the famous Arabic bread salad, with a few extras thrown in, namely radishes and broad beans. Remember all these recipes are flexible and you can add what you please including feta if you wished to make it more substantial.

The knack of a good Fattoush is that it should be very juicy and not at all dry. The pitta however should remain crunchy and therefore it must be beautifully crispy before adding, so that it does not become soggy in the salad. If you are not eating the salad straight away, then don’t add the toasted pitta until serving. Don’t forget to top-up from Riverford with all the extras you might need such as red onions, lemons, mint and olive oil.

Fattoush Salad with Radishes and Broad Beans

Fattoush Salad with Radishes and Broad Beans

2 pieces of pitta bread

Extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch radishes

1 baby cucumber

2 large tomatoes

100g broad beans in pods

1 small red onion

1 lemon

Small bunch mint

Sumac (optional)

Sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰C. Put a small pan of water on to boil. Rip the pitta into small pieces and toss generously in olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread out on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. You will need to check it regularly and each time shake the tray. Move any well done pieces to the centre and less done pieces to the outer edges, where they will cook quicker. The pitta should be golden brown all over and totally crisp. Meanwhile cut your tomatoes into eighths and put in a large bowl. Wash your radishes and cut them in quarters and add to the bowl. Cut your cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Cut both halves into 1cm slices and add to the bowl. Shell the broad beans and add to the boiling water. Get a large bowl of cold water ready and once the broad beans have boiled for a minute, remove them with a slotted spoon straight into the cold water. This will help retain their lovely bright green colour. Squeeze the juice from half the lemon into another small bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt and stir until dissolved. Add about 2-3 times olive oil to juice. Stir very well and taste. The balance of the dressing is important. If it needs more lemon or salt, then adjust. Peel and very thinly slice the onion and add straight into the dressing. Remember to check your pitta and remove once done. Drain your broad beans slip them out of their skins and add to the salad. Chop the mint and add that too. Finally add the toasted pitta and dress generously. Toss everything together well before serving. Dust with Sumac if you desire.

Bunch of Radishes

 

Some Summer Salads

Although I might spend my days writing about food and photographing it for a living, when it comes to dinner in my house, during the summer months most nights we eat pretty much the same thing – a piece of fish or meat and lots of salad, maybe with the addition of a few boiled new potatoes. I know it may sound repetitive but there is such an array of fantastic salads to choose from that I never tire of them. This simple Cucumber & Radish salad is actually a pickle and the dressing (a combination of rice vinegar, sugar and salt) is the very same mixture which is used to dress sushi rice. If you wanted to make this salad into a more substantial meal, without the addition of fish or meat, you could simply cook some Japanese rice and use a little of the dressing to flavour it.

The second recipe today can be a salsa or a salad. I love it as a salsa on a piece of bruschetta drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or else spooned over some fish or grilled chicken or steak. Both salads work well with salmon, as the acid of the vinegar/lime are excellent at cutting the fattiness of the fish. I particularly like the lightly smoked fresh salmon which you can readily buy now a days. But if you fancy turning this salsa into something more substantial, why not add a couple of avocados to your Riverford order and you have a meal in itself. Don’t forget that Riverford also has an impressive list of herbs at the moment, which always enliven any meal, so get them whilst you can!

Cucumber & Radish Salad

Japanese Style Cucumber & Radish Salad with Sesame

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

2 tbsp. caster sugar

1 tsp. sea salt plus a little extra

1/2 a cucumber

5 or 6 fat radishes

1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

1 tsp. black or white sesame seeds

Small bunch dill (chopped finely)

Put the rice vinegar, the sugar and the salt in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Thinly slice your cucumber and radishes. (Hopefully you will have invested in a mandolin, as I recommended last week, because these are great for this.) Put the cucumber slices in a colander and season with some salt and leave to drain. The salt will draw out excess water from the cucumber slices which would dilute the dressing. Once the cucumber has slightly collapsed, squeeze gently and put into a bowl. Add the radish and the cooled dressing along with the sesame oil. Check seasoning and mix through the dill and sesame seeds.

Tomato & Coriander Salsa

Tomato, Spring Onion, Chilli, Coriander & Lime Salsa / Salad

6 ripe tomatoes

2 spring onions (or the tops from your bunched onions)

1 lime

Small bunch of coriander

1-2  small fresh red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped

Sea salt

A glug of extra virgin olive oil

2 ripe avocado (for the salad only)

Cut your tomatoes into 8th and chuck them in a bowl. Finely shred the spring onions and add them. Squeeze the juice from the lime and add 1/2  to the tomatoes with a good pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil. Roughly chop the coriander and add that along with i/2 the chilli.  Stir well and check seasoning. Add more chilli and lime to taste. It should be quite pokey.

If you are adding avocado then peel them and chop into large chunks. Squeeze over the last of the lime to stop the avocado discolouring and then stir through well with the tomatoes.

Tomato, Avocado & Coriander Salad

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

Carrot, Chickpea & Tahini Salad with Coriander

Anyone who knows me will know that I make a lot of slaws. It is such a great way of using up root vegetables all the way through the winter and summer alike. Choose the largest of your carrots for grating and save the smaller ones for roasting whole. There are so many variations to this recipe it is endless but this is one of my favourites which uses Tahini instead of the much overused mayonnaise. Carrot and coriander has always been a winning combination for me (think soup) and so the Moroccan flavours in this dish all add up to a particularly delicious, easy and quick to prepare salad and great for a BBQ alongside some grilled chicken, steak or fish.

Carrot, Chickpea and Tahini Salad with Coriander

4 large bunched carrots

½ tin chickpeas

2 tbsp. Tahini

Juice of half a lemon

Sea salt

Small bunch of Coriander

Peel and grate the carrots. In a large bowl mix 2 tbsp. of Tahini with the juice of half a lemon and a good pinch of salt. Amazingly the Tahini just gets thicker as you add the juice so you will have to let it down with a little water. You want the consistency of thin mayonnaise. Check seasoning. Add the drained chickpeas and then the grated carrot and the chopped coriander. Stir well and serve.

Carrot & Coriander 1