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.

Navarin of Lamb with Broad Beans, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

Last week it was all summer fruits and ice-cream and salads and then the weather changed. I was almost tempted to turn the heating on – in June – as the temperatures plummeted and the rain lashed at the windows. Forget the ice-cream, it was back to stew weather. But what stew do you eat in June. A Navarin of lamb of course packet with lots of tender, young spring vegetables and lots of vibrant fresh mint. So delicious you could forget about the awful weather!

Navarin of Lamb with Broad Beans, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

The vegetables are flexible here – use what you have. Tender new seasons carrots, little spring onion heads or French beans all work well.

Serves: 4

Extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions or leeks, chopped

A couple of sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 garlic clove, finely chopped

450 g (1 lb) lean boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into cubes

150 ml (5 fl oz) red wine

450 ml (15 fl oz) lamb or chicken stock (or use good quality stock cubes)

1 or 2bay leaves

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped

Baby new potatoes, scrubbed (cut into bite sized pieces if large)

Small turnips, scrubbed and quartered

Bunch of asparagus, cut into even sized pieces about ½ cm

Large handful of shelled fresh peas

Large handful of shelled broad beans

Fresh mint

Heat some oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the seasoned lamb, in batches so as not to over crowd the pan. Brown evenly on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon. Turn down the heat of the pan and add the chopped onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Scrape the browned bits of lamb of the bottom of the saucepan and stir them into the veg. Add the cubes of lamb back to the pan with the wine, rosemary, bay leaf and stock

Bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat down. Let it gently bubble away for 1 hour.

Meanwhile boil the broad beans for three minutes and then plunge them into cold water. Shell.

Add the turnips and potatoes to the stew and stir. Cover the casserole again and continue cooking for 30–45 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Next add the peas and asparagus and cook until just done. Finally add the broad beans and mint. Check seasoning and serve.

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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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.

super-green-salad-with-thai-dressing

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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Chilled Avocado Soup with Chilli, Coriander and Lime

The first restaurant I ever worked in was called the Brackenbury in Shepherd’s Bush and it was very good, incredibly cheap and packed day and night, mainly with people from the nearby BBC. Because of the amazingly cheap menu – a starter was on average £4 and a main course about £10 and I am talking proper, high quality modern British cooking, most ingredients where as cheap as possible. When handling an expensive ingredient such as the truffle oil or the porcini mushrooms, you could see the head chef and owner Adam literally flinching with stress as he worried frantically about his profit margins – the make or break of many a restaurant. This recipe for Avocado Soup was often on the menu on hot summer days. A whole box of avocados was an expensive commodity and I only worked out years later, that it was considered cost effective, simply because being so easy to make, it counteracted its cost by saving money in wages. Anyway, I can’t tell you how delicious this is on a really hot summers day!

Chilled Avocado Soup with Chilli, Coriander and Lime

Chilled Avocado Soup with Chilli, Coriander and Lime

Adjust ingredients according to taste. I do not like a lot of raw onion, but love coriander. It is up to you to get the balance that you like.

Serves 4

2 large ripe avocados

2 spring onions

A medium bunch of coriander

1 fresh red chilli

2 limes

400ml organic chicken or vegetable stock (you can use good quality stock cubes), chilled

Peel, destone and chop the avocados. Squeeze over the lime juice straight away to stop them discolouring. Roughly chop the spring onions and roughly chop the coriander leaves. De-seed the chilli. Blitz in a blender or with a hand blender until smooth. Season with a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper, then add the stock and puree again. Check for seasoning and adjust to taste. Put in the fridge to chill.

Avocados

Sweetcorn Chowder with Red Spring Onions & Smoked Paprika

When I was a kid, sweetcorn was my absolute favourite, I loved in on the cob, I loved it straight out of a tin and crab and sweetcorn soup was always my first choice at a Chinese restaurant.

Then, many years later I went and worked in San Francisco for a few months at a restaurant called Chez Panisse. My favourite place to hang out during my rare time off was Fisherman’s Wharf, with its fantastic array of restaurants and shacks selling Clam Chowder served up in a hollowed out baby loaf of San Franciscan sour dough bread. Yum!

My version here uses sweetcorn instead and I have added a touch of smokiness with just a hint of smoked paprika but it is super delicious with a little smoked bacon or smoked haddock as well.

It really is one of the ultimate comfort dishes, more a meal than just a starter and in keeping with my quick and easy theme this week – super simple! I would love to bake a loaf of sourdough to serve it in, but that is not so quick and easy!

 

Sweet corn Chowder

Sweetcorn Chowder with Red Spring Onions & Smoked Paprika
Serves 2
2 stalk celery
1 medium onion
Olive oil
Fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried oregano
500 ml semi-skimmed milk
250g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into little cubes
3 spring onions
2 heads of sweetcorn, removed from the cob
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chop your celery and onion. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and herbs and fry until the vegetables start to brown. Add the sweetcorn and season with salt and pepper and continue to cook for a few minutes more. Pour in the milk, add the potato and bring to a boil, stirring the whole time so the soup doesn’t stick to the pot. Cook until the potatoes are tender, but not mushy – this will take around 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, trim the ends off the spring onions and slice them thinly. When the potatoes are tender, check the seasoning and sprinkle with spring onions and smoked paprika and then serve.

Red Spring Onions

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

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

Use-up Stir-fry

Spring greens are a thing of beauty, however I do understand when you have seen your hundredth one turn up in your veg box, you may not continue to think so.

I got a couple this week in my small fruit and veg box along with more carrots, another veg that often accumulates, spring onions, sugar snap peas and new potatoes. On the fruit front there was apples and raspberries. So to make sure that you do not despair of summer greens, I will be concentrating on them over the next few weeks starting with a fabulous use-up dish this week. This is the sort of recipe which clears out your fridge before your next veg box arrives because there are so many variants of ingredients you can use. And of course you could add some prawns, or chicken, pork or steak if you wanted.

I started with my spring greens, sugar snap peas, carrots and spring onions but I also discovered half a left over red pepper, some mushrooms and a few bunched onions, which all went in. The only staples that you really need are chillies, ginger, garlic and coriander and a lime, Teriyaki sauce and noodles.

There are several varieties of Teriyaki sauce. My kids like Waitrose own best probably because it is particularly sweet but if you want a healthier option Clearspring make an organic one. The sweetness is counteracted with some lime juice and if you want more salt, add a little soy or Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce) is also particularly good. On the noodle front, any will do. I used some old Pad Thai noodles which  where hanging around in the cupboard. More important is the ratio of veg to noodle. Your cooked veg quantity should be about equal to that of noodles otherwise it can get a bit heavy going. I have given you a rough recipe below but really it is up to you.

The only other thing which really is of help in use-up stir-fry is a Wok. If you don’t have one, don’t splash out on an expensive one. I got mine about 25 years ago for £10 and it is still going strong.

Stir-fry in bowl

Use-up Stir-fry

Serves 2 very generously

150g Pad Thai noodles (or any will do but vary cooking as instructed)

1 head summer greens

1-2 fresh red chillies

Large knob of ginger

2 cloves garlic, peeled

4 spring onions

2 small bunched onions

4 carrots, peeled

8 mushrooms

100g sugar snap peas

½ a red pepper

Sunflower oil

1 lime

Teriyaki sauce

Sesame oil (optional)

Soy sauce, Nam Pla or salt

Small bunch of coriander

Boil the kettle and pour boiling water all over the noodles so that they are submerged. Leave for 15 minutes. Meanwhile shred your summer greens, wash and drain well. Grate the carrots. Thinly slice the mushrooms and red pepper, removing any seeds. Remove the outer most layer from the spring onions and bunched onions and finely slice. (Don’t forget to use the green of the spring onions too.) Top the sugar snap peas and string if necessary. Finely chop the chilli, removing the seeds. With a teaspoon remove the outer layer of the ginger. Grate the garlic and ginger. Drain the noodles. Heat your wok or large frying pan with a little sunflower oil. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Fry for a minutes, stirring well. Add the spring onions, bunched onions, mushrooms, sugar snaps and red peppers. Stir-fry for a minute or two more. Next add the summer greens and carrots. Stir-fry until the veg has wilted. Finally add the teriyaki sauce and noodles and mix really well. Take off the heat and stir in your chopped coriander. Squeeze over the lime and drizzle with Sesame oil if using, Taste. If it needs more salt add soy or salt. Make sure you have the balance of sweet, salty and sour. Serve with a wedge of lime.

Stir Fry in Wok