Golden Beetroot, Fresh Goat’s Cheese, Baby Spinach and Toasted Walnut Salad

When I went to work in California back in the 90’s it was a revelation of the importance of ingredients. This concept, of not merely buying but “sourcing” was only just beginning in London at the time, but in California everything was obtained from specialist suppliers.

What a long way we have come with every menu in town listing artisanal this and rare breed that. Anyway, one of the ingredients I was most excited about seeing all those years ago was all the different varieties of beetroots in the farmers market.  Deep golden yellow, creamy white, deep purple and even pink and white striped. So it brought back memories when I saw that Riverford where now growing bunched golden beetroot and this recipe is in honour of them.

Golden Beetroot, Fresh Goat’s Cheese, Baby Spinach and Toasted Walnut Salad

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

A couple of handfuls (about 70g) baby spinach leaves

450g beetroot, any colour, roasted, peeled and cut into wedges

150g soft goat’s cheese, crumbled

75g toasted walnuts

To roast beetroot, scrub and wrap individually in tinfoil. Roast in the oven at 180C for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserts easily. Leave wrapped up until cool. Unwrap and slip off the skins with your hands.

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and Dijon mustard together in a small bowl. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the spinach in a bowl. Add half the dressing to the spinach mixture and toss well. Divide among 4 serving plates (or leave in the large bowl if desired), then scatter with beetroot, goat’s cheese and toasted walnuts. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve immediately.

Save

Beetroot, Lentil, Halloumi and Parsley Salad

This is a salad my brother made a few weeks ago for lunch and I had been meaning to get round to sharing it with you. It is very good. Halloumi, beetroot lentils and parsley  is a particularly good combination and with the lightly pickled onion and the zestyness of the lemon it becomes something quite special.

Beetroot, Lentil, Halloumi and Parsley Salad

200g Puy lentils

2 lemons

1 red onion, finely sliced

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

250g beetroot, roast, peeled and chopped into chunks

1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

250g pack halloumi, cut into 8 slices

To roast beetroot, scrub and wrap individually in tinfoil. Roast in the oven at 180C for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserts easily. Leave wrapped up until cool. Unwrap and slip off the skins with your hands.

Cook the lentils in a pan of boiling water for 20-25 mins or until just done. Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from one lemon into a bowl. Add the onion and scrunch together with a pinch of salt to pickle slightly. Set aside.

Finely zest the remaining lemon and set aside for the halloumi. Squeeze the juice from half of it into a jam jar or jug. Add the oil with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper– shake well and set aside. When the lentils are ready, drain and tip into a large serving bowl with the chickpeas. Toss with the dressing straight away, then toss through the beets, parsley and drained pickled onions.

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the halloumi for 1-2 mins each side or until golden brown. Toss with the lemon zest, then place on top of your salad to serve.

Carrot, Cumin & Coriander Salad

This is very simple carrot salad and I am surprised that I have never made it before. I served it up with my Saag Paneer and a grilled piece of salmon and very delicious it was too.

Carrot, Cumin & Coriander Salad

2 tsp cumin seed, toasted

zest and juice 1 lemon

thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

5 tbsp olive oil

6 carrots, grated

small bunch coriander, chopped

½ small bunch mint, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast your cumin seeds and allow to cool a little. Add the lemon juice, ginger and olive oil to the pan with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Use this to dress the grated carrot. Stir thought the freshly chopped herbs and serve straight away.

Saag Paneer

I don’t know why but I had never tried Saag Paneer. Whenever I go out for an Indian meal,  I guess I have always opted for Saag Aloo and so it never got a look in. Well that is a thing of the past. It is sublime. An Indian spiced, creamed spinach – what a great combination.

Neither did I know that you can make your own Paneer. I have to admit though that I didn’t. I got mine from Waitrose!

Saag Paneer

Coconut oil

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 ripe tomatoes

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

100 ml double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the paneer: OR 1 block of ready made Paneer (226g)

1.5 litres whole milk

1 lemon

To make the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin and place over a bowl. Heat the milk in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Gradually add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, stirring continuously so the curds and whey separate. Carefully pour the mixture into the sieve so the curds collect in the muslin. Place under cold running water to get rid of any whey, then gather up the muslin and squeeze out the excess moisture. Keeping the muslin bundle in the sieve, cover it with a plate and top with a few heavy weights (a couple of tins work well). Place in the fridge for 1 hour 30 minutes to set.  cut the

Cut the paneer into 2cm chunks. Heat some coconut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the paneer and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.

Peel and finely chop the onion and finely grate the garlic and ginger. Return the pan to a medium-low heat, adding a splash more oil, if needed. Add the cumin seeds, fry for 1 minute, then add the onion and cook for around 8 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Halve, deseed and very finely chop the tomato, add to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile blanch the spinach in a pan of salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dry tea towel to cool. When cool enough to handle, use the tea towel to squeeze the excess water from the spinach. Roughly chop.

Stir in the spinach, cover and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the cream, paneer and a splash of boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further minute or two with the lid off, or until reduced to a deliciously creamy consistency. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Oat and Almond Plum Crumble

I was just doing my Riverford order and thinking to myself, Riverford really should supply plums as this time of year, when I noticed that they did. So I got some!

Oat and Almond Plum Crumble

Serves 6.

650g plums

4 tbsp honey

For the crumble

130g plain flour

80g butter

40g light muscovado sugar

40g porridge oats

40g flaked almonds

Set the oven at 170C. Remove the stones from the plums and toss with the honey. Tip into a saucepan and cook over a medium heat for a bout 10 minutes until the plums begin to break down. Tip into a baking dish. Meanwhile make the crumble topping by rubbing the butter into the flour till it resembles fresh breadcrumbs. Lightly rub in the sugar and then stir in the almonds and the oats. Tip the oat-and-almond topping on to the fruit and bake for 30-35 minutes till the crust is crisp and golden. The fruit should be bubbling round the sides. Serve hot, with cream or ice-cream.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

Once again failed to enter anything in the Cottenham Park Allotment Show last weekend. As always by the time I came back from holiday, all my veg were either overgrown – courgettes the size of marrows and French beans the size of cucumbers, or had been eaten, mostly by snails.  Didn’t even manage to enter the cake, chutney or jam categories as I failed to get the form in, in time.

We went along anyway just to get ideas for next year. This cake won first prize in the cake competition so I thought I would give it a try and very delicious it is too. In my opinion a close call to my Upside Down Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Cake. Must remember to enter next year.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

1 quantity roasted rhubarb (See below)

250g pack butter

150g pot ready-made custard (not the chilled kind; I used Ambrosia)

250g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g golden caster sugar

icing sugar, for dusting

Make the roasted rhubarb first, carefully draining off the juices before you let it cool. Butter and line a 24cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and thick. Add the eggs one by one until incorporated. Add the vanilla and custard and then stir through the flour and baking powder until creamy and smooth. Fold through the rhubarb. Bake for 40 mins until risen and golden, then cover with foil and bake for 15-20 mins more. It’s ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then dredge with icing sugar when cool.

Roast Rhubarb

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Rinse 400g rhubarb and shake off excess water. Trim the ends, then cut into little-finger-size pieces. Put in a shallow dish or a baking tray, tip over 50g caster sugar, toss together, then shuffle rhubarb so it’s in a single layer. Cover with foil, then roast for 15 mins. Remove foil. Give everything a little shake, roast for 5 mins more or until tender and the juices are syrupy. Leave to cool.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi

I don’t think there is a nicer way of cooking spinach than Gnocchi Verdi. Also known in different parts of Tuscany as malfatti (badly made), ravioli nudi (naked ravioli) or topini verdi (little green mice). Gnocchi are among the oldest foods in Italy, and the spinach ones are a specialty of the Casentino, an area east of Florence where greens grow wild on the hillsides.

Although easy to make, I have to admit, that I do have a few horrific memories of gnocchi dissolving into a spinachy mush whilst cooking. There are a few key points to remember – really squeeze all the water out of the spinach. I used 700g of spinach and ended up with 300g with which I made half a batch of the recipe. I got 22 gnocchi which would serve I suppose 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course. The next point is to chop the spinach really well. And finally, it is really important that the water does not boil fast when cooking them. It should simmer, not boil and the gnocchi will eventually float to the surface when they are done. Be patient, it will happen and they will be delicious.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi

Adapted from The River Cafe Cook Book

Serves 4 as a main course

50g butter

a bunch of fresh marjoram

500g blanched spinach leaves squeezed dry (about 1.25kg raw spinach)

sea salt

300g fresh ricotta cheese

90g plain flour

3 egg yolks

1/2 nutmeg grated

150g parmesan freshly grated

sage butter

Blanch the spinach in a large pan of salted water for a minute or two. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well in a colander. When cool enough to handle squeeze out the water really well. Chop well.  Melt the butter add the marjoram and cook for a minute. Add the spinach and stir to combine the flavours. Season well and leave to cool. In a large bowl lightly beat the ricotta with a fork then sieve in the flour. Add the egg yolks the nutmeg and parmesan and finally fold in the cooled spinach mixture until well combined. Taste for seasoning. Dust a baking tray with flour or semolina.

Using 2 dessert spoons take a small spoonful of mixture and using the one spoon mould the mixture so that it forms a gnocchi. Place on the floured baking tray. The gnocchi should all be the same size about 2cm diameter.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Gently place the gnocchi in the water in batches it is important not to overcrowd the pan. When the gnocchi come back to the surface remove carefully with a slotted spoon and briefly place the spoon on kitchen paper to drain off excess water.

Serve immediately in warm plates with sage butter and extra parmesan.

Beetroot Waldorf Salad

I got a juicing box this week but funnily enough it wasn’t a juice which first sprang to mind – it was a salad. A good old fashioned Waldolf Salad. Created at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1896 not by a chef but by the maître d’hôtel Oscar Tschirky, the Waldorf salad was an instant success and famously features in Fawlty Towers!

The original version of this salad contained only apples, celery and mayonnaise but beyond that no one seems to be able to agree. Some add lettuce, grapes or raisins, often walnuts and most recently the mayonnaise has sometimes been replaced with more healthy alternatives such as yoghurt. Since there are so many variations, I thought I might add my own rather unusual ingredient of beetroot and I thought it worked very well.

Beetroot Waldorf Salad

2 apples, cored and sliced

6 sticks of celery, chopped

2 beetroot, peeled and grated

A handful of walnuts, lightly toasted in the oven

6 Tbsp mayonnaise

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Method

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir in the apple, celery and beetroot. Scatter with walnuts.

Thousand Island Slaw

When I was a kid one of the first things I ever learnt to make for myself to eat, apart from of course countless cakes and biscuits, was a salad that I recreated from Tootsies burger restaurant in Wimbledon village. They had the highly sophisticated, so I thought at the time, salad mix of red cabbage, grated carrot and most exciting of all – sweetcorn. I suppose that the influence had come from an American slaw, but to me it was revolutionary. And most exciting of all was there was a choice of four dressing. This was back in the day before the idea of “choice” was really embraced in restaurants. French Dressing, Vinaigrette, Blue Cheese or my absolute, total favourite Thousand Island Dressing. I loved the stuff! I still knock up “Thousand Island Slaw” as I have now named it using whatever I have at hand. My kids love it too!

Thousand Island Slaw

A selection of what you have to hand. I recon fresh sweetcorn would be lovely. Just boil the cobs and then cut down the husks to remove the kernels.

Pointed cabbage, red cabbage, savoy cabbage etc. very finely shredded

Carrots, peeled and grated

Thousand Island Dressing

5 tbsp. mayonnaise

2 tbsp. tomato ketchup

Juice of half a lemon

Dash of tobacco

Mix up the dressing ingredients and adjust to your taste. Dress the salad and serve.

Courgette, Goat’s Cheese, Red Onion and Olive Pizza

Once again stuck for lunches for the kids?  Make up a batch of pizza dough below and they can top it with whatever they like leaving you free to do the same.

Courgette, Goat’s Cheese, Red Onion and Olive Pizza

For the pizza dough

500g strong plain white flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp salt

7g sachet fast-action yeast

2 tsp. sugar

325mls warm water

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing

For the pesto

40g fresh basil leaves

25g pine nuts

1 garlic clove, crushed

4 tbsp olive oil

25g finely grated parmesan, or vegetarian alternative

For the topping

2 medium red onions

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

200g soft, fresh rindless goat’s cheese (from a log)

2 medium courgettes

Oregano, fresh or dried

20 good quality black olives, pitted

Whisk the yeast, sugar, oil and water together. Add the flour and salt to a food processor. Add the yeast mixture and combine until the dough comes together. Allow to carry on for 5 minutes or so to knead the dough. Drop into a clean bowl (or the stand mixer bowl), cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/ gas 6. Peel the onions, leaving the root end intact. Slice each through the root into thin wedges. Put into a small roasting tin and toss with 2 tbsp of the extra-virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper. Spread out and roast for 20 minutes until tender and brown-tinged. Remove and turn the oven up to 250°C/fan230°C/gas 9, or as high as it will go. Place a baking sheet or pizza stone in the bottom of the oven to get super hot.

For the pesto, put the basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil in a food processor, then whizz to a coarse paste. Scoop into a bowl, stir in the parmesan, then season well with salt to taste.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, knock it back, then knead once more until smooth. Break off pieces of the dough, shape each piece into a ball, then roll each into rounds. Dust well with flour. Keep them around 10” as it is easier to work with.

Top and tail the courgettes, then cut them lengthways into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandolin. Drop them into a bowl and toss with the rest of the extra-virgin olive oil, the chopped oregano and some pepper. Don’t add salt until just before you use them, otherwise they’ll wilt and go floppy.

Flour a flat baking sheet and add a pizza base. Roll out again back into shape. Spread pesto over the surface, leaving a small rim clear round the edge. Top with the roasted onion wedges and twists of courgette ribbons. Scatter with goat’s cheese and the olives. Slide onto the hot tray or stone in the oven.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, turning the pizzas around halfway through so they cook evenly, until the crust is crisp and golden. Slide them onto a wooden board, cut into thick slices and serve.