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Roast Pumpkin, Kale, Feta & Pomegranate Salad

Roast Pumpkin, Kale, Feta & Pomegranate Salad

Roast Pumpkin, Kale, Feta & Pomegranate Salad

Yes, more roast pumpkin. But you probably have some left over from the last recipe, and I bet you are not averse to roasting some more. Or is that just me?

In Winter my salads become a little more robust. More kale than lettuce, wilted or crisped, chunks of pumpkin or similar dense veg, roasted into submission. No salad should be heavy, so I lift mine with spritely dressings, this time a pomegranate molasses and lime dressing with no oil, so you know, healthy and lower calorie (I did say I was going to try, right?). Over this, soothing pops of sharp creamy feta, and then to give it some sparkle, a gorgeous sprinkle of juicy pomegranate seeds.

It is winter? Who cares, when you have this salad? I quite like winter anyway.

Some very pretty lilac kale that I happened upon - but any kale will do

Some very pretty lilac kale that I happened upon – but any kale will do

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(Super Quick & Fabulous) Recipe: Burrata with Oak Smoked Tomatoes & Basil Oil

Sounds complicated, no? It really isn’t. This is the quickest most delicious dish you will make, and like all good things in food, it’s all down to the sourcing.

Burrata is a magical cheese from Puglia in Italy. It consists of an outer mozzarella coat filled with mozzarella bits and fresh cream. Shaped still warm, it is tied at the top, traditionally wrapped in leaves as an indicator of whether the cheese was good to eat. If the leaves were brown, it was off. Today it is more common to wrap it in plastic.

I still remember my surprise and delight the first time I cut into burrata and watched the cream sigh out. It is utterly decadent. It is also available truffled, which takes it to another level.

Burrata must be fresh. I sourced this one from a new deli in London – Melograno Deli – and, disclosure, it is owned by my friend and fellow blogger Dino. Dino has an incredible knowledge of food and a finely tuned palate, so I was very excited to hear it was opening.

I trekked over yesterday and was delighted with what I saw. I bought a lot to take home too so anticipate some fine cooking adventures. My favourite Pastificio dei Campi pasta is stocked there, SAP n’duja in the jar (remember my n’duja pig?), wonderful carefully selected charcuterie (easily some of, if not the best I have had in London), Square Mile Coffee, terrific parmesan and other cheeses, retaurant quality food to take home (from one of Dinos favourites – I can’t recall the name), Italian craft beers, a broad wine selection for all price ranges and much more. It’s a deli paradise.

But the burrata, what did I do with it? What exactly is in it? Well, another one of my favourite things is Isle of Wight Oak Smoked Tomatoes. I am going to the Isle of Wight tomorrow and it got me thinking about them and it and I fancied a pre Isle of Wight, Isle of Wight supper, if you know what I mean.

I get tomatoes from the Isle of Wight farm most weeks at the market, they are full flavoured and the antithesis of those awful Dutch waterbombs. The oak smoked are a whole other level, an intense tomato explosion. I came across them a few years ago and thought – TOMATO BACON! – there is that same umami whack and intensity with a sweet rich tomato base, I always have some in my fridge and was grateful when I spotted them lurking at the back to put with my burrata.

I decided that I would do a twist on a traditional caprese with the tomatoes inside in the burrata, just tucked in gently, paddling in the cream. I also made a quick basil oil to dress it with.

It was so quick, and really delicious. I think a dream starter to share for friends or an indulgent lunch for one.

Notes on the recipe: it is best to make the basil oil in advance but if you haven’t done this, just stir the basil into the oil and serve. It won’t be as full flavoured but will still be good. If you are making it, make more and keep it in your fridge for a week or so.

If you can’t get the tomatoes, subtitute with good sun dried, oven dried or semi dried tomatoes.

Recipe: Burrata with Oak Smoked Tomatoes & Basil Oil

Serves 2

1 x burrata (freshness is absolutely key)
Approx 12 oak smoked tomato halves

Basil Oil

100ml extra virgin olive oil
handful of basil, shredded

Make the basil oil by adding the shredded basil to the oil. Allow to infuse overnight in the fridge if possible.

Gently unwrap the burrata and cut the top off – this is a chefs treat in my house and I devour it there and then.

Gently tease open the top and place the tomatoes inside, taking care not to squeeze the cream out.

Drizzle with basil oil, season and you’re ready to serve.

http://www.melograno.co.uk/

http://www.thetomatostall.co.uk/stockists/

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Burnt aubergine with sweet peppers and red onion

I have a confession to make! I published this post last weekend, and a few hours later a trusted friend queried my photograph, thinking that it didn’t do the dish justice. I took a look, and sure enough, they were right. It was like going out to work hungover and slightly frazzled wearing something that you think looks ok, and realising slowly that it was a horrible choice, ill fitting, and irritating for the rest of the day. So I took it down. I made the dish again today, same recipe, and here’s the post. In my defence, I made this dish for a friend and drank lots of wine as I was cooking (as did they!). So, lesson learned, don’t take food photographs drunk, and don’t rush blog posts!

One of my indulgences is cookbooks, I love them, and I have a ridiculous amount. Some are  very well thumbed with weakening spines, others are neglected, bought out of curiosity and never properly investigated. I love concocting my own food and creating recipes, but I also love to cook from cookbooks, entering the culinary head of another, and seeing how they do things.

A lot of the cookbooks that I have been buying in the last few years are from restaurants and cafes that I really like. Often they’re not as impressive as the restaurant they are associated with, but as always, there are exceptions. Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is one.

I was very excited about this one. I worked reasonably close to the Islington branch for a number of years and would occasionally treat myself to a delicious lunch. When Yotam Ottolenghi started writing recipes in the Guardian I was always enthralled with his approach and combinations. Coming from Israel with a Palestinian business partner, there are some wonderful influences from that region. The first time I used orange blossom water was when I made an Ottolenghi salad and it was a revelation. He uses colour and flavour wonderfully, I remember reading sovewhere that if a dish doesn’t look great, it doesn’t matter how great it tastes, you won’t get it at Ottolenghi.

I’ve had the cookbook since it was published and I really don’t use it enough. I frequently dip in, for inspiration or just a good read, and a flick through the gorgeous pictures. I decided I really should start, and I can safely say after just one recipe, the book is well and truly broken in with splatters and thumb prints all over the page. Ah well.

Burnt aubergine is a gorgeous, intensely savoury flavour. It’s fantastic in a vegetarian dish as it confers a depth that could otherwise be difficult to achieve. I flicked through the book and came across a lovely recipe for a salad including this, so I endeavoured to adapt and try it with the ingredients I had.

aubergine

Burning an aubergine is as easy as it sounds. Rest the aubergine on a gas flame and burn it, turning it as each side is done until complete. Don’t worry if the skin splits, it happens a lot. Let it cool a little and peel the skin off, or scoop out the inside after cutting it in two. Drain in a colander for an hour or so then chop.

The rest of the salad is very straight forward, a simple dressing, some delicate spicing (cumin). This would be wonderful for a BBQ or similar summer event with the sweetness of the peppers and tartness of the tomatoes.

I altered the proportions of the recipe with two different colour peppers and a little less aubergine and tomatoes. I really liked it, and am very much looking forward to trying more of his recipes, and eating there again.

Ingredients:

1 large aubergine, burnt as described above, drained and chopped
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
a handful of small fruity cherry tomatoes or similar, halved
a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Dressing:

5 tbsp sunflower oil or similar
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tsp fresh cumin, toasted and ground or 3 tsp ground cumin (the first option is infinitely preferable)

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method:

First, make the dressing and check the taste and adjust if necessary.
Mix the other ingredients and add the dressing. Season with S&P to taste and serve.

This is really nice with khobez, pittas or similar.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

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Orzo salad with pesto, tomatoes & knockalara cheese

Another day, another gorgeous recipe from the Ballymaloe Cookery Course Cookbook, all in the hope of raising money for the World Food Programme’s efforts in Lesotho. If this is your first time hearing of it, briefly:

Chez Pim has announced Menu for Hope 4 – her annual fundraising event. Inspired by the Tsnuami 5 years ago, in 2006, Menu for Hope raised US$62,925.12 to help the UN World Food Programme feed the hungry. I applaud her for this effort and would like to spread the word by directing you to her blog. This year, she is again supporting the UN World Food Programme.

More on how to buy a raffle ticket and prizes here, for now – back to food.

This cookbook hasn’t failed me yet. This recipe is very simple and quick, perfect for today’s lunch. It’s the litle details that really make it – sprinkling some sugar and balsamic vinegar on the cut tomatoes preserves and enhances their lovely flavour. I love the texture and flavour of orzo, a pasta grain with a delicate bite which absorbs other flavours beautifully. It’s great in salads and soups and makes a nice change when substituted for noodles/pasta in noodle soups or minestrone.

A note on Knockalara cheese – as I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, this is a cheese made local to where I grew up in Cappoquin, Co Waterford. I bought it from their stall in Dungarvan Farmer’s Market (which I promised I’d blog but still haven’t, I will eventually!). There are so many wonderful irish cheeses, I always bring some back with me when I go home, but this for me is particularly good. It’s a sheep’s milk cheese, the one I had was a mature one and had a strong flavour, almost reminiscent of a blue cheese, really very good. If you can’t get Knockalara, substitute another sheep’s cheese like a good feta.

I made a change to the recipe, adding more tomatoes as I had many, so instead of Darina’s 12 I had about 20 – 10 red, 10 yellow. I also cut the cheese smaller as mine was quite strong. I think I will add more pine nuts next time I make it as I like the taste and texture. It would be lovely as a side dish, or as I had it, for lunch with some leaves. Delicious![Read more]

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Halloumi & Pomegranate Salad

I have been cooking so much recently but I really haven’t had time to blog. It’s a good complaint really as I am living it up a little, well certainly in the culinary sense, I am being very indulgent. Hopefully, I’ll get around to posting them some time in the near future. For now I am going to blog a really tasty salad that we had over the weekend using that most favoured of cheeses, halloumi. This one had sheeps milk only but was disappointing as it melted really poorly. Like halloumi with cows milk in, it started to lose milk as it melted, this shouldn’t happen and doesn’t happen with halloumi made with goats’s and sheep’s milk. After a mild panic I instigated a rescue operation, pulling the cheese from the pan in a hurry, burning myself in the process and letting it cool before dusting it in seasoned plain flour before frying again. This did the trick.

So, I’ve already ranted about halloumi in a previous post, now it’s the turn of the pomegranate. It’s got so much going for it. Intriguing looking, full of pretty little jewel-like seeds and packed with antioxidants & vitamins. It has been hailed as a superfood and no health food shop would be without a pricey bottle of pomegranate juice. The seeds themselves have a sweet and sour like quality, they are very tangy and are beautiful sprinled on salads, especially those with feta or halloumi. The uses are endless – I have had it in a curry, drinks, with muesli… wherever you care to put it within reason.

So, this salad was one of those what’s in the fridge salad. Unfortunately, I thought that there was watercress in there, if there is it’s fantastic at hiding and I had to make do with humble rocket. It worked really well as would any leaf really. This was so simple, play with it, add what you like, and see what you get. Enjoy!

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Weekend Barbecue

For a food blogger I talk alot about the weather, I know. I can’t help it, I am Irish and it’s a national occupation. Be happy that I am not talking about the state of the roads! The weather determines so much of what I cook so it’s an important reference. Really! Right now I’m switched to Winter mode again as the weather took a turn for the worse again on Monday. On Tuesday night I was looking out of our window and watching the tall poplars swaying over and back, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was November! And it’s raining today. Prior to all this misery, however, we had a lovely weekend and made the most of the near-summery weather with a barbecue at a friends house. They have a beautiful big garden at the edge of North London with a gazebo and pond, it’s as far removed from my Kilburn 1-bed flat as I could get!

These gatherings involve large volumes of food as a number of us are enthusiastic cooks and this time we ended up with several types of sausage, lamb, a savoury tart that I had brought from Popina in the farmers market, 3 salads, halloumi, potatoes & savoury rice. It was all so delicious. We had tomato, mint & parmesan; watercress, pear and chevre and beetroot, chevre, thyme and toasted sunflower seeds and finished it all with a lovely homemade apple & rhubarb tart. I made the beetroot, chevre, thyme and toasted sunflower seed salad so can donate that recipe along with the halloumi.

Halloumi! One of my favourite cheeses. It hails from Cyprus and is usually a combination of goat’s and sheep’s milk or sometimes either. Often with more industrialised cheeses cow’s milk is added to reduce costs. I avoid this one for a number of reasons, the main ones being that it affects the grilling properties and the taste and I shouldn’t really be eating cow’s milk cheese anyway as it makes me ill. Even if you can have cow’s milk I would encourage you to get one without cow’s milk as it really does taste better and they don’t hold their shape as well on the BBQ for a start! Often the cow’s milk one is saltier too, although halloumi is quite a salty cheese anyway. I think of it as comparing Danish feta with Greek feta, there’s a big difference in taste and texture and you see the same with halloumi. It’s great served with lime, mint and watermelon. I believe it’s quite traditional to have it with watermelon in Cyprus. I love to have it with a lentil salad, it’s a very wholesome flavourful dish. This time we kept it really simple, cut it into 1-inch thick slices and grilled it on both sides on the barbecue and squeezed lime juice over when it’s nice and charred.[Read more]

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Parsley & thyme potato salad with homemade mayonnaise

Parsley & Thyme Potato Salad

My animal instincts have kicked in, all I seem to want to do is eat high fat foods and go hibernate, I blame this weather! Half the country is flooded and the rest seems to think it’s November. What’s the answer to this misery? Potato salad. Proper homemade potato salad with a homemade mayonnaise packed full of tasty herbs. Mayonnaise is a tricky one. I’ve made it by hand and have had some heart breaking moments when it has split, once in desperation when it had I added the leftover egg white and discovered that it was a rescue remedy (and could be done in the blender!) and so I have this quick mayonnaise recipe, which, while it isn’t a traditional french mayo will fool you into thinking it is with it’s concocted french tones. My aching hand was delighted to dispose of the wooden spoon. I still make the real one when I am feeling purist but I wasn’t this day, I was happy with my speedy compromise and wanted my potato salad and wanted it fast, so here it is. It’s worth making the extra effort to make your mayonnaise, especially in a blender as it takes such little time and you get a much better result than that gloop you buy in jars. Although (French people look away!), I do use that too on occasion…

I used small new charlotte potatoes for this but you could use any potatoes atall. I left the skins on mine as they’re new and the skins are thin and delicious, if yours aren’t new probably best to peel them. Lots of herbs go well with potatoes but I used parsley and thyme. You could use rosemary, sage, mint or maybe even oregano. For the mayonnaise, I like to use half extra virgin olive oil as I love the flavour but you can use just vegetable oil if you like. The mayonnaise recipe will make more than you need and will keep for a week in your fridge. Make sure your egg is at room temperature if you keep them in the fridge. I prefer not to as eggs don’t need to be in there and they’re best used at room temperature. Also, as eggs are porous they can, and have, absorbed the smells of strong cheeses or other strong smells from your fridge. They are best kept in their little boxes away from strong smells in a cool spot, not necessarily a fridge. I buy mine weekly from the farmers market and rarely have them for more than a week so it’s fine.

The recipe follows.

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Samphire Tabbouleh

Following on from yesterdays post -Wild salmon with samphire, broad bean & tomato salad and crisp sauté new potatoes, I have another samphire post. This one is vegetarian and is based on the salad recipe from yesterdays post. I was looking at the 100g of samphire that I had left and wondering what I could do with it that would be tasty and suitable for lunch the next day. A quick fumble in the cupboard revealed a forgotten bag of organic bulgur. Bulgur is very healthy, it’s more nutritious than rice or cous cous so I always have a bag to hand next to the quinoa. There’s lots of forgotten random bits in my cupboards, it’s like a bunker in there! I have promised myself that I will empty them over the coming months and base my recipes on what’s in there so it should be interesting.

For the samphire, I decided on a chunky samphire tabbouleh. I love tabbouleh, it’s so light and fragrant but can take really robust flavours. I decided that I would use the samphire in place of the herbs and rather than finely chopping the tomatoes, leave them in quarters as the tomatoes I have at the moment deserve prominence in this dish. This is very quick (except for double podding the broad beans but you could probably substitute with peas if you’re in a rush). The bulgur that I used was the medium type but you could use fine if you have it. My favourite tabboulehs are ones that have only the smallest amount of bulgur and are mainly green, like a lebanese tabbouleh, so I was aiming to recreate this. This one was new so there was a little bit of trial and error in the proportions.

Here’s the recipe:
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Wild salmon with samphire, broad bean & tomato salad and crisp sauté new potatoes

Samphire is the ingredient of the moment. It’s on TV (e.g. Great British Menu), in the newspaper food sections (Independent last week, Guardian last month) and on the web (Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini for example). Samphire has many names, sea asparagus, sea beans & salicornia. There are two types of samphire – Marsh Samphire & Rock Samphire, the one you’ve been seeing everywhere is marsh samphire, found growing in the tidal zone and found all along the coast. The Norfolk coastline is particularly rich in it. You can buy it from most fishmongers and farmer’s markets. It’s not cheap, mine cost £1.50 per 100g, 100g works out at approximately a handful so I bought a couple. If you’re having it on it’s own with fish you’ll need about 100g-150g a person, maybe a bit more.

I first had samphire two years ago when we went to the Salusbury Pub & Dining Room in Queens Park for my birthday. It was served with sea bream and roast potatoes and was absolutely delicious. I have been a fan ever since. My samphire that night was absolutely soaked in butter, it works really well with it, but as a lactose intolerant that generally isn’t an option for me. Besides, I wanted to make something light & summery that paired well with the rich wild salmon that I had bought on my way home from work. Salty samphire pairs extremely well with fish but is also beautiful in salads. I tried both with my 200g batch, for today I’ll talk about the fish dish.

I went to Marylebone Farmers Market at the weekend and bought beautiful Isle of Wight tomatoes and a large bag of broad beans. I was keen to use them in this dish so decided on a samphire salad to go with the salmon.

Recipe notes: Samphire is very easy to cook but it is very salty so I would advise soaking in several changes of water over a few hours. If this isn’t possible, at least wash it in a few changes of water. Early season samphire can be eaten raw, however, it’s no longer early season and besides I like it blanched briefly before eating – 2 minutes or so does it. Take care to remove the woody bits from the end of the samphire stems and any bad bits. Be warned that samphire doesn’t keep very long as I found out last time I bought it! While double podding the broad beans is painful, it really is worth it, otherwise the rubbery broad bean skin overpowers the sweetness of the actual bean. [Read more]

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Chargrilled peach & speck salad

This is a spectacular summer salad devised by Yotam Ottolenghi of Ottolenghi’s in London and published in the Summer BBQ series in the Guardian on Saturdays. I had wanted to make it since it was published (2 weeks ago?) but I didn’t have the orange blossom water required nor had I the time to go source it. I spotted it on a trip to Borough Market on Saturday and with that purchase was all set. I went to the farmers market in Queen’s Park on Sunday to get the leaves but the leaves specified in the recipe weren’t available so I bought mizuna & mustard leaves instead of baby chard, endives & watercress. These worked really well and I think, really, you could use rocket, it would counter the sweetness of the peach nicely and is readily available.

Speck is a meat that I only discovered 4 years ago when I started working in the Kings Cross area and started shopping in the italian deli, KC Continental Stores on Caledonian Rd. It’s a dry-cured smoked Italian ham from the Alto Adige region of Italy. We use it in the place of prosciutto regularly, it has a really strong smoky flavour and works well in dishes like carbonara, or wrapped around asparagus. The combination with peach is inspired and it’s one I plan to experiment with a bit more. The orange blossom water isvery sweet but is countered by the balsamic vinegar and works well with the richness of the speck.

The recipe doesn’t appear to be published on the Guardian website so I’ll reproduce it here. I haven’t tried any of the other Ottolenghi recipes but plan to try more and await his cookbook which will be published in Spring 2008. The Guardian Weekend Magazine publishes a vegetarian Ottolenghi recipe every Saturday. For now, I’ll continue to eat at one of his café’s in Islington or Notting Hill, one handy for work & the other handy for home :)

For more info on Ottolenghi visit their site.

Chargrilled peaches

I’ll write the recipe as it was in the Guardian as the only changes I made are to the leaves. [Read more]

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Tuna steak with warm new potato, chorizo & tomato salad

 

We’ve just had a long sleepy bank holiday weekend in London with plenty of time for cooking. We brightened up a rainy Sunday with a tuna steak and a warm salad accompanied by some lovely rioja. It was very quick, the tuna itself takes only a few minutes to cook and the salad is very straightforward. The recipe is for one as everyone else was eating steak, double it for two.

Ingredients (for one):

Tuna Steak

Salad:

Chorizo sausage – as much as you fancy
a handful or ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes
salad leaves – we used rocket, watercress & baby spinach
baby new potatoes – we used jersey royals
red onion
lemon
extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Chop the potatoes into halves or quarters (depending on how big they are) and boil until soft.
Finely slice the onion and squeeze some lemon juice over the onion slices.
Halve the cherry tomatoes.
Slice the chorizo and fry in some olive oil until tender (a few minutes).
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and season while hot, they’ll absorb the seasoning better this way.
Heat some oil over a high heat and fry the tuna for 2-3 minutes on each side. It should be scorched on the outside and still quite pink on the inside. I really like it rare but if you prefer it medium or well done cook it for longer.
Mix up all your salad ingredients and season. Dress with some fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
Serve immediately while still slightly warm.