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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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Recipe: Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot Shards, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Some of my favourite dishes are happy culinary accidents. You have a plan, it seems perfect and then for some reason something doesn’t work. Frustrating, but somehow, the solution offers up an alternative that you might not have thought of, so instead of one new dish, sometimes you have two.

I found myself in that situation this morning. I have declared May a month of health, of vibrant lunches full of flavour, and of new dishes. I was making it last night, and had some enormous beetroots that I bought at the farmers market on the boil for well over an hour and a half, but they were still hard. I left them in the hot water overnight, hoping that they might cook a little as it cooled down, but they didn’t. I guess they were really very big! So, I was left with some semi-cooked, but still mostly raw beetroots which wouldn’t fit in with my original recipe idea.

What to do with them?

One thing was for sure, I was bringing lunch in, so I needed to figure out an alternative. I surveyed the scene in my kitchen at 7am this morning. I had already cooked my Israeli cous cous, and it was waiting patiently with some finely sliced red onions in olive oil. In olive oil, as I wanted to remove the sharp acidic tang that they have, and didn’t want to use lemon as it wouldn’t go with the dressing I had in mind.  I was using a fresh cheese, again from the farmer’s market. I wanted to make my own but they had sold out of their raw buffalo milk. What to do?

I know – grate them! Cue, rumbling in boxes for 10 minutes trying to source the grater (I have just moved house) to no avail. I did find my vegetable peeler so proceeded to peel slices from the peeled semi-raw beetroots, which I then sliced into smaller shards. They were slightly sweet, still firm and had a great texture, one that’s lost to cooked beetroot normally. Perfect!

I had intended to avoid balsamic in the dressing preferring something fruitier and livelier but couldn’t resist adding a 10 year aged balsamic that I found in my rummaging. Balsamic vinegar and beetroot are perfect partners. This worked especially well as the beetroot was only slightly sweet as it was very undercooked and the rich vinegar complemented it. I am going through a smoked sea salt phase, so used this to season with black pepper and it was delicious. It’s worth seeking out – Halen Mon or Maldon both sell it. Pea shoots added colour and texture, and a nice delicate flavour. Mint would work very well here too though, maybe even better.

Where can you get Israeli cous cous? Look in the kosher section of large supermarkets, or seek out Jewish delis. An alternative, which is a bigger bouncier and equally delicious version is mograbiah which you can find in Turkish shops.

I am presenting the recipe here as I did it, but really, you can just finely grate the beetroot too, it will be just as nice and certainly very healthy. Also, you can substitute the fresh buffalo cheese with any fresh cheese, goat’s curd or young goat’s cheese e.g. caprinhia.

Enjoy!

Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot Shards, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Ingredients:

1 beetroot (normal size will work fine!), whole
100g Israeli cous cous
1 small red onion, halved and finely sliced
100g fresh cheese or chevre, crumbled
A handful of fresh pea shoots
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
S&P

Method:

Cook the Israeli cous cous according to packet instructions. Cool under a cold tap and leave to the site with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Peel & grate your beetroot OR boil for 20 minutes, then peel & slice with a vegetable slicer as I have.

Combine the cous cous, beetroot and red onion and dress with 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp vinegar. Adjust to taste. Season with S&P and add half of the pea shoots. Stir through. Place the other half on top and around the salad.

Et voila! Enjoy.

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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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Fregola Sarda with Asparagus, heirloom tomato and goat’s curd

Finding something new to cook with is always exciting. I love prowling food markets and shops looking for that new ingredient or spice. My most recent discovery is fregola sarda (or fregula sarda), a toasted pasta from Sardinia, similar to cous cous but coarser, and because of the way it is toasted quite nutty. Like alot of Italian ingredients, it is exclusive to its area, and is relatively unknown outside of Sardinia. It is also still handmade, something I would like to try sometime in the future when I have time to spare.

I have been cooking with alot of grains recently: pearl barley, farro, wheat, rye. They’re perfect for light summer lunches or side dishes, and fregola is a welcome member of this summer arsenal. With no strong flavour of its own, It combines well with almost anything, and is traditionally served with the likes of clams. This sounds wonderful and is on my list to try, but today, I felt like giving it a London twist, using seasonal produce for a nice light lunch.

Accompanying the fregula in this dish is English asparagus, absolutely bursting with flavour at this time of year. The season is short so I am making the most of it. A punnet of heirloom tomatoes from the Isle of Wight tomato stall at Borough Market accompanied, these incredible tomatoes are juicy and succulent with thick meaty flesh, and absolutely wonderful for this purpose. The final main ingredient is goats curd, a fresh cream cheese made from goats milk that is really light and delicious. I saw this for the first time when I visited Australia (Sydney) some years ago. It’s a great place for food, fresh ricotta and other culinary gems are so easy to come by, it was here that I first had goats curd and have lamented that it’s not available here since. Earlier this year I spotted a large bowl of it in Neal’s Yard Dairy in Borough Market and I’ve been using it since. I use shallots as a base ingredient, I used half an eschalion shallot as they’re quite large. If you don’t have any shallots you can substitute red onion or spring onions (scallions).

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The taste of summer – Israeli cous cous and feta salad

Apologies to anyone who comes to my online kitchen looking for some recipes, I have been very remiss of late. There’s a few reasons for this:

  • I have relocated to Battersea, this is the year of being topsy turvy and moving frequently, it seems.
  • Shortly after relocating, some mice came to visit. Some big mice. That liked to run along the worktop. I hate mice, apart from them being unsanitary, they completely freak me out. There is no logic to this whatsoever, I know they’re smaller than me and I can do them more harm than they can me. It must be a phobia, I completely freeze when I see them and I wish I could say scream, but it’s more of a panicky croak. In summary, I steered clear of the kicthen for a couple of weeks.

I started to miss my lunches. I am used to bringing in something tasty and healthy but, whilst my house became the mouse house, I started to use the company canteen again. Our company canteen could desperately do with a Jamie style overhaul. It offers: hot things in bad sauces, pasta that’s been cooked for (I would estimate) an hour in bad or weird sauces, cold fish fingers in the salad section (YES: salad section) and random bits and bobs. It’s saving grace is the said salad section with the likes of grated carrot but that gets tired very quickly, say 3 days. Let’s just say, the company canteen is not my favourite indulgence.

So, I braved the kitchen – be very proud of me. For 2 weeks, if anything brushed off my skin, I immediately thought MOUSE and jumped or ran. I scanned the counter, peeked behind the door, opened the cupboard and peered in expecting to be face to face with a fat grey mouse. But, there was none there. So, I proceeded to concoct something, fresh, flavourful and quick for work. Something to match this lovely weather and to satiate my lunch time appetite. I made a delicious salad with israeli cous cous, feta, tomato, black olives, parsley and pine nuts with some lemon to lift the flavours.

The recipe is very simple and quick. I think it will become a picnic favourite. This made one large lunch.[Read more]