Marinated peppers

This is a good side dish to add to a lunch of fresh bread, charcuterie and cheese. Enough for 4:

  • 4 large peppers (‘bell peppers’ – yellow and red are the tastiest, but green add some colour contrast)Marinated_peppers
  • 2 tbsp good (tasty) olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Black pepper to taste

Claudia Roden (in The Food of Italy (Square Peg)), suggests roasting the peppers (whole) in the oven at 190C (170C in a fan oven/Gas Mark 4) for 30-45 minutes “until they feel soft when you press them and their skins blister and begin to blacken”. I followed her instructions, which are certainly less labour intensive than charring the peppers over a flame (or grilling them).

Once cooked, put the peppers in a pan with a tight fitting lid (or seal them in a freezer bag), and leave for 10-15 minutes. This helps to further loosen the skins.

Remove the peppers from the pan/freezer bag, and remove the skins, stalks, cores and seeds. Reserve the juice from cooking the peppers.

Cut the peppers into large slices, and place in a shallow dish. Make the dressing with the oil, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the pepper juice (strained). Season the dressing with black pepper to taste, and pour over the peppers.

Allow to cool and store in the fridge before serving.

Salad Niçoise

NicoiseEnough for 2:

  • 2 eggs (hard boiled)
  • 6 small new potatoes (cooked and cooled)
  • Torn green salad leaves (I used a mixture of little gem and rocket)
  • 12 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 25 fine green beans (cooked lightly, cooled and cut in half)
  • Small tin of anchovies (c. 10 fillets), drained
  • 120g can of tuna steak (drained)
  • 12 small pieces of grilled/marinated artichoke
  • 2 spring onions (finely sliced)
  • Dressing: oil, vinegar, black pepper
  • Chopped parsley

Either combine all the ingredients in a large salad bowl (for serving) or arrange neatly on two plates – the choice is yours!

Warm Duck Salad

Duck_Salad2-horzThis is a recipe I thought up on a hot day – for 2 people:

  • 2 duck legs
  • 60g wild rocket
  • 90g quinoa (cooked according to the instructions, rinsed, drained and cooled)
  • 1 red pepper (charred (over a gas ring or with a blowtorch, skin rinsed off, and sliced (1/2cm wide))
  • 20 fine green beans (cooked, cooled and cut into 3cm lengths)
  • 40 (approx) pumpkin seeds (I used butternut squash seeds, as I roasted a squash at the same time as the duck legs)
  • 2 spring onions sliced (actually I used some cocktail pickled onions (quartered) that were lurking in the fridge)
  • Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
  • 1 fresh pineapple ring (cut into thin wedges)
  • For the dressing:
    • 2 tsp honey
    • 2cm cube of fresh ginger (finely grated)
    • 1 small red chilli (finely chopped)
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce
    • 2 tsp shaoxing rice wine
    • Juice of 1/6th of a lime
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
    • Pineapple juice squeeze from the left-over peelings

Prick the skin of the duck legs all over, and place on a trivet over a roasting tin. Roast for 1.5 hours at 160C (Gas mark 3) or until the skin is crispy and the flesh cooked, basting occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together the quinoa, rocket, red pepper, green beans, pumpkin seeds and onions.

Combine all the dressing ingredients and mix half the dressing with the salad.

When the duck is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Then cut into rough slices, (I found a pair of kitchen scissor were useful here, as you need to cut around the bones).

To serve, divide the salad between two plates. Place the duck pieces on top and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and the remaining dressing.

 

Potato salad

Potato_Salad

This recipe appeared in Waitrose’s Kitchen magazine in May 2014. Enough for 4 people as a side dish:

  • 500g small new potatoes
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil (good quality)
  • Juice 1/4 lemon
  • 4 spring onions (finely sliced)
  • 4 cornichons (chopped)
  • 1/2 tbsp capers (drained)
  • 6 sprigs of flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
  • 6 sprigs of fresh tarragon (finely chopped)

Cook the potatoes (boil for about 15-20 minutes until cooked).

Meanwhile, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, oil and lemon juice in a large bowl.

Drain the potatoes (reserving 2 tbsp of the cooking liquid). Return to the pan, and allow to dry over a gentle heat for about 2 minutes.

Cut the warm potatoes in half and add to the mayonnaise mixture, together with the reserved cooking liquid. Toss to combine, and set aside to cool.

When cool add the spring onions, cornichons, capers and herbs.

I served mine with smoked mackerel, horseradish (combined with creme fraiche) and beetroot.

Greek salad

Greek_salad_tile

Enough for lunch for 2 (served with bread):

  • 100g feta (cut into small cubes, or crumbled)
  • 2 spring onions (sliced)
  • 1/3rd of a cucumber (diced)
  • 14 cherry tomatoes (quartered)
  • 12 olives (stoned and halved)
  • A few sprigs of mint
  • A few sprigs of flat parsley
  • 1 clove garlic (crushed/chopped)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • less than 1 tbsp wine vinegar
  • Black pepper

Combine the feta, spring onions, cucumber tomatoes and olives in a bowl.

Make the dressing by whisking together the herbs, garlic, oil, vinegar and black pepper. Stir into the salad.

Serve.

Ham and pea soup

Ham-tile

If you’re after some good, hearty comfort food.  One of my favourites is ham and pea soup.

I often think that supermarket bacon joints are extremely overpriced.  But Sainburys’ Basics range comes to the rescue here.  They do 670gm packs of ‘Cooking Bacon’ for £1.10.  You need to be selective about the pack you buy as some of them consist of a number of small pieces of bacon and sometimes even slices.

Soak about 150gms of split peas in water overnight.  These are usually yellow split peas, you can find green ones in health food stores, but both colours seem to taste the same.

Put the bacon in a large saucepan/stockpot with about two litres of water, an onion (quartered), a leek, a stick of celery (all roughly sliced); add some parsley, thyme, pepper corns and bay leaf.  I usually add a sliced carrot, but on this occasion I didn’t have any. Bring to the boil and very gently simmer (until the bacon is really well cooked – so that it falls apart – I cooked mine for about 4 hours (barely simmering)).

When ready, remove the bacon and pull apart into small pieces using two forks.

Strain the stock (throwing away the cooked vegetables).  Drain the peas.  Chop another onion, and gently fry until soft in a clean pan along with a carrot, a leek and a celery stick (all sliced).  Add the peas and the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the peas are cooked (probably about 1.5 hours).  If it looks too thick just add some more boiling water.  Blend and return to the pan along with some of the pulled bacon.  Serve piping hot:

Ham and pea soup

What to do with rest of the ham?

CelereiacCeleriac remoulade – grated raw celeriac mixed with mayonnaise (with added whole grain mustard, low fat yogurt and lemon juice to taste); scatter with pulled ham – a good starter:

 

 

 

 

Ham and kale colcannon – mashed potato, sliced leeks cooked in butter, kale (shredded and briefly boiled) and pulled bacon:

Colcannon

Avocado pears

Most supermarkets now sell certain fruit as ‘perfectly ripe’. I’m not sure that the title is particularly truthful, although it’s probably fair to say that there is more chance of ‘perfectly ripe’ fruit ripening properly than the alternative (often labelled ‘for ripening at home’).

I’ve considered carrying out some kind of guerilla action involving sticky labels saying “you must be joking”, but I don’t really want to be banned from all the local supermarkets.

I do have specific complaints about avocados. The ones that aren’t ‘perfectly ripe’ are often as hard as bullets, and if put in fruit bowl with some bananas (that well recommended way of ripening fruit) they often go from being rock hard to brown and stringy, without ever passing through that ‘perfectly ripe’ phase somewhere in between.

My other issue is, that if you buy ‘perfectly ripe’ avocados, you always have to buy two. I did this the other day because I wanted to make guacamole (using one avocado) to go with chilli con carne. I decided to use the other avocado to make a rather 1960s salad: Prawn with (the pretentiously named) marie-rose sauce, avocado and rocket.

Not a great deal of effort went into this (for 2):Prawn_Salad

  • 150g frozen cooked prawns (defrosted)
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 2 large squirts of tomato ketchup
  • A good squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 ripe avocado (cut in half, stone removed, and the flesh removed from the skin and sliced)
  • Rocket
  • 2 tbsp oil and vinegar dressing
  • Cayenne pepper

Combine the mayonnaise with the yogurt, and mix in the tomato ketchup and lemon juice (the sauce should be a light pink colour). Mix in the prawns.

Toss the rocket and avocado slices in the salad dressing. Arrange the rocket and avocado on two plates. Spoon over the prawn mixture, and light dust with cayenne pepper.