Happy 1st of July everyone! This is one of my favourite months: the days are longer, school is nearly over and it’s my birthday soon!
I find that recently we’ve been lossening up on our (already pretty loose) bedtime routine. The evenings are so light and it’s so close to the end of term and I’d much rather be having fun than ushering Stink off to bed at 8pm sharp. Im pretty sure that all they do in the last few weeks of school is colouring in and watching videos anyway…
Having had a few weeks of really nice weather here in Somerset we’ve found ourselves edging away from our normal evening routine of chores, dinner, telly and bed in favour of impromptu mid-week dinner picnics and leisurely strolls along the canal to our local pub for a cheeky pint. I also find it so much easier to entertain guests at this time of year. We live in a tiny house which makes it difficult to have more than a couple of people at a time round for dinner. We are however lucky to have a good sized garden, and if you follow me on instagram you’ll have seen we’ve been making good use of it.
So I’m hoping for a sunny month with more balmy evenings in the garden, and with this in mind I thought I’d share with you three Simple Salads. All of them can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. They work just as well for barbecues and garden parties as they do for packed lunches and picnics.
- 200g dried couscous
- 350g boiling water
- 75g raisins
- 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, paprika, ginger and coriander
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- A handful of walnuts or almonds (or both)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- Place the couscous, raisins and spices in a large bowl and pour over the boiling water. Stir and cover the bowl with a plate to keep the steam in. After ten minutes the couscous will have absorbed all the water.
- Pour over the olive oil and vinegar, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
- Once the couscous has cooled completely add the rest of the ingredients.
- Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Store in a covered container until you need it.
Tomato, Basil and Butterbean Salad with Feta
- 150g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 can of butter beans, drained
- 1 small red onion, finely sliced
- 100g feta, crumbled
- A large handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tsp of good quality balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Rocket to serve
- Place all of the ingredients except the rocket and balsamic in a large bowl. Mix well and season to taste. Be careful with the salt as feta is brined and therefore very salty already.
- Store in a covered container until, ready to serve.
- To serve, gently toss the rocket and salad together, then drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.
Beetroot, Cucumber and Zaatar Salad
- 1 pack of pre-cooked beetroot, diced
- 1 large cucumber, cut into semicircles
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 bunch of spring onions, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp of zaatar (a spice blend available in most good supermarkets)
- 150g thick natural yoghurt
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve.
Healthy eating can often seem like hard work in the winter. When it’s dark at 4pm, freezing cold outside and shitting it down with rain, all I want to eat is stodgy, brown foods. I never think of salad because winter vegetables are generally not good salad ingredients. Sprout salad, anyone?
This is a doddle to throw together but adds a pop of lovely pastel purple to your dinner table. I’ve given the quantities to make enough for a side for 4 people and some left over. If you’re cooking for a crowd (or you just really love slaw) then double up the ingredients. This will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days in your fridge which also makes it a good make ahead dish.
If you have a food processor or mandolin in your kitchen, you should definitely use it to make this salad. I chucked all of the veg for this in my magimix (I have a mandolin too, but I’m a bit scared of it) with the slicing attachment and it was easy as hell and took no time at all. If you prefer a slightly chunkier slaw (or you don’t own a food processor) just slice it all by hand using a sharp chefs knife and tell all your mates it’s meant to be rustic.
- 1/2 a small red cabbage
- 1 Apple
- 1 Red Onion
- 2 sticks of celery
- A handful of crushed hazelnuts
- 100g Stilton
- 2 tbsp creme fraiche
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- Pinch of hot chilli powder (optional)
- Prepare your dressing in a large mixing bowl by mixing all of the wet ingredients and crumbling in the Stilton. Save some Stilton to use as a garnish. Season your dressing to taste with salt, pepper and sugar if it’s too sour for you. Add the chilli powder if using.
- Slice all of your vegetables, either by hand or using a food processor or mandolin (watch your fingers). Add these to the bowl of dressing.
- Crush your nuts (lol) using the blade of a large knife. Add these to the bowl, saving some to sprinkle over the top.
- Give everything a really good mix and season again if needs be.
- If your not eating this right away, transfer to a clean container and place in the fridge. If you are serving right away, transfer to a clean serving bowl and garnish with the reserved Stilton and nuts. If you don’t care much for fancy serving bowls, plonk the mixing bowl on your dinner table and get stuck in.
I had lunch with some of my all-time favourite people today. The sun shone, the food was a delight and the wine flowed freely. It was glorious. The best thing about having foodie friends is that they always bring delicious gifts. Just look at this spread…
One of my contributions to this team feast was grilled vegetable salad with quinoa. It’s great as a side, but because the quinoa is so full of protein it also works great served warm as a main meal. I’ve done this using a cast iron grill pan, but it would be fantastic cooked on the barbecue.
Grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad
- 1 aubergine
- 1 courgette
- 1 red pepper
- 1 small red onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Handful of fresh basil
- Handful of cherry tomatoes
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- 250g quinoa (I’ve used a mix of red, white and black)
- Slice the aubergine, courgette and pepper. Lay on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Mince the garlic in a little salt. Place in a mixing bowl with the red onion and some balsamic vinegar. Set aside. The acid in the vinegar will ‘cook’ the onion and garlic and mellow them out a little.
- Heat up a cast iron griddle pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. When the pan is smoking hot, dab the excess moisture from the veg and place in the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, so that the black lines are vivid. You’ll probably need to do this in batches unless you have a giant griddle.
- Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions and then drain. Place in the mixing bowl with the onion and garlic.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the quinoa, along with the basil. I just tear mine, but if you like things nice and neat go ahead and chop it up.
- If you are serving this in a big bowl, gently mix through the grilled veg, drizzle with some olive oil and balsamic and season to taste.
- If you are serving this as a main meal, season the quinoa and place some on a plate and then pile some of the veg on top. Drizzle with oil and balsamic, serve with a green salad and some lovely, crusty bread.
Yesterday was my day off after a crazy long, 6 day, 60-something hour week. The sun was shining the whole time while I was in my underground kitchen, sweating away. It’s pretty standard for me to wake up to grey skies or pouring rain on my days off. It’s Sod’s law. But amazingly, the sun stuck around! So I spent my whole day outdoors soaking up the glorious June warmth…. As a result, I didn’t think about dinner until the very last minute.
Supper was a thrown together salad of roasted chickpea and sweet potato with Chappatti and wine. If you make the Chappatti dough first, this dinner can be ready in 90 minutes or less, with a nice long break between preparing your salad and cooking the bread. There’s no yeast in this bread, and no long baking times, so it’s a perfect stand by recipe for scatty, last minute people like me! If you don’t have the rye flour, just add in an extra 50g of white flour. You could also use just wholemeal flour for a more nutritional bread, just be prepared for your dough to be a lot stiffer.
- 50g wholemeal rye flour
- 300g strong white flour
- 200g water
- 10g salt
- 10g oil
- Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and bring together to form a ball.
- Knead for approximately 10 minutes (7 if using a mixer) adding extra flour if required.
- Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour or more.
- Divide into small portions, about the size of a ping pong ball. Roll into balls, cover and rest for twenty minutes.
- Roll each ball out on a lightly floured surface as thinly as you can.
- Cook in a preheated, heavy frying pan or cast iron skillet. They take about 1 minute, flipping half way through when bubbles start to appear.
- Keep warm in a clean tea towel.
Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 8 ground peppercorns
- 2 tsp Garam Masala
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Juice of one lemon
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius/gas mark 5
- Peel and dice the sweet potatoes, place in a roasting pan with the chickpeas. Drizzle with oil and coat in the spices. Add a sprinkle of salt.
- Roast for 45 minutes.
- Place the onion, garlic and lemon juice in a bowl. Massage in a spindle of sea salt and ensure the onion is well coated in the lemon juice.
- Mix in the pepper.
- When the sweet potatoes and chickpeas are out of the oven, gently mix it into the rest of the salad.
- Serve on peppery salad leaves, with a drizzle of oil, a sprinkle of almond flakes and some nigella seeds.