Category Archives: Salad

Chestnuts

Chestnut vendor When we were on holiday in Madrid a few years back I remember buying the most amazing roasted chestnuts (pictured right) – freshly roasted in vast cauldrons – from the many street vendors around the city.

They were dished out to us piping hot in small paper bags – often selling for as little as 1 Euro per 100g (a large handful).

Here in the UK, since the chestnut season is so brief (September to December) I think it’s always useful to take advantage whilst we can.

Types / availability

· Whole peeled chestnuts, canned or vacuum-packed, are available from most UK supermarkets. 450g fresh chestnuts (weighed in their shells) are equivalent to 175g dried, reconstituted chestnuts or 350g tinned or vacuum packed nuts.

· Canned chestnut purée, plain or sweetened, available in tins, is a godsend as it saves hours of preparation for use in pudding recipes.

· Chestnut flour (gluten-free and with a slight earthy smokiness) is often available from speciality food stores and delicatessens. This is useful as a substitute for flour in cakes (see below), pancakes or as a thickener for soups and stews.

Chestnuts roastedCooking with fresh chestnuts

Fresh chestnuts should be cooked and never eaten raw – due to their high acid content. I find the oven to be the most effective way of roasting them.

First, pre-heat the oven to 200 C / 390 F.

If you are using fresh chestnuts which contain the outer shell / husk then one of the most important steps before roasting is to cut an incision in the shell using the end of a sharp knife.

Alternatively you can roll your foot over them until they crack slightly. This prevents sudden explosions of chestnut shrapnel from inside the oven due to a pressure build up in the shell.

Next, place approximately 200g chestnuts on an oven tray and roast for 20-25 minutes.

Once cooked, peel off the tough shell and the papery thin skin underneath. Peel the nuts whilst hot – it’s impossible to peel a cold chestnut – to ensure the complete removal of the inner brown furry skin, called the ‘tan’, which is bitter.

Alternative recipes

A great cake recipe of Italian origin is Montebianco – using chestnuts, chocolate and coffee, with layers of mousse, praline and almond meringue. Who could say no to that?Chestnuts aerial view

If you prefer something a bit more homely then I cannot think of anything more inviting than steaming ladlefuls of hot chestnut soup.

First, take 1kg fresh, cooked and peeled chestnuts (or 600g pre-packaged and vacuum-packed), 1 onion, 1 garlic clove (finely chopped), 25g butter, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 litre stock and 1 tbsp brown sugar.

Next, In a saucepan, heat a the butter with the olive oil over a medium heat, then add the garlic and onions. Cook them for about 5 minutes or until they become soft and begin to brown.

Add the stock, brown sugar and bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and blitz with a hand blender until smooth, then adjust the seasoning to taste.

The soup is naturally creamy so there is no need to add cream.

Serve into soup bowls and enjoy.

Autumn reflections – with a comforting hummus dish

I think the Autumnal time of year is a great opportunity to cosy up with friends and family and share food which is a little bit more comforting than we might do in Spring or Summer – foods like mackerel, chicken casserole, spinach, kale, beetroot, pumpkin and other root vegetables (oven-roasted).

Don’t get me wrong; I love the Autumn for what it is, especially the vibrant orange colours of the leaves on  the trees against the dusk skies – see below – and the briskness, crispness and freshness that we experience most mornings in the UK. Autumn skies

I recently posted a blog on how to make homemade falafel and I posted another blog on making your own dips for entertaining a crowd.

The purpose of this blog is to delve, once more, into Middle Eastern cuisine, with a recipe for creamy hummus – something I’ve always found to be a good accompaniment to vegetable or meat dishes.

Homemade courgette (zucchini) hummus with spices

Grilled courgette (zucchini)

Grilled courgette (zucchini)

I was fumbling around in the vegetable box receently thinking what might make a decent hummus recipe. Courgette’s (Zucchini) are one of my favourite vegetables and are pretty versatile – so I settled with that.

Grilled, fried or roasted, the courgette is blitzed in a food processor with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), aduki beans, fresh garlic, tahini (sesame paste), lemon juice, herbs, spices and extra-virgin olive oil.

It can be eaten hot or cold.

You can use it as a dip for pitta bread, spread it on a wrap or pair it with roasted vegetables and any meat dish.

Hummus complete

Hummus

It’s gluten-free, low-carb and vegan friendly. Nutritionally, it also has a decent amount of protein and fibre.

Ingredients

Chickpeas (garnazo beans), aduki beans and tahini

Chickpeas (garnazo beans), aduki beans and tahini

  • 1 courgette (Zucchini) – grilled, fried or roasted
  • 400g can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 400g can aduki beans, drained
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
  • ½ tsp salt, more to taste
  • ½ tsp cracked pepper

    Ingredients for hummus (clockwise from top - chickpeas and aduki beans, courgette, spices, lemon, garlic and coriander leaf)

    Ingredients for hummus (clockwise from top – chickpeas and aduki beans, courgette, spices, lemon, garlic and coriander leaf)

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 tbsp coriander or more fresh herbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

 Directions

  • Cut courgette into ½ inch thick strips, brush with a little olive oil and grill on medium heat until charred and tender.
  • (Alternately courgette may be roasted in the oven until tender. If you have very large zucchini with thick skin, you can half it lengthwise, roast in the oven and then scoop out the flesh, leaving the skin out, if necessary)
  • Place the grilled courgette along with the rest of the ingredients (except the oil, coriander herb and 2 tbsp of the chickpeas and aduki beans) in a food processor, and puree until relatively smooth.
  • Serve it in a bowl, making a little circular “well” using a spoon, and drizzle a little olive oil in the well.
  • Garnish with the 2 tbsp chickpeas and aduki beans and mix in the coriander herb.
  • Serve either warm or chilled.
Blitz hummus

Blitz hummus

Blitzed with coriander

Hummus blitzed with coriander

 

Cauliflower cous cous

It’s funny how some foods are being repurposed nowadays to appear to be something they’re clearly not. The latest such innovation to catch my eye is this “copycat” cous cous recipe.

Cauliflower cous cous

Cauliflower cous cous

Cauliflower cous cous processor

Pulsed

OK – so it’s not actually cous-cous, which is traditionally made from steamed and dried durum wheat (and it’s not comfort food), but it is very tasty fried with a little butter or olive oil and garlic. It’s also a versatile lunch box option and the texture is almost spot on when comparing it to the real grain.

For me, cauliflower is a mainstay in our household. I love roasting it in oil and salt, which really brings out the flavour, but it’s interesting to try something different; I just never thought it would involve using a cheese grater or food processor (see right).

In the recipe below I’ve paired the cous cous with rice, quinoa and herbs into a sort of pilau.

Nuts, seeds (sesame, pumpkin, linseeds) are entirely optional, as is serving alongside a meat-based main like chicken, lamb or pork.

I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

Serves 3 – 4

  • 1 head cauliflower, any size
  • 1tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 100g brown basmati rice
  • 100g quinoa
  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 75g flat leaf parsley or coriander

Directions

  • Add the rice, quinoa and stock to a medium pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a slight simmer and then cover with a lid and cook for 12-15 mins or until both are soft.
  • Meanwhile, cut the head of the raw cauliflower into quarters, then trim out the inner core from each quarter. Break apart the cauliflower into large Cauliflower cous cous blitzedflorets with your Cauliflower cous cous processed
    hands. If the core is tender, you can chip it into pieces and add it with the florets.
  • Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor and pulse the cauliflower until completely broken down. It’s best to do this in 1-2 second bursts until it appears “grainy” (Alternatively, grate the florets on the large holes of a box grater.)
  • Transfer the cauliflower couscous to another container and re-process any large pieces.
  • Cauliflower couscous can be used raw, which retains the texture,or it can be cooked: Cooking makes the cauliflower more tender and rice-like.
  • Warm a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a large wide-based pan over medium heat. Stir for around 3 – 4 minutes then combine in a serving dish with the cooked rice and quinoa.

 

 

 

How to make homemade (baked) falafel

Falafels are a handy “store cupboard” meal for an easy weekday lunch or dinner. You can make a large batch and demolish them whenever takes your fancy – which, for me, would be for every meal.

Falafel Salad

The falafel patties will keep for several days in the fridge. Having said that, they do start to crumble and dry out the longer you leave them. If this happens just drizzle some extra oil over the patties before baking.

The recipe below is for a colourful salad – but you can easily turn the patties into mini burgers and stuff them into pitta bread with sliced tomato, rocket and fried red onion. Just a suggestion.

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the falafelHomemade Falafel

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 x 400g can chickpeas
  • 1 x 400g can mixed beans (kidney, borlotti and black eyed beans)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 lemon, zest grated
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander (herb)
  • Salt and pepper,
  • 1 tbsp chickpea flour OR 1 egg (for binding the ingredients together)

For the salad

  • 2 tbsp red cabbage mayonnaise
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 2 x red and yellow pepper, sliced
  • a handful of rocket
  • 1 tomato, sliced thinkly
  • 1/2 small cucumber, chopped
  • 1 tspb jalepeno peppers

Directions

  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small pan. Fry the onion over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and fry for a further two minutes and remove from the heat.
  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas and mixed beans and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the sautéed onion and garlic and crush together with a potato masher until the mixture is broken down.
  • Add the cumin, mixed herbs and lemon zest and mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the flour / egg and mix together.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C. Divide the mixture into 16 walnut-sized balls and place on a non-stick baking tray.
  • Rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  • Remove the falafel from the fridge, drizzle with the remaining oil and bake for 25 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown. Turn occasionally to ensure even cooking.
  • For the salad, arrange the ingredients on a plate with sliced (cooked) falafel placed on top.

Warm new potato and mackerel salad recipe

I’ve featured mackerel a few times on this blog – only because I love it and because it’s such a nutritious source of food; packed with protein, vitamin D, selenium, niacin (vitamin B3) and vitamin B12.

This recipe provides good all-round combination of energy, texture and flavour. I love the warm and waxy new potatoes, the crunch of the gem lettuce, the slight acidity of the red onions and the saltiness of the smoked mackerel.

Bon Appetite!

Grilled mackerel, red onion and potato salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 200g new potatoes
  • 2 smoked mackerel fillets (about 200g weight; skinned and flaked)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 baby gem lettuce, chopped
  • a small handful of dill or chives, chopped

Directions

  • Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, mix the red onion with the lemon and add small a pinch of salt. This helps to tenderise the red onion.
  • Drain the potatoes, halve and set aside to cool down for a few minutes.
  • Add the smoked mackerel and gem lettuce to a serving bowl and toss gently together. Then add the new potatoes with the olive oil, red onion (including the lemon juice) and dill. 
  • Toss together to mix thoroughly.
  • Pile on two plates and serve warm.