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Archive for the ‘Salad’ Category

It’s been a crazy few weeks around here with lots more work happening to the house (unfortunately not in the kitchen) and a big helping of overtime to help afford some of the new cabinets we need to order. Who knew that taking a week off work would actually entail more work than the office job? With all that’s been going on I’m afraid I’ve let my cooking go by the wayside reverting to simple, slightly boring dishes and whatever’s left in the freezer. So please forgive me for posting something I’ve had lurking around on my PC for a little while. It’s a lovely little recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s column in the Guardian which goes perfectly with barbequed meats or some simply baked fish, no fuss required. The only reason it’s been lurking so long is the frankly, pretty pathetic photos which do this salad no justice.

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This recipe was one of those off-the-cuff type things which I threw together one evening when I spent a little to much time wondering what to do with a bag of dinky little Chantenay carrots. Happily enough it turned out to be rather nice and I have repeated it since turning my salad into a lunch dish by mixing the sticky-sweet roasted carrots with a heap of lentils and topping them off with a crumbling of salty feta. The earthy flavour of the carrots is lifted by a sharp mustard and lemon dressing which also serves to cut through their concentrated honeyed sweetness. Toasted hazelnuts lend a some textural interest and their buttery taste plays along well with the rest of the dish. (more…)

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In an unwise decision the other night I decided to reclaim my cast-iron griddle pan from its box in the loft where it has been temporarily stashed since the start of our kitchen renovation, and introduce it to my temporary kitchen-in-the-lounge. Bad move people, bad move. My hankering for charred courgette salad nearly drove us out the house: the lounge’s complete lack of an extractor fan meant the room rapidly filled with billowing smoke − a good test for the fire alarms but a total common-sense fail. Whoops! Having safely deposited the rabbits in the back garden, we had to open up all the windows and doors to properly vent the smog. Goodness knows what our neighbours made of it all. Rest assured, for now the griddle pan has been retired back to the attic and any griddling action will take place on the barbeque if we ever get a long enough dry spell in the midst of all this rain.

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If I could jet off anywhere in the world I think near the top of my list of destinations would be Vietnam. I’d love to ride a scooter around Ho Chi Minh City and take a boat trip around Ha Long Bay. Unfortunately it’s going to be a long time until I can realise my dream so I’m making do by trying my hand at Vietnamese style cooking. This week I’ve been preparing lots of summer or salad rolls for my lunches; they are not only delicious but light, healthy and refreshing: perfect for a hot, muggy day. You can use any vegetables you fancy to make up the little bundles of salad wrapped in delicate rice paper but something raw and crunchy is preferable along with fresh herbs. You can also add meat such as spicy roast chicken and shredded pork, prawns or even tofu or nuts for a protein boost.  (more…)

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The Italians know a thing or two about cooking vegetables. While I ordinarily opt to cook my veggies as little as possible to preserve their flavour and freshness, a popular Italian approach is to cook them twice and it produces some amazing results. I remember early on in my Erasmus year in Italy seeing a massive plate of soggy looking courgettes at the local self-service restaurant and thinking ‘how could they ruin something so lovely?’. Ruefully I added a spoonful to my dish of contorni (sides) and was surprised by how delicious they were. They had been cooked to the point of collapse, simmered then fried, but were beautifully golden and had delicate crispy edges. Being cooked so long had concentrated their sweetness and they were a delight to eat. I kept my eye out for those courgettes and made sure to load up a plate every time they were on the menu.

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Nigel Slater is my cooking hero, he is a master of simple dishes that make the most of everyday ingredients. He values fresh, seasonal ingredients and seems to write recipes that encourage you to nip out into the garden or rummage through the fridge for a few choice ingredients that might otherwise go overlooked. This super little salad is a prime example, I had all the ingredients lurking in the kitchen but would never have though to put them together in one bowl. I really want to develop my cooking intuition and to be able to pair flavours as well as Mr Slater. It’s a long shot, but by making recipes like this, I am slowly learning to be more experimental in the kitchen.

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Devils on horseback, the posh name for prunes wrapped in bacon, are to my mind one of the best canapés ever invented. If someone puts a plateful in front of me I won’t stop eating until they’re gone, I practically inhale the suckers. When I make them I always try to have a few spare, you know – chef’s perks. (Oh, you mean that’s not an excuse to make more to keep you going until dinner’s ready?) There’s something about the salty/sweet/smokey combo that makes them very hard to share. Yum.

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