Err, so this summer’s menu has consisted mostly of mini Weetabix and BLT sandwiches. Not that I haven’t had time to cook, but baking a baby (we’re almost there!), moving house and scorching temperatures sucked all the energy out of me. I have made one thing on the regular because it takes less than 30 minutes start to finish and is oh-so-delicious and decadent. It ain’t cheap to make, but when the rest of your meals are bowls of cereal it averages out.
I’ve adapted this recipe from Jamie Oliver; he describes it as a starter, but we usually eat it as a main summer salad for two. I bulk it out with more greens and use jamón ibérico instead of parma ham, which c’mon, we all know is the best thing ever.
- 4 peaches
- quality olive oil
- sea salt (flakes if you got ’em)
- cracked pepper
- 1/2 lemon
- 125 g ball of buffalo mozzarella
- 100 g jamón ibérico
- 125 g arugula or mesclun
- a couple of sprigs of mint, leaves picked
Pre-heat the oven (top + bottom elements) to 200ºC/450ºF. Vertically halve and destone the peaches, then lie them cut-side up in a snug-fitting roasting tray. Drizzle with oil, a bit of salt, slide into the hot oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until charred and sticky. Keep an eye on them and rotate the tray for even cooking.
In the meantime, squeeze the juice of half a lemon, double as much olive oil, sea salt and pepper to taste into a jar with a sealable lid and shake-shake-shake. Usually when the peaches are done roasting I add a tablespoon or two of the peach juices from the pan to the jar, the sugar from the juice helps emulsify the dressing.
Divide the greens on plates, lie the peaches cut side up on the greens, tear the mozzarella up and pop a chunk on top of each peach. Arrange the jamón around the salad and drizzle the whole lot with the dressing. Sprinkle the mint leaves on top and serve straight away.
Servings: Two as a main meal or four as a starter.
As you may have gathered, we like lentils in this family. It’s just that they are so versatile, and cheap, and healthy! I like the peppery flavor of Du Puy (French green) lentils. Continuing on from the vichyssoise we have another a French-inspired summer dish. It’s great to make ahead and goes nicely with some grilled tarragon chicken. If you Google tarragon chicken you’ll find approximately eight jillion recipes. Adapted from Epicurious.
Put lentils in a small sauce pan and cover with 2 inches of water. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes until they are tender but not falling apart, rinse carefully with cool water and drain well. Put lentils back in the saucepan and stir in 1 tablespoon vinegar and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Put dry couscous and another pinch of salt in a large bowl. Bring water to boil on the stove top (I use an electric kettle, much faster). Pour water over couscous and stir with a fork, then cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil and cool completely.
In a small bowl (or in the mortar you used to mash the garlic) whisk together garlic paste, remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir lentils and dressing into couscous. Chill salad, covered, for 45-60 minutes (or overnight if you really want to make-ahead). After this time stir in the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill additional 30 minutes and give the salad a squeeze of fresh lemon juice right before serving.
Servings: Six. 260 calories.
Okay, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I have kept cooking, promise! We all get into our ruts though, and recently wanted to shake things up. I’ve recently-ish discovered harissa paste, and it’s now my new favorite ingredient. The couscous is an easy one-pan meal and you can chop up the salad ingredients while it’s cooking. I also make a spicy-cool (oxymoron?) yogurt sauce that’s makes a wonderful accompaniment. It makes quite a large quantity of food, but this is definitely one of those better-the-next-day dishes. Enjoy!
- 400 g. chicken breast, cubed
- 2 medium red onions, chopped
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- pinch ground nutmeg
- pinch ground cinnamon
- ground black pepper or five-peppercorn blend, to taste
- chunk of fresh ginger (about the size of your thumb), peeled and grated
- 2 tsp harissa paste
- small can (200 g approx) garbanzos, drained and rinsed
- 200 g couscous
- 450 ml chicken stock
- a handful (1/3 cup) of sultanas or golden raisins
- small handful (1/4 cup) salted sunflower seeds
- zest of one lemon
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3-4 ripe tomatoes
- 2 cucumbers
- red pepper
- large handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) greek yogurt
- 1/2 tsp harissa paste
- juice of half a lime
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep frying pan. Sauté the onions until they start to soften then add in the chicken and garlic. Cook the chicken and onions for about 5 minutes. At this point add in the harissa paste, grated ginger and spices. Stir to coat the chicken and onion mix with the spices. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the chickpeas (gently – don’t smush them) and let cook for another minute. Pour the couscous, raisins and sunflower seeds over the chicken mix. Pour the stock over and stir once, then cover the pan with a lid or tin foil and leave to sit for 10 minutes, until the couscous has soaked up all the stock. Remove the lid and sprinkle the lemon zest over the couscous and then fluff the mix up with a fork. Cover the pan back up and let rest until ready to serve.
To make the salad: Chop the red pepper and tomatoes. Peel, de-seed and chop the cucumbers. Toss with the sea salt and lemon juice and place in a medium bowl. After about 10 minutes, drain the excess liquid off the salad. Stir in the mint leaves and serve.
Yogurt sauce: stir the ingredients together in a small bowl and put in the fridge to let the flavors blend.
Serve the couscous with a side of salad and a nice dollop of the yogurt sauce.
Four generous servings. 450 calories.
I like that weird shredded/stick-formed fake crab stuff a lot. What’s it called? Krab, surimi, I have no idea. There are probably better things for you, but in the grand scale of things it’s not that bad. I also really love seafood salad. It reminds me of being a kid, in fact this recipe is based on my mom’s. My version can be converted into either a cold pasta salad or used as a sandwich filling, handy!
- 120 grams of shredded Krissia (that’s the brand of fake crab we’ve got here)
- 1 can of low-salt white/albacore tuna
- 1/4 to 1/2 red onion, finely diced (my advice is to add less onion first and then taste, as too much strong onion can overpower everything)
- 1 red pepper, finely diced
- 1 TB capers, drained and roughly chopped
- 2 TB mayonnaise
- 2 TB Philadelphia light cream cheese
- 1/4 tsp celery salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- cracked black pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients thoroughly together in a medium-sized bowl. I use a fork in order to flake the tuna properly and get the Philadelphia mixed in evenly. Did you know that light Philly cheese has half the calories of mayo? And it gives the salad a nice creamy texture as well. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to give the flavors a chance to mingle.
1. Sandwich filling. This is pretty obvious, right? Nom.
2. Pasta Salad: Boil about 100 grams (two handfuls, approx) of macaroni or small shell type pasta. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, throw in a big handful of frozen peas. Seafood pasta salad is incomplete without peas. Drain pasta well and fold gently with seafood mixture. Allow to chill thoroughly before serving.
Servings: Two. Calories: plain salad – 250, sandwich using whole wheat bread – 324, pasta salad with peas – 455
This is my favorite salad, hands down. I associate it with Catalan cooking but maybe it’s typical throughout Spain as well. It’s quite light and you need to use the best ingredients possible as it’s very simple. We like to eat it as a side dish to something heavier, like libritos de pollo (stuffed chicken breasts) or skewers.
- 800 grams of in-season tomatoes. I prefer Raf, Montserrat or “salad” tomatoes – Do NOT use Roma tomatoes
- approx 1/2-3/4 cup thinly sliced red onions or spring onions, depending on how much you love onions
- 75 grams bonito del norte (or the best quality tuna you can get)
- a big handful of mixed olives
- 1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
- 1 small clove garlic, smashed and finely diced
- 2 TB best-quality cold pressed olive oil
- Pinch of good sea salt, like Maldon
Slice tomatoes in thin wedges and put in shallow layers in a flat-bottomed recipient. Sprinkle onion slices and salt evenly over top. Whisk together oil, Dijon and garlic clove, then pour over tomatoes and mix in with your hands. This makes a difference! Flake the tuna evenly over the tomato mix and finally sprinkle the olives over the top.
Servings: Four, approx. 130 calories.