Tag Archives: salad

Perfect salad for when you have the best tomatoes

28 May

You already know that I love buying and cooking and eating local food. So when Clyde Valley Tomatoes were back at my local farmer’s market earlier this month, I knew we’d be eating tomatoes all week!

I wanted to make a salad which would showcase the varieties of tomatoes.

Spring haul from farmer's market

Spring haul from farmer’s market

On the drive home I thought of a salad I used to make many years ago: fattoush. And then another tomato and stale bread salad: panzanella. I hadn’t made either for years, and started hankering for that melding of flavours and textures. Yes, these tomatoes were destined to become one big dish of delicious salad. Served with cold meats for lunch.

Panzanella

  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced and left in a bowl of ice cold salted water for an hour
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • a punnet or two of ripe tomatoes from Clyde Valley Tomatoes. Or perhaps about 8 medium tomatoes – if you’re using wee ones, feel free to double the quantities
  • 200g stale(ish) sourdough bread
  • 4 TBsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 TBsp capers
  • 2 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 6 TBsp extra virgin olive oil
  • small bunch of fresh basil
  1. Cut the peppers into big flattish pieces and pop them under a grill skin side up so the skin blackens. Alternatively use a toasting fork (who has such a thing these days?) and burn the skin over a gas hob, or chuck them in a hot oven. Or use a blow torch. You’ll know how you like to do it. Once the skin is black, put the pieces of pepper into a bowl and cover with cling film for 20 minutes or so.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks and place in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle some salt over them and leave to drain while you prepare everything else
  3. Cut (or tear) the bread into chunks, about the same size as your tomato chunks and put them into a salad bowl and drizzle with vinegar
  4. Drain the onion and add it to the salad bowl
  5. Add the capers
  6. By now your peppers might be ready for peeling, so peel off the black skin, or as much of it as you can and cut the pieces of naked pepper into strips. Put them in the bowl
  7. Press down on the tomatoes and squeeze out lots of juice, then put the tomato flesh into the salad bowl
  8. Add the chopped anchovies and olive oil to the tomato juice and whisk
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste
  10. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Pick off some basil leaves and tear them onto the salad
  11. Leave for 15 minutes or so at room temperature – or outside in the sunshine
  12. Serve as one of those lunches where the table is covered with bowls and plates and ashets of this and that tasty treats.

Of course you could skimp some of the steps or tweak the recipe as you go:

  • If you don’t soak the onion right at the beginning, it will taste too harsh (for my taste buds). You might prefer to use red onion, or spring onions
  • Don’t bother pouring the vinegar over the bread. I think you’ll regret missing out that step though!
  • Add garlic. In fact most recipes include garlic. I just forgot to add is when I made it and enjoyed the garlic-free breath, and how the other flavours all sung out at me
  • Add cucumber, celery, chilli, crisp lettuce
  • Omit the anchovies if you’re feeding vegetarians. Obviously!

Basically make this your own panzanella – so long as you have the very best tomatoes and some good quality bread, you’ll make something delicious.

No pictures though, we ate it too quickly!

 

Beetroot and orange salad

10 Jul

I mentioned this treat the other day, in my post about my Scottish tapas style meal.

When I was wee the only beetroots I’d ever come across were in a jar, and covered in vinegar. Some were even crinkle cut (presumably to make sure they soaked up as much of that vinegar as possible). Now I’m sure there’s a place for pickled beetroot, but those overwhelmingly sharp wee purple nuggins gave me quite the wrong impression of what beetroot is all about.

And so I didn’t try beetroot again for years. In fact probably not until I was in my 40s, when I was tricked into buying some fresh beetroot by the sheer exuberance and joy in the bounty of a farm shop one day. Into the wicker basket went locally grown carrots, courgettes, tomatoes, strawberries and cauliflower. Pears were placed on top, so as not to bruise them. And a bunch of herbs (this was in the days when I didn’t have my own established herb patch). And then there they were – bunches of beetroot, grubby with soil and with their tops on, looking as though they had just been plucked from the garden minutes before (I now know that if you leave the tops on beetroots for any length of time, they start to suck out the nutrients from the roots, and while the tops are wilting, they are also depleting the goodness from the bulbs).

There are so many things to do with beetroot, from the frankly outrageously delicious chocolate beetroot cake (think pimped up carrot cake) to simply roasted with a blob of sour cream. Or make a quick tart with goats cheese and beetroot grated into a horseradish creme fraiche on whatever pastry you have to hand, filo, puff or shortcrust. The earthy flavour marries well with horseradish or with balsamic vinegar and beetroot is of course the ideal companion to game or smoked fish, It’s a strong vegetable and not just in colour.

But one of my simple beetroot salads just combines it with shallots, oranges, balsamic vinegar and dill. And lots of black pepper… but then I’m a bit of a pepper addict. The dark purple and bright orange of this salad will make you smile even before you’ve popped it in your mouth.

If you’re starting with raw fresh beetroot, this isn’t the salad to start making ten minutes before you sit down to lunch. However, for speed and convenience, you can make this with pre-cooked vacuum packed beetroot – get the stuff that doesn’t have any vinegar in it though. It won’t be quite as nice, but still pretty good.

Beetroot and orange salad

  • a bunch of fresh beetroot bulbs – their size is immaterial, and you can just vary the quantity of everything else to match how much beetroot you have
  • shallots – probably one medium shallot for every 2 medium beetroot
  • oranges – one whole large orange for every 2 medium beetroot
  • fresh dill – about 1TBsp of chopped up dill for every medium beetroot
  • balsamic vinegar – a good old glug of it
  • olive oil – not much, in fact it doesn’t really need it at all
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Maldon sea salt
  1. Cook your beetroot. You might already have a preferred method, but if you don’t then I would recommend you cut off the leafy tops about 0.5cm above the root, then wrap the roots all together in kitchen foil and pop them in a medium oven until they are done. If they are small and you don’t have many of them they’ll take less than an hour, but if you have anything bigger then teeny weeny roots then you’re looking at a couple of hours in the oven to ensure they are cooked. To check they are cooked, unwrap them (carefully) and insert the tip of a sharp knife into the largest one – if it meets no resistance it is cooked. The alternative is to boil them in a big pan of water.
  2. Once the beetroot is cooked let it cool for a while so they are cool enough to handle. With a wee bit of pressure, the skin will slough off and you are left with wee naked purple balls of beetrooty tastiness. 
  3. Chop the beetroot into wee cubes and put in a bowl
  4. Add segments of orange – you don’t want any pith or skin on the segments so take a large orange and a very sharp wee knife and slice off the top and the bottom of the orange. Sit the orange on its bottom, and slice off the pith and skin in big slices all the way round the orange, cutting sections off at a time, from top to bottom – you’ll get the hang of it. Once you have a wee naked orange, hold it over the bowl with the beetroot, so you catch the juicy drips. Using the knife, cut out a segment – you need to cut alongside the natural segment ‘skin’ so you get perfect wee skin free segments of orange. Again, you’ll get the hang of it, but perhaps not on the first orange. Once you’ve released all the segments into the bowl, squeeze the remainders of the orange to capture all the juice in the bowl. 
  5. Now finely chop your shallot and add it to the bowl
  6. And finely chop the dill and mix it in too
  7. Glug in some balsamic vinegar, and wee splash of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper
  8. Taste to see if it needs more balsamic or pepper
Serve, preferably with some sourdough bread, to mop up those juices and smoked trout. And lots of other wee bowls of tasty things to pick and choose from.

Scottish Tapas

8 Jul

My favourite sort of lunch at home is what my Mum would call ‘little bowls of this and that’. The rest of us call it a Wolffe Lunch. The table groans with plates of this and bowls of that, with things to nibble and with salads you want to pile onto your plate. The worry is always that the thing you’ve got your eye on will be passed round the table the OTHER WAY and there will be hardly any left by the time it gets to you. No need to worry though, there is always plenty.

I’ve adapted the Wolffe Lunch, of course. And this weekend it has included homemade baps, beetroot and orange salad, warm chilli sweetcorn fritters, prawns in chilli lime dressing, tabbouleh (with fresh herbs from the garden), a cheese board, dressed crab, homemade mayonnaise, salad leaves from the garden, and cucumber from the greenhouse. I never knew that cucumbers tasted like that, always thought they were like watered down versions of a flavour – but this was sweet and aromatic in a most surprising way.

So, what do you want first? The fritters? OK then, here we go.

The chilli sweetcorn fritters were entirely inspired by finding a half can of sweetcorn in the fridge. And the purchase of this month’s Olive magazine.

Chilli sweetcorn fritters with prawns

  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 duck egg or 1 egg, plus a yolk
  • 80ml milk
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped nice and fine
  • 100g or so of sweetcorn (about half a small tin)
  • sunflower or rapeseed oil for frying
  • 200g prawns
  • 1 red chilli, sliced fine
  • spring onions, sliced fine
  • juice of 1 lime and lime wedges to serve
  1. Put the prawns in a bowl, and sprinkle over the chilli, the spring onion slices and the lime juice. Set aside while you make the fritters
  2. Sift the flour, soda and a pinch of salt into a big bowl
  3. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, yolk and milk
  4. Beat with a wooden spoon, or balloon whisk till you have a smooth and thick batter
  5. Add the sweetcorn and chilli
  6. Heat oil in a frying pan on a medium heat
  7. Spoon tablespoons of batter into the pan and fry for a minute or so till you see bubbles on the surface. Turn over and cook for another minute or so, till golden, puffed and cooked through
  8. Drain on kitchen paper.
You’ll probably want to serve these while they’re still warm, so think about that before you get started… just make sure everything else is ready to go before you start frying. The batter can be made and left for a wee bit before you fry.
They’d probably be tasty with a choice of dips – salsa, hummus, cream cheese and chives. I’d also like it with mango salsa I was introduced to by the inimitable John Murphy. John is someone very special – he’s a philosopher, a therapist, an alcoholic and a cattle rustler (ex). And so much more.
That Mango Salsa
Cut up a mango into chunks. Add a clove of garlic, chopped up fine (or smooshed if you prefer it that way), a sliced up red or green chilli and the juice of 1 lime.
Eat immediately if you want, but it’ll be much nicer if you can bear to leave it for 24hours. The other things in your fridge might not thank you though.
Oh, and don’t even think about making these fritters if you’re on a diet. Unless of course you think you can limit yourself to just the one. Which you can’t. Trust me.

Cheese and onion tart

14 Feb

Cheese and caramelised onion tart

I bought one of those value bags of onions the other week.

And I still seemed to have a huge bagful of onions in the kitchen this morning. What to do? Well the first obvious recipe was french onion soup. I have several recipes for french onion soup, but for some reason went for a new recipe: Nigel Slater’s Onion Soup with Madeira and Gruyere Toasts.  The picture of it looks oozingly and unctiously dark and delicious.  But mine wasn’t. He uses chicken stock instead of the traditional beef. I have no problem with this – I’ve often made onion soup with chicken stock. But I’ve no idea how he managed to get his soup so dark in colour, without a beef stock, as mine is light in colour, as you’d expect.

But, we didn’t have onion soup for lunch. And the dough for the baps remained in the bread machine till later in the afternoon.

And I got started on a better lunch solution: Cheese and Onion Tart.  This was clearly a far more sensible lunch, as it made use of not only a whole load of onions, but also some leftover cream, leftover pastry and a lump of cheese from the fridge. I love a fridge-sweep to make something new, delicious and unexpected. Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner?

Cheese and caramelised onion tart

  • Shortcrust pastry made with 4oz flour
  • a big glug of olive oil
  • a big slice of butter, about 25g
  • 4 large onions, cut in half from end to end, and then thinly sliced into half moons
  • 2 soupspoonfuls of muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg, plus 2 extra yolks
  • about 200ml cream
  • about 50ml whole milk
  • 2 soupspoonfuls of cream cheese
  • 50g mature cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat your oven to 200C or GM7. Butter a sponge sandwich tin (well, that’s what I used, a 23cm round tin with a loose bottom).

  1. Roll out the pastry and line the tin with it. Place the tin on top of a baking sheet – it’ll make everything so much easier later on. Put back in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  2. Prick the base with a fork, then cover the pastry with some baking paper and baking beans. Put in the hot oven for 12 minutes.
  3. Remove the baking beans, turn the oven down to 180C / GM4 and return the pastry to the oven for 5 minutes.
  4. While the pastry is in the oven (for the first time) put the oil, butter and onions in a heavy bottomed frying pan and heat on an oh so gentle heat for 25 minutes with the lid on. You might want to stir them from time to time, but not too often, as you need to keep the lid on to retain their liquid. After 25 minutes they should still be pale in colour, but have a certain sticky gloopiness about them.
  5. Now remove the lid from the onions, stir in the sugar, and cook the onions for a further 10 – 15 mins, till nicely caramelised, and the liquid has all but evaporated.
  6. Whisk the egg and the yolks together in a big bowl. Add the cream cheese, the cream and the milk and mix. Add the grated cheddar, and season with lots of freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Spread the base of the pastry case with the dijon mustard.
  8. Pick the thyme leaves off the stems and fold them through the onions, then spread on top of the mustard
  9. Pour the cheesy, eggy, creamy mix over the top of the onions and carefully slide the whole thing into the oven.
  10. Bake for about 35 minutes – the tart should still have a wee bit of a wibble wobble about it.

Serve with boiled new potatoes and a salad. It’s best at room temperature, or a wee bit warmer.

Yeah... it tasted good

Roasted peppers in a jar

14 Jan

A jar of summery goodness

I love roasted peppers in a jar.  Well, they don’t have to be in a jar, they can be in any container you want really, but they can look pretty so why would you hide them in plastic, or one of those lovely brown stoneware pate dishes?  As an aside, I’m very fond of those brown stoneware dishes – they conjure up happy memories of home. At lunchtime there always seemed to be something delicious in a brown stoneware pot: mackerel pate, pork rillettes, roasted peppers in olive oil, etc.

But, it’s glass jars all the way for me these days, apart from anything else, I can seal them up and take them with me on a Monday morning to the flat in Edinburgh, or the office for jazzing up tasty lunches.

Chop everything into a big bowl

Place in a single layer on a baking tray

Roast till peppers are soft and you have caramelised edges

Pop them in a jar

Slow roasted peppers in a jar

3 bell peppers – you can use any colours, but in my experience green peppers often end up looking a wee bit grey, so I prefer to use 2 red and one yellow.

At least 2 big cloves of garlic

2 small onions, or one large

a large sprig of rosemary

a couple of small bay leaves

a red chilli pepper

a glug or so of balsamic vinegar

a tsp honey, if you want it

any other herbs, spices that you fancy – eg thyme, cayenne pepper

a good pouring of olive oil (if you have any at the bottom of a jar of sun dried tomatoes, anchovies, or artichokes, or other such tasty goodies, then use that)

more olive oil – you’ll need enough to cover the peppers once they are in the jar

a grinding or two of black pepper

a mere sprinkle of maldon sea salt

  1. Chop the peppers into large chunks – I like mine about 1.5″ across. Put them in a big bowl.
  2. Cut the onions in half from top to bottom. Lay it on the chopping board on its cut side, and then cut it into wedges. Depending on the size of onion you’ll get 3 – 5 wedges. Add them to the bowl with the peppers.
  3. Place the flat side of a large knife on top of the garlic clove, and then smash it with your fist – this will release the garlic easily from its papery skin and will also give you a nicely smooshy clove.  You still want it pretty much whole(ish) but all squished so you benefit from the release of all that tasty juiciness. Yup, throw these in on top of the peppers and onions too.
  4. Chop the chilli and add as much of it as you want – if you don’t like heat, don’t bother.  I like heat in most foods, but this doesn’t need much, if any, so feel free to omit it.
  5. Strip the rosemary from its stalks and throw the leaves into the bowl.
  6. Add any other herbs and spices you are using.
  7. Now today I had a jar of honey that was solidifying in the jar, so I added a tsp or so of honey into a wee mug and poured a wee bit of boiling water on top and stirred till it was liquid. Then I added a big splish splosh of balsamic vinegar and a good glug or two of olive oil. Mix all this together and add it to the bowl.
  8. Mix all the ingredients together to coat everything in the dressing.
  9. Pour into a single layer onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with a grinding of black pepper and a wee sprinkle of maldon sea salt.  Don’t bother if you only have table salt.
  10. Pop in a medium oven (it was gas mark 3 ish I think).

You’ll probably smell when it’s ready.  Did it take about 45 minutes?  I don’t really know. You don’t want crispy burnt bits, but you do want soft peppers and caramelised brown edges on some of the onions and peppers.

Cool for a bit, then put into a jar. Pour over enough olive oil so the peppers are covered and keep in a fridge for a week or two.  You can eat it immediately if you want, but it’s really nicest after all the flavours have had a chance to infuse in the jar, so I would leave it a couple of hours at least.

In the summer months, you might want to add slices of courgette or aubergine to this. Or beetroot in the autumn. And if you want mushrooms, add mushrooms.

Eat it as a salad accompaniment, or with cold meats, in a sandwich with hummus, or added to a bowl of soup (if you’re doing this don’t do it straight out of the fridge or it will be a bit weird, although I know Nigel Slater would argue for that juxtaposition of hot and cold). Or I’m sure you’ll find other ways of using it to jazz up your meals.

Winter salad

5 Jan

After Christmas, I’d been craving vegetables, and particularly fresh salad-type vegetables.

I was also determined not to do more shopping so did a search in the fridge and the cupboards to see what could be rustled up.  I had a couple of little gem lettuces, but no other real salad veg. But I also had some vac packed beetroot and some pears.  I could see something tasty coming together…

Winter salad

This serves two, and is plenty as a starter, or a light snack with some crusty bread or oatcakes, or part of a legendary Wolffe Lunch.

Enough lettuce for 2 people – I used a whole little gem, but you could just as easily use part of a bag of mixed leaves. Watercress or spinach would be nice

1 beetroot, cut into small cubes – use fresh if you have one, if not those vac packed beetroot are fine. I HATE pickled beetroot though – why smother that deep earthy flavour with all that sharp vinegariness?

1 pear, peeled, cored and cut into equally small cubes

Some crumbled blue cheese – I used stilton, predictably, it being Christmas and there being leftovers in the fridge.  I’ve got some Bleu D’Auvergne which will be tried next

A small handful of walnuts, toasted to bring out the real walnuttiness of the flavour, and extra crunch

Put all of the above in a decent-sized bowl, big enough that you’ll be able to mix them all up once you’ve dressed it.

Now make the dressing.  You can, of course use your own favourite dressing, but these are the flavours that are doing it for me right now:

A good glug of olive oil

A sploosh of vinegar – I’ve been using a combination of a wee bit of balsamic, with a healthy slug of homemade elderflower vinegar (made with elderflowers and white wine vinegar).

A big teaspoon of dijon mustard

An equally big teaspoon or more of runny Scottishflower honey

Put all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl with a twist of freshly ground black pepper and give it a good beating with a teaspoon, or perhaps more conventionally a fork.

Pour the dressing over the salad and lightly mix everything together.

I’m tempted to swap the cheese out for some smoked trout which was pressed into GMC’s hands on the street in Gatehouse on Boxing Day. Another story.

 

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