Category Archives: Salads

Courgettes on the Grill

I’m sitting here writing this surrounded by buckets of courgettes.

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The sunshine, followed by an intense blast of rain, has sped up the growth and todays picking produced an interesting assortment of different shapes and colours.. Some are huge – it’s amazing how much a courgette grows each day if the conditions are good.

The weather definitely affects their production. The plants need a good amount of water and love sunshine. They are better cared for when we have a heat wave as I’m all up for an all over tanning opportunity. Standing in the garden spraying water is on my list of relaxing jobs. The days when it’s overcast and looks like rain are the worst because the watering doesn’t happen. Somehow my brain equates sunshine with watering, not clouds.

As the summer moves on so do the plants. They get bigger and begin to sprawl. We have eaten the first flush and are no longer hovering over the plants waiting for them to grow as there are other exciting vegetables maturing and sneaking into first place. This means that quite a few pass under the radar and get very big.

This all brings us to the annual courgette conundrum. We have been enjoying a variety of recipes – soups, salads, stews, pizzas, cakes etc.

I particularly like this salad of grilled courgettes. Very simple and easy to make and size doesn’t matter. Big, small and medium courgettes are all fine.

I use a cast iron grill pan for grilling which leaves funky looking griddle marks but a barbecue or regular grill would do the job too. The important thing is the heat. It must be hot. Whichever method you use it’s important to pre heat to sizzling.

Grilled Courgettes and Halloumi

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4-6 medium courgettes

200g halloumi

2tb sunflower seeds

2tbs pumpkin seeds

a big handful of mint, chopped

1 lemon, washed well

approx 150mls olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Cut the courgettes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.. Sprinkle over a little salt and put into a bowl. Toss gently then leave for 20- 30 minutes. The salt will draw out some of the excess water. Put the courgettes onto a clean t-towel and pat dry. Wipe out the bowl and return the courgettes and toss with a little olive oil.

Heat the grill to very hot, griddle pan to very hot or have good barbie on the go.

Put the courgette halves on the pan/grill etc. Don’t overcrowd. Best to do in a couple of batches. Cook for 4-5 minutes each side. Less if it looks like it’s burning rather than a light char.

Put the cooked courgettes in a large clean bowl and leave to cool

Slice the halloumi – medium/thick slices – and rub a very little olive oil over them – too much and the cheese will burn.. Grill for a minute or two each side, until lightly golden. Put aside to cool.

Heat a dry frying pan then stir in the sunflower and pumpkin seeds, toast on a medium heat. Keep tossing the seeds so they cook evenly until lightly golden. Take off the heat, tip into a small bowl and leave to cool.

Slice the grilled courgettes on the diagonal into strips.

Slice the halloumi on the diagonal into strips

Put the courgettes and halloumi into a large bowl together with the zest of the lemon, juice of half, the chopped mint and a good glug of olive oil.

Grind a little black pepper over then toss everything together with your hands.

Taste. Add some salt if you think the flavour is a bit dull or more lemon juice if you think it needs further brightening up.

Eat warm or room temperature.

 


Rhubarb, Rhubarb

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The garden has speeded up big time in the past few weeks. The rise in temperature and some sunshine had all the little seedlings that were at the ‘Will I or Won’t I” live or die stage zoom into action and grow like mad. Suddenly the glass house wasn’t big enough to hold everything. There has been a frenzied potting up and transplanting out session and it’s looking good. Everything is thriving with the sunshine and rain treatment.

Taking into consideration that everything is a few weeks behind with the cold start there’s still a bit of a gap on the eating front. We have spinach and chard again in the tunnels and lots of young herbs in the garden but apart from that and the thriving clump of rhubarb it’s all potential. Potential beans, peas, spuds, fennel, kales etc., all settling in to their newly made beds outside.

The rhubarb is looking great as usual. It’s obviously happy and grows prolifically. The trouble is that apart from the initial excitement at a rhubarb tart or crumble it’s uses are quite limited. I do make a rhubarb and ginger jam which is delicious but with so much else to do jam making isn’t the top of the list.

I decided to play around and put the rhubarb in a salad. I googled for recipes but most called for roasted rhubarb, which might be delicious but not the texture I was looking for in a salad so I decided to try a light pickling and the result was very good, lovely sweet, sour and crispy and excellent together with beetroots, quinoa and orange.

Here’s the recipe, and I will be carting bunches of our rhubarb to the shop so if you fancy trying it without cooking pop in and pick some up

Beetroot , Rhubarb and Quinoa Salad

 

2-3 beetroots

1 red onion

2 stems rhubarb

1 orange

150g quinoa

2 tbs white balsamic vinegar

1dsp caster sugar

a bunch of mint – chopped

100mls olive oil

100g fresh goats cheese or feta – optional

 

Cook the beetroots. Give them a wash and tidy up the top where the greenery was then either rub them with olive oil and put in an oven tray and cover with silver foil and bake them for I hour to one hour and a half (180c) or put them in a saucepan and cover with water and simmer covered with a lid for 25=40 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the beetroot. Test whether the beetroots are cooked by piercing with a small sharp knife. If it goes in with no resistance, the beetroot is cooked.

Measure the quinoa and water into a small saucepan. Add a little salt and bring to the boil then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 12-15 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. Tip the quinoa into a large bowl and leave to cool.

Peel the red onion and slice finely. Sprinkle over a little salt and rub into the onion. The rings will fall apart.

Wash the rhubarb then slice , on the diagonal into skinny pieces.

Put the vinegar, sugar and a good pinch of salt into a bowl and mix until dissolved. Stir in the onion and rhubarb and put aside for at least 15 minutes.

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Peel the cooked beetroots and dice into equal sized cubes.

Peel the orange with a sharp knife to remove all the skin and pith then remove each segment of orange with a sharp knife by cutting each side of the segment, leaving the skin behind. Do this over the onion and rhubarb to reserve any juice.

Fluff the quinoa up with a fork, then add the beetroot, chopped mint and orange pieces. Lift the onion and rhubarb out of the bowl leaving the vinegar mix behind and add to the quinoa. Whisk the olive oil into the vinegar then pour over the salad. Quickly toss everything together , check the seasoning – it may need a little more salt.

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Serve with fresh goats cheese or feta crumbled on top or without if you want to keep it vegan and dairy free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Feta, Feta, Everywhere!

If Ireland’s the land of green grass, butter and Guinness then Greece has to be the land of feta and ouzo.
We arrived in Athens yesterday evening and took a ferry to the island of Syros this morning. We’re kind of travelling blind – not really knowing very much about Syros – but it came highly recommended by some friends who introduced us to some people that wanted to do a house swop.This was an irresistible idea. The last time I was in Greece was more than thirty years ago and I remember delicious grilled octopus – probably my first -and having to learn how to say coffee without sugar as all the coffee was made in the traditional way with heaps of sugar. It’s the only Greek that I remember – kafé sketo!
The ferries that go between the islands are huge but they’re not crowded in May. It’s a nearly four hour trip, with lots of rough sea which which could hardly feel, as the ferries are so big. At one point it lashed rain but as the boat approached land the sun appeared and we could see the town hugging the harbour with pastel coloured houses climbing up the hill behind.

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Kostas, our host was waiting on the square as pre arranged and we climbed the steps through the town to where we are staying. The house is stunning. Built in 1870 and recently renovated by our new friends. It has everything that we need and a sunny terrace which is where I am sitting whilst I write this.
We dumped our bags and wandered back down the steps in search of lunch – we have been given several recommendations- a very big plus of house exchanging – and soon found ourselves sitting in a little street on a comfortable terrace. It was a little bit tricky establishing whether we had arrived at the correct taverna as everything is written in Greek – naturally enough – and we can’t read Greek but Con dragged out some morsels of knowledge from his youth and we figured we were in the right place so we sat down and looked at the blackboard menu. It was Greek!

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The waitress soon appeared with a bi-lingual menu.
Somehow each dish we chose had an element of feta. All completely different dishes but lots of feta. This is not a complaint, more an observation!
We started off with Greek salad. Very traditional but irresistible when in the land of sun ripened tomatoes and fresh feta. It arrived to the table, a mound of tomatoes, cucumber, onion and olives with slab of feta and capers on top.

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The olive oil and vinegar is on the table so you dress the salad yourself. We polished the salad off then the Giant beans baked in tomato sauce arrived – with feta. These were delicious, the tomato sauce was made with fresh oregano, bay leaves and whole allspice

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And the final course was a stuffed calamari – stuffed with tomato, wild fennel and feta.
After the beans this was bit over the top and it didn’t get as many brownie points but maybe that was because we were already quite full.

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We washed everything down with a carafe of the local white wine and felt very happy sitting there in the sun!

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Yuzana on a Beach

We’ve discovered a delicious new salad. It’s known as  Yuzana- a salad from Burma,

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It’s an intriguing kind of upscale cole slaw with lots of different dimensions. Super skinny slices red and green cabbage,  julienne of carrot, Honey toasted cashew nuts, peanuts and sesame seeds. chunks of tomato, garlic and chilli, crispy fried chickpeas and  split dal and then there’s something else. It tasted quite earthy, a little fermented. I thought it might be some kind of mushroom.

We asked the lady of the house and she said she didn’t know what this ingredient was called, just that it was Burmese, so we asked her if we could have a look and she came out of the kitchen with a sachet on a plate. It was very dark, soft and  a little bit stringy and we were none the wiser until we got back to our hammocks and googled Yuzana.

Yuzana are a Burmese company that pickle tea leaves. The chilli seasoned tea leaves are pickled then buried underground where they ferment. No wonder there’s such a flavour impact. There have been some dodgy write ups about their ethics and ingredients – the dye used was banned everywhere that knew about it and it would be difficult if not impossible to get in Ireland so I was thinking ‘pickled kombu’. I think that would deliver that intense umami that a little bit of Yuzana does.

It’s definitely one to try when we get home.

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Here’s a run down of the ingredients that I noted. I’m sure it would be a delicious combo whichever way you interpret it.

Red cabbage – very finely sliced

green cabbage – very finely sliced

carrot – super skinny julienne

tomato – a few meaty chunks

green chill chopped pretty small

garlic- thinly sliced

a handful of toasted peanut, sesame seeds and cashews

deep fried legumes – chickpeas, split peas, fava beans

lime juice, olive oil and salt

about 1 tbs of the mysterious pickled tea leaves

Put on a big bowl and toss everything together.

 

 

 

 


Carrot, Avocado and Wakame Salad

It seems like we have been eating this salad forever. We discovered seaweed when we used to frequent the Japanese restaurants in Antwerp, Belgium, a long time ago.  It became all the rage to play with seaweed in the kitchen, we’d cook Kombu with beans, make sushi with nori or toast it and crumble it onto soups and make salads with wakame .

Wakame is very easy to use. It’s sold dried so we keep it in the pantry and whenever we want to use it we just snip it into small pieces with scissors, pour boiling water over it and let it soak whilst we prepare the rest of the salad. It goes very well with cucumber but my personal favourite is grated carrots, avocado and toasted seeds. I eat it for lunch, it’s a great home alone dish and a real vitality buzz in the middle of the day.

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For each portion;

200g carrots

about 5g of wakame seaweed

1 small ripe avocado

1tbs sunflower seeds

1tbs pumpkin seeds

a little soya sauce or tamari

 

For the dressing;

half tsp Dijon mustard

1 dsp white balsamic vinegar

3-4 tbs olive oil or rapeseed oil

a splash of soya sauce or tamari

 

Snip the wakame into small pieces with a pair of scissors and put it into a bowl. Pour over enough boiling water to cover.

Peel and grate the carrots and put them into the bowl that you’re going to eat from. Cut the avocado into quarters, remove the peel and chop it into small pieces. I let mine land around the carrots.

Put the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds into a dry pan and toast on medium heat until the seeds become golden – the pumpkins seeds will pop a little bit. When the seeds are golden remove from the heat and shake a little soya sauce or tamari over the seeds. Shake the sauce and the pan at the same time to get an even distribution. Drain the wakame and give it a good shake. Put a little pile in the middle, on top of the carrots and scatter the seeds on top.

To make the dressing put the Dijon mustard into small bowl. Whisk the vinegar in with a fork then whisk in the oil. Season with a little soya sauce or tamari.

Drizzle about half of the dressing on top of the salad and leave the rest close by in case you want more.

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Jens’ Broccoli Salad

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I was given this recipe on a beach in Thailand. We were sitting around, as you do, discussing this,  that, and a little bit about food with a Danish guy called Jens.

He suddenly leapt up and rushed off to get a pen and paper so that he could give me the best ever broccoli salad – all the rage in Denmark he said and seriously good. I wrote his instructions down and carefully stashed the recipe to try when I got home. It’s pretty good and salads are so welcome in this wild weather. They keep the antibodies alert!

The original recipe is made with Miracle Whip – which I reckon must be a kind of salad cream/mayonnaisy affair. I substituted the Miracle Whip with mayonnaise and stirred in a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and a couple of tablespoons of sour cream. It tasted good. The original salad was also topped with a scattering of crispy bacon bits which would probably be a good addition if you’re into  meat.

Jens Broccoli Salad

1 head broccoli

1 medium red onion

1 handful raisins

1 handful pinenuts

1 egg yolk

1 tsp Dijon mustard

about 200mls rapeseed or sunflower oil

50mls olive oil

1 tbs red wine vinegar

2tbs sour cream

Heat a small pan and gently toast the pine nuts. Empty them out of the pan as soon as they are lightly golden and leave to cool then make the dressing.

Put the egg yolk and mustard into a bowl and whisk together. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking continuously so that they emulsify. If the oil is visible stop drizzling the oil and whisk until it’s incorporated then continue. Add the tablespoon of red wine vinegar and the sour cream. Season with salt and pepper.

If it is very thick thin by whisking in a little warm water. Stir the pine nuts and raisins into the dressing and put aside for about one hour.

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Peel the onion, cut it in half then slice thinly. Sprinkle with a little salt and give them a quick rub.

Wash the broccoli , drain well then chop it into roughly 2cm florets.

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Put the broccoli and onion into a big bowl then pour the dressing over and mix well. Leave for an hour if you can.

I was hungry so I mixed it and ate it. It would probably be even better if left to marinate before eating.

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The Latest and Grated Beetroot Tabbouleh

Our quinoa ( keen-wah) is growing fantastically. It’s an experiment, I’ve never grown it before. It has become very popular recently and has a reputation as a superfood, it’s low in fat/high in protein/gluten-free and has lots of calcium. After reading an article that said all us greedy Westerners eating the quinoa was putting the Bolivians under financial duress I though I should make some effort to see whether it was possible to grow it here. It’s doing well after an initial hit and run by the chickens. The surviving plants look very healthy and flowers/seeds are appearing.

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Of course there are always two sides to every story and I recently met a journalist who had just returned from Bolivia and she told me that the Bolivians are delighted that there’s a market for the quinoa, they just need to grow more to address the shortage. Apparently it grows like a weed so cultivating it isn’t a problem. This makes me happy, as I was feeling a little guilty about all the quinoa that we use.

The quinoa seems to be quite content growing here, but then who wouldn’t after the stunning weather that we have had in July. The real work begins with the harvesting and drying of the plant as there is a bitter coating of saponins on the grains that needs to be removed before consumption. I haven’t got that far yet and am only researching the next step but I’ll keep you posted.

Our latest craze in the shop is Beetroot and Mint Tabbouleh salad. It’s obviously not a true tabbouleh as it’s made with quinoa and not wheat – but it’s a very interesting, and it’s stunning to look at. We have two versions that we make, one where the beetroot is cooked and one where the beetroot is raw. At the moment we’re on the raw beetroot hit. We are have lots of ripe beetroots in our garden, there are three varieties, the standard purple, a golden beet and one that’s called Choggia which is a pink stripy number.

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When they are grated they look beautiful.  Use any young beetroots that you can get your hands on to make this recipe. If you prefer to eat the beetroots cooked, just boil them until tender without peeling them, peel them when cooked and substitute them for the raw ones.

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Beetroot and Mint Tabbouleh

200g Quinoa

300mls water

3-4 beetroots

100g peas – fresh or frozen

1 small cucumber

1 red onion

a large handful of chopped mint

a handful of  chopped parsley

the juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp Dijon vinegar

100mls olive oil

salt and pepper

Put the quinoa and water into a saucepan with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and turn to a low simmer and cook for ten minutes. Take the quinoa off the heat and leave to rest for five minutes then tip the quinoa into a bowl and leave to cool completely.

Put a pot of water to boil and cook the peas for two minutes. Drain and run under cold water then put aside.

Peel the beetroots and grate on the fat side of the grater.

Peel and chop the onion.

Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise then chop into an equal sized dice.

Put all the vegetables into a large bowl together with the quinoa and chopped herbs.

Put the Dijon mustard into a small bowl and whisk together with the olive oil and lemon juice then pour this over the salad. Toss everything together and season with salt and pepper to taste.