Tag Archives: vegetarian

Kale, Avocado and Orange Superblast Salad

It’s a sure sign that Xmas is over when the decorations come down and all that remains is a pile of lost property. We seem to have a lot of abandoned scarves this year. There’s a pile of them on the desk in the sitting room waiting to be reclaimed. This indicates not only that a lot of people received a scarf this year for Xmas but also that it wasn’t cold as they left our house without them. Spectacularly wet and windy yes, but not cold!

According to my mum the cold is on it’s way so best get prepared for the onslaught with plenty of vitamin C.

January brings the most delicious oranges. The big Spanish oranges are divine – juicy and bursting with flavour. Oranges from Spain are about as local as they get in this part of the world and worth seeking out.

I always look forward to the orange season and we consume vast amounts of them juiced, thrown into smoothies for breakfast or as general portable snacks. They also sneak into our lunch and dinners.

Oranges are great for brightening up winter salads.

They pair well with beetroots or fennel, with lentils and roasted vegetables and also with this recipe, a superfood blast of kale, avocado and orange.

Kale is well known to be the King of the supergreens, stacked with vitamins A, C and K, it is one of the most nutrient dense food available and avocados are right up there on the superfood list too so paired with orange this salad should up your odds on staying healthy this winter!

When choosing the kale for this salad go for small leaves rather than big and the avocados should be firm but with a bit of give, not hard, nor squishy.

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Kale, Avocado and Orange Salad

 

150g kale

1 big or 2 small ripe avocados

2 oranges

1 red onion

25g sunflower seeds

25g pumpkin seeds

1tsp tamari (optional)

1 tsp dijon mustard

1tbs cider or white balsamic vinegar + 1tsp for the onion

3tbs olive oil

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Wash the kale and shake off excess water. A salad spinner is excellent if you have one, otherwise resort to the old fashioned wrapped in a t-towel swing. Strip the center stem from each leaf then stack a few together and roll up like a cigar. Cut the kale into skinny ribbons and put them in a bowl.

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Juice half an orange, put 2 tbs of the juice into a cup and keep the rest aside. Mix the 2tbs juice with one teaspoon of dijon mustard, 1tbs cider or white balsamic vinegar then whisk in the olive oil with a fork. Season with a little salt and pour over the kale. Massage the dressing into the kale with your hands, leave aside for five minutes then massage again.

Peel the red onion and cut it in half. Slice thinly then sprinkle with a little salt. Toss them about and give them a quick rub to separate the rings. Put them into a bowl and drizzle a little white balsamic over them. Toss them well and put aside.

Heat a small frying pan, add the pumpkin and sunflower seeds and toss them together. Cook them on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan regularly so they don’t burn. When they are lightly golden take them off the heat and shake the tamari over, if you are using it, then tip them onto a plate to cool.

Peel the orange with a sharp knife, removing the skin and pith in one go.

Using a small sharp knife cut each segment of orange from the outer membrane. Do this over the kale so the excess juice falls into the salad.

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Cut the avocado in half vertically. Hold one half firmly with one hand then wiggle the other half gently with the other hand. The avocado should come apart. Remove the pip and the peel and dice into cm cubes.

Toss the avocado cubes in the reserved orange juice, this will prevent discolouration.

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When you’re ready to eat toss the avocado, onion and orange segments with the kale and sprinkle the seeds on top.

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Potato Pizza

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I have been thinking about this making recipe for a long time – a cauliflower based pizza with potato on top. It’s kind of opposite from a normal pizza, no dough, no tomato sauce but this doesn’t make it in any way inferior, in fact it’s probably nutritionally superior and it’s quicker to make. Total comfort food. It definitely got the thumbs up as it was eaten in a flash.

Here’s the recipe

1 small cauliflower

2 eggs

3 tbs polenta

1 tsp dried oregano

1 level tsp salt

4-5 potatoes

100ml olive oil

100g cheese – I used cheddar

3 cloves garlic

a few sprigs thyme

Pre-heat the oven 200c

Rinse the cauliflower and break into florets. Blitz in a food processor until the consistency of breadcrumbs.

Tip the cauliflower into a bowl and mix in the eggs. Stir in the salt, oregano and polenta. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and tip the mix onto the tray. Press down and smooth out with your hands to form a rectangle about 1cm thick- you could make it round if you prefer . Tidy up the sides and bake for 15 minutes or until the base becomes firm and lightly golden around the edge.

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Peel the potatoes and garlic and slice very thinly. Put them into a bowl and drizzle over enough olive oil to coat them. Add some salt and crumble in the thyme. Toss well together. Finely grate the cheese and toss again.

Arrange the potatoes in a thin layer, overlapping on top.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and slightly crispy at the edge

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Sardinian Minestrone

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On a recent trip to Sardinia we visited an agriturismo in the hills above Tempio Pausania. Admittedly we didn’t get to see much of the countryside due to the insane rain – it dumped thirteen centimetres in one day, which was quite spectacular. As we had gone on a ‘sunsnack’ we’d left our wellies behind so there was nothing to do but eat. The family that ran the farm made dinner for the guests. There was no menu, just a series of dishes delivered to the table, all washed down with a jug of the local wine. I enjoy these surprise menus – I love being fed!

Our dinner began with a brushetta of artichokes, grilled courgettes and smoked ricotta, followed with delicious minestrone, then grilled pecorino or the farm’s own beef with tomatoes and rocket. The dessert was a tiramisu made with fresh creamy ricotta chased with a shot of the local myrtille liqueur. I have no photos!  we were so busy eating we didn’t notice until the plates were nearly empty

The minestrone famous in Sardinia, is also known as longevity soup as it’s a staple in the small villages where the people grow their own veggies and often live to become one hundred. I checked it out when I got home and Sardinia is one of the five places in the world where people live so long – this is along with Ikana in Greece, Nocaya Peninsular in Costa Rica, Okinawa in Japan and Loma Linda in California where the Seventh day Adventists live.

One thing that all these places have in common is that they principally eat very little meat but plenty of locally grown vegetables.

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This minestrone, which is particular to Sardinia, is made with whatever is in the garden – onions, celery, carrots, fennel etc. and beans. They could be fava beans, cannelini, borlotti or chickpeas. The version we ate had chickpeas and borlotti beans and also what looked like rice but was in fact orzo or riso pasta. It was served with grated Pecorino, the local sheep cheese, on the side but Parmesan would do the job too if you haven’t Pecorino.

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It’s the kind of soup that you could live on – nourishing, tasty and cheap, and who knows maybe become one hundred!

 

Sardinian Minestrone

1 large onion

3-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 small bulb fennel

2-3 stems celery

2-3 carrots

1 large potato

6-7 cabbage leaves

2 ripe tomatoes

300g cooked chickpeas or 1 can, rinsed

300g cooked borlotti beans, or 1 can rinsed

1200 mls vegetable stock

100g orzo, riso or for g/f use rice

a handful chopped parsley

a handful chopped basil

grated Pecorino or Parmesan to serve

 

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a largish saucepan and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Stir in the onions and cook on a medium heat.

Trim the fennel and the celery and chop into small pieces. Add to the onions and stir.

Peel the carrot and dice into roughly 1cm pieces.

Peel the potato and chop into slightly bigger pieces.

Stir into the onion mix. Season with a little salt and keep cooking but don’t let the veggies brown.

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Wash the cabbage leaves and remove any large stem. Stack the leaves on top of each other then roll up into a big cigar and chop into ribbons. Stir into the pot

Peel and chop the garlic then stir into the pot.

Roughly chop the tomatoes into small pieces then add to the pot.

Keep cooking on a gentle heat until the tomatoes break down then stir in the borlotti beans, chickpeas and vegetable stock.

Bring the soup to the boil then simmer for 30 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and add the orzo/riso or rice. Cook for a further 12-15 minutes. Check the seasoning and allow the soup to stand for ten minutes before serving.


Serve with grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese on the side.

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Bombay Beans

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A couple of left over spuds and a bucket of beans was the starting point for last nights dinner.
The beans in the garden are finally ripening. We’ve borlotti beans, runner beans, French beans and cannelini beans, all ready for eating right now so we’re eating beans with everything.
Yesterdays dinner was Indian style French beans with tomatoes also from the garden.
These just picked veggies with their big bold flavours stood well with the spices, complimenting each other rather than being taken over.

Here’s the recipe

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Indian Style Green Beans

2 onions
50g ghee
4 cloves garlic – peeled and chopped
a thumb sized piece of ginger- peeled and chopped
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp mustard seeds
1dsp turmeric
1dsp ground coriander
3 cooked spuds – waxy and not too big and chopped into chunks
3 ripe fatty tomatoes – diced
300g green beans – topped and tailed
salt
chopped coriander

Peel and slice the onions. Heat a medium sized pot and melt the ghee. Stir in the onions, cook them for about 5 minutes then stir in the cumin and mustard seeds, cook 5 minutes more before stirring in the garlic and ginger and cooking for a couple more minutes. Season with a little salt and add the coriander and turmeric, stir to mix with the onions and cook for a few minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, when everything in the pot is bubbling reduce the heat. Cook until the tomatoes have broken down then simmer gently for about fifteen minutes.

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Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a little salt and the beans. Cook the beans for four minutes then drain and add to the sauce.Leave to cook for a couple of minutes then take off the heat, stir in the chopped coriander and serve.
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We ate this with brown basmati rice and a little yoghurt on the side.
Yum!


Syros – Herb Central

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Walking around Syros is like tramping through a herb garden. We have been exploring the island, driving to the north of island as far as the road goes and then heading off on foot. It’s not only beautiful but smells delicious too. We’re sure all the goats that graze are self marinating!.

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There are swathes of thyme, rosemary, fennel and sage and carpets of camomile with lots of bees buzzing happily about their business. There are plenty of hives dotted around the countryside and the honey is delicious.

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The paths lead down to hidden beaches, it can a bit of a clamber but the destination makes it worth it.Lots of hidden coves that are deserted and clean blue sea. The sea is cold. Too cold for me to enjoy swimming but I keep trying!

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Capers are growing on the rocks. This is all news to me – I have to admit I had never considered where capers did grow, but there you go – little bushes sprout out of craggy rocks with capers on the end of the branches and very funky flowers. Apparently June is the real caper picking and pickling season but they are beginning now. No wonder so many dishes are served with capers here.

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We had delicious basil and caper pesto the other day, drizzled over goats cheese.
Very simple and very delicious. It’s certainly worth a try and I’d say it’s equally delicious served with fish.
Here’s the recipe

Basil and Caper Pesto

1 cup basil
1 cup parsley
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1tsp Dijon mustard
2dsp capers
approx 150mls olive oil

Put everything except the olive oil into a food processor or blender and buzz to a paste then drizzle in the olive oil. Don’t add salt , the capers are salty enough

Eat with whatever you fancy – cheese, pasta, fish……


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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Speltotto and the Vegetable Basket

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I discovered that it was my turn to cook today after I had been into town, so I decided that whatever we were going to eat had to be from whatever we had in the house. This is not nearly as drastic as it sounds as we do have a vegetable garden so ‘in the house’ is a bit of a misnomer.
What we did have was some whole spelt grain which I cooked like a risotto and served with some roasted veg. I basically cleaned out the veg basket. Anything too scabby went to the compost and the rest I peeled and tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. The real crowning glory was the grated lemon zest which just happened to be a bergamot lemon. The flavour impact was deliciously exotic. I also stirred in a handful of sprouting broccoli from the garden and handful of chervil.

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It was received with grunts and nods.
Yum!

Here is the recipe

Selection of vegetables for roasting ;
I used fennel, parsnips, sweet potato, carrots and celery. I don’t usually roast celery but we had an abundance so I chucked it in and it does roast well. Remember what looks like a mountain of vegetables will shrink considerably when roasted
Peel, chop and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for about 45/50 minutes at 180c

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For the Speltotto

300g spelt
2 onions
25g butter
25mls olive oil
large glass of white wine
1 litre hot vegetable stock
about 150g parmesan cheese.
zest of 1 lemon

Soak the spelt in cold water for 2-3 hours

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a saucepan then add the butter and olive oil, once this bubbles up stir in the onions. Cook on a medium high heat for about 10 minutes. Don’t let the onions brown, turn down the heat if this is happening.
Drain the spelt and stir into the onions. cook for couple of minutes then add the wine.

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When the wine has bubbled up start to add the stock. Keep the spelt cooking on a medium heat. It should be gently bubbling away. When the stock has been absorbed add a little more. Mine took about 45-50 minutes to cook and by then the spelt was nutty but not hard to eat.If you run out of stock add a little water. Stir in the purple sprouting broccoli, cook for another minute then take off the heat and beat in the parmesan cheese and grated lemon zest.
Serve in bowls with roast veg on top and chopped chervil if you have some.

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This fed five hungry people