Salads…definitely not boring

I overheard someone the other day saying that they found salads boring. This made me feel a little sad. With such a diversity of flavours and endless possibilities of combinations how can salads become boring? I thought the days of  salads comprised of iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomato had long since passed. Seemingly not.

I have a simple formula for my salads: green leaf, 3 or more additions – ideally different colours and a dressing – preferably with one ingredient that is a fermented food. Often one ingredient that is hot e.g.roasted butternut squash

Different dressings I make:  (a splash of each in to a small jar and shaken)

Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), apple cider vinegar and olive oil

Tahini, apple cider vinegar and tamari

Peanut butter and apple cider vinegar

Avocado oil drizzle

Lime juice and olive oil

Here are a selection of the salads we have eaten over the last couple of weeks:

A                                                        B

A: papaya, roasted butternut squash, watercress, olives, tomatoes and olive oil and lime dressing

B: Beetroot houmous and chia seed oatcakes with avocado, tomatoes, olives and watercress

A                                                          B

A: Apricot, pomegranate seeds, mange tout, houmous, tomatoes, olives and rocket with avocado oil drizzle

B:Tomatoes, mange tout, yellow pepper, watercress and houmous – no dressing

A                                                         B

A: peas shoots, watercress, avocado, tomatoes and mange tout with olive oil, tamari and apple cider vinegar dressing

B: shredded carrots, red and white cabbage, hen and quail eggs, avocado, tomatoes and houmous with drizzle of olive oil

A                                                         B

A: rocket, watercress, avocado, apricot, roasted butternut squash with peanut butter and apple cider vinegar dressing

B: carrot sticks, houmous, mango, tomatoes, avocado, beetroot and avocado oil drizzle.

…definitely not boring!!

What is your favourite salad combination?

Simnel Cake (gf)

A deliciously rich fruit cake with the hidden yumminess of 2 layers of marzipan

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Grease and line an 20 cm deep cake tin. Preheat oven to Gas mark 2 / 150 C

Ingredients:

675 g dried fruit – I use a combination of sultanas, raisins, currants, mixed peel and a handful of glace cherries (washed, cut in half and dried.

225 g plain gluten-free flour

160 g butter – softened

150 g muscovado sugar

5 eggs (4 if using non gf flour)

500 g marzipan (if I have time or the inclination I make my own but shop bought works just as well) split in to 4. 3 pieces rolled out to the size of the cake tin diameter and 1 piece divided in to 11 balls

Apricot jam – optional

Method:

Put all the ingredients ( except dried fruit and marzipan) in to a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the fruit and stir until completely mixed.

Put 1/3 of the mixture in to the cake tin and level. Add one of the marzipan circles. Add the second 1//3 of the cake mixture, level and place another marzipan circle on top. Finally add the final 1/3 of the cake mixture. Level and place in the cool oven for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. When a skewer comes out clean increase the oven temperature to Gas Mark 4 / 180 C and cook for  10 mins to allow the cake to turn a rich brown colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.

Once cool, remove and cover the top of the cake with the marzipan circle (some people use an apricot jam glaze as ‘glue’ – I don’t find this necessary). Place the 11 marzipan balls on top. Using a grill or blow torch (much more fun!) heat the marzipan until it bubbles and turns brown on the top.

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Missed opportunity!

Yesterday was Easter Sunday for which the tradition of sharing eggs has been in my family since my earliest memory. As a child, I delighted in the hunting for eggs hidden in the garden and around the house. I then enjoyed eating my way through the Easter egg tower of gifted chocolate. Then as an adult and as a mummy, I relished the continuation of all the traditions with my own family, adding new additions and tweaks.

So…it was with a little bit of shock that I realised (following a conversation with my brother last night about the amount of chocolate he had consumed) that I did not eat a single piece…not one little morsel…of chocolate yesterday!! Not only that, but there isn’t a single bit of chocolate in the house for me to make up for lost time today.

One tradition I did at least adhere to (to the delight of my husband) was the making of a Simnel Cake – there is something truly scrumptious about layers of marzipan hidden within a fruit cake. This simple cake itself brings traditions in my household- my elder daughter only eats the marzipan topping and ‘disciple’, my younger daughter the cake and marzipan topping but not the ‘disciple’ and my husband devours it all!

 

What traditions do you and your families have at Easter?

Rocky road

Decadent treat to have with a cup of coffee or tea. Really quick and easy to make. I love a recipe that doesn’t need scales. I always use the same basic ingredients – plain and milk chocolate,  marshmallows  and digestive biscuits ( gluten-free or wheat). To these I vary what I add. For this post I used dried apricots and cranberries. Sometimes I use pistachios and other dried fruits.

Ingredients:

100 g plain chocolate 80+%          10-12 biscuits roughly broken

100 g milk chocolate                Packet of Marshmallows roughly chopped

Cup full of cranberries             Cup full of chopped apricots

Method:

Melt the chocolate and add the dry ingredients  and mix up till all coated with chocolate. If excess chocolate, add more biscuits.  Lightly press in to a tin lined with cling film and put into the fridge. Once chilled, cut in to pieces.

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Raw cranberry sauce

No cooking involved.

Ingredients:

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300 g fresh cranberries    1 large orange        grated nutmeg

80 g muscovado sugar     1 tsp mixed spice

Method:

Peel and coarsely  chop the orange. Put the orange pieces and cranberries in to a food processor and blitz.  Add all the remaining ingredients  and mix thoroughly .

This freezes well. Delicious with hot turkey, pork and also with cheeses.

Breakfast muffin (gluten free)

One of my daughters is always dashing around, frequently doesn’t have breakfast and often ‘picks something up’ on the way in to work when she gets her daily caffeine hit.

I know you can buy breakfast bars etc. but when I have looked at the ingredients I can’t really say I would want to start my day in this way.

So, I had a session experimenting at the weekend and created a muffin – full of breakfast  ingredients. Tasty, filling and nutritious.

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Makes 9

Preheat oven to 180c / Gas 4       Lightly grease a muffin tin

Ingredients:

1 cup of rolled oats      1 cup of milk           2 eggs (1 if using non gf flour)

1 cup of gf plain flour    1tsp baking powder   1 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup coconut sugar / muscavado sugar       1/2 cup stewed apple    1/2 cup raisins

Method:

Put the oats, milk and eggs in a bowl. Stir in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Finally add the sugar, apple and raisins. Spoon into muffin tins and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

I served them with Greek yoghurt and a dollop of apples sauce.

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…my daughter took a couple to test – had them for ‘breakfast on the go’ – thumbs up from her 🙂

Seasons

Chatting with a friend the other day, we started to discuss the seasons – random I know – and tried to pick a favourite.

I found this really difficult but in doing this task I realised that my love of the different seasons revolves around food choices!

Spring: I love spring – the fresh colours – vibrant greens of new buds, blossom laden trees – replaced with fruit in the autumn, blankets of yellow for daffodils. Planting of vegetables under glass ready for the frosts to stop. Hens, ducks and quail come back in to lay.

Summer: fruit sorbets / nice cream. Arrays of salad vegetables. New potatoes…yum

Autumn: the amazing palette of colours and the trees enter their quiescent phase for the winter. This is when I really wish I could paint. With autumn comes such a marvellous bounty of fruits and vegetables and the sound of the tractors harvesting wheat, barley, maize. hay for the animals etc. Nights turning cooler – one pot suppers / casseroles / fruit crumbles  /  jam/ liqueur and chutney making / freezer filling.

and then there is winter…curtains closing early, log fires burning, mulled wine, fruit cakes, mince pies, rich food and of course – family gatherings.

If I had to choose one…probably  autumn.

How about you?

 

 

Baked apple stuffed with raisins and honey

A deliciously simple desert that reminds me of autumnal suppers as a child.

Take a large cooking apple and remove its core. Place on a oven proof dish. Stuff dried fruit of your choice into the hole and place a heaped teaspoon of set honey on top. Bake in the centre of the oven- gas mark 5 / 180 C until the apple is soft. I served this with a generous pouring of cream. If you wish to play around with the flavours and make it a grown up pudding – a drizzle of a liqueur on the dried fruit before cooking is a tasty addition.

Personally I like the simplicity of the flavours as it is.

What to do with all this produce…fruit liqueurs

There is only so much fruit that I can freeze – the new additional freezer we bought last year for the bumper crop of gooseberries, plums and pears was only half empty and this year’s bumper harvest of rhubarb, blackcurrants and redcurrants have filled it completely again. I am now faced with 5 full tub trugs of apples and a couple of tub trugs worth of damsons still on the trees! I am, however, not complaining and I will manage to find space in the other freezers for most of the produce.

It does however mean that I the liqueur making season is upon me ! People who know me always find it amusing that one of our cupboards is filled every year with an array of fruit liqueurs…amusing because I very rarely drink alcohol. There is little I enjoy more than being able to offer a tasty fruity tipple to accompany the food I make when visitors around.

The selection in the picture is my array of blackcurrant liqueurs – vodka, liqueur, cassis and gin. If you were to rummage in the cupboard you would also find: redcurrant cassis, rhubarb and orange liqueur, damson gin, sloe gin, gooseberry vodka and pear vodka.

All the fruit used, once strained from the liquid is put in to a pie or crumble – a deliciously warming dish that I call my drunk fruit desserts. Always a favourite with my husband 🙂

I will put all my recipes on my blog over the next few weeks.

What to do with some much produce…apple, honey and rosemary jam 

I first tasted this delicious combination at a friend’s house a couple of years ago. Whenever they visited some friends in France they would come back with a jar of loveliness called: Confiture de pommes au romarin et au miel de montagne. I acquired a recipe and then promptly forgot about it until recently. Recipe translated and tweaked resulted in 5 jars of apple, honey and rosemary jam in my kitchen yesterday. I resisted the urge to taste it until today to allow the rosemary to infuse the jam…delicious.

This is what I did:

Ingredients:

2kg of cooking apples – peeled, cored and chopped in to small pieces (pips saved)

100g sugar

250g honey – I used set

Juice of 3 lemons – keep pips

20 ml of water.

Rosemary sprigs – washed and dried

Method:

Put the sugar, water, lemon juice and honey in a large pan and bring to the boil – stirring frequently. Put the apple pieces in to the syrup mixture along with the apple and lemon pips wrapped in a piece of gauze. Bring back to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until the apples are soft. Remove from heat and mash about half of the apple mixture down – I used a potato masher. Put back on the heat and simmer for anohter 5 – 10 mins.  Put in to prepared jam jars and push a sprig of rosemary in to the mixture ahead of sealing the jar.

I have no idea how long this will store  – probably quite irrelevant as one jar has nearly gone already. I didn’t treat this like an ordinary jam, cheese or jelly in that a setting point wasn’t reached. The consistency is of a very, very thick sauce. Delicious on toast but I would imagine equally scrumptious with pork or game.