Archives for the month of: July, 2018

Much as we love a salad the humble lettuce leaf occasionally deserves a change and this easy soup, as delicious hot as it is cold is a great way to use salad leaves and cucumber. A refreshingly iced soup can be very welcome on a hot day and has the advantage of being easily freezable if you don’t want to use it straight away, something that cannot be said of the average salad so a very useful recipe to have if faced with rows of bolting lettuce leaves and in our case, enthusiastic cucumbers.

If you happen to have some nasturtiums growing or see some at a farmers market, pop some of the leaves into the soup and use a flower as a pretty garnish. They are lovely, fantastically easy to grow; the leaves offering a wonderful peppery flavour, while the flowers add a certain style to your salad bowl or as here make a pretty garnish.

I love this with some of that wonderfully mild French goats cheese whipped up with lemon and chives. You can use it as a garnish for the soup or serve separately on toasted sourdough. Either way, it works so well with the delicate soup and makes it a bit more substantial.

This recipe serve four but add and subtract according to what you have available – fennel leaves, courgette, spinach, peas etc will all work well. Mint is surely the ubiquitous summer herb and I use it in everything I possible can during the warmer months. There are so many interesting varieties available to us now – ginger mint is a current favourite that makes a gorgeous restorative tea and I have just planted basil mint which I think is going to be a very promising addition to the kitchen garden.

Spinach is not essential but certainly helps with the colour.

Serves Four

2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 stick celery (not essential!), finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 generous tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil
750ml vegetable stock (I use the non vegan marigold, green pot)
2 or 3 new potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 whole cucumber, chopped with skin
Big double handful of mixed green lettuce/spinach leaves
Handful of nasturtium leaves (optional)
Big handful of chopped garden mint
Four heaped tablespoons natural yoghurt (always green Yeo valley for me!)
Sea salt and black pepper
Lemon, rind and juice
1 tub French goats cheese
Handful of chopped chives
Four nasturtium flowers
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shallot, garlic and celery if using. Sauté gently until softened but not brown. Add the potato and straight away 600ml of the stock. Bring up to a simmer and cook unail the potatoes are soft.

Add the cucumber, simmer for two or so minutes and then add the lettuce, spinach, herbs etc. Season well.

Allow to cool a bit and then whizz with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Add more stock until the co sister is of a thin cream. When most of the heat has gone whisk in the yogurt and lemon juice to taste. Blitz again and if you feel it needs more yoghurt you could add that now.

Put the soup into a fridge to chill for a few hours.

When ready to serve, put the goats cheese into a,bowl and add the rind of the lemon and chopped chives. Whip together with a small whisk until smooth. Season.

Serve the soup in chilled bowls with a quenelle of goats cheese in the centre, garnish with a nasturtium flower and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil.

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A new phenomenom has come to our house….for the first time ever we have an actual glut of something in the vegetable patch. The courgette plants are loving this glorious weather and as long as we are generous with the watering and don’t take too many evenings off we seem to be being rewarded with a constant supply of the most beautiful yellow, green and chartreuse courgettes.

This versatile vegetable is a big favourite in our kitchen – spiralled into courgetti, stir fried with garlic, grated into risotto, eaten raw or cubed in an omelette. It even makes a wonderful cake ingredient; much like carrots or beetroot, courgettes lend themselves incredible well to a bit of baking.

This is a lovely, simple salad recipe that uses the courgette to it’s full advantage in that it is both cooked and raw. It is a natural partner to a soft goats cheese and the addition of broad beans and baby fennel makes a salad that sings of summer and celebrates all that is in season now. Do try it on its own or with a piece of grilled chicken or lamb. I use baby broad beans from the frozen veg section in Waitrose. They are absolutely wonderful and all you need to do is pour some boiling water over them, drain and then spend a few minutes slipping them out of their skins. Well worth the effort. If you have access to yellow courgettes then do use one of those.

Serves Two to Three as a main course, Four as a starter

60g baby broad beans, skinned
2 baby fennel bulbs, very finely chopped
2 medium courgette (about 125g each)
8 baby new potatoes (I love pink fir apple if you have those)
Tablespoon chopped chives
125g soft french goats cheese
Handful of washed salad leaves, any mix you like
Juice of half a large lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
Seasalt
Black pepper

Reserve any fennel fronds you have and finely chop those. Boil a pan of salted water and cook the potatoes until just tender. Drain and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, shave the courgette into fine strips using a potato peeler. Put half of these in a bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil and about a teaspoon of sea salt and grinding of black pepper. Add the fennel, toss to combine and set aside. Taste and add more lemon juice if you think it needs it.

Heat a griddle pan and drizzle it with some of the rapeseed oil. In batches, griddle the remaining courgette so that they have the grill marks on them and are just cooked. Remove these to kitchen paper as you go.

Cut the potato into small 3 cm pieces. Place into a bowl and add all the courgette, the broad beans, fennel and herbs. Toss lightly so that it is well mixed. Add a few salad leaves and finely little blobs of the goats cheese. Add the remaining fennel fronds and check the seasoning.

Pile up on a pretty plate and serve either on its own or as a side dish.

When the weather is hot but you need a little canape to enjoy with a glass of something chilled, this is a great alternative to the more traditional smoked salmon on brown bread. Certainly a little lighter, very pretty in pink with a sprinkling of green chives and quick to make. Just the thing as the temperature rises and you want to keep kitchen time to a minimum. Of course you could use green chicory if red isn’t available.

Makes about 30

200g packet of good quality smoked salmon
Rind and juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
pinch maldon sea salt
4 small heads of red chicory, leaves separated

Chop the salmon up into small pieces and put into a bowl. Add all the other ingredients except the chicory, reserving a few chives and mix well. Check the seasoning and adjust, adding a little more lemon or oil if you think it needs it.

Divide the chicory up into individual leaves. If they are very long then cut the wider end off. Fill with a teaspoon of salmon and place onto a nice serving plate. Sprinkle with the remaining chives.