Archives for category: Quick and Easy Starters

SERVES SIX

500g pack good quality Scottish Smoked Salmon
1 heaped tablespoon fine capers
75g kalamata olives, stoned and chopped
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bag washed rocket
2 handfuls fresh basil
2 preserved lemons, finely chopped, discarding the flesh
extra virgin olive oil
Sumac
Black pepper

Make the pesto by blending the preserved lemon, garlic, half the bag of rocket, the basil, pumpkin seeds, seasoning and enough olive oil to make it slack. Check the seasoning and set aside.

Lay the salmon out artfully on a serving platter. Scatter over the capers, olives, pesto and finish with the rest of the rocket and a good dusting of sumac.

Serve as a starter or light lunch with some crusty bread.

image

This fresh tasting, vibrantly colourful salad is wonderful in January, when oranges and pomegranates are at their best. It is lovely served alongside my chard, spinach and feta pie or you could serve it as a light starter. I love it with some of those tiny black olives tossed through it and if you want to add in some leaves then red chicory or radiccio work well.

Serves Four

2 oranges
1 pomegranate
1 bulb fennel
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Sea salt & black pepper
A few tiny stoned black olives (optional)
Pinch sumac
1 handful fresh mint

Take a nice serving bowl. Cut the fennel in half and then slice very finely. Add to the bowl.
Cut the ends of the oranges and then slice all around the sides to remove the pith and skin. Holding the orange over the bowl, remove each segment, allowing the juice to fall in as well. Bash the seeds of of the pomegranate and add those and the juice. Add the olive oil and the pomegranate molasses as well as a good pinch of sumac. Season well and toss all together.

Finely chop a good handful of fresh mint and add this together with your little olives. Taste and adjust with a little more pomegranate molasses if you think it needs it. Serve fairly soon, although it will happily wait for an hour.

It’s fair to say that the autumnal weather has been unseasonably mild of late and now that the hazy days of summer, such as they were are really well and truly over I find myself hankering after some of the more comforting recipes. Soup is a staple in our household throughout the colder months and much as I lovely the summery gazpachos and chilled offerings that befit a heatwave, there is nothing that can quite beat a bowl of the steaming hearty goodness that a beautifully balanced, flavoursome soup provides.

Stock is everything in a soup – a good one will make the difference between the mundane and the special. There are many excellent ready made ones available to buy but if you can make your own, especially if you have a carcass left from a good free range chicken then you will be rewarded.

This combination of broccoli, pear and blue cheese is a tried and tested favourite. The flavours work brilliantly together and is simplicity itself to make, as long as you have a good stick blender or liquidiser. It freezes well too, so make extra and you will be very glad as the season goes on to find a tub or two on standby in the freezer.

Serves Four

Rapeseed oil
1 onion
1 large potato
2 pears (any variety, slightly unripe)
Fresh oregano and sage, both or just one
1 medium head of broccoli
800 ml or so of chicken stock
Min 50 grams blue cheese (eg St Agur/roquefort)
Spoonful of creme fraiche
A few tiny leaves of fresh sage
Maldon salt & black pepper

Chop the onion and potato. Heat a couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil in a large saucepan and saute them for a few minutes until beginning to soften but not colour. Add a tablespoon of the herbs.

Peel, core and chop the pears and add those into the pan. Cook for a few more minutes before adding 300ml of chicken stock. Simmer for ten minutes and then add the chopped broccoli and another 300ml of stock. Cover the pan and simmer until the broccoli is tender. This will be about five minutes.

Add the blue cheese and creme fraiche and a good helping of maldon sea salt and pepper and blend the whole lot together, adding a bit more stock until you have reached the right consistency (about the same as double cream). If you like, add more blue cheese until you feel you have the right balance of flavour.

Quickly fry the sage leaves in some rapeseed oil (cover the base of a small saucepan) and then serve the soup in warmed bowls with a garnish of sage leaves and a drizzle of the oil that the sage was fried in.

Perfect with some good crusty bread.

image

It has been said many times that in order to stay healthy you should eat colour – lots of it. This easy salad is a great way to get a vitamin hit with maximum taste. Not only is it the prettiest plateful for your summer or autumn table, it also packs a punch with the harissa annointed vegetables and these, combined with the cooling minty dressing are seriously delicious. Serve it on it’s own, the veg warm from the oven or as a hearty but healthy side with grilled chicken or lamb. It makes a great starter or pack it into a tortilla wrap or pitta if you want lunch on the go.

The puy lentils could be left out but they add a lovely bite and make the whole thing a little more substantial. Add as many or as few as you like. The walnuts add a wonderful earthy crunch but you could just use pine nuts instead if you prefer. Add a tablespoon or two of tahini to the yoghurt dressing for a suggestion of sesame. This is a salad that you can play around with and make your own. Mint, yoghurt, harissa, root veg – it’s a marriage made in culinary heaven.

Use whatever beetroot you can find – the classic dark red are easily available in every supermarket but golden beetroot would work well here in combination with the red. Buy the smaller, more tender bulbs if you can.

Serves 4 for lunch, 6 as a starter250g small carrots (e.g. chantenay)

Four beetroot (or eight very small)
1 dessertspoon of harissa paste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Squeeze honey
A little lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. fennel, toasted and crushed
50g toasted chopped walnuts
Fresh Rocket
4 tablespoons cooked puy lentils, tossed in a little oil and lemon juice
Handful of fresh mint
1 lemon
Four tablespoons natural yoghurt

Pre-heat the oven to 220c (200c fan oven)

Cut the carrots into small lengths. Peel the beetroot and cut into small chunks.

Take a shallow roasting tin. Mix the harissa, oil, lemon juice and honey. Toss through the beetroot and carrot and turn into the roasting tin. Add seasoning and roast for 30 – 40 minutes until well roasted.

Remove from the oven. Allow to cool a bit for a few minutes. Toss into a bowl and mix with the lentils, walnuts and rocket. Check the seasoning.

Mix the yoghurt with lots of mint and lemon juice. Season to taste.

Pile onto plates and drizzle over the minted yoghurt or serve that separately.

carrot and beetroot salad

If you are after a quick lunch or easy starter that delivers on flavour, is big on nutrition and looks beautiful into the bargain then look no further than this easy and delicious courgette salad. It is also very useful as a side dish – try with some simple chicken or lamb and it will turn the mundane into something special. Pomegranates combine brilliantly with the salty feta and the ruby jewel seeds bring this simple salad alive. To remove the seeds simply slice the fruit in half and bash hard with a rolling pin over a bowl. The seeds will just fall out (up to a point!). Try and pick the firmest courgette you can – the bigger they are the more water they contain and you will lose both texture and flavour.

There are lots of different feta cheeses to buy out there. My favourite is the Greek barrel aged feta made from ewe’s and goat’s milk and stored in brine. It is worth paying that little bit extra as it will make all the difference to your finished dish.

Sumac is a dried and ground berry from a bush grown mainly in the Middle East and is an essential ingredient in many recipes from that region. Slightly acidic and reminiscent of lemon, it not only adds a lovely flavour but looks very pretty as well with its deep red colour.

If you want a truly healthy salad then just make courgette ‘carpaccio’ but slicing very fresh and firm courgette with a potato peeler into ribbons. Leave to sit in the lemon & oil for a few minutes before eating.

Serves Four

Four small or two medium courgette
200g good quality feta
Large handful of washed fresh mint leaves
One lemon
Rapeseed or light olive oil for griddling
One pomegranate or a handy pack of ready done seeds
Sea salt & black pepper
Sumac
Extra virgin olive oil

For this recipe you will ideally have a ridged grill pan, nice and shallow.

Cut the courgettes on the diagonal into long pieces about 2mm thick.

Heat a little oil in your grill pan and once hot lay on the courgette slices, a few at a time. Sear on each side so that they have pretty brown marks and remove to a plate lined with kitchen towel while you cook the rest. Finely chop the mint, crumble the feta and remove the seeds from the pomegranate.

Take either one large plate or four smallish. Layer up the courgette, feta, mint and pomegranate, seasoning as you go and sprinkling each layer with lemon juice. Finish with a final flurry of mint and pomegranate and drizzle over extra virgin olive oil. Finally, sprinkle over some sumac and serve with flatbread.

courgette and pomegranate salad