Ultimate summertime salad

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The weather is starting to hot up and thoughts start turning to lighter meals to enjoy al fresco (well, hopefully if this lasts!). If a Greek salad and Italian panzanella had a lovechild then this salad would be the result. It packs a punch and combines savoury, crunchy and satisfying ingredients to create a healthy but filling salad. To be honest this is a great meal to use up whatever salad vegetables may be lurking in the fridge as you can’t really go wrong. This salad is ideal to take on a picnic as you can make the main elements and then assemble it at the last minute to avoid soggy bread disasters or make a big bowl of it to serve at a BBQ to eat with grilled meats or fish.

Ingredients- serves 3-4
150g sourdough bread- cut into bite sized cubed
1 red onion- finely sliced
350g assorted vine tomatoes
Half a cucumber- deseeded and sliced
200g feta
1 tbsp oregano
100g pitted mixed olives
2 tbsp.red wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Freshly chopped parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 150c/ 130 fan. Place the chunks of bread on a baking tray so they are arranged in a single layer. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake until slightly golden and crisp around the edges. Remove and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes. Cut them into a combination of halves and quarters and place in a bowl. Add the sliced onion along with 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar and 3 tbsp olive oil. Season well and  set aside to infuse.

3. In another bowl, combine the cucumber, feta, olives and oregano along with a good crack of black pepper and another tablespoon of oil.

4. Choose a suitable bowl in which to serve the salad and add half of the bread into it before adding the tomato mixture, cucumber mixture and tossing well. Add the remaining bread. Serve with an additional sprinkling of parsley and allow to stand for a few minutes before serving so the brad can soak up the juices from the tomatoes.

Ultimate summertime salad- I promise you you’ll be making this time and time again!

 

 

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Garlic, herb and lemon slow roasted lamb

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Now here is a recipe that is too good not to share- my garlic, herb and lemon slow roasted lamb. This can be used for either lamb leg or shoulder and it is ideal for a lazy Sunday roast dinner or for entertaining. Lamb is now in season in the UK so it is the perfect time to get your hands on some and make the most of it. I recently cooked this for Easter lunch and it went down a storm! For 4 people I used a half leg of lamb which meant that everyone was well fed but there were certainly no leftovers! If you have large appetites, want leftovers or if you are feeding the 5,000 then by all means use a larger joint and cook for longer until the meat is falling off the bone.

If you have time then you can prepare the lamb the night before you want to start cooking it by following the first step, covering tightly and leaving in the fridge to allow the flavours to infuse.

Ingredients- serves 4
Half leg of lamb
Handful each of fresh thyme and rosemary
2 bulbs of garlic
1 lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
300ml water or white wine

1. If preparing the meat either the night before or the morning of cooking then all you need to do is find a deep tray that will comfortably fit the half leg in and pop it in. Peel around 4 cloves of garlic, cut them into quarters and use a sharp knife to make slits in the lamb; pop a sliver of garlic into each slit. Scatter the remaining garlic cloves around the lam in the bottom of the tray. Drizzle the lamb with a little olive oil and rub so it is well coated; season well. Cut the remaining bulb in half width ways and place in the tray cut side up. Scatter the herbs too. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the lemon rind and place on and around the lamb. If preparing in advance, at this stage cover well and refrigerate. If cooking then and there, read on…

2. Preheat the oven to 140c/ 120 fan. Pour the water or wine, depending on what you are using, into the tray. Cover tightly with foil and place on the middle or low shelf in the oven and cook for around 4-5 hours. The time will depend on the size of the joint so check and baste from time to time. If the bottom of the tray becomes too dry then add another splash of water. When the lamb is nearly ready, remove the foil and allow the lamb to catch some colour and turn golden. The juices should run clear and the meat should come away from the bone with ease. Remove from the oven and rest whilst you make other accompaniments.

Garlic, herb and lemon slow roasted lamb- a sure fire crowd pleaser that’s packed with flavour but that needs very little care!

 

Springtime fricassee with pan fried sea bream

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll notice by now that, not only do I enjoy cooking with seasonal ingredients as far as possible, I also have a penchant for pan fried sea bream. I love how delicate it is whilst also being able to stand up to a range of flavours. If you can’t find sea bream then sea bass will also work well. When fish is fresh you really don’t need to do much to it to bring out the best in it so keep it simple. I have chosen to pair the fish with spring vegetable fricassee; asparagus, peas and broad beans are in plentiful supply at the moment so take advantage of them whilst they are at their best. I served the fish and fricassee with roasted garlic mashed potato to bring the dish together and indulge in my other love in life- garlic!

Ingredients- serves 4
Olive oil
Unsalted butter
4 sea bream fillets- pin boned and skin left on
1 shallot- finely chopped
200g asparagus
200g shelled broad beans
200g podded peas
150ml double cream
Salt and pepper to season

For the mashed potatoes
1 bulb of garlic
Olive oil
500g Maris Piper potatoes- peeled and quartered
100g butter

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take the bulb of garlic for the mash and remove some of the outer papery layers. Carefully use a sharp knife to cut the bulb across the top to expose a little of the cloves. Place the garlic on a sheet of foil, drizzle with some olive oil and gather the side of the foil to make a parcel; roast in the oven for around 30 minutes or until the garlic has softened. When tender, remove from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle the garlic. Squeeze all the garlic from the bulb and use the back of a fork to lightly mash it down; set aside.

2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a little salt. Cook the potatoes until tender; drain well and set aside before mashing with the butter added. Pop in most of the roasted garlic and combine well. Keep the mash warm.

3. Next up you need to make the fricassee and this could not be more straightforward. Bring a medium pan of water to a vigorous simmer but just below a boil. Take the asparagus and quarter each spear before then chopping each quarter to give thick sticks of asparagus. Add to the water and blanch for 1 minute before removing with a slotted spoon and refreshing in a bowl of ice cold water. Take the shelled broad beans and do the same for 3 minutes and then do the peas for 2 minutes.

4. In a medium pan add a glug of oil and soften the shallot. Pop in the remaining roasted garlic. Add the asparagus, broad beans and peas and pour over the double cream. Simmer gently for a few minutes until the vegetables are nice and tender. Taste and season well.

5. As the fricassee is finishing off get going with the fish. Heat a non- stick frying pan over a medium- high heat and add a good knob of butter and a glug of oil. Lightly season the skin of the fish and place skin side down into the hot pan; when the butter and oil starts to bubble then its ready to use. Fry the fish for around 4-5 minutes before gently flipping it over and cooking for a further minute or two. Serve the mash and fricassee and mash in deep bowls and top with the golden pan fried bream; serve immediately.

Springtime vegetable fricassee with pan fried sea bream- a celebration of seasonal ingredients!

 

Chilli beef brisket loaded nachos

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Now here is a feast that is fit for a Friday, Saturday, Sunday… or any day for that matter! Beef brisket is my favourite cut to use for a chilli as it holds the flavours of the spices amazingly well and slow cooks like a dream so you are left with a melt in your mouth chilli. I have kept the chilli recipe as simple as possible so it will be perfect served with a range of things from nachos to rice but feel free to use it as a base and add in extra vegetables or beans. Play around with your choice of chillies; I used ancho and chipotle morita to add a kick of heat whilst also adding a wonderful smokiness. If you prefer your chillies a touch milder then use whatever chillies suit you.

Ingredients- serves 4
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 beef brisket- approx. 500g
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tbsp each of ground cumin, coriander and oregano
1/2 tbsp each of paprika and cayenne pepper
Dried chillies such as chipotle morita and ancho
400ml hot beef stock
400ml passata
Salt and pepper

For the nachos
Lightly salted tortilla chips
Salsa, guacamole and soured cream
Fresh jalapenos
Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese as much as you dare!
Fresh coriander

1. Preheat the oven to 150c/ 130 fan. Choose a large, lidded, heavy based casserole dish and heat half of the oil over a medium- high heat. Season the brisket and brown it on all sides before removing from the pan. Drain off any excess fat and add a little more vegetable oil. Lower the heat and fry the onion and garlic together for a few minutes until softened.

2. Sprinkle in the spices and herbs and stir well to combine with the onion and garlic. Cook for an additional minute or two. Pour in a splash of the beef stock to remove any pieces of onion that may have caught to the pan slightly. Add the remaining stock and passata along with the dried chillies; bring to a simmer and add the brisket back to the pan. Pop the pan into the oven and cook for around 3-4 hours or until the brisket is meltingly tender. If the chilli looks like there is still a lot of liquid you can either remove the lid and continue to cook it or put it on the hob and simmer to reduce and thicken.

3. When ready to assemble the nachos, simply use two forks to pull the brisket apart. Take an ovenproof dish and layer with tortilla chips, salsa and some sliced fresh jalapenos. Sprinkle a little cheese before repeating. Add the chilli on top of the seond layer of nachos, add more cheese and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 200c/ 180 fan until the cheese is bubbling and melted. Finish with a handful of freshly chopped coriander and some more fresh jalapeno.

Chilli beef brisket nachos- ultimate comfort food perfect for a quiet night in or a party!