Recipes: Simple salads with crunch

Okay, I know autumn is here, but we did have something of a lovely, elongated Indian summer which gave me the excuse to come up with two new salad recipes for the unexpected barbecues we managed to squeeze in.

And what a pleasure it was to make them as I’d been sent a set of Robert Welch Signature knives which made all that inevitable salad chopping a total breeze. Find out more details about these amazing unique knives below. And do try the recipes and let me know what you think.

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The cooks knife makes food prep a joy

CRUNCHY GREEN SALAD

Serves 6

2 large cos lettuces, trimmed and torn into pieces

5 celery sticks, chopped into small pieces

6 large spring onions, chopped on the diagonal into small pieces

1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped into bite-size chunks

2 handfuls of seedless green grapes, halved

3 avocados, peeled and sliced

For the dressing

3 tbsps fruit vinegar (I used raspberry and rhubarb that I bought the week before in Yorkshire)

6 tbsps olive oil

Chop all your ingredients and lay them out on a platter in layers, starting with the lettuce as a base and finishing with the avocado.

Mix your dressing and save for pouring over when you serve.

That’s it!

Top tip

To stop your avocado from going brown keep the pips from the fruit and place among the slices. Make sure you include the pip from each one.

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A salad in shades of green

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The final step – a topping of avocado

TRIPLE C COLESLAW with cabbage, carrots, cucumber and sweet chilli mayo

Serves 4

Half a Savoy cabbage, sliced

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into small batons

1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced into small batons

For the dressing

6 tbsps mayonnaise

2 tbsps sweet chilli sauce

Mix the cabbage, carrot and cucumber together.

Mix the mayonnaise with the chilli sauce.

Combine the two, making sure the vegetables are well coated with the chill mayo.

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Coleslaw with a spicy bite

Robert Welch Signature knives combine German stainless steel and a Japanese-style blade edge. The handle is smooth and makes the knife comfortable and easy to use. The range is available to buy individually or within sets. Individual prices range from £22.00 to £59.

Find at more at robertwelch.com

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The handy wall-mounted magnetic holder

 

Top tips to improve your diet

We all know the importance of eating healthily and are always looking for ways to make it easier. But why wait until 1 January to embark on a new regime. It is only October, so by making changes now, you can look and feel better by Christmas, rather than Easter!

Time waits for no man, so don’t put off changing your diet for the better until everybody else is doing it – try these three easy ways to improve on what you eat today.

Supplement with Superfoods

We’ve all heard the term ‘superfood’, and probably know it means particularly nutrient dense things like spirulina that gram for gram, offer large quantities of a whole range of vitamins, antioxidants, fatty acids, and other goodies. Of course, these things are often pretty hard to just add in to your diet, and you probably won’t find spirulina or its counterparts on offer at the sandwich shop where you buy your lunch (given that it is basically algae from a pond). So how do you get the benefits of superfoods without adopting some weird juice regimen and buying a load of strange green powders? Simply by taking organic supplements. These are usually capsules you take in the dosage recommended on the pack, which give you a weighty boost of good nutrition without affecting what you eat.

Eat More Whole Foods

The term whole foods is one that confuses people, because they think this means you should only eat foods in their whole form (for example fish with the heads on or potatoes with skin), or that once you mix foods together in a recipe they no longer count. This is basically madness. All whole foods are are foods that, when you start working with them, are just one thing. A piece of chicken, a tomato, a carrot, and so on. Cooking a bunch of whole foods together to make them into a delicious curry does not stop them being whole foods, but means you have a healthier curry than if you bought a ready made one with additives in it.

Yes, some common foods like bread are not really whole foods, and neither are most sauces or desserts, unless you make them yourself out of whole foods. By cutting down on pre-processed foods and cooking yourself with ingredients, or ordering whole foods like cuts of meat when you go out for dinner, your diet can become much healthier without compromising on taste.

Drink More Fluids

You always hear that you should drink more water, but actually, the water component in any drink, aside from diuretic drinks like alcohol, coffee and dandelion tea all count towards keeping you hydrated. Fruit juices, sports drinks, tea, sugar free soft drinks and other beverages all actually count, so while water has a few other benefits, if it bores you, try upping your fluid intake in other ways.

These are just three easy changes that will help you improve your diet for the rest of 2016, as well as for 2017.

 

Creamy baked eggs with garlic and chilli

Baked eggs are an old favourite of my childhood. Popped into the oven topped with cheese, a simple dish that makes such a comforting breakfast. Of course there are many ways to bake an egg and this indulgent creamy recipe makes for a fabulous light lunch – or even a starter for dinner.

This easy recipe with few ingredients tastes absolutely stupendous. I added one chilli for a bit of bite but if you’re a fan of hot food experimenting with your chilli-ness.

I cooked this in Spain where I bought these beautiful little dishes in the local ceramico for €1.30. I’m sure they made the eggs taste even better!

CREAMY BAKED EGGS WITH GARLIC AND CHILLI

Serves 4

eggs

A bowl of delicious creaminess

20g butter

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

150g mushrooms, chopped

1 dried red chilli, crushed

100g ham, chopped

200ml double cream

Ground black pepper

4 eggs

150g mature cheddar, grated

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Melt the butter in a pan and fry the garlic, mushrooms, and chilli over a medium heat for 10 mins.

Add the ham and fry for another 5 mins.

Remove from the heat and stir in the double cream. Season with black pepper.

Divide the mix between four ramekins and leave to stand for about 10 mins to let the flavours develop.

Make a hollow in the middle of the mixture and carefully break in an egg.

Bake in the oven for 20 mins until the egg whites have set.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle the grated cheddar on top and bake for another 5 mins.

Serve immediately.

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Recipe: The Black Farmer’s burgers with roast red vegetables

Today I’ve been asked to sample some beef burgers from The Black Farmer. The company was set up by Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones and produces gluten-free products that are also RSPCA assured which means the company has a vision for all farm animals to have a good life and be treated with compassion and respect. Well, I’m all for that.

The beef burgers look beautifully plump and juicy and I decided to think laterally and come up with a different way to cook them. Sometimes my somewhat weird cooking ideas don’t work out quite as I’ve visualised them in my head, but today this dish was even better than I’d expected.

I started off by roasting some vegetables. Colour in food is so important to me and when I was trawling around the supermarket choosing my veg, lots of vibrant reds attracted me. So red roast vegetables it is.

For two servings I used:

1 red pepper, cored and sliced

1 red onion, peeled and quartered

12 cherry tomatoes, whole on the vine (I think cooking them on the vine enhances the flavour of the whole dish)

3 tbsps olive oil

Place the pepper and onion in a roasting tray and pour over the olive oil. Make sure they are well coated in the oil.

Place in the oven at 180C for about 20 minutes until they start to soften. Then add the tomatoes.

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A tray of redness to roast

I love the large portobello mushrooms around at the moment and came up with the idea of using them as a base for the burgers instead of a bun.

Add the mushrooms to the roasting tray when you add the tomatoes and drizzle over a little more olive oil. Cook for another 10 mins.

Then place the burgers on top of the mushrooms, return the tray to the oven and cook for 10-15 mins until the burgers are mostly cooked through. I like them very slightly rare in the middle.

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Vegetables sizzle and the burgers cook atop the juicy large mushrooms

Check that your burgers are cooked and serve with mustard mayo. I make the mustard mayo by mixing three large tsps of mayonnaise with one large tsp of Dijon mustard. It’s really delicious and goes equally well with the veggies and the burgers.

The combination of sweet vegetables, earthy mushroom, meat burgers and spicy mayo is fabulous. Give it a try. Do you have any inventive ways of serving burgers? I’d love to hear your recipes, do get in touch.

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The Black Farmer produces a range of sausages, burgers, free range chickens, bacon, eggs and meatballs. Much of the range is available online at Ocado and you’ll also find the beef burgers at Asda and the chickens at selected Budgens.

Find out more at theblackfarmer.com

Recipe book review: Savage salads

It’s always exciting to acquire a new recipe book for my ever-expanding collection. And I was certainly inspired as I started paging through Savage Salads to decide what to cook for dinner.

The book is the brainchild of Italian chef Davide and Swedish food expert Katrina and the recipes came about because of their highly successful market stall in London.

They came up with the idea after noticing a distinct lack of healthy food options in London’s many food markets. And they also cleverly decided to offer a range of salads that were more interesting than your average leafy collection, as well as being substantial enough to leave you full and satisfied.

The book offers so many choices, it really does take salad to a new level. It’s divided into the four seasons and encompasses a mind-boggling array of ingredients, all of which are easily available in the UK.

The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow and I loved the mouth-watering photography.

So far I’ve tried three recipes, all of which have got a huge thumbs up from everyone who sampled them.

From the autumn section I made this fabulous potato salad with new potatoes, apple, spring onion and wholegrain mustard. Such a lovely sweet and sour combination with great crunch. It was served with a perfectly grilled pork chop.

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Something new for my potato salad repertoire

I love gazpacho and I love beetroot so it seemed a no-brainer to try this. Okay it’s soup, the book gets away with this by including what they call a Blitzed Salad at the end of each season. This is summer in a bowl, beautifully pink, sweet and health giving.

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Gotta love a bowl of pink soup

My third choice was from the winter section. No, I’m not confused it’s just that summer hasn’t really turned up so I’m still looking to cook comfort food. Little lamb kebabs marinated in garlic, lemon juice and rosemary are served with roasted sweet potato and turnip and served with crispy kale. Wow! I’m making crispy kale all the time now, it’s so easy and tasty and so full of goodness.

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There’s also a range of dip, dressing and mayonnaise recipes to try out. I’m loving the sound of smoked paprika and lime hummus, or maybe a bit of watercress mayonnaise. Salads are certainly never going to be boring again – the book certainly lives up to its strapline: Fierce Flavours Filling Power-Ups.

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Savage Salads by Kristina Gustafsson & Davide Del Gatto, photography by Kim Lightbody, is on sale now. Published by Frances Lincoln (£16.99). More information on the book can be found here

If you don’t want to cook them yourself (though I really recommend you do),  you can visit them at one of their stalls. You will find them in Berwick Street in Soho from Monday to Friday, Stratton Ground on Victoria Monday to Wednesday and at St Giles in field market in Covent Garden every Thursday.

Recipes: Two tasty dishes using lamb mince

So I’ve been asked to enter the Lamb Recipe Challenge and come up with a tasty, original lamb recipe. Never one to turn down a challenge, I put my mind to creating something deliciously different. I had so many ideas I’ve ended up creating two dishes using lamb mince – so you’ve got double value today! #LoveLambChallenge

Here’s my take on a lamb burger first. I was thinking about putting a different twist on a cheeseburger and came up with the idea of stuffing the burger with a herby goat’s cheese mixture. And that got me to thinking of French flavours which is when I added the Dijon mustard mayo. Along with a large, juicy slice of tomato and a handful of rocket, this is a splendidly mouth-watering combination. The cheese mix keeps the meat beautifully moist and is a lovely surprise when you slice your burger open.

Don’t forget to read on for my spiced kofta kebab recipe with a special secret ingredient.

HERB AND CHEESE LAMB BURGERS

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Add Dijon mustard mayo, tomato and rocket for a dream combo

Makes 4 burgers

500g lamb mince1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 egg, beaten

100g white breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper

For the filling

100g soft goats cheese

1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

To serve

4 ciabatta rolls

Mayonnaise

Dijon mustard

A large tomato

Rocket

Heat half the oil in a pan and fry the onion over medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft and transluscent. Allow to cool

Mix the cooked onion, lamb, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt and pepper together thoroughly.

Divide into four and roll into balls. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Mix the goat’s cheese, basil and oregano together thoroughly. Cover and chill for five mins.

When you’re ready to cook, make an indentation in the centre of the lamb ball with your finger (making sure not to pierce the other side). Fill it with a large teaspoon of the goat’s cheese and then make a meatball again around the filling. Flatten it to make a burger.

Heat the remaining oil and cook for 10 mins on each side until nicely browned.

Spread a halved ciabatta roll with a mix of half mayonnaise, half Dijon mustard. Place the burger on top and add a large slice of tomato and a handful of rocket. Serve immediately.

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A substantial burger with a cheesy centre

One of my favourite South African dishes is called bobotie. You can find my recipe for it by clicking here. It’s a kind of lamb mince bake with spices, fruit, eggs and cream added and is truly delicious. So I thought I’d try to produce something similar in the form of a kofta kebab. My special ingredient is the marmalade – make sure you use a chunky one, I used Hartley’s Olde English thick cut marmalade. It adds a lovely sweetness and balance to the spice and really brings out all the flavours. I’ve served it here in a warmed mini naan bread – but these tasty little kebabs would work just as well with a salad or vegetable dish or served as snacks. How’s that for versatile?!

SPICED AND SWEET LAMB KOFTA KEBABS

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Cucumber raita and chutney in the naan complete the delicious parcel

Makes 12 kofta

500g lamb mince

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

1 tsps cumin

2 tsps coriander

2 tsps medium curry powder

2 tbsp thick cut marmalade

1 tbsp sunflower oil

Salt and pepper

To serve

8 mini naan breads

Cucumber and yogurt raita

Chutney

Fry the onion for about 10 minutes until softened.

Mix together all the ingredients well.

Shape the mince into sausage shapes on small skewers.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the koftas for around 15 minutes turning regularly to make sure they are evenly cooked.

Spread a dollop of cucumber raita inside a mini naan bread. Slide the kofta off its skewer, place on top of the raita. Add a dollop of chutney and serve.

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Close up to the spiced kofta

Do you have a favourite recipe using lamb mince? Or any other cut of lamb for that matter? I’d love to hear about it, so do get in touch.