Salad therapy – lambs lettuce with pear and Sharon fruit

We can’t believe that neither of us had tried Sharon fruit (persimmon) till earlier this year but having done so it is now a regular feature in our fruit bowl.  Tonight we had a simple salad combining thinly sliced Sharon fruit and pear (used a mandolin slicer) topped with lambs lettuce dressed in olive oil, balsamic white vinegar, salt and pepper and finished with shavings of flavoured Gloucester cheese (onions and chives).  Hope you enjoy as much as we did.

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Aubergines in tomato sauce (a.k.a. melanzane alla parmigiana)

Tonight was an opportunity to try our take on a classic Italian aubergine dish ‘melanzane alla parmigiana’.   There are probably several recipes out there but essentially they all entail grilling slices of aubergines, layering them with tomato sauce and then topping it with fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese before placing under a hot grill.   That is pretty much what we did and the personalization comes with each individuals preferred version of the tomato sauce.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 2 large aubergines – cut into 5 cm thick slices
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400 gms)
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2-3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano (optional – we have some growing in our herb patch)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 tsp Balsamic vinegar
  • Small handful of fresh basil and parsley chopped
  • Handful grated Parmesan chesse
  • 125 gm fresh mozzarella cheese sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Enough for 2 mains or 4 sides

How do I make it?

First rub the aubergine slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on a griddle pan and cook till they begin to caramelize – keep aside till assembly.   For the sauce, heat some olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic for a minute before adding the red chilli flakes, chopped onion and bay leaves.  Continue to cook on medium heat till the onions are translucent – sprinkle the dried oregano and fresh oregano if you have it.   Add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of sugar with around 200 ml of water.    Cook on low heat till the sauce thickens.  Adjust the seasoning, add the balsamic vinegar, garnish with fresh basil and parsley and then turn off the heat.

To assemble the dish place alternating layers of aubergine and sauce and finish with sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a layer of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Place under grill at 220 degrees Centigrade till the cheese melts and forms a nice golden crust.  Cut into portions and serve hot.  Enjoy.

Salad therapy – rocket, apple and cheese

Our local TESCO supermarket had some amazing regional cheeses on offer and the salad we had the other night featured a cheddar and garlic/mixed herb soft cheese whirl.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 bag of rocket leaves
  • 1/2 gala apple cored and sliced
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 3 tbsp red pickled jalapenos
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 1/4 large cucumber de-seeded and chopped
  • 100 gms of cheese whirl cubed
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp apple balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 2 main portions or 4 side salads

How do I make it?

Place all ingredients in a large salad bowl.   Sprinkle the salt  and pepper before before drizzling the olive oil and apple cider balsamic vinegar.   Toss gently with your hands and portion into serving bowls.  Enjoy.

Salad therapy – Anna’s Surprise

My niece Nikhita was in town for a couple of days and I was keen to get her to like this salad as she is not too fond of fruits.  The first time I made this salad I threw in the remaining fruit in my fruit bowl and was surprised at how well it went with the dressing.   A few tweaks later I’ve rechristened it Anna’s Surprise to dedicate it to my better half (surprised her and others with the combination).   Having served this to Nikhi I think I have succeeded in getting her to eat fruit beyond bananas as she appreciated the salad.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 big bag of mixed salad leaves
  • 1 red apple
  • 1 pear  (the firmer the better – gives a bit of a bite to the salad)
  • 1 firm ripe mango
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 large cucumber de-seeded and cubed
  • 1 large mozzarella ball cubed
  • 5 artichoke hearts quartered (used the tinned variety)
  • 6-8 sun dried tomatoes in oil chopped
  • Handful of green and black olives
  • Handful of pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make?

Chop all the fruit, veg and cheese into bite size pieces.   Wash and drain the salad leaves and place in a large bowl.   Add the fruit, vegetables, cheese and olives and season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the salad and toss gently.  Transfer into dishes and enjoy.

English summer

We have had our first peek of summer with sunshine for 4 days in a row (I say this with my fingers and toes crossed)!!  Having cleaned our barbecue last week I decided to grill some chicken for dinner tonight and served it with some roasted green peppers, mushrooms and a simple baby mixed leaf salad.  It was an opportunity to try out the apple balsamic vinegar which I picked up from Waitrose earlier.

The marinade for the chicken was dead simple – six de-boned chicken thighs, 3 tbsp of Scwartz blackened cajun seasoning and 2 tbsp of olive oil.  For the veggies I drizzled a little olive oil and sprinkled some garlic salt over them before grilling.  The salad was baby mixed leaves with olive oil and apple balsamic vinegar dressing.  Looking forward to more sunshine over the next few weeks to get the maximum out of the Weber grill.

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Chinese stir fried vegetables

I absolutely enjoyed pulling together a stir fried vegetable dish for lunch today.  As previously mentioned there are a few cupboard essentials when wanting to make Chinese food taste slightly more authentic (rice wine, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil) and today I want to add another one to the list – spiced black rice vinegar.   I was in my local Waitrose earlier today and was browsing the specialty oils and vinegar aisle when I spotted three combinations I haven’t come across before – apple balsamic vinegar, apply & cranberry balsamic vinegar and black rice vinegar.   I picked up all three and used the black rice vinegar in the stir fry.  I am looking forward to using the other two in a salad vinaigrette soon.

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What do I need to make it?

  • Handful of green beans cut in half
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 green pepper cubed
  • 2 carrots chopped into wedges
  • 6 large closed cup mushrooms quartered
  • 8 florets of broccoli
  • 1 bunch of choi sum (each stalk cut into 3-4 pieces)
  • 3 sprigs of spring onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1″ piece of ginger minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red chili
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • Handful coriander leaves chopped
  • 2 tsp Shaosin wine
  • 3 tsp dark soya sauce
  • 2 tsp spicy black rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp vegetable/sunflower oil
  • Dash of salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4 as a side dish

How do I make it?

Heat wok and pour oil in once hot.  Add ginger and garlic mince and stir for 30 seconds before adding the crushed red chili flakes.   Stir for another minute before adding green pepper, celery, carrot, beans, mushroom and broccoli.  Stir for five to eight minutes before adding the choi sum (choi sum only takes a couple of minutes to cook).  Then add the rice wine, vinegar, soya sauce and white pepper.  Adjust the seasoning before garnishing with spring onions and fresh coriander.   Serve hot with rice or noodles.

The perfect Sunday

What a great way to spend my Sunday – warm 20 degree sunshine and the family around me.  It started off with taking Ansh and Lola for their weekly swimming lessons followed by a trip to the local park where both enjoyed riding their bikes and generally running around.  Both behaved for a change and ate their lunch without a fuss.  Anna and I then proceeded to clean the barbecue which has not seen much action in over a year and prepped for the evening meal.  Out of the blue,  Ansh said he felt like having some tomato soup for dinner.  I thoroughly enjoyed making him a batch of fresh tomato soup and grilling some portabello mushrooms and trout for our dinner.   For all my vegetarian friends and family the mushrooms are a great addition to your barbecue repertoire and you can have fun tinkering with the various topping combinations.

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Tomato soup

What do I need to make it?

  • 1 large tomato cut in pieces
  • 10 cherry tomatoes quartered
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 sprig of spring onion chopped
  • 1 celery stick chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 pearl of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (use normal or cream if not bothered by lactose)
  • Handful fresh basil chopped
  • Knob of butter
  • 3 tbsp oilve oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 2 comfortably

How do I make it?

Heat a pan and add olive oil to it.  First add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds before adding the onion, celery and sprig onion.  Saute over medium heat for 2-3 minutes before adding the carrots.   Continue sauteing for another couple of minutes before adding chopped tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and then add stock cube and about 1 cup of water.   Allow to cook for 10 minutes before adding the fresh basil.  Blitz the liquid in a blender and bring it back to the boil before adding almond milk and a knob of butter.  Adjust the seasoning  and serve hot.

Barbecued portabello mushrooms

I don’t have exact measures for this recipe but can share with you how I make it.  Skin the portabello mushroom before adding the seasonings.  Sprinkle a pinch of mixed herbs, crushed red chilies and some garlic salt.  Drizzle some balsamic vinegar and good olive oil and grill on the barbecue for 15-20 minutes.  Alternatively you can repeat the first step with the dry ingredients and  add some lemon juice and butter instead of the vinegar and oil.