Sunday 28 July 2013

Summer Veg & Bean Salad in a Smoky Tomato Dressing

Now that we have had a couple of weeks of glorious warm and sunny weather it means things like summer salads, wedges of cold quiche and crunchy coleslaw are finally back on the menu. Last weekend I decided to prepare a huge veg and bean salad to have on hand for either work lunches or as part of a quick evening dinner for when it was just too hot to cook.

I’ve discovered that I absolutely love the combination of using both roasted and raw veg in a salad. They add such a wonderful texture and flavour contrast to each other. The roasted veg is sweet, soft and often slightly smokey or charred, while the raw veg is fresh, crisp and crunchy. That together with a mix of creamy starchy beans and a nice dressing makes for a delicious salad. It’s also the perfect tasty way to getting your 5 a day – did you know that beans (baked beans too) count as one of your 5 a day – its true! So think how healthy and delicious a tasty veg and bean salad it.

I’ve also discovered that making a dressing on the baking tray the veg has previously been roasted on, not only helps get those sticky stuck on pieces off the tray, but also adds a wonderful flavour base to the sauce. The sticky juices, edges of stuck on veg and scraps of roasted garlic are a delicious addition to the dressing. For this sauce I did a mix of tomato puree, paprika and chipotle chili powder for a smoky, only faintly spicy warmth.

This salad kept me going for 4 days. It makes a great meal in itself, but is also a lovely accompaniment to a wedge of quiche or on the side of a BBQ meal.

Summer Veg & Bean Salad in a Smoky Tomato Dressing
For Roasting
¼ head cauliflower
2 carrots
¼ fennel bulb
1 large onion
1 yellow pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp dried oregano

For Salad
1 x 400g can mixed beans
¼ head broccoli
2 spring onion
50g mange tout
4 tbsp sweetcorn
2 tbsp broad beans
10 basil leaves

1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
½ tsp balsamic vinegar
100ml water
1 tsp cornflour
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 220C. Have a large baking tray ready, but don’t line it with foil.
Divide the cauliflower into small florets. Peel and slice the carrots into thin batons and chop the fennel, onion and yellow pepper into squares. Place all the veg onto the baking tray.
Finely chop the garlic and sprinkle it over the veg along with the oregano, oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix everything together until all the veg is coated. Spread into a even layer.
Place in the oven for 20 minutes before giving everything a mix and roasting for a further 10-20 minutes depending on the size of your veg.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into small florets. Either blanch them in a pan of boiling water or in the microwave until they are slightly softened, but still firm and crisp. Cool under cold water, pat dry and add to a large bowl.
Slice the mange tout on a diagonal, so you get thin long strips. Thinly slice the spring onions. Add them to the bowl along with the sweetcorn and broad beans (you can pod them if you want, but mine were young and sweet so it wasn’t necessary).
Drain and rinse the beans and add them to the bowl along with the cooled roasted veg.
Shred the basil and sprinkle it over the top. Give everything a good mix together.
Your baking tray will probably have some sticky veg juices from roasting, which will form the base of the dressing. Add the tomato puree, paprika and chili powder onto the baking tray. Stir in the water and then place over the hob and heat gently, stirring constantly with a spoon or spatula. Rub the spatula over the base of the pan, scraping up any sticky bits of stuck on veg. Stir in the balsamic vinegar.
If the dressing looks a little thin, dissolve the cornflour in a little cold water and then stir into the dressing. Heat until slightly thickened.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the smokey tomato dressing from the heat and pour over the salad. Toss everything together so that it all gets coated in the dressing.
You can eat ti straight away but it tastes even better is allowed to sit in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight. This allows the veg and beans to absorb some of flavour from the dressing.
Serve as a meal or as an accompaniment to other summery food.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Crustless Lemon Tart with Mango, Basil & Elderflower

Not too long ago I bought a large net of lemons intending to make a hot baked lemon pudding cake, but then boom, we are suddenly in the middle of the hottest weather we have experienced in 6years and the idea of baking and eating a hot dessert was no longer appealing.

I still wanted to enjoy some weekend baking but it had to be quick, simple and fresh. I decided to use my lemons to make something zingy and chilled. I find citrus so refreshing in hot weather. Instantly I thought of a lemon tart, but didn’t want the hassle of having to make and bake my own gluten free pastry. Instead I decided to simply make the filling and bake these into little dishes, which I could then eat chilled. This also meant minimal preparation and amount of time the oven had to be on.

I based the recipe on one of Delia’s for a lemon tart. This called for cream which I didn’t have, so instead I used yogurt which I thinned with a little milk. This worked really well and gave the finished ‘tart’ a fresh and clean taste, rather than making it too rich and creamy.

The lemon mix only needs lightly whisking together and it’s ready. I chose to bake it in a water bath as without the pastry crust, and in individual servings, I felt it was at risk of over baking from the dry heat in the oven. This worked well and resulted in a thin firmer top with a delicious, softly set, almost crème brulee like zingy lemon filling.

To make the dessert extra special I served it with some tiny cubes of super sweet fresh mango that I first marinated in basil and homemade elderflower syrup. The basil may sound like a strange addition, but it just added another clean fresh note, without being too obviously basil. Mint would be a great substitute too. The floral mango and elderflower went perfectly with the fresh and zingy lemon.

The desserts were fresh, light and zingy. If you can image stirring lemon curd into a set custard that’s the kind of flavour and consistency you get, only slightly lighter. The perfect sweet treat to enjoy after a light dinner on a hot day.

Crustless Lemon Tart with Mango, Basil & Elderflower
80-100ml lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons
2 eggs
60g caster sugar
50ml milk
40g Greek yoghurt

To serve
½ ripe mango
2 basil leaves (or mint)
3 tsp homemade elderflower syrup (or lemon syrup or Limoncello)
Cream or Greek yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Lightly whisk together the eggs and sugar, you want them combined, but not fluffy.
Add the lemon zest and juice and stir to combine.
Mix the yoghurt and milk together and then add to the lemon mixture.
Mix until smooth and combined.
Divide the lemon mix between two pudding dishes (approx 12cm diameter) or 3 ramekins.
Place the dishes or ramekins into a deep sided baking tray. Add boiling water from the kettle carefully into the tin, so that it reaches half way up the sides of the dishes.
Place into the oven for 15-18 minutes.
They should be softly set on top and still slightly wobbly in the centre when baked.
Remove from the oven and take the dishes out of the water bath. Leave to cool for 1 hour before chilling in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Meanwhile, slice one mango cheek into thin fingers, remove the skin and cut into cubes about 5mm square.
Place into a small bowl along with 2 finely shredded basil or mint leaves.
Drizzle over 3tsp elderflower syrup and stir until evenly coated.
Chill in the fridge until required.

To serve, place a large spoonful of the marinated mango onto the chilled lemon dessert. Serve with a blob of lightly whipped cream or thick Greek yoghurt.
Eat and enjoy
Serve 2-3 depending on dish used
Note: Recipe can easily be doubled or quadrupled as required

To make your own elderflower syrup
Elderflower grows wild in huge bushy patches almost everywhere. Make sure the flowers are pure white and fragrant. If they are yellow, they are past their best.
Pick the flowers off a large bunch of elderflower and place into a saucepan with 1 pint of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave until cool.
Strain the water through a fine sieve or muslin to remove the elderflowers. Weigh the amount of water you have left and add the same quantity of caster sugar.
Stir together and bring back to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and then allow to bubble until thick and syrupy.
Transfer to clean seteralised jars that you have first heated in the oven.
Store in the fridge
Great in drinks, over ice cream or yogurt or drizzled over fresh fruit or cake

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Life, Lunch & Friends

Sorry for the long absence. The week before last I was unwell and not up to eating anything, let alone cooking. I then made one of those big life changing decisions, and foolishly made the wrong one, and went off down the wrong track. It’s been a very stressful and emotional week trying to set it right again and I dearly hope things are now back on the right path. To be honest I’d love to scrap the last few days from existence, but I have learnt things too, such as don’t make important when you have been ill and are not thinking straight!

In order to offer some support and take my mind of things one of my best friends from ‘back home’ came to Sheffield to visit me over the weekend. I haven’t seen her since Christmas, so it was lovely to see her again and do normal things like go out to lunch and catch up on her news.

As Saturday seemed to be one of the hottest days in Sheffield, we didn’t want anything too heavy or more importantly cooked for lunch and so instead decided to visit Fusion Organic Café which is located down a side street (Arundel Street) near Sheffield Hallam Uni.

This is a great little café where they make all their own salads, quiches and soups fresh on site daily. The menu is always changing to accommodate what’s in season or what they fancy making – my kind of place. We each opted for the salad bowl which was a choice of 3 of their 5 salads of the day. I went for a bigger portion of just 2 salads, the chickpea and cabbage salad which was in a light dressing and then also the smoked paprika quinoa salad which had a delicious smoky heat to it.

My friend chose the Moroccan cous cous salad, the quinoa salad and a broccoli noodle salad. We both agreed everything was delicious and very generous portions considering we got all that for £3.80 each! I’d defiantly recommend it. They always have a range of gluten free or vegan options too. It’s a little hidden, but well worth the hunt out. (They are now open Saturdays too)

As the day was so swelteringly hot we decided to cool down with a pot of frozen yoghurt from a shop on Pinstone Street called Flurt. They had a choice of 3 flavours on the day, natural, chocolate or raspberry. We both went for raspberry. Our medium tubs were £2.80 and each topping was 30p extra. They had lots of toppings to choose from but couldn’t guarantee any of them were gluten free as they were all kept in the same unit, so I had mine plain while my friend chose white chocolate and strawberries for hers.

I was slightly disappointed at the lack of flavour options, as their website lists many more. Still the raspberry flavour was very fruity and refreshing, although I found it a little icier than previous frozen yogurts I’ve tasted. I also thought they were a bit stingy with the portion size considering my pot cost £2.80 and actually turned out to be swirled around the edge of the pot and the middle was hollow. We’d wandered off into the city before I discovered this but it left me feeling a bit cheated. It was very refreshing but I’m not sure I’d buy one again. Still, I may just have been unlucky.

It was a lovely way to spend a sunny day, especially when I had the company of one of my best friends. Long may the sunny weather continue!