I’ve been experimenting a lot more with vegetables recently. Okay, yes, I know I have always done this, but there are actually only so many vegetables out there (and readily available). So I’ve been finding new ways to make interesting and different dishes with similar core ingredients.
Luckily I’ve been buying these core vegetables at very good markets, particularly Borough Market where they have a vast range of delicious, different and seasonal produce. Any good farmers market or local grocery store should have some different types of courgettes at this time of year. The Lebanese courgettes you’ll see in Middle Eastern shops, in particular Green Valley off Edgware Road will have them for sure! These are a little bulbous looking, and pale green.
First up I have to admit, when I made this for the photo shoot I didn’t have the Lebanese courgette at hand so I just used the two courgettes, the mixture of these three courgettes I used the first time experimenting, when I came up with the recipe. You can mix it up as you like, but it’s nice to have a couple of different types at least because they do have subtly different flavours.
The yellow is a little sweeter, and is really delicious raw and lightly cooked. The trompette courgette has a delicate slightly sweet delicious flavour.
In the salad I grilled the courgettes and used them raw. The flavours are so delicious raw it almost seems a shame to cook, but the added grill flavour and different textures brings a lot to the salad and is what helps make it interesting and different.
Asparagus is still sweet and delicious at this time of year and you can find the baby violet artichokes quite easily too. These are really easy to prepare, they’re still young so you don’t need to scope out the choke and the leaves are less tough than the larger artichokes. Just trim the tough stalk off, pull off and trim away the tough outer leaves. Quickly plunge into lemony water to stop them discolouring until you’re ready to use.
1 Yellow courgette
1 pale skin/Lebansese courgette
1 trompette courgette
4 baby violet artichokes
5 thick asparagus spears or 8 thinner
20g tarragaon, picked and chopped
20g basil, picked and chopped
20g coriander, picked and chopped
20g chervil, picked and chopped
2 lemons (including lemon for the artichoke)
1 - 1 1/2 tbsp white balsamic
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
Once your artichokes are trimmed and ready, I rub them with lemon and steam with a little water in the pan, place them standing on the leafy end, cook with the lid on. Steam for about 5 minutes, use a small knife to check they’re done, which should go in easily and feel tender.
Once done, cut into quarters and place in a bowl with a little of the white balsamic.
Snap the woody end off the asparagus and trim diagonally into 1 inch pieces. Lightly cook in a wide pan with a splash of water (*steam frying with out oil!). Cook for a minute so they’re still crunchy, and plunge into ice cold water to stop cooking, take our and drain.
With the courgettes, thinly slice half of each using one of the thinnest setting on the mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin, you can you a vegetable peeler to make strips instead of rounds. The other half of each cut into ½ cm round. Heat a grill pan until smoking hot. Grilled on both side for a minute, just so you have the charred stripes.
Place all your vegetables, herbs and spices now into a big mixing bowl and dress with a generous squeeze of lemon, a tablespoon of white balsamic and the olive oil, season and taste, adjusting any seasoning as you wish. If you’d like a little more acidity add a squeeze of lemon, the white balsamic is quite sweet so if you like’d a little more sweetness carefully drop on a little more of this.
Serve and enjoy!
*steam frying is cooking in a little oil and a little water, a low fat way of frying and sautéing
This is the recipe for the starter we had at our most recent supperclub and it’s right up my street.. I love sesame, chilli, seaweed and SQUID!!! Yummmmmm…
So although this is crispy squid with aioli, there are nice healthy wonder elements to it so as long as you’re using good quality ingredients, you can definitely feel good about eating this!
By mixing corn flour and polenta for your coating you have a super light, crunchy coat. The sesame, chili and the nori sprinkle bring a great combination of flavours. Adding some wakame & herbs into the mix makes the aioli a little lighter and the wasabi gives it a kick! The seaweed salad I’ve kept very simple, I think something simple, clean and fresh works well with the other elements of the dish here.
I’ve talked about the health benefits of seaweed in my past post and recipe on Sesame, Seaweed and Sprout salad .. You can check it out here.. http://bit.ly/1pdhTYf
But a quick recap on why it’s so good..
Seaweed is great for digestive health. Alginate, a substance in brown seaweed, has been found to strengthen gut mucus, thus protecting the gut wall. It slows down digestion, so keeping you full for longer, it helps the energy release more slowly from your food and it’s also high in fibre.
Seaweed is packed with minerals, a great source of calcium, iodine, folate and magnesium, rich in B vitamins, sprinkling a little nori or adding some wakame into your soup will boost you’re the minerals and trace elements (and flavour!) in your food no end.
Seaweed also helps detoxify the body, it acts as a tonic to the body, reducing swelling, encouraging urination, thus flushing out toxins, and it has been said to even be a hangover cure!
Chili Sesame Squid with Wakame Aioli and Nori Sprinkle
Wakame & Wasabi Aioli
1 tsp djion mustard
1 tsp cider vinegar
½- 1 tsp wasabi powder
2 clove garlic, crushed
small bunch coriander, chopped
Juice half lime
300ml – 500ml rapeseed oil
malden sea salt
Nori flakes to finish
8 g wakame, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes and squeezed out
Put the egg, mustard, vinegar, lime juice, garlic and wasabi into a food processor with a generous pinch of salt. Slowly trickle in the oil until a thick mayonnaise consistency is formed.
Taste for seasoning, add more lime or wasabi if you like.
Chop the drained wakame and mix through through the aioli.
Wakame and Radish Salad
1 tbsp mirn
1 tbsp mixed black and white toasted sesame seeds
1tbsp sesame oil
generous pinch sea salt
Thin slices of mooli for garnish.
Soak the wakame in water for 10 minutes and drain thoroughly, patting with some kitchen roll to get rid of any excess water.
In a large bowl mix through the mirin, sesame oil and add the salt to taste.
Crispy Chili Sesame Squid
25g Black and White sesame seeds
400g cleaned squid,
4tbsp corn flour
4bsp fine cornmeal
Oil for frying
Ichimi togarashi (Japanese Chili flakes)
Remove the tentacles, slice open the sqid and score the inside, slice into inch thick pieces. In a wide deep pan fill three quarters with sunflower oil over medium high heat. Test the oil is hot by dropping in a bit of cornmeal, if it sizzles straight away the oil is ready.
Pat the squid dry and shake through the flour, carefully drop in the squid, cooking in small batches for a minute until crispy and almost golden.
Using a slotted spoon remove the squid onto some kitchen paper to drain off excess oil. Dust with salt and the chilli flakes.
Arrange the element on the plate together, and sprinkle with black sesame salt, nori flakes, ichimi togarashi and serve with an extra wedge of lime.
I have actually already written a post on taramasalata, it’s a very early post and I do think the blog is looking a little brighter than when I started. I’ve tweaked the recipe as well, so I thought I’d post again because it was sooo long ago and it’s such a great dip! One of my favourites..
It’s not the obvious dip choice in England, not a firm favourite like humous, guacamole or sour cream and chive.. ahem. But I grew up eating taramasalata, with fond memories of eating the ‘real’ stuff in Greece. I love the pungent saltiness of it, no surprises there, pungent, salty, tangy.. Mmmm. With fresh warm pita and olives, it’s a winner, but on the lighter side try with crudité, or both! Pictured here I have radishes, something I’m eating a lot of at the moment, a great dipping vegetable, and super good for you too.
As part of the brassica family, along with broccoli, cabbage etc, radishes are thought play a part in slowing or stopping certain types of cancer by prompting the body to make higher levels of detoxifying enzymes and eliminating cancer causing free radicals in the body. They’re also high in vitamin C as well as phosphorus and zinc, and being high in water content, keep you hydrated too!
I also have some raw beetroot that goes really well, roasting it would also make delicious combo. I’ve been pickling vegetables too which is also great for dipping!
And so onto the recipe..
120g Smoked Cods Roe
2 large slices white bread, crusts removed
milk for soaking
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp onion powder*
pinch white pepper
¾ - 1 cup Olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons
Peel the skin off the cod’s roe and scoop out the eggs into a food processor. Soak the bread in milk and squeeze it out, add this to the food processor along with the garlic, onion powder and white pepper. With the machine running drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture loosens and becomes a thick creamy consistency squeeze in one lemon, mix this through and taste, adding more lemon juice if needed.
Chill the dip until your ready to serve. As I mentioned, taramasalata is unreal with warm fresh pita, but to keep things lighter cut some crudité, some olives and enjoy with drinks, as an appetizer or as part of a mezze selection.
*I don’t usually use onion powder but for this I didn’t want any chunks, even small ones, so this gives the flavour, keeping a nice smooth constancy.
Soo… I’m late, again. But I think I’m getting better, after a crazy busy past year I’m trying to get these blog posts back to being regular! And here, following from our last Thai-esque noodle salad we’re gearing up for Spring, and all those tasty treats that come with it..
This salad I actually made a variation of a while back and is now only just making it onto my blog with a recipe,The upside of this is that now asparagus is in season! So really, it’s almost perfect timing. :D
Here we have salty halloumi, my all time favourite cheese, the cheese I grew up on. Dusted with paprika, a trick I learned more recently and topped with a sweet and sharp, crunchy, fragrant spicy salsa, laid on top of some welcoming asparagus. Although asparagus has a delicate flavour itself, it can take on strong flavours and they compliment it so well.
This is a dish to get your senses going, a great to start a meal, as part of a larger spread, or as a treat, just for you.
The combination of all these delicious ingredients also means that you have a nutrient packed dish. Asparagus is loaded with antioxidants, containing plenty of fiber, its good for your digestion, it helps with blood sugar regulation, and is an anti inflammatory, so many factors working together to keep you healthy.
Pomegranate and grapefruit are also packed with antioxidants, and high in vitamin C boosting your immune system and helping your body heal.
I steam fried* the asparagus here, but grilling on a very hot grill would also be delicious. These are my preferred ways of cooking asparagus. You keep the flavour of the asparagus, instead of losing it in a pool of boiling water, and there’s also less risk of over cooking it.
Paprika dusted Halloumi with Pomegranate Grapefruit Salsa and Spring Asparagus
250g packet Halloumi, sliced into 1cm slices
sweet Smoked Paprika
2 tbsp avocado oil
1 bunch asparagus
Pomegranate and Grapefruit Salsa
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ small red onion, finely chopped
½ jalapeno, finely chopped
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
20g mint, finely chopped
10g Thai basil, finely chopped
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1 red grapefruit, pith removed, segmented and diced
salt and pepper to taste
Start by making the salsa. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, onion, jalapeno, honey, vinegar, olive oil, herbs, pomegranate seeds and grapefruit.
Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary.
Trim the ends off your asparagus, the ends are usually woody and stringy to eat. You can feel where they become good to eat by feeling where they snap easily.
Heat a large pan fry pan, add a 1 tbsp avocado oil, and splash of water, add the asparagus and cook until just tender, I like my asparagus with bite but you can cook it a little longer if you like. You can also grill your asparagus on a hot griddle pan.
While your asparagus is cooking, dust the halloumi pieces with the paprika. Remove the asparagus from the pan, add your remaining oil, and the halloumi and cook about a minute on each side until golden.
Plate up individual starters, splitting the asparagus and Halloumi between each plate topped with a little salsa or server in large flat dish for sharing.
Garnish with herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.
So we’re nearing spring and that tells me that it’s time to start eating some salads! This dish can be served warm or cold, but either way, it’s fresh, spicy, fragrant and is good for any time of year. It makes you feel like you’re somewhere tropical even when you’re not.
Using classic South East Asian ingredients, I came up with this salad based on all my favourite qualities a salad can have… Freshness, flavour, texture, colour, level of nutrition and of course level of satisfaction.
To make the dressing, it’s key to get the balance of salty, sour and sweet just right in Asian cooking. With soft noodles, fresh crunchy vegetables, crunchy peanuts and fried anchovies and fresh fragrant flavours coming from the herbs and lemongrass; you end up an uplifting combination of textures and flavours.
Although coriander is never going to be knocked off top spot, Thai holy basil is my herb of the moment. Thai basil has always been a bit more mysterious. One of my favourite Thai dishes has always been the stir fry basil with chilli. Seemingly simple there is always this amazing flavour that was almost unknown and you couldn’t find anywhere else. Now you can buy Thai holy basil in supermarkets!* Which doesn’t take away any of its exoticness or mystique as the flavour is like no other herb. (Although true of course of all herbs). I’ve started using it regularly and adding it to a lot more than Thai dishes; it adds a great twist to dishes. It’s become a favourite salad herb for me, as you would have seen in my last blog post on the Fragrant Herb and Seeded salad.
And then there’s lemongrass, another favourite flavour for me, and flavour wise, lemongrass of course is amazing for just that alone, but it is also extremely good for you as well!
It’s an excellent source of minerals; potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium in particular is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
Lemongrass as an analgesic has powerful pain relieving properties. It helps to alleviate muscle spasms by relaxing the muscles leading to the reduction of pain-related symptoms. It is useful for all types of pain including abdominal pain, headaches, joint pains, muscle pains, digestive tract spasms, muscle cramps, stomach ache. It also aides digestion and helps increase blood circulation and has been linked to lowered and normalised cholesterol levels.
As an antifungal and antibacterial, lemongrass inhibits bacteria and yeast growth. As an antioxidant, lemongrass contributes to liver and pancreatic health by helping the body to remove toxins from the liver, pancreas, kidneys and bladder more quickly.
On the beauty side of things, lemongrass is also helpful for skin issues, helping to brighten the skin and eyes through it ‘s vitamin A content, it’s helps keep skin clear and it’s antibacterial property is useful for skin infections and acne.
So there you go, start cooking with my lemongrass and you’ll be better off for it! You can also buy or make your own delicious lemongrass tea. A nice light floral warmer.
Lemongrass Prawn Mung Bean Noodles
4 tbsp lime juice (1-2 limes)
4 tbsp Fish Sauce
2 tbsp Coconut palm Sugar
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
3 Lemongrass, outer leaves removed and core finely chopped
1 red Birds Eye Chili, finely chopped (optional)
100g Mung Bean Noodles or brown rice noodles
2tbsp peanut oil or another good quality flavour less oil
20g dried shrimp
1 King Oyster mushroom
50g Blanched Green Beans, cut into cm diagonal pieces, or sugar snap peas raw cut into 1 cm pieces
50g Bean sprouts
1 bunch Thai Basil, picked
1 bunch Coriander, picked
50g fried whole peanuts, lightly crush
30g dried anchovy, fried
Marinade for the Prawns
1 cm turmeric, ground 1 tsp Turmeric powder
2tbsp of the dressing
12 king prawns
Firstly prepare the dressing, mix together the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar to dissolve the sugar, coconut sugar is very fine and dissolves quickly. Mix in the other ingredients.
Take 2 tbsp of the dressing and add the turmeric, mix and add your prawns coating well, set aside to marinate for half an hour.
While the prawns are marinating prepare the rest of your ingredients. When you are ready to cook the noodles you need to have everything at hand and it will take just minutes.
To blanch the beans bring a pan of salted water to the boil, there must be plenty of room for the beans. Once it’s boiling, add the beans, cooking for just a minute, they should still be bright green with crunch. Take them out of the water and place in a bowl of iced water. Remove and slice. Slice the oyster mushrooms across.
Boil a large pan of water, once boiling add the noodles and turn off, stir to stop the noodles clumping. They will take just a few minutes to cook so keep an eye on them, after 3-4 minutes check, drain and rinse under cold water. Leave to drain.
Heat a large fry pan or wok. Add the peanut oil, cook the prawns done, once done removed from the pan and set aside. Then add the dried shrimp, fry for a minute, add the mushrooms, fry for another 2 minutes and add the noodles, the dressing, green beans, beansprouts, toss until well mixed and heated through.
Remove from the pan into a large mixing bowl, add the peanuts, fried anchovy, herbs, and prawns, mix well and taste for seasoning, garnish with sliced birds eye chili if desired.
Use can use store bought roasted, salted peanuts, instead of frying your own peanuts.
Dried anchovies you’ll find in Asian supermarkets. Fry in hot flavourless oil for a few minutes, until crisp, drain on kitchen paper, these are optional to the recipe, they will add a saltiness and crunch. I warn you though, they do smell a teeny tiny bit when frying! :)