Snacks and Starters

Watermelon, Feta and Olive Salad with Mint

A wonderful refreshing but satisfying salad that beautifully marries the earthiness of feta and olives with the bursting sunshine, juiciness and freshness of watermelon. A perfect light lunch or starter, the addition of aromatic, fresh mint just finishes it off. Very yummy and dare I say it, quite healthy too!!!!

What you need…

½ small watermelon, peeled deseeded and chunked

½ cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways, deseeded and sliced

200g feta cheese, chunked

90g pitted black olives

A small handful mint, chopped

for the dressing

4 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

First, tip the dressing ingredients into a screw top jar, pop on the lid and shake like mad.

Tip all the salad ingredients, except the feta, into a pretty salad bowl, pour in the dressing and thoroughly mix together. Gently stir in the feta – too energetic an approach and the feta will crumble. Job done! Serve and enjoy this very moreish, rather gorgeous salad!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Ridiculously!

Oriental Noodle Salad with Crayfish

Light, fresh and tangy, this is a wonderful salad that will now be gracing our table regularly, so lovely it is! The fabulous combined flavours of ginger, chilli, fish sauce and lime together with coriander and mint is just sublime; and the addition of crayfish just makes it that little bit extra special – simply yummy!

Serves 4 -6 (as a side or light lunch)

What you need…

200g rice vermicelli noodles

½ cucumber, cut in half horizontally and seeds scraped out and sliced

200g crayfish tails, cooked and peeled (more if you’re feeling exuberant)

1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced finely

150g bean sprouts

6 spring onions, sliced finely

1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and sliced finely

A large handful of coriander, chopped

A small handful of mint, chopped

3cm knob of ginger, peeled and grated finely

2 garlic cloves, chopped

for the dressing

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons dark brown soft sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

What to do…

First, bring a pan of water to the boil. Take it off the heat and pop the noodles in for 5 minutes. Drain. Refresh under cold running water. Drain again. Use clean scissors to snip into short lengths. Allow to cool completely. Job done.

Whilst that’s going on, prep the rest.

Into a screw top jar, tip all of the dressing ingredients, pop on the lid and shake like mad.

Into your salad bowl, tip everything else, including the noodles. Toss together, pour over the dressing. Toss again. Serve and enjoy with a crisp glass of white wine. The salad works particularly well with barbecued meats or roasted fish (salmon in this case). Absolutely fabulous!

Tips…

Really fresh ingredients are key to the gorgeousness of this salad.

If you don’t fancy crayfish or can’t find any at a viable price, swap them for prawns, sliced beef or shredded chicken.

Inspired by…

Firstly, friends and neighbours, Cyn and Suzy, the first of whom did her own fabulous version (but has no recipe, just raw cooking talent) and the second of whom kindly pointed me in the direction of the lovely Mary Berry!

How easy…

Just a chopping and assembly joy really.

Light and fluffy Individual Cheese Soufflés

I have skirted around making soufflés until recently but had achieved success making sweet ones. For savoury ones though, this was a first and made with extra tips from James (Martin), they are absolutely heavenly! Unbelievably light and fluffy, gorgeously tangy and flavoursome, these lovely little soufflés are an absolute delight to make and to indulge in – so light and tasty, they’re gone in a flash. An ideal dinner starter or light lunch, served with a fresh green salad.

Serves 4 – 6, depending on the size of your ramekin dishes

What you need…

4 – 6 ramekin dishes, liberally and thoroughly buttered (this is key to helping the soufflés rise)

1 x deep-sided roasting dish

25g fresh Parmesan, finely grated

25g unsalted butter

25g plain flour

300ml semi-skimmed milk

75g mature Cheddar cheese, grated

75g Gruyère cheese, grated

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Sea salt and black pepper

4 happy eggs, separated

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180˚c / 350˚f / Gas 4.

Divide the Parmesan between the ramekins and roll around the insides to coat the sides then tip out any excess and set aside to add to the sauce later.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over a moderate heat. Tip in the flour and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring the whole time, until a light golden brown. Gradually add the milk, again stirring the whole time until you have a thick, smooth sauce (I start off with a wooden spoon and then, when the sauce becomes looser, switch to a balloon whisk). Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a clean bowl use an electric handheld whisk to beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Set aside.

Back to your saucepan: stir in the Cheddar, Gruyère and remaining Parmesan together with the Dijon; then remove from the heat and season to taste. Use your balloon whisk to beat in the egg yolks.

Fill your kettle up with water and switch on to boil.

Back to the soufflé mixture: add half the egg whites to the cheese mixture and use the balloon whisk again to beat thoroughly to combine. Then, continue to use the whisk, but gently, to fold in the remaining egg whites, keeping in as much air as possible.

Pour the mixture into your prepared ramekin dishes, then smooth the top of the mixture with a palette knife, flattening it all the way across (I forgot to do this bit which is why they look the way they do!)

Put the ramekins into your roasting dish and half fill the dish up with just-boiled kettle water. Place in your oven for 8 – 10 minutes until risen, golden and wonderfully wobbly.

Serve immediately, diving your spoon into this delicious, tangy cloud of a dish – yummy!

Inspired by…

James Martin

How easy…

Really easy, quite quick and pretty foolproof, I’d say! The trickiest bit is photographing them before they start to deflate!!!!

 

 

 

Chilled Cucumber and Crayfish Soup

Delicate and delightfully refreshing, this velvety chilled soup is perfect for a summer lunch with friends. The light, subtle flavour of the cucumber is uplifted with lemon and chilli oils and the added luxury of crayfish tails makes this little number a surprisingly lovely addition to a sunshiny day! It can also be cooked a day in advance of eating – perfect for summertime relaxation with friends and a bottle of crisp white!

What you need…

2 x screw top jars with lids

500g hot water from the kettle

1 vegetable stockpot (I use Knorr)

4 tablespoons olive oil

Squeeze of lemon juice

1 teaspoon dried, crushed chillis

100g unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cucumbers, halved, deseeded and finely diced

1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped plus extra to garnish

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

400ml full-fat natural, creamy yogurt

Sea salt and black pepper

240g crayfish tails (yum!)

What to do…

First make a vegetable stock by using a balloon whisk to help dissolve the stockpot into the hot water from the kettle. Set aside.

Next, into one jar pour 2 tablespoons olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Pop on the lid, shake like mad and set aside. Likewise, with the second jar, pour in two tablespoons of olive oil and tip in the chillis. Pop on the lid, shake and set aside.

To the main event: melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat, tip in the onion and garlic and cook gently for 6-8 minutes or until softened but not brown. Tip in the cucumber and again cook gently for another 5 minutes – the aroma is quite delightful!

Pour in the stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes. Transfer to your blender, tip in the herbs and whizz until smooth. Set aside to cool completely and then gently stir in the yogurt. Season, taste and season again if necessary. Chill for anything between 2 hours and overnight.

When ready to serve, ladle the chilled soup into bowls, scatter in the crayfish tails, drizzle over the lemon and chilli-infused oils and garnish with a few sprigs of dill. Delightful!

Inspired by…

Waitrose.com

How easy…

Extremely and the fact that you can make it ahead is even better!

 

 

 

 

Spicy Lebanese-Inspired Lamb Pasties

The contents of these wonderfully light, soooooo tasty pasties was supposed to be incased in pizza dough to create calzone but I didn’t fancy that; instead opting for ready-made short-crust pastry. The end result was even better than I had anticipated and a bit of a hit in our kitchen (Connagh had his own supply that were snaffled through alarmingly quickly).

The delicious, sweet lamb is gently spiced with the wonderful combination that is cumin, cinnamon and paprika and then nestled together with the tasty crunch of roasted pine nuts mixed with spinach and potatoes. Gorgeous when they come straight out of the oven but equally lovely cold (as Connagh will attest) so ideal for picnics, al fresco lunches or just…snaffling snacks!

Makes 12 – 14

What you need…

1 x 14cm saucer

2 x baking sheets, lined with parchment paper or Bake O Glide

6 tablespoons pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, chopped finely

2 garlic cloves, chopped

400g lamb mince

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground paprika

175g spinach leaves

300g potatoes, diced and just cooked

1kg ready-made short-crust pastry

Plain flour, for dusting

1 egg, lightly beaten

What to do…

First of all, make the filling. Dry-fry the pine nuts until golden – don’t take your eyes off them – they brown really quickly. Tip out onto kitchen paper and set aside.

In the same frying pan, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Stir in the spices and sauté for a further 10 minutes.

Add the spinach and cook until just wilted. Stir in the pine nuts and cooked potato. Season well. Set aside to cool. (You could do this several hours in advance or even the day before, keeping the cooled mixture in the fridge).

When you’re ready to assemble your pasties, preheat your oven to 200˚c / 400˚f / gas 6.

Dust your work surface with plain flour and roll the pastry out to about 5mm thick. Use the saucer to create 12- 14 pastry circles, inverting it onto the pastry and cutting around it with a sharp knife.

Use a spoon to dollop some mixture onto one half of each circle. Brush the edges of the pastry with water and then bring them together, crimping to ensure a good seal. Brush each pasty with beaten egg and pop them in the oven on the baking trays to cook for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown and yummy-looking!

Allow to cool down just a little before commencing the snaffling! Enjoy – rather lovely!

Inspired by…

Ideal Home Magazine

How easy…

Ever so, especially with the ready-made pastry!

Dips and Tapenades for Drinks or a Picnic

Having friends around for drinks or a picnicky lunch? Dips are always welcome. Here we have a selection of tapenades and dips to tempt the taste buds – the juicy, sweet but piquant sun-dried tomato version and the more earthy, intense olive one both shout with flavours of the Mediterranean. Then, there’s this recipe for guacamole which combines the luscious creaminess of avocado with a fresh coriander edge and a real kick of chilli. The three were all made in advance and in less than half an hour, using a mini food processor for each one and a quick wipe out in between – simple! Hummus – a staple in our household – has already been blogged but takes just seconds to knock up. In essence, dip into a quick, easy and vast array of flavours- yummy!

What you need…

for the Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Tapenade

200g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained

A large handful of fresh basil leaves

1 garlic clove, peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil (from the jar of sun dried tomatoes if possible)

50g pine nuts

for the Olive Tapenade

100g pitted black olives, drained

100g pitted green olives, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 anchovies in oil, drained

½ garlic clove, peeled

Black pepper, to taste

for the Guacamole with Coriander

1medium tomato, quartered

1 just-ripe avocado, peeled and roughly chopped

½ fresh green chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped

½ garlic clove, peeled and chopped

A large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Zest of half a lime, finely grated

A good squeeze lime juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

What to do…

Stick all the ingredients for the sun-dried tomato tapenade into your food processor. Whizz until smooth. Decant into a serving bowl. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge until needed.

Rinse out your food processor and blade. Dry with kitchen paper. Chuck all the ingredients for the olive tapenade into your processor and whizz until smooth. Decant into a serving bowl. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge until needed.

Rinse out your food processor and blade. Tip all the ingredients for the guacamole into your processor, marvel at how lovely it is to have such a great gadget and then whizz the ingredients until the consistency is as you would like – rustically chunky, elegantly smooth or something in between! Decant into a serving bowl. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge until needed.

Serve with hummus and an assortment of breads, crackers and crudités; some cold, crisp dry white wine and most importantly a good collection of family and friends. Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

An absolute whizz!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Crab Poppadom Canapés

Quick, easy and absolutely scrumptious, these lovely little canapés – courtesy of Mary Berry – enliven the delicate, sweet flavour of the crabmeat in a light, fresh, slightly oriental dressing, perfectly topping the crunch of poppadoms. They are simply delightful and easily ‘poppable’ little canapés – perfect for our Friday night tradition of G&Ts at 6pm.

Makes 8 – 10

What you need…

100g white crabmeat, flaked finely

½ fresh red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sweet chilli dipping sauce

Squeeze of lime juice

Sea salt and black pepper

1 dessertspoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped

8 – 10 mini poppadoms

What to do…

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except the poppadoms so that they are thoroughly mixed together. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours) to allow the flavours to develop.

When you’re ready to indulge, use a teaspoon to plop some mixture into each mini poppadom, creating 8 – 10 gorgeous little canapés. Serve alongside G&Ts, fizz, or crisp white wine and enjoy the combined crunch of the poppable poppadom with the delicate, fresh and slightly oriental flavours of the filling – yum, yum!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

An absolute doddle!

 

Spiced Haddock Chowder

Real comfort food this, it’s a thick, chunky and really flavoursome soup – an ideal lunch or supper that will surely brighten even the coldest and most miserable winter’s day – also dead easy to make!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 haddock fillets

568ml (1 pint) milk

4 bay leaves

10 peppercorns

25g butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, roughly chopped

½ swede, roughly chopped

1 large potato, peeled and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon plain flour

2 tablespoons flatleaf parsley, chopped

What to do…

Cut the haddock fillets in half and pop them into a saucepan with the milk, bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to the boil and then pop the lid on, removing from the heat and leaving the flavours to infuse.

Melt the butter and then sauté the onion until just soft. Add the carrot, swede and potato together with the mustard seeds and turmeric and sauté the lot over a moderate heat, stirring the whole time, until lightly browned.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the haddock from the milk.

Scatter the flour over the vegetables cook over a moderate heat, stirring to evenly incorporate. Gradually pour in the infused milk, stirring as you go and then turn up the heat to create a thick sauce. Cook the vegetables in this sauce until they are soft (15 minutes or so).

Break up the haddock into bite-sized chunks and tip it into the pan to warm through.

Serve in rustic bowls (it’s that kind of a soup) with a little chopped parsley to garnish. Enjoy this soup that has the same warming effect as snuggling up in a warm blanket but with the added zing of a little spiciness.

Inspired by…

Nigel Slater

How easy…

A very easy-going, relaxed recipe, rather like the man himself

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

Baby, it’s cold outside but this soup is a real winter warmer! It’s also simplicity itself and is absolutely lovely, exuding the deep, rich flavours of the Stilton which are beautifully foiled by the broccoli – simply lovely and ridiculously simple to make. If you’ve got any leftover Stilton, this is definitely the way to go. I’m going to make sure that we regularly have some leftover Stilton!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

1 onion, chopped finely

2 sticks celery, sliced

1 leek, sliced

2 medium potatoes, diced

1 knob butter

1 litre boiling water from the kettle

2 x chicken stockpots (I use Knorr)

1 head broccoli, roughly chopped

140g Stilton, roughly chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Heat the rapeseed oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the celery, leek, potato and a knob of butter; stir everything together until the butter has melted. Pop on the lid and let the lot sweat for 5 minutes.

In a jug, use a balloon whisk to dissolve the chicken stock pots into the boiling water to create a litre of chicken stock.

Remove the vegetable saucepan lid and pour in the stock and any tough, chunky bits of broccoli stalk. Cook for 10 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.

Add in the rest of the broccoli and cook for another 5 minutes. Tip your soup into a blender and whizz until smooth. Return the soup to your saucepan and add the Stilton, stirring it gently over a low heat until the cheese has melted. Taste, season, taste again and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Divide between 4 bowls and enjoy this wonderful winter warmer treat of a soup! (Or share between two of you and freeze the rest for another day)

Inspired by…

BBC Good Food

How easy…

Dead easy! I carried on unpacking shopping and sorting out admin whilst it cooked itself!

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