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I’ve made chopped salads before and love the simplicity of the concept – chop a whole load of salad ingredients together with a splash of dressing.  Yup, that’s it.  It appeals to me when I’m working at home and want a quick but healthy sort of lunch. 

It may seem daft to sort of mush up all those lovely ingredients into one pile of finely chopped salad, but I think it actually does something to the flavour.  By chopping things together the flavours begin to mingle to create something new and wonderful.

For this green salad, I started by chopping together lettuce (a crisp crunchy lettuce like cos or baby gem work best – soft leaved lettuce will just disappear into nothing), cucumber, spring onions, and parsley (but you could use herbs and a mixture would be lovely).

Then I chopped up an avocado and mixed everything together in a bowl.  Next, I made a hollow in the salad and added my dressing ingredients – a place of mustard (I used Dijon), vinegar (I used red wine vinegar), extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Then give everything a really good mix together so that all the ingredients and flavours can start to mingle.

At this point taste it and adjust the dressing flavourings to taste.  You can also add in other bits and pieces – I crumbled in some Cheddar cheese.

Finally, I mounded it into my bowl and topped with a generous sprinkle of crumbled Cheddar.  A fantastic way to eat a lot of vegetables – in this case a lot of green ones – and a different take on the salad.

What do you put into your chopped salad?  Pieces of crispy bacon appeal to me.

This is what my vegetable patch is looking like at the moment.  All a bit overgrown and jungle-like. 

Last week Mr Rigg and I cleared out some of the raised beds – a row of flowering radish, pea plants that had finished podding, some gangly borage plants growing from the pathways, and lettuce that was beginning to go to seed. 

You can see in the back corner my raspberry bushes…from the photo they look like a huge sagging mess.  Well they are, but they are laden with huge juicy raspberries so I’m not complaing too much – not even about their suckers that are coming up everywhere!

I also had to show off a couple of pictures of my ‘loganberry arch’.  Mr Rigg’s parents have a gorgeous loganberry plant growing over a pergola – so I copied them, just on a smaller scale.  Loganberries are a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry and grow very vigorously. 

Mine is growing up over the arch from our garden into the vegetable patch.  I’m also growing a purple clematis up the otherside – you can see the first flower in the picture below – so exciting!

What could be prettier than a garden grown salad with radish flowers…

Making a ‘risotto’ with pearl barley is perhaps one of my favourite dishes.  It’s lovely in every season and has a more interesting texture than risotto.  Don’t get me wrong, I still adore risotto (Milanese or saffron risotto is my favourite) but a barley risotto is a more rustic version.

You make a barley risotto in the same way you would a normal risotto – softening some onions and maybe some garlic, stirring in the barley and adding stock.  But this is where it differs: using risotto rice you would add a ladleful of hot stock at a time, stirring all the while, but with barley you can just bung in all the stock at once and leave it to simmer away.

So this is what I did.  At this point, all you have is a pan of plain barley, softened onions and lots of stock.  It depends on what vegetables you are adding to the dish as to when you add them. 

For this one with its lettuce, pea tendrils, spring onions and peas, they are all quite delicate vegetables that don’t need a lot of cooking.  So I added most of them in towards the end – the spring onions a little before the other veg so that they soften and lose some of their pungency – soft and sweet is what I want from spring onions in a dish like this.

Once all the stock has been absorbed by the barley – try it, it should still have a chewy bite to it – it’s ready to be eaten.  I topped it with some chunks of ripe brie just for a bit of luxury.  The heat of the risotto should start to melt the cheese and it begins to ooze and slide over the peas and between the barley grains.

This is ‘my recipe’ for it, sorry that there aren’t measurements or amounts.  I use the same amount of pearl barley for two as I would for risotto – we use 3 oz per person.  So for a meal for two, using 6 oz of pearl barley, I would cover it in about 500ml of hot vegetable stock – if you find it’s all been absorbed and the barley needs a bit more cooking, simply add a little more hot water until it’s done.

Better late than never – some images and a ‘how to’ for making a delicious dinner of wilted lettuce with broad beans and a ham omelette.

You cook the spring onions in a little butter, then add halved Baby Gem Lettuces to the pan before covering with vegetable stock.

To this you add pre-cooked broad beans and freshly podded peas, a little seasoning and let it all simmer together for a few minutes. 

You can stir in a few mint leaves before serving, but basically that’s it!  The full recipe is here.

It was recommended that this was delicious eaten with ‘old fashioned English ham’ so we ate this with a ham omelette.

So following on from my weekend (last week) with my family and then the little sister, this is what we got up to when she came to stay…

We made French toast or eggy bread.  The little sister had hers with cinnamon sugar and I added some crushed (and homegrown!) raspberries to mine…

We made ‘cheats’ wraps – seed flecked tortilla wraps filled with Moroccan style hummous, sweet potato falafel and homegrown lettuce.  Sadly only the salad was homegrown…

We also had a delicious girlie lunch at Tampopo (the little sister’s favourite) – we shared Vietnamese goi cuon, she ate yaki udon noodles and I ate pad Thai.  Sadly we ate it all too quickly and there are no photos to show for these delicious dishes.

However, we also grabbed some lunch from Selfridges which I did snap a few quick photos of before we devoured it.  A selection of Indian delights and a pesto, mushroom and cheese pretzel and a mango smoothie to share…

A vegetarian breakfast for a hungry sister – a fried egg, sunny-side up with diced vegetarian sausage…

As part of her final parting dinner we did a baked Camembert eaten with crusty white bread that we picked up at the Abbey Leys farmer’s market.  Recipe for how to bake Camembert (it’s really easy) here.

We also made to-die-for cookies.  These are Hugh’s 10 minute cookies from his River Cottage Everyday recipe book, and they are everything you want from a cookie.  They are moist in places but crispy in others, chewy, sweet, and bittersweet with dark chocolate…

And finally, just before we left to pop her on a train home, we whipped up a quick quesadilla.  Two tortillas pan fried in a little oil with grated cheddar cheese and chopped cherry tomatoes sandwiched in the middle…

I miss you little sister!

As promised, and as always, a simple recipe for a delicious meal.  A salad of lettuce, peas and ham inspired by Nigel Slater

If you’re a regular reader, you will have realised by now that original recipes always get changed in our house.  Sometimes you don’t always have all the ingredients at home or it’s not sensible to go out buying them all.  Sometimes you must make do and create new recipes from substitute ingredients.  This is the joy of cooking that I love.

A yummy way to use up a lettuce glut as we have.  You can’t beat the taste of homegrown lettuce and local peas.  The homemade French dressing recipe to follow.

A salad of lettuce, peas and ham

Fresh peas straight from their pod
A couple of slices of free range ham (thicker is better here)
Baby gem lettuces
A hunk of good quality white bread
A piece of Jarsleburg cheese
Homemade French dressing

Pod your peas and place in a bowl. 

Wash and slice your baby gem lettuces – add to the peas.

Shread the ham and cut the cheese into cubes.  Add these to the peas and lettuce.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a fry pan.  Tear up the soft inners of the bread (no crusts).  Once the oil is hot, add the pieces of bread and fry until golden.

Add the crispy bread to the salad and drizzle over homemade French dressing – you can add a little cream to the standard dressing if you wish, something that Nigel’s recipe calls for.

This week is all about eating lettuce.  We have some lovely gem lettuces that I’ve grown in the garden, but they are all starting to go wild and therefore we need to eat them – and soon!

So we got out the recipe books and here’s what we came up with…

So far we’ve eaten a salad of lettuce, peas and ham; wilted lettuce with broad beans which we teamed up with a quick ham omelette; and the lettuce risotto became a barley risotto with lettuce, pea tendrils, spring onions and peas.

Recipes to follow later this week, but here’s a sneak peek…

A salad of  lettuce, peas and ham

Wilted lettuce with broad beans and a ham omelette

Barley risotto with lettuce, pea tendrils, spring onions and peas

Here’s the follow up to yesterday’s post – our really local dinner.  Our local ingredients can be substituted with local produce from where you live or from your garden or allotment.

Grilled sausages, buttered new potatoes and a homegrown salad

Feeds 2

7 Locally reared sausages (3 for girls, 4 for boys)
A bag of earth covered Cheshire new potatoes
A bowl full of homegrown salad leaves
Homegrown Rainbow radishes (or normal!)
Local peas from about 20 pods
A giant spring onion (from Unicorn)
A bunch of parsley from the garden
Goat’s butter
Extra virgin olive oil
A dash a white wine vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper

Firstly, finely slice the spring onion and add to a large bowl.  Sprinkle with a dash of white wine vinegar and salt and leave to ‘pickle’ whilst you get everything else ready.

Preheat the grill.  Grill the sausages, turning regularly, until cooked through and a sticky brown colour.

Put a pan of salted water onto boil.  Scrub the new potatoes and boil until cooked.  Drain, add a generous knob of butter to the hot pan, let it melt then slosh the potatoes around until well coated.  Season with salt.

To the spring onion, add finely sliced parsley.  Clean and top and tail the radishes, then slice and add to the onion and parsley.  Pop the peas from their pods and add to the bowl.

When the potatoes and sausages are ready, add the salad leaves to the onion, radishes and peas and toss all the ingredients together with a glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Eat!

Last night we had a simple supper of homemade trout pate spread thickly on slices of pumpernickel bread topped with a morsel of homegrown lettuce.

The recipe was inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s version in his book River Cottage Everyday.  I had planned to follow it to the letter, but it seems that I picked up soft cheese rather than crème fraîche while out shopping, so I ended up making it up and tasting it as I went along. 

We ate the pate on slices of the Barbakan’s pumpernickel bread, which was delicious – dark, sticky and chewy.  Every mouthful felt good for you.  It has been agreed we must eat more of it more often.

Here’s my version, without exact measurements – mix and taste, then amend.  Alternatively follow Hugh’s recipe.

Smoked trout pate

Feeds 2 for dinner or 4 as a starter

Approx 250-300g smoked trout (I used a combination of smoke trout and hot smoked trout)
A couple of spoonfuls of soft cheese/cream cheese
A dollop of mayonnaise
A couple of teaspoons of English mustard
Lots of lemon juice
A good grinding of black pepper
A bunch of chives, snipped
Chive flowers

In a blender add half the smoked trout, the soft cheese and mustard.  Blitz.  Add more soft cheese if it’s a bit dry and the mayonnaise.  Add a good amount of lemon juice and the ground black pepper. 

Blitz and then taste.  You want it to have a good punchy kick of mustard, but not overpowering.  And a nice fresh lemony background taste.  I added a tiny splash of water just to loosen the pate a little.

Flake the remaining smoke trout and stir into the pate – this gives a nice texture.  Also stir in the snipped chives and the chive flowers which you should pull from the head.

Eat with pumpernickel or a dark rye bread and a crisp green salad.  This would also make an excellent canapé – a tiny chunk of bread spread with pate and topped with a piece of lettuce or a sprinkling of chives and chive flowers.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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The fun and glitz of our past 24hrs in London was so nice, but for me I still don't think you can beat that coming home feeling. For me it was watching Tilly eat a plate of homemade scrambled eggs (with her hands of course!), a line of washing hanging in the kitchen, and just feeling relaxed in our own space again. On our way to the station, Tilly's first ride in a black cab, just wanted to play with all the fun looking switches :) London you were fab! Chalk board art installation. Before I die I want to... What would you add?

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