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Mezze Birthday Banquet

Earlier in January was my mommy’s birthday.  N and I packed our car and headed down for the weekend to celebrate her birthday with her and my family. 

While my dad took her off to London for the day the little sister and me got to work preparing a delicious birthday banquet for dinner.  For the main course we decided to do a selection of mezze style dishes with some middle eastern flavours.

There was a crushed carrot and goat’s cheese salad (similar to this one) but prepared everso slightly differently. 

Crushed Cumin Carrots

Toss a bunch of washed carrots that have been cut into lengths in some olive oil and bung in a pre-heated oven at 180°C – roast for about 40-50 minutes until soft and golden.

Allow them to cool slightly then mash.  Stir through a couple of teaspoons of ground cumin and season lightly.  Spread the crushed carrots over a plate, crumble over some goat’s cheese, and sprinkle with finely sliced mint.

Taken and slightly adapted from the Riverford Farm Cook Book by Guy Watson & Jane Baxter – one of my favourite recipe books especially for lovely veggie dishes.

An earthy roasted beetroot, red onion, lentil and feta salad

Beetroot and Onion Salad

In a bowl mix 2 tbsp soft brown sugar and 2 tbsp red wine vinegar.  Add to this 1 medium red onion that has been finely sliced.  Leave the onion to ‘pickle’ in the vinegar mixture for about an hour.

Roast about 500g beetroot that have been scrubbed and trimmed in 5mm of water covered in foil at 200°C for about 45 minutes or until tender.

Cook the Puy lentils and allow to cool until just warm:  Place 100g Puy lentils in a pan with 2 peeled garlic cloves and add enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, turn turn and simmer for about 30 minutes until tender – top up the water if necessary.  Drain.

In a bowl mix together the lentils, onion mixture and any remaining liquid, and season with salt and pepper.  Peel the beetroot, cut into wedges and mix into the lentils.  Stir through some chopped mint and crumble over some feta cheese.

Another delicious recipe from the Riverford Farm Cook Book by Guy Watson & Jane Baxter.

A coriander and mint hummous (inspired by A Year in My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell). 

Coriander and Mint Hummous

I wanted to try a different take on hummous, so used Sky Gyngell’s recipe for chickpea purée to inspire me.  I can’t remember the exact amounts of ingredients as it was ‘taste and see’.  Into a blender tip a can of drained chickpeas, 2 garlic cloves, some fresh red chilli (seeds removed), a good bunch of coriander and another of mint, lemon juice (add more to taste), a tablespoon or two of Greek yoghurt, a sprinkle of ground cumin and coriander, salt and pepper, and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Blend it all up into a rough purée.  Keep tasting and adjusting the flavours until it’s how you like.  I made it quite lemony, much to the horror of the little sister, but I promised her by dinner time the flavours would mellow and she would love it – they did and she loved it.

A platter of pan-fried ‘hint of spice’ chicken. 

Take some chicken thighs on the bone.  Place in a dish with a squeeze of lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt and pepper.  Mix the chicken thighs in the flavours well and pop in the fridge for an hour or so.  When you’re ready to eat, pan-fry the chicken until cooked through.

Moroccan Olives

And a bowl of mixed olives – some with Moroccan flavoured and the others were called ‘Mojito Olives’ – spiked with lime and mint.

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The second in my series of simple summer salads, a delicious plate of young beetroot with a delicate tasting goat’s cheese crumbled over the top.  For dishes with so few ingredients it’s essential to choose high quality produce with fantastic flavour.

These smallish beetroot are around in my local grocers and farm shops, and are about the size of plums.  The goat’s cheese I used, and would recommend if you can get hold of it is called Picandou and is from the Périgord region of France.  It is a fresh soft goat’s cheese with a smooth creamy texture.  I bought mine from the Barbakan in Manchester.

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I have made this salad twice in the past couple of weeks.  The first time, when the photos were taken, I accompanied the beetroot and goat’s cheese with some roasted Cheshire new potatoes (I parboiled these first, and tossed them in olive oil and a little salt and pepper before roasting) and some salad leaves – this served as our evening meal.  The second time, when my parents visited me for the day, I served the beetroot and goat’s cheese on it’s own, with only a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of marjoram leaves from the garden – this accompanied a smoked trout and dill tart that I’d made (more on that another day).

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So the recipe is as follows…

Beetroot and goat’s cheese salad

Serves 4 as part of a meal

approx. 8 medium beetroot (use two per person)
3-4 small Picandou goat’s cheese (or if using other goat’s cheese, about a tablespoon per person)
extra virgin olive oil
marjoram or thyme leaves (or whatever you fancy from the garden)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. 

Remove the tops from the beetroot – leave about an inch of stalk and don’t cut of the rooty ‘tail’ – otherwise the beetroot will bleed.  Scrub well in water. 

Take a roasting dish, fill it with about 5mm water then place the beetroot into the dish.  Cover with foil and pop in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until the beetroot is tender.  (Don’t be tempted to remove the foil…I did the first time and the beetroot dried out and didn’t look very pretty!)

This dish is best at room temperature, so let the beetroot cool.  Once cooled, remove the stalky bit and the ‘tail’ – you can also remove the skin if you want, but this is messy and if you’ve scrubbed them well I don’t see any issue with eating it.  Cut the beetroot into quarters, or more if the beetroot is larger.

Arrange the beetroot on a nice platter, and crumble the goat’s cheese over the top.  Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, a little black pepper and some marjoram leaves to finish it off.

*Also great served with rosted new potatoes and some green leaves*

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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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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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