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Picnic in the Dordogne

If you’re still following along with our travels in the Dordogne – thank you!  You are very patient, but I do hope that you are enjoying it or gleaning some information if you are planning a trip there yourself.  I find personal blogs one of the best ways to find information about a new place we are travelling to, they are so much more insightful that generic tourist websites.

So, every morning that we got ready to leave our lovely little gite, we had this little friend to help…

Holiday in the Dordogne

Hehe, isn’t she sweet?

Little French dog

A leisurely morning was spent finishing up spelt sourdough bread spread with local honey, and picking up provisions from the market at Excideuil.  This was a very good market, spread out along a long street and up to a square.

Market at Excideuil

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Barbecue at the allotment

We’ve eaten quite a few dinners at the allotment over the past week, much like our anniversary meal they’ve been utterly blissful.

Before we left I made a quinoa salad with cucumber, radish and dill, which was then finished off at the allotment with grilled fennel – I’d seen the recipe here and it was delicious, very refreshing which is just what you need in this weather.

Quinoa, cucumber, radish and fennel salad

Mr Rigg grilled some sausages and chicken, and we ate simply but well.

Allotment barbecue

We drank sparkling elderflower from enamel mugs…

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I could live off meals like this at the moment: tasty, simple and stuffed full of vegetables.  This was a leftovers meal, the pan-fried summer vegetables I’d made the day before, cooking sliced onion, peppers, and courgettes in olive oil before adding a couple of chopped plum tomatoes from a tin (not the juice). 

The potatoes had also been boiled up the day previously, and these I crisped up in the frying pan – something my mom used to do a lot when I was growing up.  All popped on a plate with a dressed salad (a creamy quince and cider dressing bought from Bath Farmer’s Market) and a big dollop of herby cream cheese.

For someone who loves his meat, I love that one of Mr Rigg’s favourite meals is mushroom burgers. 

This week we decided to make a summery version, with a little mayonnaise smeared on the sliced buns, the mushrooms grilled with a garlicky butter, then filled with blobs of soft goat’s cheese and a sprinkling of chives.  Finally they were topped with a handful of salad, including tiny nasturtium leaves.

One day I hope to make this meal again, with everything but the sausages grown in my garden or on our allotment.  I do believe that the best food is made with what’s available seasonally and from an idea of what it is you want to eat.

What started as a simple meal (and possibly one of our favourites), of grilled sausages, new potatoes and salad, turned into something a bit more interesting.  The sausages came from the fab new Kenyon Hall Farm Shop, the new potatoes were boiled and violently shaken with salty butter and lots of mint from the garden.

But it was the salad that became something far better, using up odds and ends from the garden and the fridge.  To a bowl I finely sliced spring onions, added a splash of white wine vinegar and some salt – I like to do this to take the edge off the onions.  Otherwise I find that all you can taste is onion.

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Last week we had incredible fish and chips from a place in Didsbury called Frankie’s Fish Bar, but it left me feeling guilty that all I’d eaten for dinner was deep-fried fish and potatoes. 

So I was determined the following night to fill us full of vegetables, and this is what I came up with…

All the vegetables were English, although not grown by me.  There were new potatoes, boiled and tossed in lots of salty butter and black better.  Pink and white radishes sliced in half, asparagus spears and baby carrots blanched and sliced.

Broad beans and fresh peas shelled and briefly cooked in simmering water.  Lots of seasonal salad leaves, crispy bacon shards, and those gorgeous nasturtium flowers (bought from Waitrose, so delighted they’re selling edible flowers).

Not a lot of complicated stuff, just a lot of shelling broad beans and slicing.  But really delicious – I want to eat more of this sort of food over the summer.

Last weekend we celebrated the fine weather with our first barbeque of the season (hopefully not the last!).  We had tiny buffalo koftas from Laverstoke Park Farm, asparagus, new potatoes baked in the embers, and homemade flatbreads.

This was a new adventure for us – attempting to make our own flatbreads - and I was desperately worried they would go all crispy, and not soft and doughy like I was hoping.  If there was anyone I was going to put my trust in, it was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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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.

Christmas Eve lunch – a simple winter salad of warm potatoes, crispy bacon, chopped celery leaves and a dressing of mustard, cider vinegar and shallots. 

This was my first attempt at this delicious sounding salad from Rose Prince’s The New English Table – I tried to follow the amounts for the dressing, but it wasn’t quite how I wanted it, so I just tweaked the ingredients until I was happy. 

Winter potato, bacon and celery leaf salad

Feeds 4

20 new potatoes
6 rashers of streaky bacon
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
175ml olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp water
Handful of celery leaves
2 shallots
Salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water until done.  Drain and cut in half or quarters.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crispy.

Mix together the sugar, mustard, olive oil and water – I like to use a jam jar as you can screw on the lid and shake it.  Add the shallots, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pop the cooked potatoes into a bowl.  Tear up (or cut up) the crispy bacon and add to the potatoes.  Drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle over chopped celery leaves.  Stir everything together.

I’m set on making this meal one of my winter staples.  It was so delicious, and not difficult at all to make. 

Somewhere between mushrooms in a cream and wine sauce and a Stroganoff, this is a vegetarian meal full of flavour – I could have quite happily eaten it straight from the pan.

The mushrooms
Clean and cook the mushrooms in a knob of butter – I used a mixture of tiny button mushrooms (from the market) kept whole, and sliced white and chestnut mushrooms.  Cook them until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender and starting to go golden.  Season with salt and pepper.

The cream and wine sauce
In a separate pan, melt another knob of butter and soften a finely chopped small onion.  Add about 200ml dry white wine to the pan and let it bubble until it’s reduced by about half.  Then add in about 150ml double cream and stir until the mixture begins to thicken. 

Creating the creamy mushrooms
At this point, simply add the cooked mushrooms to the cream sauce and stir in.  I added a glug of milk to loosen my sauce up a bit and give us more of it.  Once the milk was added, I just allowed it to heat through a thicken a little.  Finally, taste and season, and stir through some chopped parsley if you want.

What to eat it with
We ate our creamy mushrooms with a pile of steaming rice and a crisp seasonal leaf salad, but it would also be delicious on toast.  We also added a naughty sprinkling of grated Raclette cheese – not essentially but delicious.

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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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