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Yesterday’s prize-winning potatoes became yesterday’s dinner.  First we popped the first prize-winning, homegrown potatoes onto skewers, rubbed them in olive oil and salt and then baked them until they were beautiful and fluffy inside.

We slathered them with a mixture of cream cheese and spring onions (with a touch of sour cream to loosen it up), and piled sliced salami and grated Parmesan on top.  It was all we had left in the fridge but tasted pretty good.

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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.

Tonight we tried one of Hugh’s latest recipes – his version of pot noodle with spicy chorizo, spring onions and fennel seeds. 

It’s really simple.  In a bowl you pop dried egg noodles, chopped chorizo, sliced spring onions and crushed fennel seeds.  To make this less pot noodle lunchtime snack and more dinner for two, I lightly fried the chorizo and crushed fennel seeds, and half the spring onions.  Just to soften them a little.

The recipe then tells you to pour enough boiling water over the noodles, and stir in tomato passata that has been well seasoned with salt and pepper.  Then you leave it for 5-6 minutes.  We did this, but found that the noodles didn’t quite cook enough and the sauce was lukewarm by the time we came to eat it.

So we transferred everything to a pan and heated it up.  I added a good-sized spoonful of sundried tomato paste which gave a depth of flavour.  Lastly we stirred through some chopped flat leaf parsley from the garden.

All in all it was a pretty tasty and good dinner with a few little tweaks – really a delicious bowl of soupy noodles, spicy with chorizo and fragrant with fennel.

Spanish style chorizo and spring onion noodles

Feeds 2

2 nests of egg noodles
60g chorizo
8 spring onions
200ml tomato passata
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp sundried tomato paste
salt and pepper
handful of parsley or basil

Chop up the chorizo and spring onions, and crush the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar.

Heat up a small frying pan and gently fry the chorizo, spring onions and fennel seeds for a few minutes.

Mix together the tomato passata, sundried tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a pan, place the egg noodles, chorizo, spring onions, fennel seeds and tomato passata.  Pour over just enough boiling water to cover.  Put over a medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce is hot and the noodles are cooked.

Stir through some chopped parsley or basil and eat.

Last week I went to the fishmongers to pick up some fish for tea.  I was thinking along the lines of simple baked fish with crushed new potatoes maybe with some softened spring onions mixed through. 

There were both gorgeous red fleshed new potatoes and spring onions at Unicorn so this has steered my thoughts.  On entering the fishmongers there in the chiller was a box of golden mushrooms.  Wild Scottish girolle mushrooms to be exact.

It was one of those moments where you know instantly that you will be eating them for tea.  So I carefully picked out enough for myself and Mr Rigg.  I also bought a piece of Grouper – never tried it before, looked like a good chunky white fish so I thought I’d give it a go.

The fish was really tasty, with quite a strong flavour.  The mushrooms pan fried in hot butter were incredibly moreish.  And the crushed potatoes with spring onions – it’s the sort of food you could eat straight from the pan (and do when no one else is looking!).

Wild girolle mushrooms, baked fish and crushed potatoes with spring onions

Feeds 2

2 pieces of Grouper (or other white fish)
150g wild girolle mushrooms
New potatoes for 2
2 cloves of garlic
4 spring onions
Lots of butter
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to about 180°C.

Rub the fish in olive oil, place on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.  Cook in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until done.

Whilst the fish is cooking, boil the new potatoes in plenty of salted water.

Clean the mushrooms (I used a pastry brush to remove any grit) and tear up any large ones.  In a frying pan heat a generous knob of butter with a splash of olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and fry on a high heat until golden.

Finely chop the garlic and slice the spring onions.

Drain the potatoes.  Put the empty potato pan back on the heat and add some butter.  Add the garlic and spring onions to the butter and cook until softened – don’t let them burn!

Once they spring onions have softened, return the potatoes to the pan and crush them up with the back of a wooden spoon –  you’re not aiming for mash potato, but crushing the potatoes allows all the lovely butter and seasonings to work their way into the hot potato flesh.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

And you’re done – just simply put it all on a plate and eat! 

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.

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

noodles

Last night N and I tried out a fellow bloggers recipe for dinner.  I am an avid follower of The Pioneer Woman, especially her cookery section, and loved the simplicity of her Simple Sesame Noodles and knew I would try it out. 

Although – as normal – I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter, I did use almost all of the ingredients she suggested for the sesame dressing, just not measured carefully.  She uses a lovely combination of soy sauce, sugar, minced garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and a hit of chilli. 

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You simply whisk all the dressing ingredients together – we didn’t have chilli oil so I substituted some dried chilli flakes and a dash of Tabasco.  Cook the noodles – we used Japanese soba noodles.  Mix in the dressing.  And add some sliced spring onions.

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We also included our own addition of some teriyaki mushrooms – a mixture chopped oyster and chestnut mushrooms, fried with a little teriyaki and soy sauce added towards the end, then turn up the heat so the mushrooms go golden and slightly caramelised at the edges.

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Simply scrummy.  For the full recipe and directions go here.  And for other delicious dishes from Ree head over to The Pioneer Woman.

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten the follow-up parts to our Italy holiday, more on that coming soon!

lovage

After a long week with the little sister (who’s been staying with us while on work experience) things are finally getting back to normal in our house.  The weather is surprisingly mild and you might even describe it as sunny! 

N and I spent the day in the garden doing a number of jobs.  N has been re-filling, re-sanding and re-painting our ‘new’ old front door which has been a nightmare (it’s a long story…) – this is what it will look like one day (but not left white – we’re going to paint it a lovely dark sea blue)…

frontdoor

I tidied my vegetable beds a bit and started to sand my new desk top which has been fashioned out of an old ledge-and-brace door. 

I have been trimming the raspberry canes, cutting down sprawling mint (which is all over my garden), and digging up the remaining carrots and spring onions.  Just look at those carrots – slightly overgrown and unloved…

carrots

And these are the Paris Silverskin onions I planted back in the spring, that have been utterly neglected with our manic summer – I’m going to try using them as normal onions, or perhaps in a salad, we’ll just have to see if they taste of anything…

springonions

The bunnies were both out and about today.  Borage was in the run and Lovage had free reign of the garden…he was discovered in one of the raised beds amongst the carrots.  Rather than munching on the carrot tops from those that I had dug up, he was sampling those on the small carrots that are still growing – grr!

naughtylovage

And here is Lovage flying through the air as he leaps across a hedge of garden cuttings and a tangle of nasturiums!

flyingbunny

This is Lovage’s new den…

lovagesden

Back tomorrow with a recipe – not sure which one yet!

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A beautifully delicate and fragrant dish for a Friday night.  Last night we made this yummy fish dish, which is so so quick and so so easy.  I realised it would be a great meal to make for friends, as it doesn’t involve slaving away for hours and doesn’t require you to spend time when your guests are with you beavering away in the kitchen.

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The mint and spring onions for the dressing came from our garden, and the mackerel from Out of the Blue fishmongers in Chorlton.

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Grilled mackerel with a lemon and mint dressing

Feeds 2 hungry people

4 mackerel fillets (ask your fishmonger to fillet two whole mackerel for you)
4 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 tbsp capers (drained and rinsed if salted)
small clove of garlic
handful of mint
1 lemon (zest and juice from half)
Lots of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Turn your grill on high.  Cover a baking tray or grill pan with foil and pop on the mackerel fillets skin-side up.  Season with salt and pepper and bung under the grill for about 3 minutes on each side.

Whilst the mackerel is cooking, prepare your dressing.  Bung into a food processor the spring onions, capers, garlic, mint, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Blitz until finely chopped.  Taste and season with little salt.  Pour in enough extra virgin olive oil to make it a thick dressing consistency and stir well.

Serve the grilled mackerel drizzled with the lemon and mint dressing, and a pile of buttery crushed potatoes.

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The weather in the UK is positively balmy, and what we really want to eat lots of is salad.  Most other food just seems too much in this heat.  So here is a healthy but most importantly delicious salad, with tomatoes, beans and new potatoes and a zingy citrus and chilli dressing.

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Zingy tomato and bean salad

Feeds 2-4 people

1 x tin haricot beans, drained and rinsed
200g new potatoes
200g cherry tomatoes
2 spring onions
Bunch of flat leaf parsley
1/2 red chilli
A couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper

Cook the new potatoes, drain and cut into chunks.  While the potatoes are cooking, slice up the cherry tomatoes and spring onions.

Mix the potatoes, beans and tomatoes together in a serving bowl.

Roughly chop the parsley and pop into a separate bowl.  Finely chop the chilli and add it to the parsley.  Tip in the sliced spring onions, olive oil, zest and juice of the lemon.  Give it a good mix and add a bit more oil if you want it a bit runnier.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes, beans and tomatoes and mix well.  The potatoes gently start to melt and the dressing will seep into them and the beans and this is just scrumptious.

Eat on its own, or with some grilled chicken or fish. 

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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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