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Foxgloves on the allotment

I’m not going to dare suggest that it’s too hot in England at the moment.  It is utterly beautiful and I’m thoroughly enjoying all the sun and warm weather we are being blessed with.  How nice is it to sit in the evenings with all the windows and doors open?

Last weekend a bit by accident we found ourselves spending the whole morning today, dog- and care-free visiting a couple of local markets.  It made me realise that we are both guilty of spending too much time doing DIY and don’t make enough time to just go out and do things together.

First we went to our local farmers market at Abbey Leys where we stocked up on local raw milk, grass-fed Welsh beef mince, real bread, and a bunch of seasonal flowers from my favourite garden gate stall.

Locally grown flowers

Next we decided to try out the Artisan Market in Knutsford – it was our first visit and it was fantastic.  It’s a huge market with lots of craft, vintage and food stalls, the weather was fab, there was a bluegrass style band playing music, and deckchairs for people to sit and listen.

Artisan Market in Knutsford

My favourite stall was a lady selling Transylvanian sweet treats called Chimney Stack Cakes.  Her particularly speciality are these chimney stack cakes which are like a spiral of cakey-doughnuty-bread with different flavourings.  She won us over with a sample of her cinnamon one and one made it into our shopping bag.

Chimney stack cakes

Transylvanian sweet treats

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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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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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This year is set to be the summer of salads, I’m sure of it.  The heat here in England is incredible at the moment, our office temperature gauge said it was 29°C!  Far too hot to be working. 

At home we are relishing salad after salad, and I am enjoying creating these light, wholesome salads to fill our bellies.  With this heat no one wants to eat much, just a few lovely salads and some grilled meat, or a bowl of simply dressed pasta with a side of green leaves.  We have had friends round for barbecues and my parents visited for a day, so I have been perfecting my salad making skills.  And when I say salad, I don’t just mean a bowl of leafy greens, I mean plates of spring vegetables, prepared with different flavourings and complimented with cheeses and herbs.

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The first of these salads that I’m going to showcase is a dish of roasted spring carrots with cumin and feta cheese.  I serve this warm or room temperature, not hot.  Like so many of my favourite recipes, this is so simple and easy to do – a real ‘no fuss’ dish.  I discovered some bunched English baby carrots at my one of my local farm shops, which were a perfect size for what I wanted – if you can’t find baby sized carrots, just take normal sized ones and cut them into slender batons.

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Trim and scrub the carrots.  Bung them in a roasting tin, drizzle with oil, add a grinding of black pepper and some salt, and finally sprinkle over a teaspoon or so of cumin.  Give them a good toss to coat with all the yumminess an pop them in a moderately hot oven.  They should only about 20-30 minutes, and are ready when they are tender.

Because I like to serve the carrots warm not hot, it means you can cook them in advance, turn the oven off and leave them to cool.  When you’re ready to serve the salad, take a pretty serving plate, spread out the carrots over the plate, crumble over the feta cheese, sprinkle over some fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

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If you fancy, you could always serve the carrots in a tortilla wrap or mashed up a bit and served on a crostini. 

Hope everyone else is enjoying some sunny evening meals in the garden!

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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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