Smoked Salmon Salad

Mmmmm! I adore this salad!! It is quick, easy, packed with flavour and best of all, it's a whole lot of my favourites on one plate. It makes the most perfect summer supper, light and vibrant, with lots of protein and a peppery punch. This plate of delicious loveliness needs nothing more than a mustardy dressing and to be served with a fresh baguette.

Ingredients (use quantities to suit)

Baby leafed spinach
Half a red onion finely sliced
4 organic eggs
About a tbsp of capers, washed
Smoked salmon fillet, around 200g

Dressing (optional)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1-2 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

I have used a slightly oak smoked salmon fillet but cold pan fried or baked salmon would work a treat too. The ingredients listed are a really flexible base to work from, so adjust to suit. Aside from boiling the eggs there is nothing more to do than assemble as you wish! The only thing I would suggest is to get a bit of everything all over, so no need to toss and have to pick the best bits out. A few turns of the pepper mill adds some extra lift.

I'm really not into complicated dressings, usually olive oil and lemon do the trick, but this little mustard job is divine and can be used to dress just about anything. I prefer using smooth dijon mustard but if you want a bigger kick, a hot mustard works really well too. Put all the ingredients into a small bottle and shake until well combined, it should be thick and glossy. 

Oh so scrummy!


Benedict Tart

This tart conjures up some of my most treasured food memories as a child. My mum used to make this for us and it was a super special treat. A shortcake base laden with almonds and covered in crispy caramel, this is the most luxuriously decadent tart ever! Well, it's called a tart but once it's been cut up into squares (I prefer rectangles), this tart is transformed into biscuits of the most heavenly moreish kind. I think it's impossible for these to last in any biscuit tin for longer than a day!!!

This recipe is from 'Cooking with Myrna Rosen' by Myrna Rosen, the beloved go to cookery writer of the 80's for South Africa's Jewish women. This book was THE book! I waited many years to get the original from my mum, and when I did, this was the first thing I made! Spectacular!

Recipe (by Myrna Rosen)

175g butter
1 egg
1 tbsp oil
2 and a half cups flour
half a cup of sugar
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
apricot jam

For the filling:
200g flaked almonds
3 quarters of a cup of sugar
3 tbsp milk
145g butter

Preheat oven to 190C. Grease and flour a swiss roll tin.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and oil, beat for a little longer until combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and work carefully into a dough. Press into the prepared tin. It will seem unlikely that the mixture will fill the whole surface, you will need to push and squeeze and press till it reaches up the sides. Prick all over with a fork and bake for 10-20 minutes until lightly golden.
In the meantime, prepare the filling by placing all the ingredients into a saucepan and bringing to the boil. Then allow to simmer for a few minutes.
When the base is cooked, remove from the oven and spread with apricot jam, not too thick, just to cover. Pour over the filling, spreading it evenly with a knife. Return to the oven for a further 10-20 minutes or until it's a deep golden caramel colour. Allow to cool completely before removing it from the tin. It may seem improbable for the tart to be removed from the tin, but it can be done by prying the edges loose with a sharp knife. Cut in squares or rectangles on a board. Eat them and never ever feel guilty!


Sunday Lunch

We love Sunday Lunch! After a bit of reading and pottering around the house, lunch usually starts late and works its way well into the night. Sharing food is something we are totally in love with, whether just between the two of us or with friends. Eating lots, enjoying good wine, music, conversation and fabulous company. Lunch is a lengthy leisurely luscious affair.

Making food that isn't fussy but that rather showcases good quality produce prepared simply is really what I enjoy the most. It takes me a couple of days to construct a possible menu and then based on what I can find at the market, I take it from there. I really love cooking seasonally as this is when the produce is at its best. At this time of year; tomatoes, artichokes and blueberries are in their prime, their flavours are rich and vibrant with textures that only summer can bring. For this menu I wanted a few courses to share between four of us, I wanted it to flow, starting with lots of veg shining on their own, then onto lovely sea bass with giant oyster mushrooms and to finish, an adapted clafoutis overflowing with blueberries. Mmm mmmm mmmm!!

The first dish is one of my favourites, there is nothing I love more than showing off a truly glorious tomato and this time of year is the very best for it. I found gorgeous large heirloom tomatoes with dark green and rose coloured flesh, ideal to be  eaten when they are quite green as the texture is sublime. Tomatoes need nothing more than good bittery olive oil and salt to make them shine. Served with freshly sliced baguette.

Next up was a wonderful flower to share and add a bit of theatre to the day. Artichokes come in all varieties but my chosen love is the globe artichoke. It's large and fleshy with plenty of petals, this time of year yields giants and they are delicious! I made two to share between four of us with an anchovy, garlic and chilli dipping sauce on the side.

2 large globe artichokes

For the sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small mild chilli, finely chopped
3 anchovy fillets
1 lemon
50g butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut stem off the artichoke and remove any small leaves from around the base. Cook in plenty of boiling water for about 20 minutes or until a knife slides into the flesh of the stem with ease. Drain.
In the meantime, fry garlic and chilli in a bit of olive oil until slightly browned. Add anchovies and break down with a fork once sizzling. Stir in butter, allow to melt and then add the juice of the lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste. If anchovies really aren't your thing then you could leave them out but they are a cunning little fish and without them the flavour just isn't the same.

To eat: Peel off individual petals starting from the outside working your way in. Dip the small fleshy base of the petal into the sauce and bite it off. Discard the remaining petal. When you get to the heart, be careful to remove all the hair before eating. This can be cut out using a sharp knife.

Something to clean the palate after all that buttery lusciousness. I decided on this punchy little salad using peppery watercress, bitter chicory and crunchy radishes. The textures in this salad are fantastic and with the addition of a classic italian dressing it soars to unimaginable heights.

80g freshest watercress
2 heads chicory, halved and sliced along the length
handful of radishes, finely sliced

quarter of a clove garlic, crushed
2 anchovy fillets
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Make dressing using a pestle and mortar, making sure all ingredients are well combined. Pour over veg and gently toss together until evenly coated. Serve on small plates.

Sea bass is the king of white fish, it has a beautiful flavour and a very small flake. I think it is best pan fried and served on its own or with a single veg in order to enjoy its subtle character. I decided to use king oyster mushrooms as its partner. Sliced thickly length ways and pan fried with little seasoning, these beauties added some extra meatiness. I'm not keen on heavy creamy sauces for fish but butter with capers is perfect. 

And to the end we go! I absolutely love blueberries, they are delicious raw or cooked and the colour is incredible, staining fingers and lips as their juice oozes out. Bliss. I found this recipe the other day and I have this crazy habit, every time I have people round I always make something I've never made before! This blueberry clafoutis was the days wild card and it was divine. The best part was that I could make it  just before and after 35 minutes this puffy volcanic mass of blueberries descended onto the table. This recipe is lighter than most and the batter is incredibly thin, it is quite eggy and is almost like a giant stuffed pancake. Not too sweet and very gentle, it could benefit from adding a bit more sugar to the mix and a squeeze of lemon to serve.

Blueberry Clafoutis (by Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall)
Serves 6 (but we ate all of it)

75g plain flour
75g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, plus 1 medium white
300ml whole milk
400g blueberries
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 190C  and liberally butter a 205cm round oven proof dish.
Sift flour, salt and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre. Beat together eggs and egg white and pour into well, whisk gradually incorporating flour from the sides. Continue whisking adding the milk slowly, until you have a smooth thin batter. Its important not to over whisk as the gluten in the flour can make the dough rubbery. Spread the blueberries in the buttered dish and pour over the batter. Bake for 35 minutes until puffed up and golden brown. Leave to cool, it will sink as it does so. Dust with some icing sugar and serve with cream and a squeeze of lemon.


Quinoa and Roast Veg Salad

Oooh! This has got to be one of the most delicious salads, I'm not really sure how it developed but something along the lines of having grain and veg separately on a plate became grain and veg mixed in a bowl! Its beautifully coloured and the flavours are robust. You can change the veggies to suit your taste but I think butternut, red onions and whole garlic are a must, which should be soft and silky when it comes out of the oven. I enjoy the addition of toasted walnuts, they give it a hint of bitterness. The seasoning is very simple so you can be quite generous with it and more olive oil never hurts. It can be served warm or cold and keeps well for a few days in the fridge.

Recipe (serves 6)

1 butternut, cut into largeish pieces
1 red onion, cut into quarters along the length
Green beans, topped and tailed
5 or 6 cloves garlic, left in their skins
100g rocket
Half a cup of quinoa
Rapeseed or olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Cumin and fennel seeds
More good olive oil

Preheat oven to 200C. Place veg, cumin, fennel and walnuts into a roasting pan. Coat with a splash of oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast off for about 40-50 minutes until cooked through with plenty of colour. In the meantime, wash and cook quinoa in 3 parts water until tender and transparent (about 20 mins), allow to steam and cool in the pot with the lid on once cooked. Once veg has been removed from the oven, remove skins from the garlic and tear into smaller pieces and roughly chop the walnuts (this can be done before roasting too). Mix all together with the quinoa and season liberally, add enough olive oil to give it a glossy finish. Allow to cool and then adding the rocket mix through thoroughly again.

This salad shines on its own or is super scrummy with falafel, bean pate and toasted pita.


Pear and Almond Cake

This little cake is one of the easiest and most adaptable cakes. Soft and dense, it can be served warm or cold. The basic batter can be baked on its own or makes a perfect partner for almost any soft fruits. This recipe calls for Conference pears, try to find ones that are quite firm but not green.

Recipe (by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
Serves 6

175g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp
3 pears
2 organic eggs
75g ground almonds
75g self raising flour

Preheat oven to 170C or 375F or gas mark 3.
Grease 20cm diameter spring form cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Peel, core and cut pears into 8 segments each. Gently fry the pears in 25g of the butter and the tablespoon of sugar over a medium heat until golden and caremalized. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Put the remaining butter and sugar into a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the almonds and flour to the batter and fold in gently. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and flatten to reach the sides. Arrange the pieces of pear on top of the cake. Bake for about 45 mins or until a knife comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

I think it goes beautifully with plain yoghurt, but a bit of cream would be lovely too!