Sunday Lunch

Fabulous, lazy Sunday arrived and it was time to feast! A menu of vegetarian happiness was brewing in my mind... I wanted a sweep of colour and texture to fill us up and make us smile. I was brought up in a house where less was definitely not more when it came to food. We were always allowed to help ourselves and eat as much as we cared for. This is the heart of my own table and our custom of eating. Food equals love.

The company of special friends is an inspiration. A time to eat together, share thoughts and laughter. I decided on easy going fare, bowls and platters laden with fresh ingredients to be dipped into at will. Not too much cooking aside from a vegetable tart, the table was a feast of mediterranean summer. Lentil salad, butter bean pate with pita chips, green salad with beetroot, avo and feta, a tomato and courgette tart, and to finish, the freshest madeleines with a super fruit salad. 

I adore this salad, it is fantastically simple, so tasty and only gets better with time. You can use any pulses for this really and I often make a mixed bean version. Quantities again are really up to you and adjust heat and seasoning to your taste. It does require a fair bit of olive oil so be prepared to add more if necessary. Mix all the ingredients together and make sure they are well combined. The flavour should be a good balance of acidity and earthiness. The lentils will absorb all the flavours and if made a day in advance, will taste all the more divine.

To serve four

400g lentils
half a red onion, finely diced
half a clove of garlic, finely sliced
small bunch coriander, chopped
half a red chilli, roughly chopped
olive oil
1 and a half lemons
salt and pepper

The best thing I ever learnt from my mum was the secret of keeping avos from going brown. No need to use lemon juice or boil them or slice them in a certain way, an avo will stay beautifully green in the presence of its seed. So my salads always look like this, with the queen pip sitting on her throne. I used ruby gem lettuce for extra crunch, the leaves are themselves like little spoons to scoop up all the jewels with. Sweet roasted beetroot, creamy avocado and salty feta make this salad a delight.

Sooo scrumptious this combination of butter bean pate and pita chips is! I make this bean pate regularly in place of hummus and it goes wonderfully with everything. These pita chips are my idea of bliss. They are just plain pitas spruced up by lightly coating them with melted butter, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and then getting them crispy in a hot oven.

For the bean pate, blend all the ingredients until smooth and silky. Garnish with nigella seeds and olive oil.

400g tinned butter beans
clove garlic
handful flat leafed parsley
juice of a half a lemon
few glugs olive oil
salt and black pepper

Puff pastry is an incredibly versatile canvas on which to create whatever takes your fancy. Kept cold and baked in a hot oven, it never fails. This tomato and courgette tart is easy and impressive. I love tomatoes in every conceivable manner and this makes for a lovely treat. I decided to add thinly sliced courgettes to a base of tomatoes, dotted with thyme and olive oil. Baked until golden, puffy and crisp then finished with mozzarella torn into pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.

I'm not that interested in fruit salad and it pretty much never features on our table but strangely I felt like some. This is my perfect bowl, with no apples or citrus anywhere. Banana, mango and blueberries, subtle, sweet and gorgeous with yoghurt. It also makes the perfect partner for the loveliest of madeleines.

Oh madeleines, madeleines how do I love thee! Marcel Proust wrote poetry about madeleines, he was moved by the beauty of their shape. Small shells. I have been enthralled by these handfuls of beauty and have long hunted for a fool proof recipe. I have finally found it!! The most important thing with madeleines is temperature, chilled and rested batter in a searingly hot oven is the secret to their success. Eaten a few minutes out of the oven, fresh as can be, there is nothing more heavenly. These have raspberries for hearts.

Recipe (by Fanny author of like a strawberry milk)
Makes 12-14

80g butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
pinch of salt
100g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder

Cream butter with a tablespoon of sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. In another bowl, whisk remaining sugar, eggs and salt until pale and doubled in volume. Gently fold in flour and baking powder into the egg mixture. Scoop out a third of the batter and add to the butter, mix vigorously. Transfer back to remaining batter and fold in very gently. Scrape the batter into a piping bag and chill for at least three hours.

Preheat oven to 220C for half an hour. Butter and flour a madeleine tin.
Pipe batter three quarters of the way up the prepared moulds. press a raspberry into each one. Reduce the oven to 180C and bake for 14 minutes or until the edges are golden and the bump begins to brown.
Allow to cool for a few minutes and remove from the tin.

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