I love dishes made with ingredients I usually have in my kitchen. No part of this recipe is difficult, just break it into 3 steps, bread, feta and grapes.
This is a pretty fancy starter but all the elements can be made well in advance and assembled at the last minute. If you want to make delicious canapes this also works brilliantly on wafer thin slivers of sour dough bread or those tiny little croustad cups you can buy in some delicatessens It’s also great for a lunch dish.
I love whipped feta, and it can be used in salads, wraps, sandwiches or as a dip. It’s also really good with roasted vegetables or sun dried tomatoes.
The roast grapes are something you might not have tried before, but their sweetness works really well with the saltiness of the feta.
For the bread
1 Ciabatta loaf (you can use other breads like sour dough or French baguette if you prefer), cut into 1-2cm thick slices
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees. Remove the grapes from the stem and add to an oven proof dish along with the other ingredients. Swirl the grapes around to make sure they are coated with the oil, thyme and garlic. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the skins start to blister, remove from the oven and allow to cool
Place the sliced bread on a baking tray and drizzle with oil on each side. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, remove and rub each slice with a clove of garlic
In a large bowl, crumble the feta, and add the other ingredients and whip with an electric whisk for 5 minutes or until creamy.
When the bread is cool, spread with a layer of whipped feta, and top with the roasted grapes
I’m guilty of falling into food ruts, making the same thing or using the same ingredients. The great thing about Summer is that so many gorgeous vegetables like broad beans come into season.
Yes it is a bit more fiddley to shell the beans, but it’s a good job to do while chatting in the phone or even better if you have kids, little fingers are made for jobs like this.
As a kid I wasn’t a fan of broad beans. I’d only ever had them with the tough whitish green slightly bitter layer left on and boiled to within an inch of their life. Fast forward and while visiting a friend her Mum made this dish. With the outer layer removed the beans are sweet and tender. Add a mint dressing and you have a really light Summery salad. This is also great in wraps and sandwiches.
1Kg Grams Broad beans in pods
2 Tbsp Oil (I used rapeseed oil, but any neutral tasting oil will do)
1 Tbsp White wine or cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Fresh mint (finely chopped) or 1 Tbsp dried mint
Remove the broad beans from their pods, and then peel off the whitish outer coating. This will show the tender green bean inside, gently pull the two halves apart
Once you have shelled all the beans, blanche in boiling water for 1 minute and then transfer quickly to a bowl of cold water (this will help keep them bright green
Add your oil, vinegar and mint to a large bowl and stir, add the beans and make sure they are well coated
Season with salt and pepper if you feel it needs it
Do you hate washing dishes? me too. What I do love are simple one pot recipes that you can throw in the oven and forget about.
If you haven’t come across orzo before, its a type of pasta that looks like big fat grain of rice. I discovered it by accident ages ago when I wasn’t concentrating in the supermarket and thought it was rice. It’s fantastic in soups and stews because it’s smaller than other pastas, but you can treat it like normal pasta.
You can tweak this dish to suit what you have in the fridge. I used thyme and dill because I had some in my window box, but use what herbs you like. The thyme, dill and lemon gives it a really nice flavour that reminds me of Greek dishes.
1 large, or 2 small chicken thighs per person (I use ones with skins on and on the bone but boneless ones are fine too)
2 Stalks of celery
350 Grams Orzo (dry weight)
800 ml Chicken or vegetable stock
2 Lemons (juice of one lemon, and the other sliced)
2 Tbsp Herbs (I used dill and thyme)
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees, and heat an oven proof dish on your stove top before adding the chicken thighs
Seal the chicken on each side, and then remove the thighs and set to one side.
Add the vegetables (chopped into 2cm chunks) to the pan (if using skinless thighs, add a tablespoon of oil to the pan) and fry gently for 5 minutes. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed
Add the orzo, lemon juice and stock to the pan and stir well to make sure any delicious chicken brown bits from the bottom of the pan are stirred into the stock
Place the chicken back into the dish and top with the slices of lemon and herbs.
Cover the dish and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes
Life in lockdown meant most of us had pretty sucky birthdays this year. I had a big birthday in the middle of lockdown, which was c*ap. However, I’m lucky enough to have a great friend (Bronagh), who treated me to a fantastic night at Galgorm Spa and the 5 course tasting menu in their restaurant.
Galgorm is about 30 minutes from Belfast (although we took the scenic route because we got lost). Set amongst 163 acres of mature parkland with the river Maine flowing through the resort, the main hotel reception is a large characterful old house with beautiful open turf fires. The hotel has more modern additions for accommodation, self catering lodges and annexes that cater to weddings and conferences.
I have really been missed travel since Covid hit and visiting here really made me feel like I had proper holiday. The spa facilities are international standard offering a range of treatments and I had one of the best massages I have ever had. The resort has what it calls a spa village which was amazing.
When we arrived we dropped our bags which were taken to our room and all we had to do was change into our swimsuits, and then relax in the robes and flip flops that were provided. Everyone wears these at the spa (it was a but like being in a cult), but with facilities this good I’d be happy to join.
There are a range of indoor and outdoor pools, hydro jets, saunas, steam rooms and a salt cave. It was perfect to sit in the beautiful gardens enjoying a mojito and watch the waterfalls that run beside the hotel.
That evening, totally chilled out we had the fabulous tasting menu in the hotel’s River Room restaurant. The restaurant prides itself in sourcing local artisanal ingredients and grows a lot of what they use in the hotel’s own gardens.
The resort is really luxurious, and the staff who are obviously trained to within an inch of their life are warm and engaging and go out of their way to make your stay feel special. The resort is a destination in itself, but is also close to the gorgeous North Antrim coast if you want to explore . All I can say is thank you Bronagh for an amazing gift.