Crostini with Whipped Feta and Roasted Grapes

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.

The cheese, oil, yoghurt and spring onions before whipping

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.

Straight from the oven, perfect once the grapes start to look s little shriveled

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.

Feta, once it has been whipped

The roast grapes are something you might not have tried before, but their sweetness works really well with the saltiness of the feta.

Ingredients

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

1-2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Clove of garlic

For the grapes

250 Grams Red grapes

1Tbsp Oil

1 Clove of garlic (finely chopped)

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Dried thyme, or 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Black pepper

For the Feta

200 Grams Feta cheese

2 Tbsp Yoghurt

1 Tbsp Olive oil

2 Scallions/spring onions (Optional), finely sliced

Black pepper

Method

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. In a large bowl, crumble the feta, and add the other ingredients and whip with an electric whisk for 5 minutes or until creamy.
  4. When the bread is cool, spread with a layer of whipped feta, and top with the roasted grapes

Broad Beans with Mint

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.

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Add your oil, vinegar and mint to a large bowl and stir, add the beans and make sure they are well coated
  4. Season with salt and pepper if you feel it needs it

Slow Roast Cherry Tomatoes

Do you ever get a bit over zealous when shopping and have stuff hanging about the fridge that you forget about. I do this more often than I should. I recently found a tub of cherry tomatoes that I had forgotten about and were starting to go a bit soft. I decided to cook these long and slow and they tasted fantastic.

I used these as a side dish, but they would be fantastic stirred into some freshly cooked pasta, or served cold in salads or on some crusty bread with some soft cheese. These are every bit as tasty as sun-dried tomatoes. I made quite a small batch of these (because it was a small tub of tomatoes), but I’m definitely going to make bigger batches next time. These can live in your fridge for 3- 4 days in an air tight jar.

Ingredients

250 Grams Cherry tomatoes (halved)

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1/2 Tsp salt

2 Cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)

3-4 Sprigs of thyme or 1/2 Tsp dried thyme

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees
  2. Place all the ingredients on a baking sheet and mix well to ensure the tomatoes are coated in the oil. Bake for 20 minutes
  3. Reduce the heat to 140 degrees and cook for a further 30-40 minutes, until the tomatoes start to look wizened up and starting to char

Baked Feta with a Hazelnut Crust

I love super simple recipes, that don’t require dozens of ingredients or loads of time.

This is really simple and delicious and is perfect as a lunch to share or as a sharing starter. You can cut the feta into smaller pieces if you prefer to make these single serving.

The hazelnuts should be kept fairly chunky (I crushed these in a mug with the base of a rolling pin to stop them rolling all over a cutting board). I also like a light drizzle of honey at the end, as I think its a nice contrast against the saltiness of the feta, serve it with salad and some crusty bread.

Ingredients

200 Gram Feta/Greek salad cheese

40 Grams Hazlenuts

4-5 Sprigs Thyme/1/2 Tsp Dried thyme

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Honey (Optional)

Method

  1. Take the cheese out of the fridge about 30 minutes before your plan to bake it (if you forget to do this its no biggy), pat dry with kitchen paper and rub with the oil. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Coat both sides of the cheese with the crushed hazelnuts and thyme, move to an oven proof dish and bake for 20 minutes or until the hazelnuts and toasted and brown
  3. Remove from the oven and drizzle with honey (if honey isn’t your thing don’t worry it will still be delicious)

Pineapple Salsa

It’s barbeque season and although I do love meat, the side dishes can take your barbeque to a whole other level.

I first had this years ago in a restaurant with barbecued pork and I fell in love. It’s one of those Summery side dishes that goes with pretty much every thing. I use it in wraps, in salad and rice bowls and could eat a bowl of it on its own.

I use fresh pineapple in this recipe, but if you can’t find it, canned pineapple will also work. This takes 5 minutes to make, but I like to leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the acid in the pineapple to help soften the raw onion flavour which works well. You can leave the out or increase the chilli depending on your taste.

Ingredients

500 Grams Pineapple (cut into 2cm chunks)

1/2 Red pepper (cut into 2 cm chunks)

1 Red chilli pepper (seeds removed and finely sliced)

1/4 Red onion, or 2-3 scallions/spring onions (finely sliced)

2 Tbsp Coriander (mint also works well)

Juice of 1/2 Lime

Method

  1. In a bowl combine all the ingredients and stir well. Chill for 30 mins before serving.
  2. This will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days

Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry

I love a good curry, and this is a really tasty and satisfying curry that can be enjoyed by vegans and meat lovers alike.

Coconut milk adds a lovely creaminess to this and I serve with rice or flat bread, to make it even better sweet potatoes and spinach are full of flavour and vitamins. I top this with some toasted cashew nuts for some extra crunch and protein, but it will still be delicious without them.

It’s also quick enough to be a great midweek meal and is packed full of lovely spices without being hot (unless you love chillies, in which case add as many as you like).

Ingredients

500 Grams Orange sweet potatoes (cut into 3-4 cm chucks, I leave the skins but peel if you prefer)

250 Grams Spinach (you can use frozen spinach if this is what you have)

2 Onions (roughly chopped)

1 Red chilli (cut in half, and seeds removed, add more if you like a hot curry)

3 Cloves of garlic (peeled)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Ground Tumeric

1 Tsp Ground Coriander

1 Tsp Salt

Juice of 1 lime, or half a lemon

400 ml Tin of coconut milk

400 ml water

2 Tbsp Fresh coriander (chopped, optional)

2-3 Tbsp Cashew nuts (toasted, optional)

Method

  1. In a food processor, add your onions, chilli, garlic and ginger, and blitz until it makes a smooth(ish) paste
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the paste you just blitzed in the food processor, and cook for 5-10 minutes
  3. Add the spices to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes, coconut milk and water. Cook for another 10 minutes (or until the chunks of sweet potato are soft)
  4. Add the lime juice, and spinach and cover until the spinach has wilted. When the spinach has wilted check the seasoning, adding salt if needed, and sprinkle with copped coriander, cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes if you prefer a thicker curry
  5. If you’re adding cashew nuts, toast them in a dry pan for 2 minutes (it will make them even more delicious)

Beignets (New Orleans style donuts)

Mardi gras didn’t really happen this year, but this time of year reminds me of New Orleans.

I was talking to a friend last week about places we had really enjoyed visiting and the food that reminded us of them and it sparked a memory of New Orleans.

About a million years ago when I was a student I worked in a US Summer camp and went travelling afterwards. I ended up in New Orleans and everyone recommended I try a visit to Cafe du Mond in the French Quarter. Their signature dish is a little plate of 3 beignets (little oblong donuts, doused in icing sugar) and a cafe au lait. The place is an institution and recalling it had me craving them. I had my very own Marcel Proust moment eating these, it was amazing (Rememberance of Things Past, is quite a dull book but is famous for a passage about how food triggers memories)

This is probably best made at the weekend due to the amount of time you need to prove the dough, but other than that the beignets are pretty simple to make.

I used evaporated milk because I think it makes a richer dough, but ordinary milk is fine if you don’t have it.

N.B. When deep frying, cook at a medium heat. They will brown very quickly because of the sugar in the dough, the first few I made had raw dough in the middle which was disgusting. I cooked the rest at a lower heat and they were fine.

Ingredients

430 Grams Flour, I used strong bread flour, but plain flour is fine

125 ml Evaporated milk (ordinary milk is also fine)

175 ml Warm water (about skin temperature, not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast)

1/2 Tsp Dried yeast

50 Grams Sugar

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Egg (beaten)

30 Grams Butter (melted, and allowed to cool a little)

Icing sugar for dusting

Vegetable oil for frying

Method

  1. In a large bowl, add half the water, a teaspoon of sugar, and the yeast and stir, leave in a warm room (I use an airing cupboard because there are drafts) for 15 mins. The mix start to form a froth on top.
  2. Mix in the rest of the water, sugar, salt, milk and the egg and mix well
  3. Stir in half the flour, and then add the melted butter and remaining flour and mix well. The douch will be pretty sticky so transfer to a greased bowl and cover with cling film and keep in a fridge over night or at least 3 hours
  4. After dough has proved in the fridge its time to roll out. I’ve tried flouring the surface and rolling pin and found it stuck really badly. So the next batch I tried using a thin layer of oil on the surface and rolling and for me it worked better (I know some people prefer using a floured surface so work with what works for you
  5. Roll the dough in to an oblong and trim the edges. I use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 18 oblongs (you can use a knife, but I found this worked well
  6. Heat your oil, until its warm enough that a cube of bread will sizzle when you drop it in. Cook the beignets in small batches, turning after a minute or two. You really need to pay attention to these as the colour very quickly. As I said early don’t let your oil get too hot or you’ll end up with raw dough in the middle
  7. Drain the cooked beignets on kitchen paper as soon as you take them out of the oil and then sprinkle liberally with icing sugar for a proper taste of New Orelans

Cheesy Mushroom Galette

Cheesy, mushroomy deliciousness

I think we’ve established I love a galette. What’s better than a galette, a galette with my two other great loves cheese and mushrooms.

This is definately a pure filth recipe, yes it’s rich but it’s not the type of thing you’re going to make every day.

Don’t be tempted to fry too many mushrooms at once, and don’t move them about too much

When cooking for vegetarians I often feel bad that the main course can look a bit lacklustre. This looks good when you bring it to the table and tastes amazing.

Cover the top of your cheese sauce with cling film so it does not form a skin

If you are making this, it’s really important that the filling is totally cold before you assemble the galette (otherwise you’ll end up with pastry that will melt and be impossible to handle).

Add the cold cheese sauce and mushrooms to the centre of the pastry, leaving a 3-4 cm border

The good thing is that if you are making this for a special occasion you can prepare all the elements in advance and assemble the elements just before baking.

Brush the pastry with egg yolk, and sprinkle grated cheese over the mushrooms

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter

1 Egg yolk

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Tsp Cayenne pepper (optional)

Additional egg yolk to brush the galette with before baking

For the filling

500 Grams Mushrooms (sliced)

25 Grams Butter

1 Tbsp Olive oil

Salt and pepper

25 Grams Grated cheese

Cheese Sauce

25 Grams Butter

25 Grams Plain flour

250ml Milk

25 Grams Grated cheese (I used Cheddar but you can use other cheeses)

Method

  1. To make the pastry, and the flour, butter, salt, egg yolk and Cayenne to a food processor and whizz until the mix resembles breadcrumbs
  2. Gradually add some small amounts of very cold water until the mix starts to come together
  3. Turn the mix onto a floured surface and form into a ball before wrapping in cling film and chilling for at least 30 minutes
  4. For the cheese filling, melt the butter over an even heat and stir in the flour to create a soft paste
  5. Add the milk and stir continuously until the paste in combined and the sauce starts to thicken.
  6. Cook over a low heat stirring regularly for another 10 minutes until the sauce no longer tastes floury. Stir in the cheese, once it has melted remove from the heat and place a sheet of cling film on the surface to stop a skin forming
  7. In a large frying pan’ heat the oil and butter together, and half the mushrooms (if you add all the mushrooms in one go they steam not fry). One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from a chef is not to stir mushrooms too often, as it makes them release water which makes them soggy. So fry for 5 minutes each side without stirring too much, set to one side and allow to cool
  8. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface in a circle that is about 1cm thick. Transfer to a sheet of baking paper and place on a baking sheet
  9. Spread the thick cheese sauce in the centre of the pastry leaving a 3-4cm border around the edge of the pastry
  10. Place the fried mushrooms on top of the cheese sauce. Brush edges of the pastry with the remaining egg yolk and pleating the edges inward
  11. Brush the outside of the galette with egg yolk and sprinkle grated cheese over the top of the mushrooms
  12. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown

Roast Vegetable Couscous

Autumn sometimes sees a glut of great vegetables as growing season comes to end.

I love to roast these vegetables up to bring out their sweetness. Then it’s time to decide if I’m making a soup with them or a side dish like this.

If like me you like roast big batches of vegetables this can be even quicker to make as you’ll have these made already. This is really versatile, you can swap out different vegetables as they come in season.

If you’re vegan, you can enjoy this along with roasted chickpeas. I like it with griddled halloumi, or roast chicken and Greek yoghurt. It can be served hot or cold, and it’s ideal for lunch boxes.

Halloumi with roast vegetable couscous

Ingredients

200 Grams Couscous

Vegetable stock

1 Large courgette (Sliced)

100 Grams Cherry tomatoes

1 Red pepper (Sliced)

2 Tbsps Olive oil

3-4 Cloves of garlic

1 Tbsp Red wine vinegar or lemon juice

1/2 Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Dried mint, or 2 Tsps fresh mint (chopped)

50 Grams Pomegranate seeds

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Add the oil, sliced courgette and pepper to an oven proof dish, mix to make sure they are coated and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees. Include the garlic gloves (left whole with their skins on)
  2. After 20 mins remove from the oven. Stir and add the cherry tomatoes and sprinkle over the vinegar. Bake for another 15 mins (or until the edges of the peppers starts catch)
  3. In a heat proof bowl add the couscous cumin and mint. I recommend checking the instructions on the packet about how much liquid to add. (Then add the corresponding amount of vegetable stock)
  4. Once you have removed the vegetables from the oven, take the roasted garlic and squeeze out the soft centre and stir into the couscous
  5. Stir the vegetables into the couscous and serve

Goats Cheese and Beetroot Salad

I have vegetarian friends who scream at the thought of this, because it’s often the only vegetarian option available in restaurants.

I do sympathise, but done well there is a reason why some things are classics I understand that goats cheese is like kryptonite for some people, so I went with a really creamy soft cheese (that wasn’t too “goaty”), but this also works well cheeses like Gorgonzola.

Do you think you’re not keen on beetroot, I was an adult before I actually discovered that I liked it. I was put off by being made to try disgusting pickled beetroot as a child, and having horrible purple vinegar run into the other food on my plate. I’m probably over sharing my personal childhood trauma, but I know a lot of people have been put off for the same reason. When roasted, beetroot is sweet and earthy and goes really well with the soft cheese. I was lucky enough to get little beetroots in my farm box ranging in colour from gold, pink to deep purple, the range of colour is nice but they all taste the same, so give them a go.

Ingredients

150 Grams Soft goats cheese

200 Grams Roasted beetroot

200 Grams Salad leaves (I used rainbow chard, but use what you like)

25 Grams Walnut (Optional, I actually for forgot to add these, but they add some extra crunch to your salad)

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp White wine vinegar

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees, wrap your beetroot in tin foil and place on a baking try. Bake until you can stick with a knife into the beetroot and an its soft. Set to one side and allow to cool, remove the skin with a knife, and cut into bite size pieces
  2. Spread your washed salad leaves across a platter, top with the beetroot
  3. Scoop teaspoon sized dollops of the cheese across the platter and sprinkle with walnuts if you are using them
  4. Mix the oil and vinegar together and drizzle over the salad and serve immediately