Category Archives: salads

One for midweek..Moroccan lamb and spinach balls with harissa tomato sauce (couscous and minty yogurt)

Sometimes my decision-making skills seem distinctly lacking. There are times when I endlessly dither over the tiniest details, instead of going with my instincts, until I drive myself (and others mad) with my inability to make up my mind. I know it’s an infuriating trait and its so stupid when I can make monumental life changing decisions, big business choices,  but can’t decide if I want meatballs for dinner or something with some Moroccan spice.

I hope for divine inspiration, umm and ah for a while, running ideas by the boy who seems impressed and so we eventually come up with Moroccan spiced meatballs. Throw in some fresh spinach (which I have in good supply now my local veg box is running again) and there. How easy was that?

A family feast ...Moroccan lamb and spinach balls, couscous and minty yogurt

A family feast …Moroccan lamb and spinach balls, couscous and minty yogurt

Moroccan lamb and spinach balls, harissa tomato sauce (couscous and yogurt with mint): recipe for up to four (although Aidan and I were very hungry after our Sunday run so ate three-quarters of them!)

For the meatballs:

500g lamb mince

100g finely chopped spinach

clove garlic finely minced

2 teaspoons ras al hanout

1 teaspoon cumin

1 egg beaten

zest of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon oil to fry

For the sauce:

small red onion finely chopped

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon harissa

150ml chicken stock

one dessertspoonful sun-dried tomato paste

salt/ pepper and a pinch of sugar if the sauce seems a bit tart (tinned tomatoes are often quite acidic)

**

Mix the lamb, spinach, spices, garlic, seasonings, lemon zest and egg in a large bowl. Use your hands to knead it all together so the spices are completely distributed. Form into bite size balls.

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Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the lamb balls and fry over a medium heat until nicely brown all over. Remove and keep to one side. Add a little more olive oil if necessary (you will probably find that enough oil remains) and turn the heat down a bit. Add the onion and garlic and sweat gently for about five to ten minutes. Add the tomatoes, harissa, tomato paste and stock and turn the heat up again. Bring to a gentle simmer and return the balls to the pan cooking gently for about 25 minutes, or until the sauce has cooked down and thickened. Check the seasoning adding salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are a bit acidic.

Serve with couscous (try Yotam Ottolenghi’s Green Couscous from his book Plenty it’s an absolute favourite…or make a variation as I did below..

Serves 4

150g couscous
160ml vegetable stock
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
sml tsp ground cumin
3 spring onions, finely sliced
30g rocket, chopped

juice of half a lemon
handful of coriander finely chopped

Place the couscous in a large shallow dish and cover with the stock. Cover the dish with cling film and leave for 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, fry the onion in olive oil on a medium heat until golden and completely soft. Add the salt and cumin, and mix well leaving to fry for a minute. Stir onion mixture into the couscous, fluffing up the grains with a fork as you go. Add the remaining ingredients mixing together well.

To finish mix a handful of finely chopped mint into a small bowl of Rachel’s low-fat natural yogurt with a pinch of sea salt.

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An end of summer Salad Niçoise…put some sun back in your lunch

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Salad Niçoise evokes visions of lazy lunches in France, holidays, sunshine, the beach……please excuse me while I drift into hazy memories of camping in the Vendee with my kids….my first visit was with Rosie (the teen) when she was 11 months old. We camped next to the beach, bought fresh bread from the boulangerie, shopped in the Super U (French supermarket chain) and the market in Ile de Noirmoutier. Even in the supermarket the produce was fresh, local and a reflection of the warm, sunny climate. I returned again when my youngest kid was exactly the same age as Rosie had been on the first trip. This time we camped in an area of woods and forest, the smell of pine and sea air heightened our appetites and although at that point money was tight (eating out every night was beyond us), we filled our baskets once again with all the amazing produce grown in the area.  I vividly remember that the campsite take-away sold home-made boeuf bourguignon, not any old take away this! The beef melted in the mouth, the sauce thick, rich and supremely tasty with all the lingering flavourings from the wine in which the beef had been marinated.

Memories aside, I don’t think I ever actually ate a Salad Niçoise while in France. Soft boiled eggs are generally not my thing (I have a strange aversion to runny egg yolks, the only thing I physically cannot eat) and I know the kids would never have chosen a dish with anchovies or olives. These days that has changed (except for the anchovy bit) and the kids will eat it and I make nicoise a fair bit for parties and buffets. With the eye-catching colour contrast of the scarlet tomatoes, green lettuce and bright yellow eggs it really stands out.

With so much fresh local produce in my veg box, a glut of cute pink bantam eggs and a craving for a pretty salad to make me think summer will never end I set about making this slightly cheaty Salad Niçoise. I used runner beans (of which there is an unending supply at the moment) and not green beans, crisp lettuce hearts, beautiful and sweet deep red tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic and lots of (hard) boiled eggs. sorry, I know they should really be soft, but as I said I have this aversion. The missing ingredients were olives (which some people include, while others don’t) and anchovies, but I improvised with a can of green olives (stuffed with anchovies) found on the shelf of my local shop. This is not the perfect choice at all; they should really be the beautiful purpley French olives, or nice juicy fat black ones but in the absence of these (you can’t have Niçoise without olives) it worked all the same.

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Locally grown lettuce, tomatoes, basil and pretty pink bantam eggs from my hens

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add olives, anchovies, blanched runner beans and a basil garlic dressing made with flaked (Halen Mon) seasalt

Recipe: Salad Niçoise (to serve 4 as a main or up to 6 as an accompanying dish)

1 or 2 heads of crisp cos or little gem lettuce

5 ripe tomatoes quartered

5 eggs boiled (to your preference, mine were hard-boiled)

250g green beans or runner beans

6-8 nice fat anchovies (preferably from a fishmonger in a pack or tin packed in salt and washed before use). Jarred anchovies in oil should be washed before adding, and are not as tasty as the former.

100g purple or black olives

Dressing:

2 good tablespoons of red wine vinegar

100ml olive oil

1 fat clove of garlic chopped finely

a small handful of fresh basil leaves finely chopped

half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard

a good pinch of Halen Mon sea salt and ground black pepper

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Simple summer salads #1…tomato, basil, chives and torn mozzarella

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I keep being asked to suggest good ideas for salads; ones that are simple, quick to make and don’t use hundreds of ingredients.

Well this salad is so simple I’m almost embarrassed to blog about it. What’s not to love about this humble tomato, basil and mozzarella combo? It ticks all the boxes for me; its quick, goes with almost anything and is a real flavour explosion with freshly picked basil leaves, chopped chives and a sharp dressing made from rapeseed oil and balsamic vinegar.

The one important thing to remember is that its only as good as the ingredients you use. Don’t skimp or think that out of season tomatoes will give the same depth of flavour. They won’t.

Use fresh British tomatoes, the first of the season, freshly picked basil leaves and good quality mozzarella. Combine with as good a quality balsamic vinegar as you can afford and the same with the rapeseed oil (I use Cotswold Gold). If you do use the best you can afford, it makes a world of difference lifting something as simple as tomatoes, basil and mozzarella to a different level. Eat on the patio, or in the garden in the sun while you can…Enjoy!

Tomato, mozzarella, basil and chives:

Serves two to three people…or 4 to 6 if you up the ingredients…

250 – 500g freshly picked tomatoes (mixed colours, cherry, heritage…all work well as long as they are UK new season)

One or two good-sized balls of buffalo mozzarella (not the hard dry stuff used for pizza)

A handful of fresh basil leaves

3 to 6 tablespoons Cotswold Gold rapeseed oil

1 to 2 tablespoons of good quality balsamic vinegar

sea salt and pepper

chopped chives

Chop the tomatoes into a bowl, tear in the mozzarella and basil leaves. Make the dressing in a jar adding all the ingredients and shaking together. Pour over the salad. Finish with some snipped chives and there it is!! salad in 5 minutes.

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Perl Las, flame roasted peppers with charred little gem (an Ethicurian delight)

Ok this is my very last post about The Ethicurean cookbook.

My mother informed me that my last post was rather harsh….I didn’t mean it like that. I was simply being my usual brutally honest self, saying out loud the things that popped into my head while I was reading the book. I have probably managed to alienate them with my comments forever, but I still like the book, want to visit the restaurant and have already latched on to recipes that are fast becoming favourites.

I’ve found that it’s the simpler ones that make the best everyday suppers. They take little time to rustle up after a busy day at work and make the perfect summer dish. What I crave is something light on a hot summers evening and we’ve had enough warm sunny weather to justify my pushing the light summery suppers!

This salad is perfect paired with a glass of cold crisp Pinot Grigio or Prosecco and is also elegant enough for a dinner party / supper club starter (I’ve made it several times I like it so much).

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To serve four people as a main, or 6 to 8 as a starter:

2 romero peppers

250g new potatoes

6 to 8 little gem lettuces (one or two per person, cut in half lengthways)

Rapeseed oil (I just invested in some Cotswold Gold, which is just the best)

Salad dressing:

100g rapeseed oil

60g cider vinegar

8g dijon mustard

Coriander flower heads (I used boarge and chive flowers to decorate as coriander flowers were not available)

crushed coriander seeds (1 teaspoon) plus a little ground coriander

Perl Las sauce:

100g Perl Las

50g Creme fraiche

sea salt and pepper

To flame grill the peppers: either cook on a barbecue, under a hot grill, or directly over the flame of a gas cooker using a pair of tongs to turn, until the skin is blackened all over. Place peppers in a sealed plastic bag for about 10 minutes. This helps the skin come away from the flesh.

When cool rub the skin from the peppers removing all the black bits, cut in half and scoop out all the seeds then either tear the peppers into pieces or chop roughly.

Cook the new potatoes in their skin in a pan of salted water. They should be just tender and offer a bit of resistance when pierced with a knife. Very fresh potatoes will cook quicker (10 minutes or so) than ones that have been in the supermarket a while (15 minutes).

Make the blue cheese dressing by putting the chopped cheese, creme fraiche and seasoning into a blender and whizzing up (or mix together in a bowl with a fork).

Heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Brush the little gems with some rapeseed oil and place in the griddle pan. Leave until some chargrill lines form and then turn. Make sure you don’t over cook them. I sprinkled some salt and pepper, crushed coriander seed and ground coriander over the little gems at this point.

Put some mixed leaf salad on to each plate with the charred little gem, scatter with potatoes and dress with the salad dressing. Add some of the flame roasted peppers and dot with the blue cheese dressing. Finish with a scatter of edible flowers and enjoy!

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Keeping it raw

I’ve never been one for food fads although I once did one of those ‘detox’ diets back in the 90’s when they were THE big thing to do. My dad and I embarked on it together; a seven-day programme of toxin free eating to purge our bodies of the impurities of modern life. In all honesty we were rubbish. On day five I found my step-father head in fridge, guiltily stuffing chunks of cheese into his mouth at half past twelve in the morning. Meanwhile I walked around ready to kill, driven crazy by the lack of nicotine entering my system.  We both cracked. Totally unable to cope without our morning shot of caffeine or hefty dose of protein during the day. We decided together that the toxins weren’t that bad after all.

It’s not that I’ve ever had a particularly unhealthy diet. I was, until I started living with my then boyfriend (now husband), a strict vegetarian. I’d even dabbled with veganism for about six months, but that was in my late teens when I wasn’t so keen on vegetables and there just wasn’t the variety of products on the market tailored to vegan living. It was only when my teen was little that I started to eat a bit of fish and occasionally chicken. Back then I shopped in the supermarket and couldn’t afford organic meat so it was easier and cheaper to eat vegetarian most of the time.

My knowledge of raw foodism (is that the correct term?) was pretty sketchy. I’d always imagined raw foodists as a strange sub-group of vegans; pale and unhealthy looking hippy types (yes I’m just going to generalise wildly here so please forgive me) eating salad for breakfast lunch and dinner. These days it seems that more and more people are choosing a raw way of life…and for the most part they look pretty damn good doing it. It’s still not totally mainstream but people like Mike Nash (buff American author of Aggressive Health), David Wolfe (curly-haired ‘rock star’ of superfood) and chef Chris Massamba from Sundia foods (opening night chef at Global Feast 2012) are doing their best to pioneer the trend and tell all about the benefits. If you think it’s just another fad diet I think you would be wrong, it’s a lifestyle (they do all look incredibly wholesome, toned and squeaky clean…which is enough to put me off and make me feel quite grubby). This lifestyle they espouse doesn’t seem to have much room for moments of stodgy cake, booze, cocktails or dare I say it, the odd cigarette but there are plenty of people following suit and lots of websites with recipes and tips on how to do it.

This week I received an invite to Raw Dave’s night of raw food.  A three course raw food dinner with talks and demonstrations. I wasn’t sure what to expect (what with my sweeping generalisations and large chuck of cynicism) but with so few food events (let alone interesting and different food events) cropping up in these parts I knew I’d kick myself if I turned it down. In any case I know the chef, Raw Dave (as he is known locally) so I was genuinely interested in what he had to say and prepare for us.

You’d be forgiven for imagining Raw Dave as a gruff feral man, part Tarzan part Neanderthal, emerging from the undergrowth after an extended forage. In contrast Dave is a gentle, laid back self-effacing guy who clearly loves food, experimenting, preparing and eating. He does have a hint of the clean and glowing about him but  along with his lovely and massively enthusiastic assistant Gill (for whom all of life is AWESOME. Favourite adjective of the night) they managed to enthuse all the guests with the same amounts of bounce and anticipation.

The totally awesome Raw Dave and Gill

The evening was hugely interactive, well planned and I learnt masses. Guests liberally fired questions across the table which Gill and Dave answered with relaxed honesty and openness. It felt like a cross between a supper club (I had that feeling of deja vu witnessing the birth of a new foodie project) and a food lecture. I’d never have guessed that this was the first time they’d run such an event. They were fun, entertaining, enlightening and interesting. I sat with Jules (from the Incredible Edible Hedgerow project) and a couple of her friends, plus Pete who is a veteran supper club guest. The conversation and debate provoked by the food, how we eat, grow, shop and what the effects of eating such a nutrient rich, unusual diet might be on our systems were definitely a highlight of the night.

Clearly there are long-term health benefits to such a diet. Dave explained his own journey. He’d always been fit but a big guy and as he approached his thirties he felt himself becoming lethargic, achey and slowly he piled on the weight. As he topped 23 stone his Mum developed hypertension and his dad had a heart attack. He found he was developing the same symptoms so decided it was time to make a change. He didn’t become a raw foodie over night (in fact Dave strongly advised against doing anything so drastic and so suddenly…as he said it’s not about putting yourself through withdrawal and feeling crap it’s about improving the diet and feeling healthy), he started by drinking green smoothies and slowly replaced unhealthy snacks with healthy ones. Over a three to four year period he became almost totally raw. In the process and without watching what he ate (raw chocolate plays a massive part in his life) his weight dropped to an astounding 12 stone. He looks healthy. He brims with energy and he no longer aches in the morning.

We started our meal with one of his famous green smoothies. A dark green high chlorophyll (which makes you feel buzzy and uplifted) concoction of 1 juiced apple, 1 juiced pear, a hand full of spinach and a stick of celery juiced, spirulina, sea algae (high in Omega 3), agave nectar.

It was more tasty than it might seem, although Dave had put plenty of Agave nectar in it to make it more palatable. The apple and pear flavours were strongly in evidence and not over powered by the celery and spinach at all. We were also treated to some raw chocolate bites to go with it. High in phenathlamine (among other things!) they offer a natural high and topped with dried fruit (I can’t remember what Dave said the dried fruit was on top, something like kumquat I think) they were very nice.

raw chocolate: coconut oil, raw cacao powder with a dried kumquat like fruit on top

One of the purported benefits of eating raw is that it boosts your energy levels. With the high nutrient content, added Omega 3 (spirulina), natural ‘good’ bacteria in algae, natural caffeine and chemicals in the raw chocolate I certainly felt quite buzzy and high after the chocolate and smoothie appetizer.

We moved on to starter; a mixed leaf, herb, flower salad with mixed seeds and Green Dragon dressing.  Leaves and flowers were harvested from the on iste permaculture garden and the dressing made from half a scotch bonnet chilli (which apparently helps to open up the cells inside us, replacing the bad stuff-toxins, with good stuff), half an onion, a handful of coriander (good for the detox of heavy metals), 7 fl oz tamari soy sauce (a wheat free variety), a couple of dropper full of flax oil (Omega 3 rich, it’s very good for reversing a deficiency but if used too much can cause an imbalance), nine fl oz apple cider vinegar (lower in ascetic acid than balsamic vinegar), good olive oil and pink Himalayan salt (the purist kind and most contaminant free apparently). These were all blitzed in a blender.

The dressing had real punch (from the chilli) but was also slightly sweet and sour. The sweet came from a drop of agave nectar (from the blue agave plant; the same thing they make tequila from…something else I learned that night).

Main course was courgette spaghetti with a marinari sauce and raw pesto. To make the courgette spaghetti Dave used a spiraliser, a Japanese gadget, that Gill demonstrated (after bouncing up and down saying “can I do it, can I, can I” )

Gill using the spiraliser (not the best picture sorry)

This was my most coveted piece of kit for the night. I have to get one of them!

Courgette spagetti with marinari sauce and raw pesto

I don’t think I was paying attention when the demonstration was going on as I didn’t make a note of the ingredients. I think we were too busy being excited by the spiraliser and passing round vegan parmesan substitute. Made by Marigold it looks a bit like fish food and has a yeasty kind of taste, but isn’t unpleasant. It comes into its own when it’s added to dishes. Dave used it in the pesto, which was very nice.

Pete’s extrodinarily long piece of courgette pasta

Although it is supposed to be summer, the sauce would have benefitted from lightly warming as it wasn’t the warmest evening, although this did not detract from the taste; perfectly flavoured and seasoned.

Dessert was raw tiffin with mint sauce. The ‘biscuit’ part (which can also be used as a cheesecake base) was a combination of walnut halves, dates and pink Himalayan salt, blitzed together in a blender until it begins to hold together.

Next coconut oil warmed in a bain marie was mixed with melted raw cacao powder and what we arrived at was, in the words of Gill

“chocolatey joy in a bowl”

Thank you Gill, that is exactly what it was. Once set they cut the tiffin into chucks and served it with a simple pureed minty sauce and a strip of strawberry fruit leather. I’m rarely defeated by dessert but this was so rich half of it made me feel like I’d over eaten!

During the evening my dinner companions and I came up with two questions. Would we be able to sleep after so much buzzy food and would we feel full at the end of the meal? I asked one more silent question of myself. What would it do to my insides? This seems a strange question to ask, but I’m not used to eating solely raw food. As Dave said, “you’re not just getting five a day, you’re getting twenty-five a day”.

Question two was answered easily. Yes we all agreed we felt full and I continued to feel full for a long time afterwards.

The first question was answered later…no I couldn’t sleep. Apparently Sean listened to me talking at him in an over elated fashion while we lay in bed. He listened for a while before he finally fell asleep. He was sure I carried on even then.

My own question was answered the following day. The over abundance of vegetable made me feel quite bloated. The following day my stomach spoke to me in gurgles. Now, without getting too grim about the details, suffice it to say I couldn’t have felt more purged if I’d had a colonic irrigation. Despite this I didn’t feel ill, I felt rather light and energetic until I started getting a headache and a craving for a really big ham roll. Sorry Dave, my toxins rule my body.

Lizzy Hawley and the girls behind the newly revamped Hendre Hall Arts Cafe and Permaculture Garden hosted the evening. It’s a fab place which is now being used as a base for lots of local craft people as well as a venue for weddings, special events and a monthly local produce market. If you would like to attend future events they are mostly advertised through Facebook or word of mouth, so its worth checking their page for news.

Thank you to lovely Lizzy, resplendent in Green taffeta, and the rest of her glamorous assistants for all their hard work and of course to Gill and Dave who were truly AWESOME!

 

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Orange, herb and wild garlic flower salad

This salad is a variation on a recipe sent to me by Lee from The Beach House Kitchen. He helped us out at supper club the other weekend and since he’d spent a time living in Spain, I thought I’d ask him to create a traditional type of salad to go with the rich meaty main course for our Spanish themed evening.

He did a bit of research and came up with this. A riot of colours and flavours it complimented the pork and bean Fabada Asturiana perfectly, the citrus, garlic and herb elements cutting through the deep earthy flavour of the stew and refreshing the palate before dessert.

Lee’s salad made with wild garlic for the first supper club

First time round we substituted wild garlic for mixed leaves as it was still running riot in our garden. On Saturday we went for early lettuce (which is just as good) as the wild garlic has just about finished and all that remains are the flowers, tiny white balls of petals which still give a big garlicky kick, but with added attractiveness.

This is a perfect spring or summer salad and now that we finally have a little bit of sun it makes an ideal healthy lunch or barbecue accompaniment.

For the first salad you will need:

Mixed salad leaves or wild garlic

As many oranges as you want (one to two per person depending on size of orange), de-segmented and juice reserved (see instructions below)

a handful of garden herbs (We used fresh marjoram, mint and flat leaf parsley) chopped roughly

1 pomegranate separated from all the bits that hold it into the skin

Bunch of spring onions chopped finely

Kalamata olives, halved, stones removed

A dessertspoonful of sesame seeds

a simple dressing made from juice of half a lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper.

For the second: We left out the sesame seeds and olives but added more orange and herbs. Our dressing was an orangey french dressing made with

85ml olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

half a teaspoon Dijon mustard

a small clove garlic crushed

half a teaspoon honey

some of the reserved orange juice

Put into a screw top jar and shake well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make both:

Lay the leaves on a large platter or serving dish.

To de-segment an orange use a sharp knife and cut off the top and the bottom. Place on a chopping board and hold firmly. Cut down each side of the orange removing the skin and as much of the pith as you can. You don’t want any skin or pith in the salad as it will make it bitter. Cut each segment from the skin that holds it in place holding it over a bowl so you catch the juice. Toss the segments over the mixed leaves.

Then simply scatter over the rest of the ingredients, only adding the sesame seeds (if using) at the last-minute before serving.

You can also add a couple of peeled and sliced avocado’s.

Our mixed lettuce and wild garlic flower variation

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An in-between salad

Ok so it’s supposed to be spring. The sun is out but it’s just not that warm yet. Part of me wants to dispense with the winter dishes as I crave fresh light summery salads, but my body stills yearns for a warming and comforting dinner. I am a creature of habit and I like a nice roast dinner in the Autumn and Winter and maybe a barbecue and salad in the spring and summer, but that is just not happening yet. Apart from a few hardy friends who have braved the chill I’m not quite ready to brave al fresco dining.

This Sunday was just such a day. The sun was shining but a chilly wind blew. I wanted to eat light, but I had all the ingredients for a roast and it was that for which I yearned. But I couldn’t go the whole hog so instead I decided to go half and half with a salad that was both spring like, but also most importantly,  hot. I used the last of the purple sprouting broccoli from the garden which I combined with early Jersey Royals, red onions and peppers. It was perfect. Served with a rare pan braised fillet of beef and mini yorkshire puddings. Best of both worlds I’d say.

Winter / Spring / in-between salad:

500g Jersey Royals

1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper deseeded and thinly sliced

half a red onion

200g purple sprouting broccoli

juice of half a lemon

four fat cloves garlic

olive oil, salt and pepper

Wash the potatoes and put in a roasting tin. Pour over a good glug of olive oil, some salt and pepper. Toss well and roast in a hot oven gas mark 7/200 degrees C.

Finely slice the onion and pepper. Wash and trim the broccoli. After 45 minutes of the potatoes roasting heat some more oil in a pan. Toss in the onion and peppers and cloves of garlic which have been lightly crushed with the blade of a knife. Fry gently until starting to soften. Add the broccoli and fry for another five minutes or so depending how thick it is. My broccoli was the last from the plant and was quite thin stalked. When they are all half-cooked take the roasted new potatoes out of the oven and throw in the vegetables. Return to the hot oven for about 6 to 10 minutes. Tip everything on to a serving plate and dress simply with some salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Trust me it ticks all the boxes.

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