Baked Feta Salad

After watching a bit of American Gods on Prime and now the Sandman on Netflix I’m wondering if all Neil Gaiman books are pretty similar – both shows have several Gods with different powers though Sandman’s seem to be more functional like ‘Dream’ and ‘Death’. The ‘Death’ character is pretty much what it says on the tin and seeing her killing off a few people who were very far from old age reminded me of my own recent near death experience. As I discovered upon taking a blood sample, I’m actually horrifically scared of blood to the point where if I see it, my body will put me into shock. As someone who’s watched Kill Bill at least 10 times without an issue this was news to me but I assume it’s my own blood I have an issue with. It explains why I also went into shock the last time I gave blood – I turned round to see how the donation was getting along fainted, and wouldn’t come round for a while. At the time they said it’s because I hadn’t eaten enough that day – as if that could ever happen!

As for eating, I saw this recipe for baked feta in a Good Housekeeping recipe collection and I thought about the time my Cypriot friend made us some baked feta. When you bake feta, the flavours really mellow and the texture is also very nice. The recipe bakes the feta with some fruits – figs and peaches and some hazelnuts. Then I just serve it with some salad leaves.

Serves 2 (main meal)

Ingredients

  • 200g block of feta
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 nectarines
  • 4 figs (I used dried)
  • 2 sprigs tarragon
  • 25g chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • pinch chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salad leaves

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) Line a baking tray and place the feta in the middle

3.) Slice up the nectarines and onion and scatter around the tray. Halve the figs and scatter these too.

4.) Pick off the tarragon leaves and arrange around the tray then sprinkle over the hazelnuts and chilli flakes.

5.) Drizzle over the balsamic vinegar and oil.

6.) Bake for 20 minutes. Serve the baked feta and fruit etc with the salad leaves.

Vietnamese ‘Chicken’ & Mint Salad

I first made this salad many years ago when I lived in the US. Nigella Lawson was doing a competition on her website where you had to make this salad, plate it and take a picture and the best looking picture won. I was a bit annoyed back then because I’d submitted my photo and plated in a certain way then the person who eventually won posted after me and plated very similarly. But resentment over, this is a great salad, the cabbage makes it nice and crunchy and it’s so easy these days to replace the pulled chicken. I used Linda McCartney’s hoisin ‘duck’. The mint balances the spices very nicely and the fish sauce adds a nice sourness. Anyone who is familiar with Nigella Lawson will appreciate her narrative on the recipe ‘When it comes to chicken, I am very much a thigh than a breast person’. She is my idol!

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 clove garilc
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 onion
  • pepper
  • 200g white cabbage
  • 1 carrot
  • 200g chicken substitute
  • 40g mint

Method

1.) Heat a frying pan and cook the chicken substitute until crispy then set aside to cool.

2.) Make the dressing by adding the chilli to a measuring jug, crush the garlic clove, finely chop and add that, add the sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, a pinch of pepper and oil. Stir and leave to sit.

3.) Shred the cabbage and add to a large salad bowl. Peel the carrot and grate and add with the cabbage. Pick off the mint leaves and chop up and mix in. Peel and finely chop the onion and add that. Add the cooled ‘chicken’. Finally, add the dressing and give everything a good mix. Serve.

Pesto & goat cheese risotto

Just come back from holiday so got some catching up to do on blogging. I made this pesto and goat cheese risotto a while back using some dried pesto that I got from TK Maxx. I love perusing the food aisles in there and I have some parmesan truffle cream to find a use for. This recipe was on BBC Good Food – I’m really starting to wonder if I need a separate risotto tag on my blog.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 700ml vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp dried pesto
  • 100g goat cheese
  • 1 tin broad beans

Method

1.) Make up the stock

2.) Heat up a tbsp of oil in a saucepan then add the rice and the pesto.

3.) Toast the rice for 1 minute then add ladlefuls of the stock, simmering until the liquid mostly disappears

4.) Continue until all the stock has been absorbed

5.) Drain the tin of beans and add them to the pan

6.) Cook for a minute then add half the goat cheese, stir to dissolve in the risotto.

7.) Cut the remaining goat cheese into chunks. Serve the risotto and plate up the rest of the cheese.

Tagliatelle in tartare sauce

I was having Italian lessons up until a few weeks ago but with my company conference and having COVID I missed booking the most current course. It’s probably for the best as there was an older woman in the class who was a few steps behind everyone else and I wasn’t getting anything done in the breakout rooms when we were paired up. Also there was an Eastern European guy who kept pronouncing my name Gemma with a hard ‘g’ which was pretty annoying, especially given that my name is Italian. I have my Italian book for dummies and am doing a bit of duolingo to try and keep up until the next course in September. I found this pasta recipe in ‘Gino’s Pasta’ and it was not like anything I’d seen before so I was interested to try with the tartar. Maybe Gino created it after going to Norie’s fish and chip shop in Oban. We got some scampi and it did come with tartar sauce.

Anyway I did like the recipe and it’s very quick, particularly if you’re lazy like me and use pre-made fresh pasta.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 30g pickled onions
  • 30g pickled gherkins (or cornichons)
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 15g butter
  • 75ml double cream
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 200g fresh tagliatelle
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 30g parmesan

Method

1.) Get the pasta ready to cook in a large saucepan. Boil some water.

2.) Grate the parmesan and dice the parsley finely and set aside. Chop up the onions and gherkins. Melt some butter in a large frying pan and add them along with the capers.

3.) Fry for 2 minutes then pour in the cream and spoon in the mustard and mix. Cook for 3 minutes and whilst this is cooking put the pasta onto boil.

4.) Add the yolk and sprinkle in the parsley and parmesan and stir. Cook for a further 15 seconds. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce.

Lady Marmalade Salad

I made this salad as an accompaniment to my anchovy and olive pissasladiere. I wasn’t 100% happy with that so I won’t post about it this time but this salad from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Veg’ was really something special even though I couldn’t get the chicory that’s meant to be in it and subbed with Romaine lettuce. You cook down some orange juice then add some honey and vinegar so it’s spicy and sweet and honestly I think I could drink the stuff. Jamie recommends to serve with goat cheese on toast. I remember a few years ago there seemed to be a trend of pairing orange and coffee flavour which sounds intriguing but I never got round to trying it out, probably in cake form.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons pistachios
  • 4 oranges
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon runny honey
  • 2 romaine lettuces

Method

1.) Shell the pistachios then toast lightly in a frying pan.

2.) Bash them up in a pestle and mortar and set aside.

3.) Chop the oranges in half and squeeze the juice out into a small saucepan. Remove any pips.

4.) Simmer until syrupy then take off the heat.

5.) Add the vinegar, olive oil and honey and season with salt and pepper. Mix everything.

6.) Wash and chop up the lettuce and place in a salad bowl. Mix with the dressing. Serve and sprinkle with the pistachios.

‘Alsatian’ gnocci

I call this post ‘Alsatian’ as I adapted a recipe from Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen switching out the pasta for gnocchi and making it veggie so I’m not sure how Alsatian it is anymore. In saying that I think you could Anglify it by serving with mash and it would be equally as good. Probably a wise thing to do with the grain prices too. I was reading the Economist (I have to do 40 units (hours) CPD for my accountancy qualification each year and I thought an issue of the Economist would be a cheap way to earn some of these) and I learnt that South-East Asia are some of the only countries not affected by the ‘global’ inflation partly due to the fact that they eat more rice than wheat products. Anyway I went for gnocchi because I had some at my company conference lunch but it was cold so I fancied some cooked gnocchi – we arrived late due to our coach breaking down before it even arrived to pick us up. We then got a replacement coach which was actually more like a school bus for primary (elementary?) aged kids.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pack gnocchi
  • 500g vegetarian meatballs
  • 10g parsley
  • 500ml beef flavoured stock
  • 30g butter
  • 30g plain flour
  • 4 rashers vegetarian bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 175ml red wine
  • thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp cornichons
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 30g parmesan

Method

1.) Peel and finely dice the onion and the carrot. Finely chop up the celery. Chop up the veggie bacon.

2.) Heat some oil in a casserole dish then add the meatballs. Fry on all sides until brown and then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.

3.) Add some more oil to the pan and add the carrot, the onions and the celery. Fry for about 7 minutes until everything is soft. Add the bacon and cook for another couple of minutes. In the meantime, chop up the parsley, strip the leaves from the thyme and crush the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar. Set the carrot, celery and onion aside with the meatballs.

4.) Melt the butter in the casserole dish then add the flour. Cook the paste down for a couple of minutes. Then gradually add the stock and whisk after each addition. Add the tomato paste and the wine and whisk to dissolve everything.

5.) Add the peppercorns, thyme and half the parsley to the pan, along with the veg, bacon and meatballs. Simmer for 15 minutes.

6.) Whilst this is cooking, grate the parmesan and finely dice the cornichons. Cook the gnocchi according to the packet.

7.) Add the capers, cornichons and rest of the parsley to the pan and stir. Serve with the gnocchi and garnish with some parmesan.