Posts tagged balsamic

Raw Citrus Salad

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f you’ve been (un)lucky enough to experience the heat wave that swept the UK last week then you’ll probably agree that appetites change from being food dominant to a welcome craving for frosty, cold and delicious beers. Iced rose if thats more your thing, or perhaps just a freshly made lemonade in the sunshine. However, food still has its place but freshness, lightness and nothing too heavy takes the culinary crown. This salad was perfect after what was probably the hottest day of the year so far. After trawling over London for a meeting – which at the time felt dramatically reminiscent of a desert voyage – I was in no fit state for cooking anything too warm later that evening….

This therefore seemed the perfect opportunity to make a fresh salad but one to replenish the nutrients. And time to crack out an ingredient that’s been waiting patiently in my pantry for the past few months. A little gift from overseas from the Norwegian’s.  I’ve not seen a oil like this before but have been delighting in it since. Whilst I’ve tried flavoured oils in the past which I’ve found to be either bland or synthetic, this little oil/balsamic combo – mandarin oil with an epic peach and apricot balsamic – served neat and combined in equal measures with some crusty bread for dipping was amazing! I instantly thought seafood, fennel, and raw salads….after thoughts of frosty beers and rose. I did mention it was very hot…

With a lack of garden space or even a balcony in London (sympathy welcomed) there was sadly no place for a BBQ here. But if you do then this would be an amazing salad served with charred barbecued squid or octopus. Or keep it simple and griddle your asparagus or sea bass. The smoky bbq flavour is perfect for anything citrus here.

Like I said, its a meal for a hot day…minimal effort, more an assembly of flavours. Feel free to add in any other ingredients of choice or fish and seafood.

*NOTE – if you’ve no time to pop to Norway for these delights, a really good extra virgin olive oil with either a generous squeeze of lemon/lime/orange would work a treat. Try adding a few very thin slices of orange segments or grated zest too. Blood orange if you’re feeling extravagant.

Serve 2

  • 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus spears
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced wafer thin (using a mandolin if you have one)
  • 1 handful walnuts, toasted and lightly crushed
  • Small bunch fresh basil and mint, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon/orange/lime
  • Extra virgin olive oil and 1 orange OR flavoured citrus oil or equivalent to above
  • 2 sea bass fillets (or as above, squid, octopus etc)
  1. Hest a frying pan/griddle pan to medium high and add a splash of light olive oil. Griddle the asparagus spears to just take off the rawness for a few minutes until beginning to char. Season and remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the celery, shaved fennel, toasted walnuts and finely chopped herbs.
  3. When the asparagus spears have cooled a little, add them to bowl.
  4. Season and grate in the zest of half the lemon.
  5. The next bit if up to you. Add the citrus oil, and the juice of half a lemon or add the juice of an orange/lime and some plain, extra virgin olive oil. Its all about taste. You need a fresh citrus flavour but it needs to be balanced.
  6. Set aside once done. Fry your fish and serve atop your fresh salad.

I served mine alongside some roasted carrots …I’ll admit this isn’t supporting the cooling and ‘non hassle’ trend I championed above. What can I say, the frosty beer worked a treat…

  • Slice 2-3 large carrot into chunky diagonal chunks
  • Season and drizzle with olive oil
  • Scatter with 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
  • Roast for about 25 minutes until starting to caramelise and soften. Check after this time and leave in longer if needed.
  • 5 minutes before they look ready, add 1 btsp running honey and combine. roast for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and served, slightly cooled, with your citrus salad (also lovely to add chopped parsley and crumbled feta/goats cheese)

 

Roasted Tomato Soup

 

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This is an extremely rustic soup which fittingly suits the weekend Autumnal lunches that are just a halloween pumpkin away from steeling the warm summer season for another year. Although it has been surprisingly warm recently….its unnerving. With enough tomatoes in the greenhouse to put the Heinz empire to shame, it was time they were used creatively. They were sacrificed and chucked in the oven and roasted with some other tomato friendly ingredients but feel free to change quantities etc to taste or add anything else you like.

Serves 3

  • 700g-1kg very ripe tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large red onion, chopped roughly
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Large bunch of basil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1.  

    Preheat the oven to 200°C.

  2. Simply combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic and the stalks from the basil in a large roasting tin in one even layer. Season generously and drizzle with some olive oil. Spoon oven 1-2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and roast for 20 minutes until soft.
  3. Leave to cool slightly before placing in a food processor and blitzing with the addition of the basil leaves. You can blend it as coarsely as you like.
  4. If a little thick, add a splash of hot water but the roasting juices from the tomatoes should be enough to get a soup-like consistency.
  5. Serve scattered with basil. I also used some balsamic pearls I had lurking around and some oil-soaked salty croutons…!

Roasted allotment salad with Balsamic Pearls

 

If you grow your own produce then maybe you can relate to this time of bountiful year on the allotment. The vegetables are literally elbowing each other with they’re knobbly roots to fight for the glorious prospect of supplying our busy kitchen. Beetroot, sugar snaps, runner beans, courgettes, potatoes and tomatoes seem to have smuggled the odd protein shake or steroid supplement and are bursting to be eaten…we can’t do it quick enough. So tonight, I went vegetarian again. A roasted salad.

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I recently found these little balsamic gems in Waitrose and just had to try them! They’re like dinky diminutive drops of balsamic caviar which burst in your mouth with ever bite! Topped over this beetroot salad……..amazing!

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  • 4 raw beetroot washed and chopped into chunks
  • 7 small carrots, whole
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 whole garlic cloves
  • Small bunch of thyme, leaves picked
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 150g goats cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp mixed seeds, pumpkin, sunflower
  • Small bunch of chopped mint leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic caviar (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Mix the beetroot and whole carrots in a roasting tin and coat in the cumin seeds, thyme leaves, plenty of olive oil and seasoning. Add the whole garlic cloves.
  2. Roast, turning every so often for 45-50 minutes until the veg are soft and caramelised at the edges.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the seeds in a dry frying pan until they are fragrant and begin to pop. Chop the mint leaves.
  4. When the vegetables are ready, remove from the oven. Take the garlic cloves and squeeze the soft, sweet pulp into a pestle and mortar. Add a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and some seasoning and bash until blended into a paste. Coat the warm vegetables in this dressing.
  5. Crumble over the goats cheese, seeds and mint leaves and serve, scattered with a few teaspoons of balsamic caviar if you like!

Sweet Potato and Goats Cheese Tartlet

 

I’m not turning vegetarian- honest! Not that there’s anything wrong with being vegetarian…..I even know a few (wink wink) and meat does not rule my dinner table. However, life without meat is a little…..well….inconvenient as many of my staple bible recipes contain meat which provides that much needed flavour and protein. I know however, that many vegetarian dishes can be just as punchy, satisfying and tasty especially if you have ever read the Ottolenghi cookbook which is a must have for any passionate herbivore. This little tartlet is a tasty example of a vegetarian alternative for those days when you just fancy something simple. Its also great for those cheeky veges at your dinner parties……they’re probably fed up of quiche by now….

(Serves 4)

  • 250g puff pastry
  • 1 egg
  • 4tbsp cream cheese
  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 100g soft goats cheese
  • Caramelized balsamic red onions (see red onion recipe)
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C . Peeled and chop the sweet potatoes into cubes about 2cm. Place in a roasting tin and season with salt and pepper and scatter with the cumin seeds. Drizzle generously with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes until soft.
  2. Roll the pastry out to about 3 mm thick and cut into 4 rectangles about 15cmx7cm and place on a lined baking tray. Using a sharp knife, score a border about 1cm in from the edge, making sure you don’t cut all the way through. Brush with beaten egg.
  3. Spread the base of each pastry rectangle with the cream cheese. Top with the sweet potato cubes, crumbled goats cheese and pumpkin seeds.
  4. Place in the oven for 15-18 minutes until golden.
  5. After this time, top with the red onions and return to the oven for a further 2 minutes until the pastry is golden and puffed.
  6. Remove from the oven and scatter with the chopped parsley and drizzle with olive oil.
  7. I served mine with a watercress, chive and sugar snap salad. Enjoy and think of the poor pig or cow you spared!image

Caramelized Balsamic Red Onions

These are yummy and I always have some in a jar in the fridge. They are great to top salads, pizza’s, tarts and quiches.

  • 5 red onions, halved and sliced thinly
  • 100ml balsamic vinegar
  • 60g caster sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Slice the onions and place in a deep roasting tin
  2. Add the sugar, oil and vinegar and season. Stir to combine.
  3. Place in a 180°C preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes, tossing every so often.
  4. After 30 minutes, take out the oven and leave to cool. Store in a sterilized jar and keep in the fridge. They will become sticky and sweet once cooled.

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