olive oil and rosemary crackers

Sourdough crackers

olive oil and rosemary crackers

These crackers are a great way to use up sourdough starter discard (to keep it fresh between bakes, I remove half from the jar and feed it back up again) and I’ve made pancakes, muffins and bagels with the excess so as not to waste the precious wild yeast that works so hard for my bread.

These are fabulous served with cheeses, pates or just munched on their own.

I used rosemary but you could use fennel seeds or sesame seeds or leave them plain. Use a pastry cutter or a sharp knife to cut the shapes you want. It’s important to prick them before baking, so the air bubbles don’t blow up.

Ingredients

Makes 12-15

250ml sourdough starter

100-150g plain flour

.25 tsp baking powder

.5 tsp sea salt

30ml olive oil

1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary

Olive oil for brushing

Sea salt for sprinkling

Alternative flavourings

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons ground fennel plus seeds for sprinkling

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons Colman’s English mustard powder

Method

With the sourdough starter in a bowl, add 100g of the flour and all the other ingredients and mix to a stiff dough. You may need more flour, or not depending on how wet your starter is.

Cover and leave to rest for an hour.

Heat the oven to 180C.

Roll out the dough as thinly as possible, no more than 2mm, and cut or shape. Place on a lined baking sheet, prick with a fork, brush with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake the crackers for 10-12 minutes until they start to brown, and then turn them over for a few more minutes. They need to be cooked through and crispy but not impossible to bite into!

Thanks to Ghalid Assyb for the inspiration!

© Linda Galloway 2020


a bowl of colourful sweet potato curry with coriander garnish

Sweet Potato and Cashew Nut Curry

a bowl of colourful sweet potato curry with coriander garnish

This sweet potato and cashew nut curry started out as a demonstration of food-and-wine matching and how aromatic white wines can pair with spicy food. I served it with a Pinot Gris from Alsace

It’s vegan but you could easily add chicken. It’s a great way to get vegetables into teenagers, too – everyone loves the mellow flavours.

The recipe is based on the food of Kerala in southwest India, and one of  Das Sreedharan’s spice pastes from his book Fresh Flavours of India.

I vary the basic recipe depending on what I want to achieve (level of heat, colour, what spices I want to use up etc).  Sometimes I add turmeric or crushed cardamom, too.

Ingredients

Feeds 4

1 large white onion, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 red chillies (or to taste), topped and seeds removed if preferred

7cm knob of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

6 black peppercorns

2tsp ground cinnamon

1tbsp ground coriander

1tsp ground cumin

1 big bunch fresh coriander (half in the paste, half chopped for garnish)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tins coconut milk

1kg sweet potato, peeled and cubed

Salt and pepper

200g cashew nuts

Method

Make a spice paste by putting the onion, garlic, chillies, ginger, half the coriander, peppercorns, cumin and cinnamon in a blender with half the oil and whiz to a fine mush. In a large saucepan, heat the rest of the oil and fry the spice paste for three minutes, stirring, until it starts to sizzle.

Add the sweet potato and coconut milk and simmer with the lid off for 30-45 minutes, until tender. Stir frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom, but don’t break up the sweet potato chunks too much.

Heat the oven to 160C (300F), put the cashew nuts on a baking tray and roast for 10-12 minutes. Leave to cool and chop (I put them in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin).

Taste the curry to check and adjust seasoning.

Just before serving, chop the rest of the fresh coriander and add, with the nuts, to the curry and stir through. Serve with basmati rice, couscous or flat breads for dipping.

If you’re adding chicken (breast or boneless thighs are equally good), use less sweet potato, add it with the sweet potato and make sure the chicken is cooked through.

If you like spicy food, my harissa recipe makes adding warmth and heat to dishes really easy.

© Linda Galloway 2020


A bowl of vibrant red pepper sauce

Harissa with blanched garlic

A bowl of vibrant red pepper sauce

This harissa is subtly sweeter than most as it uses blanched garlic to dull its often brash overtones.

I love hot, spicy food. Having grown up on a well-cooked and tasty but bland diet of meat and potatoes – the family table staying true to my father’s Scottish roots – I didn’t discover spice until I left home but have more than made up for it since.

Along the way, from mild kormas and dhals to flaming hell-fire vindaloos, I have learnt to appreciate the nuances that spice and a bit of heat can add to food. A lot of people are scared of “hot” food – when hearing that it’s curry for supper the typical response is “I hope it’s not too hot”. When cooking for clients I always err on the side of caution, keeping the chilli quotient down (but offering extra chopped or dried chilli at the table for personal adjustment). An irascible (but lovable) member at the private club where I used to cook always complained that spicy food made her ears hurt, and she would make her displeasure loudly known ahead of the meal and then return to the kitchen – eyebrows on surprise-alert – to say how much she had enjoyed it.

Curry is such a broad church, and chillis such a various species, that it seems a shame to lump them all together in one category. For example you need to differentiate not just between countries but within countries – separating Keralan from Goan; or Malay from Nyonya – not to mention the infinite regional variations in Thailand, Burma or Nepal. And there’s the whole of Arabia and Africa to consider … On my personal spice route, I have found harissa, a staple of Tunisian and Moroccan cooking, a versatile godsend in the kitchen, and I would venture to put it in the same category as ketchup or miso. It is not just a condiment, because the combination of smokey heat, spice, garlic, vinegar and sugar boosts the complexity of soups, sauces, dressings or marinades. So when I saw the array of peppers and chillis on offer at my favourite local greengrocer, Newington Green Fruit and Vegetable shop – packed with specialist produce – it was easy.

A mix of red peppers of different shapes and sizes and a mix of chillis – you can (roughly) determine the heat by choosing or avoiding the Scotch bonnet rippers and go for the stubbier, more triangular shaped ones (and remove the seeds if you’re really worried) – and a few bulbs of garlic went into my basket and I was away.

At home I turned the oven on to roasting temperature (180C) and on to a roasting tray I roughly topped and chopped the peppers (360g) and chillies (190g), drizzled with a good slug of ordinary olive oil (eg Carbonell), a tablespoon of ground coriander, a tablespoon of cumin seeds, a heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika and a generous pinch of sea salt. In it went for an hour, and I gave it a good turning over every 15-minutes or so, allowing the peppers and chillies to char slightly, and the house to fill with gorgeous spicy, smokey aromas. Simultaneously, I peeled two bulbs of garlic (about 20 cloves) and blanched them three times in boiling water. This is a great way to soften and sweet the flavour of the garlic and remove the harsh, nasty side effects. Essentially just bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the peeled cloves, simmer for 20 minutes, drain and repeat. This means the garlic is ready about the same time as the peppers.

It all went in to the blender with a slug (10ml) of red wine vinegar, another 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a generous pinch of brown sugar and another big pinch of sea salt. Blitz it all together and test the seasoning with the tip of a spoon. Through the heat you should get notes of sweetness, spice and acidity. If it tastes a bit flat, add a dash more vinegar and salt. Sadly, I appreciate the extreme end of the flavour spectrum rather more than my spouse, so I bottled a few jars of the vibrantly colourful paste for friends and saved enough to keep me going for quite a while.

I got my first chance to use it today, in an egg and cress sarnie with home made bread, mixing a teaspoon of harissa into the mayonnaise. Eggs and chilli are a winning flavour combination (don’t take my word for it, add a few dried chilli flakes next time you scramble eggs).

The sprouts added crunch, and I swear Spouse was leaning in a little too close to my plate as I devoured it.

If you prefer milder food, try my recipe for Sweet Potato and Cashew Nut curry in which fresh ginger provides some of the heat, and coconut milk adds a sweet, nutty counterpoint to the spice.

© Linda Galloway 2020


Dolmades for dollars

I made these as a fundraiser for disaster relief agencies on the ground in Beirut after the chemical blast in August that made thousands homeless and reduced large parts of the city to rubble. Life in 2020 isn’t easy for anyone, and there are so many organisations that need our support that it can dull the charitable instinct into submission. Does one help people at home, next door,  in the same country? Refugees fleeing war and persecution? Children starving in African villages with no food or running water?
It’s all relative, but with more resources than I need I always try to help where I can – every little bit adds up, I reckon.

The Lebanese Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and many other international aid agencies have been working tirelessly there to bring some comfort to the citizens who have been buffeted not just by political drama but an explosion the size of a nuclear bomb. You can follow the links to read more about the ongoing relief efforts there, and to make a donation if you can.

The @sahteinbeirut challenge asked people to cook a Levantine dish and make a donation to one of the charities working there. I immediately thought of dolmades (besides which everyone else seemed to be making falafel and houmous).

We used to make loads of these in the catering kitchen as they are such a delicious mouthful of contasting textures and flavours, slightly exotic with flavours of the Mediterranean and Middle East, and always a perfect vegetarian starter or addition to a sharing platter.
They can be a bit time consuming to prepare – and require advance planning as the filling needs to be made a day ahead – but so worth the effort, and if you break down the stages it’s instantly more manageable and rolling the little rice parcels is quite a zen activity especially if you’ve got some good music on or an interesting podcast.

This version was cobbled together from memory, based on a Claudia Roden classic (I couldn’t find the cookbook), and the only ingredient I had to buy was the vine leaves, easily sourced in my local Turkish shop. They keep well in a sealed container, for random snacking events throughout the day.

I served mine with quick flatbreads, tabbouleh and a yoghurt sauce for dipping.

Ingredients

Makes 20 small-medium ones

For the filling:
1 cup Baldo or other short-grain/pudding rice

1 red onion

3 cloves garlic

1 fresh red chilli, deseeded if necessary

200g tinned chopped tomato (use a good quality one). This is half a tin, the other half will go in the cooking sauce.

100ml water

15ml olive oil

1tsp ground cinnamon

3tsp dried mint

Generous pinch of sumac

Pinch of cayenne pepper to taste

50g currants, raisins or sultanas – soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes

50g pine nuts

75g feta cheese, crumbled (optional – I have also made these with small cubes of halloumi)

Salt and pepper

For the sauce:

200g tinned tomatoes (see above)

1tbsp tomato puree

15ml olive oil

400-600ml water

1 tsp red wine vinegar

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of cayenne

Salt and pepper

1 jar of vine leaves in brine –  simmer these in boiling water for 15-30 minutes to cook them through so they aren’t tough.

To serve:

Extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Method

Make the filling:

In a blender blitz up the onion, garlic and chilli. Add the tomato pulp and blitz again.

Tip into a bowl with the rice, add the water, oil and spices and mix well. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

The next day add the soaked raisins, pine nuts and feta (if using). Taste and adjust the seasoning – it needs to be punchy, and feel slightly over-seasoned.

To assemble:

Drain the vine leaves, take one and unfurl it gently on a board, with the veined side up. You may need to snip off the stem.

Place a spoon of filling in the middle and roll up like a spring roll, tucking in the edges. Place the filled rolls in an oven-proof baking dish in a single layer.

Whizz up the sauce in a blender and pour it over the dolmades. Cover the dish tightly with a tight-fitting lid or wrap in foil and cook in the oven at 170C for 90-120 minutes. After 90 minutes check to see if the rice is cooked (you will have to sacrifice a dolma!) and add a little extra water if the pan seems dry.

Leave to cool and serve cold, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.

© Linda Galloway 2020


Aromatic bean stew

THIS canellini bean stew makes a tasty midweek supper using tinned beans but can also be made with dried beans soaked overnight and cooked ahead.

It’s a meat-free meal and especially tasty served on char-grilled sourdough with lots of extra-virgin olive oil but equally delicious with roast chicken or lamb chops.

The flavour comes from the aromatics – sage, rosemary and bay – and also lots of garlic and as much chilli as you fancy. This can be baked in an oven-proof dish with a good-fitting lid or tightly covered with foil.

Ingredients

Feeds 4

400g cannellini or borlotti beans (tinned or dried, soaked overnight and cooked through)
1 small or half a medium red onion, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 red chilli, whole but pierced (or a dried poblano or ancho chile)
2-3 plum tomatoes, halved, or a 8-10 cherry tomatoes, pierced (to stop them exploding)
30g fresh sage leaves, shredded
25g fresh rosemary, leaves only
3-4 fresh bay leaves
80ml vegetable stock
45 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Several grinds of black pepper

Method

Turn the oven on to 160C.
Put the beans, onion, garlic, herbs and tomato in an oven-proof dish, mix well, tuck in the chilli, pour over the stock and extra-virgin olive oil, season, cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil, and bake for 1-2 hours. orYou could stew it on the hob in a lidded saucepan,  just be sure to stir it occasionally to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom.
Remove a quarter to one-third of the bean mix, including a bit of everything except the bay leaves, blend to a puree, then fold back through the dish.
Taste and adjust seasoning, serve with a drizzle of olive oil on toasted sourdough, or as a side with most cooked meats.

© Linda Galloway 2020


Sourdough

It’s #sourdoughseptember so I’ve been casting back through the catalogue for some of my best bakes. I’m a weird combination of fast and slow, a mix of instant and delayed gratification. Maybe we all are?

To start with I was sceptical, I mean 2-3 days to make a loaf of bread?

Many years ago, my dear friend and talented architectural artist Anton is a master of sourdough and he generously shared some of his starter and his very detailed, 3-page instruction manual.

Then it seemed like a challenge that had to be tried and mastered, and slowly it became a way of life. Elvis the starter (who regularly leaves the building …) does duty a couple of times a week and this is critical for good results as a sluggish starter will give off noxious fumes, be overly sour and deliver distinctly average results.

I’ve travelled with Elvis in my luggage, I’ve travelled with the dough at various stages of its evolution, and I’ve stayed up til 2am because the dough was almost ready to bake.

Wild yeast can be unpredictable and frustrating – it’s untamed, spontaneous, and sometimes just isn’t in party mood.

But the texture, flavour and enhanced digestion that slow fermentation brings makes the jeopardy worth the journey.

There are many sourdough experts around (check out Dan Lepard, Michelle Eshkeri, Vanessa Kimbell et al) and I don’t claim to be one. The bread I make these days is mostly for home consumption, plus a few friends and neighbours who request it.

What has evolved is a method that works for me. I can’t be at home all day doing turns and folds every 30 minutes. I don’t have the patience (see above) to weigh in half grams and stress about whether the cold prove is going to be 6, 8 or 24 hours or whether I’ll get the ‘ear’ that is so highly prized for Instagram shots.

So I feed, mix, knead, leave, shape, prove, bake over a couple days without being too fussy about it. I do have a couple of non-negotiables. The first is organic flour, the No.4 from Shipton Mill, the second is filtered water and the third is a reliable oven that can get to upwards of 250C.

Over lockdown there has been much chatter about esoteric flours, shaping, Dutch ovens, razor slashes, intricate designs and patterns. Long may our creative bakers enhance their edible art and craft.

I mostly keep it simple and straightforward; bread is for slicing, topping, dunking, toasting, filling and satisfying. It won’t always be pretty, it won’t always be catwalk-ready but it will always be delicious.

 

© Linda Galloway 2020


Beetroot couscous with poppy and nigella seeds

Whenever I am planning a menu I try to balance a few things:

1. Seasonality (food in season is always cheaper and of better quality, although I make exceptions for some frozen veg). If seasonal is also local, even better.
2. Colours (I just love eating colourful food, having lots of different colours on the plate; a kind of ‘Eat the Rainbow’ philosophy. Our eyes are the biggest drivers of appetite, so why deprive them?
3. Textures (for example, by adding toasted nuts or putting raw and cooked elements together you can vary the mouthfeel of every mouthful)
4. Temperatures (some foods should only ever be served hot, but they are often complemented by a cold dip or salad)
5. Tastes (hot, sweet, sour, savoury, umami).

What this all adds up to is contrast.

Here’s another tasty and colourful side dish that will work well hot or cold, as an accompaniment to a main meat course or as a vegan or vegetarian option on its own. It looks stunning on a buffet, too.

Giant couscous, also known as ptitim, or Israeli couscous i,  in effect, pasta, so it takes flavour very well.  I sometimes cook down a tin of chopped tomatoes with rosemary, chilli flakes and black olives, and toss that through, or make a quick basil pesto to liven it up.

Ingredients

Serves 4

400g giant/Israeli couscous, wholemeal if preferred

1 bunch beetroot

1tbsp poppy seeds

1tbsp nigella (kalonji) seeds

Olive oil to taste

Sea salt and black pepper

Juice of half a lemon

Method

Cook the couscous in plenty of salted boiling water, as you would for pasta. The trick is not to overcook it – I always give it 1-2 minutes less than it says on the packet – so just six minutes, then drain and refresh quickly with cold water to wash out any remaining glueyness. To stop the grains getting claggy while cooling I spritz with a little olive oil and mix it through thoroughly with a fork.

To make the puree, peel the beetroot and cut into even-sized chunks. Toss them in a little olive oil with sea salt and black pepper, wrap securely in a foil parcel and roast in the oven at 180C for 60-90 minutes. They should be tender when poked. Tip them into a food processor or use a hand blender (wear an apron and watch walls and surfaces for scarlet splashes!), add a sploosh of extra-virgin olive oil and blitz to a fine puree. Check and adjust seasoning if necessary.

When the couscous has cooled, stir through half the beetroot puree, and add the seeds. Add more puree until you’re happy with the colour, consistency and flavour, and season with a squeeze of lemon juice.

How does this recipe meet my 5-point checklist? Beetroot is in season, colourful, earthy and sweet, while the seeds add crunch and contrast.  Serve this salad with a piece of crispy pan-fried seabass or roast chicken to complete the flavour profile.

© Linda Galloway 2020


A dish of stewed aubergine, courgette and tomato with fresh herbs, olives and capers

Caponata

A dish of stewed aubergine, courgette and tomato with fresh herbs, olives and capers

Caponata, the Italian (and specifically Sicilian) version of ratatouille could be classed as a summer salad. It’s best eaten at room temperature, when all the flavours show to their best advantage both separately and together. But it is also ready to do duty as a hearty winter stew, when I serve it on a thick slice of foccaccia that soaks up the juices.

In Italy it is often served with bread as a starter, as part of a spread of antipasti.

Caponata differs from ratatouille in the preparation, as the main ingredients (in true Italian fashion these vary from region to region but most agree on aubergine and courgette), are cooked separately and then added in to the tomato base sauce.

The caponata is also a good lesson in seasoning, as the capers, sultanas, olives and vinegar layer up flavours of sweet, sour and savoury (agrodolce). Anchovies are optional, they cook down in the sauce and are only noticeable in the finished dish as a deep, umami base note.

I was inspired to make this when I saw the gorgeous striped ‘graffiti’ aubergines at my local fruit and veg shop. Their pale interior prevents the finished caponata from becoming dark brown sludge. Alongside some bright yellow courgettes, and next to the new season garlic and startlingly red plum tomatoes, the answer to the question ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’ was obvious.

As much as I like bell peppers, I find them too intrusive in this dish – I prefer them in a peperonata, as stars of their own show. So I leave them out, as appealing as they are on the summer vegetable shelf.

Ingredients

Serves 6

1 large or 2 smaller aubergine – washed, cut into large chunks and salted in a colander for 1 hour (this is not to extract bitter juices, but to draw off some of the moisture and intensify the flavour)

1 large or 2 smaller courgettes – washed, sliced into 3cm thick rounds, salted in a (separate) colander for 1 hour

1 large red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, cut in slivers

3 sticks celery, diced

Fresh herbs – I used oregano but you could add basil, mint or shredded sage leaves (in winter use dried oregano)

1kg really ripe tomatoes.  Cut a shallow slit in the bottoms, place in a heat-proof bowl and cover in boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Peel and chop. (in winter replace with a tin of chopped tomatoes).

1 cup olives (green or black, choose ones you like), pitted

3 tablespoons brined capers

50g golden sultanas or raisins, covered in boiling water and soaked for 15 minutes

6 salted anchovies (optional)

1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Vegetable oil for frying (sunflower is best)

50ml Olive oil for cooking

Extra-virgin olive oil for dressing

 

Method

Start by making the tomato sauce. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and celery. Cook over a medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and starting to colour. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, then add the chopped tomatoes, anchovies (if using) and fresh herbs. Add a few tablespoons of water, turn the heat down to low and simmer, stirring occasionally.

Drain and rinse the salted veg and dry on kitchen paper. Heat 4-5cm of oil in a heavy-based saucepan or deep frying pan (keep the lid close to hand for safey). Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping in one piece. If it sizzles and floats to the top it’s ready!
Fry the aubergine and courgette in batches, draining on kitchen paper as you go. Give them a few minutes on each side and flip them carefully, you want them to just cook through and colour but not collapse. Save the used oil in a glass jar and use for cooking in savoury dishes.
Add the fried vegetables to the tomato base, add the olives, capers and drained sultanas.
Give everything a good stir, then add 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of sea salt and a good grind of black pepper. Stir again and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
Taste and adjust the seasoning, then turn off the heat and let it rest as it cools down. In a heavy-bottomed pan it will retain heat for a few hours.
Just before serving, drizzle with special extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Italian) and sprinkle with fresh basil, mint or oregano for a tableside flourish.

I served mine with pan-fried duck breast but this works well with charcuterie, white fish, roasted meats or poultry, as a bbq side dish, on it’s own as a dip with chunky bread or for breakfast with a fried egg.

 

© Linda Galloway 2020


Ingredients for a Raw kale salad with ginger, sesame and soy

Salads for summer

Ingredients for a Raw kale salad with ginger, sesame and soy

The Cobb is one of my favourite salads, but not one you see often on menus (although there is news just in that the Garden restaurant at the Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall has a Cobb on the menu *grabs coat*). I first had one at an American restaurant in London in the 90s and it destroyed my aversion to salads in one mouthful. Chicken, bacon, avocado, eggs, croutons and leaves, with a punchy dressing. There may have been blue cheese in there too. It was a beacon of shining light in a drab salad world and it got me thinking.

The salads of my childhood were one-dimensional. Although my mum was a good cook, a tin of cold baked beans tipped into a bowl; overly hard boiled eggs, or iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber, were standard. The vinaigrette was Knorr, from a bottle (French or Italian, apparently, but they both tasted the same).

In barbecue season there was my sister-in-law’s seven-layer salad – Miracle Whip mayo between layers of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onions, peas, eggs, with cheese and bacon crumbled on top, this clearly had its roots in the sublime Russian salad, another of my favourites.

The Russian is made with tinned veg – potatoes, carrots, gherkins, peas, etc all cut into small cubes and mixed with mayonnaise but with the addition of beetroot, sour cream and smoked fish and dill that takes it up a notch. I’ve had the homemade (tinned) version, which is delicious, but in a St Petersburg restaurant is the version I still dream of.

As a caterer I had to keep spinning the salad ingredient roulette wheel, often delivering  10 or more different salads to a single client.  So the repertoire expanded exponentially over the years and I am here to share my salad learnings with you, and three favourite recipes that show how versatile salads can be: one raw, one roasted vegetable and one grain-based.

When building a salad, always consider the final act:  the eating. Will it eat well, can I get something of everything in every forkful? Is there a good combination of colours, flavours, textures and temperatures?

The dressing can be a backing band or the star act. The kale salad dressing (below), with grated apple, sesame oil and soy sauce, makes you forget the main ingredient is raw kale, as all the flavours combine with sharp, salty sweetness.

Once you have mastered basic vinaigrette (in the sweet potato salad below), ring the changes by adding fresh or confit garlic, finely diced shallots, anchovies, buttermilk or yoghurt, pesto or sweet chilli sauce; fruit juice eg orange or grapefruit instead of lemon. Always taste and adjust the seasoning before serving – keep in mind whether the base salad is quite neutral and needs stronger flavours.

Top with crispy crumbled bacon, pickled or salted anchovies, preserved lemon, olives, capers, toasted nuts and/or seeds, croutons, fried onions or cheese. You could add fresh berries or fruit in season (for example baby spinach with red onion, orange and sesame), or char-grilled peach or nectarine with salty ricotta and peppery extra-virgin olive oil in a rocket salad.

Pimp your salad with a protein element:  cold or warm shredded roast chicken, smoked fish, a bbq lamb chop, some pan-fried haloumi or marinated tofu will make it a complete meal rather than a side dish.

So here are three of my most popular salads, chosen as they represent a cross-section of the genre – one raw and fresh, one cooked starchy base and one grain-based. If you’re really not a fan of quinoa then use brown rice instead, but give this one a go first, as it might convert you, as it has many others.

They are all vegan, wheat and dairy-free but can be accessorised with meat, fish, chicken or cheese! They benefit from being dressed in advance – the kale in particular, as the acid in the dressing breaks down the green leaves into more digestible fibre. And they will keep well in a sealed container for late-night fridge raids or lunchboxes.

You could also check out my Beetroot Couscous with poppy and nigella seeds, another colourful and delicious summer salad recipe.

Kale salad with soy, sesame, apple and ginger

Serves 6

400g organic kale, washed, stalks removed and finely chopped

3tsp ground cinnamon

2tbsp sumac

100g pumpkin seeds, toasted

100g sunflower seeds, toasted

Dressing

2  organic red-skinned dessert apples, grated

2 x 10cm pieces fresh root ginger, finely grated (use a microplane if you can, and catch all the juice)

2tbsp organic honey or agave syrup

1tsp dried chilli flakes

75ml light soy sauce

3tbsp olive oil

2tbsp sesame oil

2 limes, juiced

Method

Wash the kale, remove the stalks and chop finely (you can pulse in a blender, if you prefer)

Toast the pumpkin and sunflower seeds on a baking sheet at 170C for 10 minutes and set aside.

Combine the spices with the kale in a large bowl

Wash, core and grate the apple. Peel and finely grate the ginger – a Microplane grater is good for this (make sure you catch all the juice).

Juice the limes.

Combine the apple and ginger with the other ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. You can use a stick blender.

In a big bowl, pour the dressing over the chopped kale and use your hands to massage the dressing into the leaves.

Finally, add the seeds and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Quinoa with green beans, almonds and lemon

Serves 6 (with leftovers)

Ingredients

200g quinoa, cooked according to the packet instructions
100g green beans, finely sliced, blanched and refreshed
100g flaked almonds
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 garlic clove, crushed
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method
Put the quinoa in a saucepan, add plenty of water to cover and a pinch of salt, bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the grains have swollen and absorbed most of the water. Drain and cover while it cools, to allow the quinoa to steam so the grains separate. It should be soft to the bite but not gluey.
Next, finely slice the green beans. Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil and simmer the sliced beans for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately refresh under cold water to keep the colour.
Heat the oven to 160C and toast the flaked almonds for 10 minutes on a baking tray until golden (you can do this in a frying pan but watch they don’t burn!).
Finally, make the dressing that will bring the whole thing together.
Grate the garlic clove in to a jug, add the chopped parsley, lemon juice and olive oil and whisk to combine. Season to taste – the dressing should be salty, to season the other ingredients.
In a big bowl, toss together the quinoa, nuts, beans and dressing. This will hold for a couple of days in a sealed container in the fridge – it’s great for lunchboxes, as a healthy side dish with chicken or fish, and of course for a midnight snack.

Sweet potato and shallot with coconut and pea shoots

Serves 6 (with leftovers)

Ingredients
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled
2 medium shallots, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
A small bunch of thyme, leaves only (or a tsp of dried thyme, oregano or mixed herbs)
A scant teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (to taste)
3 tbsp olive oil
salt
pepper

Dressing

50ml light olive or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon red/white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon or whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup

Salt and pepper

To serve

100g toasted coconut shards
80g pea shoots (most supermarkets sell these in the bagged salad leaf section) or watercress

Method
Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas mark 4. Peel and slice the sweet potato into 5mm thick coins (or chop in to big chunks). In a bowl, toss the sweet potato with the oil, herbs, chopped garlic, chilli flakes, sliced onions, salt and pepper. 
Line a roasting tray with baking parchment, add the tossed vegetables and roast for 20 mins. Gently turn the mix over and roast for another 10 minutes until the sweet potato and onions are just cooked but not falling apart (use a table knife to test whether they are done). The onions should be browned and tender. Leave to cool.
Make the dressing: Put all the ingredients in a jug or bowl and whisk until emulsified. Check seasoning.

Pour the dressing over the sweet potato and toss gently so the potato doesn’t break up.

In a large serving bowl, layer up the sweet potato and onion mix with toasted coconut shards and a handful of pea shoots, then repeat, finishing with the remaining pea shoots. You can add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil over the top, if you like.

 

© Linda Galloway 2020


Savoury tart with cheese and asparagus

Not so niche quiche

Savoury tart with cheese and asparagus

QUICHE, flan, savoury custard tart, whatever you call them they are best best eaten just out the oven but still good as leftovers for week-day lunchboxes. The filling options are many, from bacon or ham, onion, mushroom and leek to roasted cherry tomatoes with basil and mozzarella.

I used to make them by the hundred, baking eight at a time, for catered events and also for sale through a fledgling home delivery service called Farm Direct in north London, and I had to keep coming up with new flavour combinations.

In the early summer months my favourite is asparagus – cramming in as much of this seasonal treat in as many ways as possible. We steam it, roast it, put it on the BBQ and even deep-fry in tempura batter. In a quiche the green stems match very well with the rich, eggy, cheesy custard. Green asparagus is the standard here in the UK, but in Europe it’s a thicker white asparagus that rules. Growing up in South Africa we only ever had tinned white asparagus and it was a special treat on the braai table (along with cold boiled eggs, baked beans and potato salad).

As ever, it’s possible to make small adjustments to ring the changes and keep your quiche audience happy. Add a pinch of cayenne, smoked paprika or half a cup of grated cheese to the pastry, for example.

We begin with a basic shortcrust pastry recipe and a custard filling. The ratio, for good measure, is 1 medium free-range egg for every 100ml of liquid. Therefore, if you have 600ml of liquid to fill a deep, fluted 23cm tart case, you will need 6 eggs. The same volume of mixture will fill a shallow 26cm tart case. With this recipe under your belt you can switch up the flavourings and make a different tart every time.

There are couple of insider tips that will elevate your quiche skills:

1. Prepare and blind bake the tart base the day before and pre-cook any filling ingredients that need cooking. It’s best if the base and filling are the same temperature as the custard but it also means no last-minute stress.

2. Whisk the custard mix very well – use a stick blender or a Magimix – and strain it into a jug through a sieve – this filters out any eggy threads (and any rogue eggshell)

3. Mix the flavouring (asparagus pulp, cooked cherry tomatoes, bacon, herbs etc) through the custard before spooning into the tart case. Coating the ingredients in the egg mix helps them to settle and you won’t get little air pockets in the filling.

4. Seasoning is very important, as the filling on its own can be bland, so be brave and dip a teaspoon in and taste it before filling (Lion-branded eggs are tested for salmonella so this is not dangerous, but will reward you with properly seasoned quiche!)

 

For the pastry

You will need a 23cm loose-bottomed fluted tart tin like this, baking parchment and ceramic baking beans or rice for blind baking, a rolling pin and baking sheet, mixing bowls and a whisk or blender

Ingredients

170g plain flour

85g unsalted butter – cut in cubes and frozen for 10 minutes

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

15g finely grated Parmesan, mature cheddar (optional)

1 egg (this is optional, you can add a tablespoon of fridge-cold water instead)

 

Method

Place the flour and salt and cheese (if using) in a blender, add the frozen butter cubes and blitz to a fine crumb. With the motor running, add the egg or water and allow the pastry to come together in a ball. You may need a drop or two more water for the mix to combine.

If you have worked quickly and the pastry is still cold, roll it out immediately on a floured surface, to the size of the tart case. If the pastry is warm then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 10 minutes before rolling.

Carefully line the pastry case and patch any holes or cracks. You should have a small ball of pastry left over – this may be useful for patching later.

Use a fork a prick the tart base all over, then place it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Turn the oven on to 200C and place a baking sheet on the middle shelf.

Line the tart case with baking parchment and fill with beans or rice (this weighs down the pastry and stops any air pockets expanding).

Bake the  tart case for 10-12 minutes until the edges start to brown. It’s important for the sides to cook and set before removing the parchment and beans, as this forms the structural strength of the tart.

Remove the beans and parchment, turn the oven down to 170C and return the tart to the oven for a further 6-8 minutes to allow the base to finish baking – you should be able to see that it is baked all the way through, with a light, sandy texture. If not, give it a few more minutes in the oven.

At this stage check for flaws, cracks and crevices; now is the time to use leftover raw pastry to very gently and carefully patch and shore up any structural weaknesses.

Remove from the oven, leave in the tin and allow to cool. This can be done the day before.

 

For the filling

250ml whole milk

250ml double cream or full-fat creme fraiche

5 medium free-range eggs

Fine sea salt and white pepper

200g bunch of asparagus or other flavourings you have chosen (see below)

80g Parmesan cheese, grated or a mix of Parmesan and strong Cheddar

Method

Make the custard. In a bowl or blender, blitz or whisk up the milk, cream and eggs, add salt and pepper and test the seasoning with the tip of a teaspoon (don’t worry, you won’t come to any harm tasting raw egg, as they have been tested for salmonella and aren’t dangerous). Strain this mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl or jug.

Tail the asparagus (test the stem to see where it snaps and discard the lower bit), then cut off the tips and reserve. Put the stems in a blender and blitz to a pulp. Add this to the egg custard with some of the grated cheese. Pour the custard into the pastry case, decorate the top with asparagus spears and top with lots of grated Parmesan.

Bake the quiche at 170C for 30-45 minutes until it is golden brown on top and just set in the middle. It’s best not to overcook it as it will puff up and become watery. If your oven heat is uneven you may need to turn it round during cooking to get even colour.

Alternative fillings

Slow-roasted cherry tomatoes with red onion, mozzarella and basil Halve 100g of cherry tomatoes and slice 1 red onion, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a low oven (130C) for 1-2 hours. You can also add pitted black olives to this one. Use cooking mozzarella (the block one used for pizzas), and add 80g of cubed mozzarella and some torn basil leaves to the filling.

Leek, Dijon and Gruyere Finely slice a leek and gently fry in butter until tender and transparent. Add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard to the custard, grate 100g cheese and mix some into the filling and sprinkle the rest on top.

Spinach and feta I tend to use frozen spinach with this one, as it’s much less effort that washing bags and bags of spinach, blanching and refreshing and then squeezing out all the water (you will heaps of fresh leaves to get enough for one tart). Tip a whole bag of frozen spinach into a colander and leave it to defrost and drain over a bowl. Squeeze well to get rid of excess moisture. Cube the feta and add to the custard with the spinach.

Mushroom, chive and Parmesan – slice 200g chestnut mushrooms and fry in butter until they start to brown. Finely chop the chives and mix both into the custard when filling – cover the top with finely grated Parmesan before baking

Banana shallot, thyme and Parmesan Strip the thyme leaves from the stems and chop the leaves as finely as you can. Finely slice 300g shallots and fry gently in olive oil with the thyme until tender and starting to brown (or you can toss through with olive oil, place in a roasting tin, cover with baking parchment and roast slowly at 150C for an hour, stirring occasionally). Mix into the custard with some grated Parmesan and add more cheese on top (the shallots will be sweet so be sure to take that into account when seasoning).

Salmon and dill – cube 200g of skinless, pinboned salmon fillet and add to the filling with finely chopped dill and some lemon zest. Leave the cheese out of this one.

Kale, potato and cheddar Well-seasoned kale is delicious in a quiche, just blanche and refresh and chop finely before adding.  Par-boil 80g of new potatoes and slice them before adding.

All quiche needs is a lightly dressed baby leaf salad and a glass of chilled chablis for a very sophisticated and delicious picnic outdoors.

© Linda Galloway 2020