Salad season!

I’ve started to realise that I use the word favourite a lot.

“That’s my favourite.”

“This is my favourite.”

“Wait, no, actually, THAT’s definitely my favourite!”

Right, so I get a little overexcited about things.

 – Sorry, not sorry, that’s just me –

And right now, I am overexcited about SALADS.

Yup, salads.

I very rarely eat salads during autumn or winter – I’d rather have something hot to warm me up – but during spring and summer, I could have nothing but.

Delicious salads, every day.

Quinoa, roasted sweet potato and onion salad

Not only are they delicious, but it’s so much fun inventing new salad recipes with whatever I’ve got in the fridge or the pantry.

Latest creation: freshly picked iceberg lettuce from the allotment, a few baby plums, crumbled feta cheese, crispy pancetta cubes and homemade croutons made from homemade pumpkin seed and sunflower seed bread.

YUM.

Baby plum tomato, feta, crispy lardons and crouton salad

So, please, pretty please, if you guys have good salad recipes/ideas lying around, comment and tell me. I am dying to try new things and am going to exhaust my own salad recipes pretty quickly at this rate!

Baked halloumi and red pepper salad

I’ve been seeing a lot of halloumi and roasted red peppers lately – in toasties at Prêt, in wraps, inside one another (think halloumi stuffed peppers), and as halloumi is one of my food crushes of the moment, I decided to give it a whirl.

I kept it simple and baked them before tossing them with a fresh salad, with a little lemon and thyme as a personal twist.

A great option as a starter – you’d have to serve it with something more consistent to have it as a main – and definitely tasting of summer!

How do you eat your halloumi?

*

Serves 1

Ingredients:

1/2 block of halloumi, thinly sliced

1 red pepper, roasted and skin peeled off

1/2 lemon, sliced

A few sprigs of thyme

1/2 clove of garlic, crushed and chopped

1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/3 cucumber, thinly sliced

A few baby plum tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 sweet pepper, thinly sliced

A handful of salad leaves

1. Preheat oven to 200° C. In an oven-proof dish, place halloumi and roasted pepper slices.

2. Mix thyme, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Pour over the halloumi and red peppers. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, until cheese is soft and golden.

3. While the cheese cooks, plate salad leaves, cucumber, tomato and sweet pepper slices. When the cheese is done, place with red pepper on top of salad with some of the cooking juices.

4. Enjoy!

IMG_4125

Spicy red lentil stew

Think comfort.

Spicy, warm comfort.

This dish is simply perfect for those cold nights where you just want to wrap up in a warm blanket and cosy up inside.

I know I was trying to will the summer on by eating salads, but when it pours outside all day, sometimes you just want to have something to heat up your insides.

One of the best things about this stew? You can make a big batch, freeze a few portions – and presto! A fuss free, healthy meal for one (or two) without having to spend hours in the kitchen waiting for it to cook. Just take it out of the freezer in the morning and heat up in a saucepan (or microwave).

Anyway, try it, savour it, thank me later!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 stick of celery, diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed and chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp tomato purée

400g tin chopped tomatoes

200g red split lentils, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper, to taste

Coconut oil

IMG_4081

1. Heat some coconut oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and fry for 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, tomato purée, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper and fry for a further two minutes, while stirring.

IMG_4094

3. Add chopped tomatoes, red lentils and 500ml of water. Season to taste, then simmer over low heat for 30 minutes until sauce has thickened and lentils are cooked.

4. Serve with warm, crusty bread.

5. Enjoy!

IMG_4097

Quick and easy tomato and mascarpone spaghetti

Some days, you just don’t feel like cooking.

I mean, be honest: it happens to the best of us! And, despite my love of cooking (and my best intentions), it happens to me ALL. THE. TIME.

And I have found my easy solution to those lazy days – tomato and mascarpone pasta.

It’s easy: boil water. Add spaghetti. Fry half a chopped onion. Add tomato purée and mascarpone. Mix in with pasta when cooked and drained. Sprinkle over some parmesan. EAT.

IMG_4049

If you’re feeling up for it, dice a cherry tomato or two  to throw into the mix. Adds a bit of freshness.

The great part about this dish: it only takes as long to make as your pasta takes to cook, and it’s still healthy!

I also used wholemeal spaghetti to make it a little healthier – although I must say, I personally really enjoy the taste and extra crunch of wholemeal spaghetti.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

75-100g wholemeal spaghetti

1/2 roughly chopped onion

5-6 cherry tomatoes, diced

1/2 tbsp tomato purée

1 tbsp mascarpone

Salt and pepper to taste

Coconut oil

Parmesan

1. Boil some water in a large pot. When bubbling, add spaghetti.

2. While spaghetti cooks, heat some coconut oil in a small pan over medium heat. When hot, add the chopped onion and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add tomato purée and mascarpone, mixing thoroughly.

3. Drain the spaghetti, then place back in pot. Mix tomato mascarpone sauce in with the spaghetti. Drop in the diced tomato.

4. Plate pasta and sprinkle parmesan on top.

5. Enjoy!

Roasted red pepper butterbean salad

The English weather, true to itself, keeps going from amazingly warm, sunny and AWESOME days to raining, pouring, old man snoring-type of days.

Hence, I’ve decided to will the sun out by eating delicious, summer salads all day, every day.

Well, for lunch.

And dinner.

Not breakfast.

Don’t think I could manage breakfast.

Attempt n°1

(It seems to have worked as the rain has temporarily stopped here in the Midlands):

Roasted red pepper butter bean salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 red pepper

80g pancetta cubes

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed

Apple cider vinegar (or red wine if you have it)

Two handfuls of rocket

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 200°. On a baking tray, place your red pepper, deseeded and sliced into four sides. Place in oven until the skin is burnt. Then, put the pepper into a sealed plastic bag and leave to cool. Once it is cool to the touch, peel off the skin, slice into strips and set aside.

2. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, fry the pancetta cubes (no need to add any oil or fats) until golden. Then, add chopped shallots until soft.

3. Tip in strips of roasted pepper and butterbeans, as well as a dash a vinegar and stir until heated through. Season to taste.

4. Plate with the rocket and serve with warm, crusty bread.

5. Enjoy!

IMG_4080

Ps. I bought some bread in store today because I didn’t have time to make my own. It was delicious spicy corn bread and I LOVED it. Definitely going to try making some at home ^^

Spinach and ricotta lasagna

Since I tried this dish out for the first time a few years ago, it’s become one of my go-to healthy dishes, and a bit of a comfort food: I mean, seriously, it’s full of spinach (my absolute favourite), ricotta cheese and nutmeg – how could I not love it? Spinach and ricotta are such a beautiful pairing, I love to use them in basically anything: I’ve already posted about quesadillas, a quick and easy dinner solution, but this is my ultimate favourite and a great dinner dish – lasagna.

Plus, this recipe can easily be tweaked using filo pastry to make spinach and ricotta samosas or filo pie, if and when the mood strikes you. Don’t you love two-in-one recipes? 😉

Serves 6

Ingredients:

250g spinach

1 onion, chopped

250g ricotta cheese

100g feta cheese

1/2 tsp nutmeg

6-9 lasagna sheets

Parmesan

Salt

Pepper

Coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 200° C.

2. Heat some coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat, and fry the chopped onion until translucent and soft. Add the spinach and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Tip into a sieve and press to remove excess liquid, then put into a bowl and let cool.

3. Mix nutmeg, crumbled feta and ricotta, then stir in with the spinach and onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. In an ovenproof dish, layer the spinach and ricotta mixture with lasagna sheets, finishing with a ricotta layer. Sprinkle a little parmesan over the top.

IMG_4056

5. Put some aluminium over the dish and put in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove aluminium and bake for a further  10 minutes.

6. Take out of the oven and let cool before serving.

7. Enjoy!

IMG_4061

Roasted sweet potato fajitas

It’s been such a busy weekend with my family visiting me from France so this recipe is a little bit late, but I simply couldn’t deprive you of it.

I LOVE sweet potatoes and this is one of my favorite to-go lunch recipes ever: roasted sweet potato, red onion and red pepper wedges with Mexican spice, crème fraiche, feta cheese and crunchy iceberg lettuce.

It’s perfect, delicious hot or cold, morning or night.

Every time I have it, that’s all I wanted to eat for the next week.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, but this baby will most definitely be featuring on my Instagram feed regularly over the next few weeks.

Although I adore this fajita recipe as a vegetarian one, it’s also delicious with some spicy and crispy fried chorizo on top for a meaty twist.Your choice, really.

IMG_4020

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato, washed and cut into wedges

1 red onion, chopped into wedges

1 onion, chopped into wedges

1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into strips

1 tbsp olive oil

15g fajita or Mexican seasoning

Fresh coriander

Iceberg lettuce, shredded

50g feta cheese

Crème fraiche or sour cream, to serve

4 tortilla wraps

Optional: chorizo

1. Heat oven to 200° C. In a mixing bowl, toss sweet potato, onion, red onion and red pepper wedges with olive oil and spices. Place on a baking tray and roast for 40 minutes, turning halfway through.

2. Warm the wraps as indicated on the packet (or 8-10 minutes, wrapped in tinfoil in the oven).

3. Make fajitas once the vegetables are cooked by placing them in the wraps with a dollop of cream, some chopped coriander, iceberg lettuce and crumbled feta cheese.

IMG_3953For a meatier option, fry some chorizo slices in a pan until crisp while vegetables are baking then add to the fajitas.

4. Enjoy!

IMG_3969

 

I tried: Hello Fresh

So, as my last post stated, I recently received my first Hello Fresh box: after trying out Gousto last year, I had to try this second option. I’ve been busy cooking up the dishes they delivered these past few days. Here are my thoughts on the experience:

1. Delivery:

The box could have been delivered anytime during the day, but it arrived fairly early in the morning (around 11, I think). It was left on my front porch, exactly like I had specified – there were no issues with the delivery at all.

2. The Box :

IMG_3866The box looks simple: brown, with the Hello Fresh Logo on it. Once opened, the contents were very well organised, refrigerated ingredients on one side, fresh (vegetables and fruit) and dry ingredients on the other. Also included in the package were three beautifully designed recipe cards and a pack of Jordan’s Strawberry and Blueberry Granola, which I was delighted to see.

3. The recipes : 

First off, I should specify that I ordered the vegetarian box. Unlike Gousto, you cannot specifically choose which three meals you’d like to receive, as these are randomly picked for you. However, Hello Fresh do have a list of the different dishes available per week on their website (for the current week and the two following weeks).

While the “omnivore” box has a number of meal options (meaning you would only receive three meals out of about ten), the vegetarian menu only includes three items a week. Hence, you can know what meals you’ll be receiving in advance.

The three dishes I received I was, well, less than sold on at first. However, after having cooked and eaten them, I am absolutely bowled over! All three turned out delicious; the flavours were very well balanced and I’ll definitely be keeping some of these recipes in my belt for some other time.

This pasta dish was fresh, zingy and cheesy – I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Power Pasta of the Gods with Peas and Parsley

My personal favourite of the three? This amazing roast sweet potato, onion and tomato salad with spiced halloumi. I’m a big fan of Halloumi cheese and this was definitely a lovely new way of eating it – I haven’t tried spicing it up before and it was very tasty. I loved the Mexican spice mix Hello Fresh included with the recipe.

Mexican Tomato Jumble with Spiced Citrus Halloumi

This dish was the real surprise of the three: I left it til last because I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it quite as much. However, it was completely the opposite. I discovered freekeh, a roasted grain with a nutty taste. I love it already 😉

Springtime Freekeh Salad


My verdict? 

Overall, a lovely experience ordering from Hello Fresh. The recipes were easy to follow and delicious.

The downside? Generally, I wouldn’t be able to afford this: 3 meals for 2 for £36 (for the vegetarian box), although relatively reasonably priced, just goes beyond what I can spend by myself. I got a £25 discount voucher on my first Hello Fresh box from Amazon a few weeks ago and thought I’d take the opportunity to test it. I would definitely recommend trying it out for couples, though!

Baked sweet potato with feta chipotle cream and chorizo

One of my favourite moments every month is receiving my Olive magazine, a foodie magazine featuring delicious recipes as well as restaurant and travel features. I particularly love the “Healthy choices” and “Weeknight simple” recipe categories, the latter one from which I took this beautiful recipes.

Baked sweet potatoes are always a delicious choice, but these toppings absolutely blew my mind: the feta chipotle cream goes beautifully with the SP and it’s a nice change from my usual homemade sour cream and chives. The chorizo, meanwhile adds a lovely kick and smells so delicious while it fries that you’d want to eat all of it by itself – but you should definitely wait, it is so worth it!

The original recipe calls for pickled jalapeños and sour cream, but I added my own twist by using crème fraiche instead of sour cream and chipotle paste instead of the jalapeños. I absolutely LOVE chipotle paste and I happened to have some left over 😉 thought I’d be clever in using up my ingredients.

I’ve already planned all of my meals for the week but I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up having this every day for the next few days. Because mm mm mmm was this delicious.

IMG_3815

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes, washed

60ml crème fraiche

30g feta cheese, crumbled

1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

1/2 tsp chipotle paste

100g chorizo, cut into thin slices

Watercress or baby spinach leaves to serve

1. Preheat oven to 200° Celsius.

2. After having washed the sweet potatoes, dry them and pierce on all sides with a fork. Place on a baking tray in the oven for approximately 40 minutes.

3. While the sweet potatoes are baking, mix together crème fraiche and feta, making as smooth a mixture as you can – if possible, use a blender. Then, add coriander and chipotle paste and set aside.

4. In a dry frying pan, fry the chorizo until crisp.

5. When the potatoes are tender, place on a plate and split in half. Divide the feta chipotle cream between both, then sprinkle on the chorizo slices. Serve with fresh salad leaves (I used a mixture of watercress, rocket and spinach).

6. Enjoy!

Roasted fennel and tomatoes

Everybody seems to be cooking fennel these days, so here I am, jumping on the bandwagon with this beautifully simple recipe from my grandmother: roasted fennel and tomatoes.

Up to a few weeks ago, I don’t believe I’d ever had roasted fennel before; I mainly remember eating fennel raw, in sandwiches or salads. I had a delicious fennel salad in Rome last summer, with black olives, orange and rocket and a tangy olive oil and orange dressing, and have fond memories of eating the most amazing homemade sandwiches on the Amalfi coast: fresh mozzarella, slices of tomato and raw fennel, fresh floury Italian rolls soaked with extra-virgin olive oil; just add a cool breeze, the sun shining on my skin & a good view and I’m in heaven.

In any case, eating cooked fennel was a revelation: this recipe is simplicity itself and tastes so good you won’t even believe it. Three ingredients are needed: fennel, tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil. Put the lot in the oven, wait a little while and enjoy! For those of you who aren’t the biggest fans of the liquorice-like taste of fennel, you’ll be glad to know that cooking this vegetable definitely tones this flavour down, bringing out much softer tones.

A really lovely dish, tasty and so easy to make! My grandmother likes to have it as a side dish, with a piece of baked fish and some rice, but I can picture this as a vegetarian main, with some butter beans added in for good measure (and a bit of a carb and protein boost). How will you choose to eat it?

IMG_3802

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 bulb fennel, fronds cut off and kept aside

1-2 tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

IMG_37911. Preheat oven to 190° C.

2. Cut fennel and tomatoes into halves, then into wedges.  Place vegetable wedges into an oven-proof dish. Cover in some olive oil, a little salt and pepper.

3. Cook in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until fennel is tender, turning over halfway through.

IMG_3798

4. Serves hot with rice and a fillet of fish, or with some beans. Sprinkle the fennel fronds on top.

5. Enjoy!