Saturday, 26 May 2012

Mixed Bean Salad with Tomato Dressing

Well, I’m amazed to be able to say that the weather forecasters were right for once in their lives; the weather has been glorious for the last couple of days so, following on from what I said a couple of weeks back, I had a go at recreating another one of my ‘This is Not from Waitrose’ salads yesterday. I decided to go for the mixed bean variety.

The bean part was easy but the dressing required some thought. I wanted a dressing that was tangy without being citrusy and something that would be thick enough to cling to the beans; I definitely didn’t want to end up with something resembling soup with the beans swimming in a sea of dressing! I decided to go for a tomato and balsamic combo; it took a while to get just the taste I was after but I got there eventually.

Now, I have to tell you that we had this for dinner last night with quiche and new potatoes…and we had to stop ourselves from eating it all – we loved it! There was about two spoonfuls left (!) which we ate alongside our lunchtime salad sandwich today; I’m happy to report that it was just as good after 24 hours in the fridge.

1 tin mixed beans, well-rinsed and drained
100g fine green beans
50g frozen soya beans
½ a Romano red pepper, diced
¼ of a medium red onion, finely chopped
small handful of roughly chopped curly parsley

2 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 heaped tsp sun-dried tomato paste
4 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp sugar
1 tbsp water
black pepper

Top and tail the green beans and cut into thirds; bring ½ inch of water to the boil in a small saucepan, add the green beans and the soya beans, bring back to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain and plunge into cold water then drain well again.

Put the mixed beans and the cooled green and soya beans into a bowl, add the diced red pepper, the finely chopped onion and the parsley and mix well.

Put all the dressing ingredients into a blender and blitz until almost smooth.
Stir the dressing into the salad, cover with cling film and refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the flavours amalgamate.

Serves 4 or maybe even 6 as part of a barbecue or buffet (or 2 extremely greedy simple veggies!)

Monday, 21 May 2012

Fruity Tagine with Lemon and Almond Couscous

The weather here has been awful for the last few days, constantly grey and cold, nothing like May should be at all. In a spirit of optimism we planted a whole lot of vegetable seeds last week but it’s been so chilly I’m not entirely convinced they’ll survive. However, there are reports of things warming up a bit later in the week; hmm…I’ll believe it when I see it!

So…what to eat? It’s too cold for light summery meals but I feel heavier winter meals should be over by now. I just didn’t know what to do for dinner last night; it was a case of opening the fridge to see what inspired me.

I finished up making this tagine; I’ve followed tagine recipes in the past that I’ve not been too impressed with, they just didn’t seem to do it for me, so this time I made it up as I went along, adding more of this and less of that to suit our taste. I make no claims as to its authenticity (I know you don’t usually find paneer in a tagine!) but we enjoyed it and I’ll definitely make it again.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp each of cumin, paprika and cinnamon
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into batons
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
1 tin chopped tomatoes
400ml stock
1 tbsp honey
250g paneer, cubed
1 tin chickpeas, drained
100g dried apricots, halved
handful of chopped coriander

200g couscous
275ml boiling stock
zest and juice of 1 lemon
50g toasted flaked almonds
handful of chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion over a medium heat for five minutes; add the garlic and the spices and cook for a further minute or two.

Add everything else, except the chopped coriander, stir well and bring to the boil; pop a lid on and turn the heat down. Leave to simmer gently for 45 minutes.

About 10 minutes before the tagine is ready put the couscous, zest and juice of the lemon in a large bowl; add the boiling stock, stir once, cover the bowl with a plate and leave for 8-10 minutes. When all the stock has been absorbed, fluff up the couscous with a fork and stir in the toasted almonds and the chopped parsley.

Stir ¾ of the coriander into the tagine before serving and sprinkle the rest of it on top.

Serves 4

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Gnocchi Bake

I used ready-made gnocchi here because I wanted a quick dinner after we’d been faffing around in the garden planting seeds (carrot, beetroot and courgette, since you ask). Yes, I know gnocchi is easy to make and I’m being very lazy, but I won’t tell anyone if you won’t!

This is pure comfort food; easy, quick and incredibly tasty. Serve with a tomato and red onion salad dressed with some olive oil and a splash of balsamic; add a mindless telly programme and a glass of something cold (that'll be water for me...the wine is for Mr Simply Veg) put your feet up on the sofa and enjoy.

250g gnocchi (½ a pack)
1 head of broccoli (about 350g)
350ml milk
25g butter
30g plain flour
1 tsp Marigold Bouillon stock powder
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Break the broccoli into florets. Bring a large pan of water to the boil; add the gnocchi to the boiling water, when they start to bob to the surface add the broccoli and cook for 1 minute exactly. Drain well and plunge into a bowl of cold water to halt the cooking process; drain again and put to one side while you make the cheese sauce.

Put the milk, butter, flour and Marigold stock powder into a saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens; simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in half the cheddar. Stir the gnocchi and broccoli carefully into the cheese sauce.

Tip into an ovenproof dish and top with the rest of the grated cheddar. Bake at 200C for 15 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Pesto Pasta Salad

Helloooo….I’m back!

Do you ever see something in a supermarket and think “I could make that”? Well, that’s what I did with this pasta salad. I love those little tubs of different salads that you find in the supermarket chiller cabinets but, let’s be honest, they’re a complete rip-off so I thought I’d have a whirl at making a similar one myself. In fact, I might just work my way through the entire range at Waitrose – making my version of my favourites.

I’m not sure we’ll be having a summer this year (we don’t even seem to have had spring yet or maybe I blinked and missed it – this is definitely the wettest drought I’ve ever seen!) but if we ever get a break from the rain this salad is just the sort of thing I’d be happy to have for lunch with a few tomatoes and maybe some rocket, whilst sitting in the garden watching the grass grow.

125g pasta shapes (I used trofie)
125g fine green beans
1tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp pesto
30g pine nuts

Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water until al dente; top and tail the beans and cut into thirds, throw them in with the pasta for the last 3-4 minutes of the cooking time. Drain the pasta and beans and rinse well under cold running water to stop the cooking process; drain well then stir in the olive oil followed by the pesto.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan (watch them like a hawk – they burn if you so much as blink!) and sprinkle over the salad before serving.

I prefer this at room temperature rather than fridge cold, the flavour of the pesto really comes through.