Monday, 28 June 2010

"I've got the lurgi"


A is off school with a mysterious illness and is not particularly happy with being confined to his bed. Meanwhile, I am buying all sorts of nasty, gooey, smelly boy related toys for the party bags that will accompany his Big Eleventh Birthday Bash on Friday (eleven! I know!). 13 boys, four and a half hours of fun...bring it on! A's parties are the stuff of legend and I always like to send the attendees home with full bellies and a bag of goodies that will make their parents groan when they contemplate removing oozing slime off their new cream carpets. I'm still toying with what cake to make him....death by chocolate? We'll see.

So onto the noms...
Salad. Full stop. I lurve a salad, me. As my very good friend Lucy and her lovely man Doug reminded us in her own blog DoubletheSugar, no one wants to read about a salad! Ah ha, but these are OhMammy salads. Guaranteed to pile on the pounds and wonder what we ever did as children when lettuce, cucumber and a tomato constituted a salad. So in the spirit of all things summery I have devised this weeks menu with seasonality in mind.

Summery Spinach Pasta Salad
  • 200g fiocchetti all’uovo pasta (from Waitrose), or penne
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 7 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Bunch of spring onions, trimmed
  • 200g raw shelled peas or 300g frozen
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 150g soft goat’s cheese, crumbled
  • 200g fresh young spinach leaves, washed
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, pour the white wine vinegar and 6 tablespoons of the olive oil into a salad bowl. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Finely slice the spring onions and add to the vinaigrette with the raw peas, chopped fresh mint and crumbled goat’s cheese.
  • Dry the spinach with a tea towel or a salad spinner, if you have one, and add to the salad bowl.
  • Set a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the remaining olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes, if using. Cook very gently until the garlic begins to colour, then immediately remove from the heat. As soon as the pasta is cooked, drain thoroughly and toss in the garlic (and chilli) oil, then mix immediately into the pea, spinach and cheese mixture. Toss together well, season to taste with salt and black pepper and serve. This will sit quite happily for an hour. 
I'm buying some cracking pork links from Crombies this week so to accompany them I'm making:

Pea and Lentil Salad


  • 200g Puy lentils
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 shallot or small onion, finely sliced
  • Juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 200g peas
  • There is no need to soak Puy lentils. Just wash them and cook in plenty of unsalted water with the garlic for about 20 minutes, until they are tender but with some bite. Discard the garlic at this point if you wish. Drain and place in an outsized serving bowl.
  • Add the shallot, lemon or lime juice and oil to the lentils and toss together. Season to taste and set aside. Blanch the peas for no more than a minute or so in plenty of boiling water. Drain, add to the lentils and serve.

For the carnivores:

Steak and Rocket Salad


  • 250g vacuum-packed cooked beetroot in natural juice,
  • 1 white rustic roll, roughly torn
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 300g thick rump steak
  • 50g wild rocket
  • 100g pack sun-dried tomatoes
  • Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7. Drain 250g vacuum-packed cooked beetroot in natural juice, reserving the juice. Cut the beetroot into wedges, put into a roasting tin with 1 white rustic roll, roughly torn, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season, toss together and roast for 15 minutes, turning halfway. Tip into a large bowl to cool slightly.
  • Meanwhile, season 300g thick rump steak and fry in a hot, dry pan for 2 minutes each side. Set aside for 5 minutes, then slice. Toss 50g wild rocket and 100g pack sun-dried tomatoes with the beetroot, croutons and sliced steak, then divide between plates.
  • Mix the reserved beetroot juice with 3 tablespoons olive oil, season and drizzle over each salad to serve.
Insalta di Napoli (my favourite)
  • 1 small, firm-textured ciabatta, torn into small chunks
  • 5 large ripe vine tomatoes, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 3 x 125g tubs buffalo mozzarella balls, drained and torn into
  • 2cm pieces
  • 2 good handfuls fresh basil leaves
  • 125ml good extra-virgin olive oil
  • Good, aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

  • Put the ciabatta into a salad bowl. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and oil. Gently toss and season.
  • Divide the salad between bowls or plates. Drizzle over balsamic vinegar to taste and serve immediately.
To end the week:

Roast chicken with minted broad beans and Feta  


  • 4 free-range skinless chicken breasts or a medium sized whole chicken
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 large sprig of fresh mint, plus handful small leaves
  • 750g broad beans
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 200g feta
  • Slash each breast in a couple of places, then place in a dish with the olive oil, half the lemon zest and juice, and the garlic. Season well and leave to marinate for 10-15 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the mint sprig and blanch the broad beans for 2-3 minutes until tender. Drain, discard the mint and refresh under cold water, then drain again. You can slip each broad bean from its outer shell, if you like. Whisk the rest of the lemon zest and juice with the extra-virgin olive oil, season and drizzle over the beans. Crumble in the feta and stir it through, along with the mint leaves. Set aside.
  • Heat a frying pan over a high heat and quickly brown the chicken breasts until both sides are golden, then transfer to a roasting tin and roast for 5-10 minutes until cooked. Serve immediately, sliced in half, with the minted broad beans and feta.

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