Posts Tagged: salad

Apr 11

Time for Thai


As regular readers will know, Thai food is amongst my favourites from around the world. The fiery, heady mix of spice, the soothing warmth of coconut milk, the crunch of tiny crisp anchovies and punchy fresh lime juice…just thinking about it gets me hungry. 

Thai food has several cornerstones. Some might argue a mire-poix (carrot, celery and onion) for the basis of much of French cookery, but Thai cuisine is more about the balance of hot, salty, sweet and sour accomplished most commonly sugar, lime juice, chillies and fish sauce which turn up in almost every dish.

Indeed, in good Thai restaurants you’ll be offered these to customise a dish to your particular taste. This includes nam prik pow (chillies in vinegar), naamtam (sugar), prik pon (chilli flakes) and nam plaa (fish sauce, often with chillies) – referred to as ‘The Four Flavours’.

It’s Thai New Year from the April 13-15 – known as Songkran or the Water Festival – which is an ideal time to start cooking Thai food at home.

Once you’ve got a few basics in your store cupboard you’ll be knocking out red and green curries, spicy salads and soups in no time.

Click here to read the recipes for

Vegetable pad Thai

Thai fishcakes

Thai beef salad

Salmon with sticky chilli sauce

Thai Green chicken curry

Mar 11

Vegetables and chocolate


Funny old cooking time of late. I’ve been surrendering to my sweet tooth. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a sucker for a pudding and for anything chocolate-based, from a Cadbury’s fudge to an Akesson’s single plantation Madagscan chocolate bar.

At the same time though, I’ve been rather virtuous, subsisting on a diet at home that is mainly vegetable based, with the odd Friday night feast of something naughty like Buffalo wings. It’s been dhal, salads (on the sunnier days), curries, soup. I’m not quite sure what’s been going on.

Oh yes, and the brownies. Yes the brownies. I keep them hidden in the freezer, ready cut, and eat them straight from there, slightly chewier and with a delicious, cool, snap.

Perhaps it’s the changing seasons – my body is gearing up for the warmer months. Mind you, I’d eat chocolate on the hottest and coldest days of the year, no problem.

I even woke up in the middle of the night the other day and snapped a few pieces of the bar(s!) I keep stashed away for a rainy day. Still, I ate my salad on the balcony in the sun the next day – getting my Vitamin D fix while I chomp through my other vitamins.

Feb 11

Cool out with kachumber


A home-made curry is a squillion times better than a take-out version – healthier, fresher and more delicious – and you can throw in whatever you feel like (or just what’s been lurking at the back of the fridge).

They’re a doddle to do – but following recipes can often be useful as spicing is a complex business – for yonks my curries always ended up tasting the same until a few useful lessons from a half-Bengali friend.

Last night’s effort was a vegetarian variety, light on the chilli front and made with mushrooms and potato. A bowl of yogurt makes a perfect addition with fragrant green chillies scattered over the top and some home-made chappatis to scoop it all up with.

The icing on the cake was what is known as a kachumber, a typical Indian salad made with tomatoes, cucumber and onion served as a cooling accompaniment. My version has a little tropical twist though…

Click here for my recipe for kachumber with coconut, black sesame and poppy seeds

Sep 10

Wedding fare

What a week and what a wedding. My little sister (no pressure on me, of course) has just got married and is currently in the wilds of Africa somewhere with her lovely new husband. We were so fortunate with the weather (the wedding happened on Saturday) and the sun shone all day with just the merest hint of rain in the early evening.

As my family are all rather food obsessed, the meal was something that was given great consideration. We used a company that, it transpired, Jamie Oliver had just bought and the food reflected this. Beautiful crostini were brought out as canapés with crab and chilli or smashed cannellini beans or heritage tomatoes; then long planks of olivewood arrived laden with antipasti, cured meats, grilled vegetables, grilled peaches with bresaola and blue cheese, fat green olives and tins of bread drizzled with pesto and parmesan.

We opted for family style food for the mains – spiced chicken grilled under a brick, hot smoked and roasted salmon with chilli, sweetcorn and avocado salsa, Italian style coleslaw, delicious panzanella (the glorious Tuscan bread salad) and green salad with a creamy dill dressing – to name but a few. Puds were equally fantastic – a take on Eton mess and a chocolate tart with grilled figs – both triumphs.

Think I may have to go on a diet for a couple of weeks. But who am I kidding.

Jul 10

Subtle Spanish style


I love the Spanish approach to food and their ethos – choose great quality ingredients and serve them in as simple a way as possible. It’s a practice that many a UK chef could learn a lot from. A little deftness of hand, a little seasoning or greenery here and there and you’re away.

I’m a little biased but my favourite Spanish chef happens to be one of my great friends, Jose Pizarro – and as such I frequently get to eat incredible Spanish food. Quite often he’ll serve something and I’ll ask how he’s made it; he smiles knowingly and says “I opened a tin”. Indeed – Spanish tinned fish is often more expensive than the fresh stuff and is regarded as something of a delicacy.

That is not to say that he isn’t also a brilliant chef – some of his recipes are astounding in taste, simplicity and creativity. I made his gazpacho Extremadura on a boiling day recently, cooled down with ice cubes and it was bliss. This recipe, for his salad dressing, is probably the most incredible dressing I’ve ever tasted. Seek out the ingredients (which are readily available online) and make it – you’ll be hooked.

Click here for Jose Pizarro’s Moscatel vinaigrette with orange blossom honey

Sep 09

Roll out the ricotta for a light lentil salad


Ricotta is one of those ingredients that needs quite a lot done to it to make it exciting. I personally love the fact that it is rather the blank canvas and perfect for both sweet and savoury. In the restaurant where I work we do a fantastic lemon and ricotta cake, delicious, squishy and sharp.

It can be quite wet, so baking it adds an interesting extra layer of textures and flavours as in this recipe for a late summer salad, full of vibrant herbs to perk you up on a near-Autumnal evening.

The earthy lentils add a wonderful contrast of texture. I wrote a note in the margin of this recipe suggesting that a roasted red pepper cut into strips might make a lovely addition.

Lentil and baked ricotta salad

Ingredients (serves 2 as a light salad)

  • 75g lentils
  • 200g ricotta
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1/2 a red onion
  • A handful basil
  • A handful mint
  • half a small packet of cress

For the dressing

  • 1tsp Dijon
  • 1 tbs chestnut honey
  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 4 tbs olive oil


Cook the lentil in stock or water for 12-15 minutes until cooked but still with bite. Set aside to cool.

Cut the ricotta into ½ cm slices and bake at 180 for 20 minutes until starting to brown.

Quarter the tomatoes, finely slice the red onion and chop the herbs. Mix these all together gently with the cress and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooled lentils and crumble in the cheese.

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing together and pour over the salad. Serve with crusty bread.

Aug 09

The best things in life


As the saying goes, the best things in life are free – and nowhere is this more true that in the vegetable growing department.

A while ago I wrote about my tomato plants and how the first tomato had sprouted. The three plants I had on my balcony continued to grow and grow until the branches were bowing, so laden were they with fruit.

When it came to eating them, they were the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes I’d ever eaten on these shores – the skin slightly thicker from their outdoor growing, the flesh more intense and deep. I’d been given a handful of green beans my friends had grown on their allotment and a deliciously simple salad was born. To make this a standout you’d need to really source the best beans and tomatoes you could find – with so few ingredients the ones you do use must be heroes.

It would be silly to call this a recipe – merely a combination of delicious things – and as such the quantities are as haphazard as its coming together. A perfect summer accompaniment to a roast lunch or barbecue.

Tomato, shallot and green bean salad


  • A handful of tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
  • A handful of green beans
  • 2 small shallots or 1 banana, sliced into rings
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil


Trim the beans and blanch in salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Refresh in iced water.

Drain and shake off the excess water before combining with the tomatoes and shallots in a bowl.

A splash of olive oil and a drizzle of good balsamic are all you will need, along with a good sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper.

Aug 09

An Asian-American classic


Peanut butter is a great ingredient – both delicious and versatile. It’s one of those things that I sometimes forget about and find a jar lurking in the back of the fridge. I’m not a fussy one either – I’m just as happy with Sunpat as I am with the premium organic varieties, although it must be the crunchy one though.
I’m a big fan of the American classic PBJ – the combination of peanut butter and jam on buttered toast is a thing of greatness.  Peanut butter is the key addition alongside chocolate in my peanut butter brownie cookies.
They use it in the Victoria kitchen to make a fantastic ice cream – peanut butter is mixed into the traditional custard base and served on a devilishly dark cookie.

A chocolate and peanut butter milkshake is one of my guilty pleasures.

Peanut butter does make a great savoury ingredient too – and it was as a last minute addition to the classic South East Asian salad dressing of lime juice, chilli, fish sauce and palm sugar that it now comes before you.

A very large pestle and mortar are ideal here, but a whisk and bowl would work equally well.  Feel free to replace the beef with grilled chicken or even fish.

Thai beef salad with peanut dressing

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 sirloin or fillet steaks weighing approx 200g each
  • 4 tomatoes or 8 cherry tomatoes
  • ½ a cucumber
  • 1 red onion or 10 thai pink shallots
  • A couple of handfuls of bean sprouts
  • Handful of chopped coriander
  • Handful of chopped mint
  • 1 tsp ground rice (method below)

For the dressing

  • 2 tbs palm sugar
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 1-2 bird’s eye chillis
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 4 tbs peanut butter


First make the ground rice. This is traditionally done with sticky rice but feel free to use basmati. Toast the uncooked rice in a frying pan over a medium heat for a few minutes until golden brown. Crush in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder until you have a fairly fine powder. Set aside.

Cook the steaks on a griddle to your liking – I’d suggest medium rare for this recipe.
To make the dressing, crush the chillies in a pestle and mortar. Use one if you don’t like it too hot. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and gentle bash it together. It will look like it won’t come together but then suddenly it will. Taste the dressing as it may need more fish sauce or lime juice.

Quarter the tomatoes, seed and dice the cucumber, finely slice the red onion and mix together with the bean sprouts and the herbs. Add half the dressing and toss to coat. Place the salad on a plate and then slice the steak and put this on top of the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing, scatter over the ground rice and serve.

Jul 09

A simple French salad


Trawling through my old recipes often turns up a forgotten gem – and it’s always with a little bit of joy that I remember the flavours and wonder why I haven’t cooked this or that for ages. This recipe is what our French cousins are so very good at – taking the healthy and turning it into something distinctly naughty.

Now, strictly this is an Alpine dish, so in theory one should do some serious trekking before tucking in without the faintest glimmer of guilt, but a brisk walk around the garden should suffice.

It’s perfect for a British summer and will convert even the most resolute of meat n’ two veg eaters. A little something for everyone.

Salade Savoyarde

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 200g Beaufort cheese (you could use Comte or Gruyère)
  • 200g lardons or diced bacon
  • 400g potatoes
  • 50g walnuts
  • 50g bread, cubed
  • 1 head Frisée or a bag of mixed salad
  • 1 carrot, grated

For the dressing

  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 5 tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


Peel the potatoes and boil them in salted water until tender, a matter of some 15 minutes or so. Drain, and when cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2 centimetre slices and set aside.

Cut the cheese into pieces roughly the same size as the lardons.

Toast the walnuts in a dry pan for a few minutes, then tip them out and fry the lardons in the same pan until crisp. Set these aside also.

Fry the croutons – you may need to add some butter to the pan if there isn’t enough bacon fat. Drain them on kitchen paper when done.

Allow everything to cool slightly, before lightly tossing together with the frisée and the grated carrot.

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing, or shake in a jam jar. Pour over the salad and season. Serve with crusty bread.

Jun 09

The joys of a green balcony


I am lucky enough to have a particularly green-fingered mother, a dab hand in the garden, who manages to live for the greater part of the year off her allotment. I’m slightly green myself, with envy at the wonderful produce that comes off it, the tiny courgettes with their flowers, onions, potatoes, beans, beetroot, carrots, herbs, asparagus. They taste like vegetables should – fresh and deeply flavourful.

I live in London, which as you can imagine, creates something of a problem when it comes to having a garden. Fortunately, having moved recently, we opted for a flat with a balcony, just big enough to house a barbecue, a table and a few chairs, and more importantly some plants. Well ok, the barbecue might have taken priority…

We’re only growing a few things – tomatoes, herbs and salad but there is something distinctly satisfying with tending these things as they attempt to grow in Blighty.

But while the rain pours down outside, we’ll be eating a wonderfully simple lunch – some toasted sourdough, smoked anchovies and some salad leaves from our box, dressed with good balsamic, some very good olive oil and a sprinkle of grated parmesan – a little dose of sunshine.

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