New Slaw

New Slaw 3

What happened to good old fashioned coleslaw?  I say good but actually, so many times it wasn’t, sometimes in fact it has been downright terrible.  Limp, greasy, over oniony, short on seasoning, cabbage too big, drowned in cheap mayo etc etc.  Poor coleslaw has hung its head in shame and hidden at the back of the buffet table.  Until now and talk about a makeover – the humble coleslaw has had some sort of sonic reinvention, spruced up and started wearing international couture.  Asian Slaw, Spicy Slaw, Citrus Slaw, Moroccan Slaw – it’s thrown off its dowdy mayo, lost the Cole and got down and funky with the kids.   Spicy, herby, tangy or hot – Slaw can be anything you like as long as it is crunchy.

I love a crunchy salad and regulars to these pages will know I am not stranger to this type of side.  My Christmas Salad (December 2013), the Thai-ish Salad (November 2015), Carrot Salad (January 2013) and of course the Celeriac Remoulade (January 2016) are variations on the slaw theme.   They are all cheap and easy to rustle up, happily retain their crunch for a couple of days in the fridge and will go with a myriad of other things as well as being perfect for lunch on their own (I particularly like this ones with a piece of cold salmon).  There is an added bonus though and its a huge and resounding boom of a bonus.  Children love them.   Who knew that getting raw veggies into children could ever be so easy?  My son particularly likes my Christmas Salad and regularly has if for his packed lunch.   My daughter however adores this gingery, piquant New Slaw the best, told me it is her favourite salad and had it three times this week.

Carrots, fennel, beetroot, cabbage (green, white or red), radish, celeriac, apple, broccoli – any of these work well.  Then do you want a sharp, zingy dressing, maybe spicy too?  Or perhaps a creamy dressing, a little more traditional although I favour yogurt or creme fraiche here over the ubiquitous mayo.  Add herbs, lots of them and seeds are good too.  Sometimes I add dried cranberries or raisins as I love that little burst of sweetness.  Customise your slaw as you please, make your own bespoke version.  We eat one of these raw, crunchy types of salad a few time a week and this one is the current favourite.  Gingery, herby and with a little heat it goes perfectly with barbecued chicken and I will post my favourite grilled chicken recipe in the next week or so.  Meanwhile may the crunch be with you, it is delicious and you can just feel it doing you good.

New Slaw

New Slaw

The other day I didn’t have any cabbage so used more carrots and it was just as good.  Different but just as good and that is the point of these slaws really, add a little more or less of something as you please, make it your own.

3 carrots, peeled

1/4 of a small red or green cabbage, core removed and finely chopped

6 radishes, sliced

2 spring onions, sliced

A thumb of ginger, peeled

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

A small packet of coriander

A small packet of mint

A handful of raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil, a light one

Juice of 1 lime, you may need 2 depending on their size and juiciness.

Grate the carrots and put into a large bowl with the radishes, onions, cabbage and chilli.  I use a box grater for this rather than an attachment in the processor as I find using this makes the veggies really wet.  Finely grate the ginger, add this to the bowl along with the olive oil and lime juice.  Season and mix well with your hands so that everything is combined.  Chop or snip the herbs over the salad, add the raisins/cranberries if using, mix once more and serve to happy faces.





Thai-ish Salad

Thai salad 2

Right I must say from the off that this is a Thai salad in the loosest possible sense.  Yes there is coriander, lime juice, fish sauce etc but also apple and radish and I’m not sure quite how authentic they are.   That said, it is fabulous to eat and sometimes I am happy to throw authenticity out of the window.  I think I mentioned it with Paella (January 2013) – I am not trying to recreate an original dish, I simply want to make something good to eat.

This is crisp, crunchy and jam packed with flavours.  The ginger, garlic and (small amount) of chilli give this life and heat whilst the herbs and lime bring zip and zing to the party.  You can leave out the apple if you want but I love their tangy sweetness and likewise the radishes, if they are not your thing omit them but they add peppery crunch and a beautiful pink.

It is a bonus for me that my children like this.  My daughter is a bit of a salad phobe but she adores and this and happily ploughs her way through a bowlful, sometimes adding a little more chilli and then smacking her lips and puffing as a result.   Its good to see them enjoying a bit of healthy salad at this time of year when we are rather surrounded by root vegetables and a lot of hardy brassicas.

This is fab with pork chops or roast chicken (hot or cold) and also works very well with leftovers.  In particular I’m thinking leftover turkey here but then that would make it a challenger to my beloved Christmas Salad (December 2013).  Never mind, we’ll just have both.

Thai salad

Thai Salad

Make the dressing first so that the flavours can sit and meld for a bit.

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons light olive oil

1/2 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon sriracha or other chilli sauce

Small thumb ginger, finely grated

1 small clove garlic, finely grated

1/4 white cabbage

1 apple

6 radishes

2 carrots, peeled

1/2 bunch coriander

1/2 bunch mint

Mix the first nine ingredients together to make the dressing.  Taste and adjust as you see fit, a little more chilli perhaps?  Finely chop the rest of the ingredients and mix in a large bowl, add most of the dressing and combine.  You may or may not need all the dressing, it rather depends on the size of your cabbage and carrots!   Enough for 4 as a side.


Roasted Aubergine, Feta and Mint Salad

Aubergine and Feta salad

At this time of year I am happy to eat salad after salad.   By this I don’t mean just a regular green salad with a vinaigrette.  Rather piles of fresh crunchy vegetables with handfuls of fragrant herbs, texture from seeds or grains, creamy feta, labne or ricotta and all anointed with a punchy dressing designed to bring the components together.

I like a classic Nicoise or a retro Coronation as well as the next person and a perfectly made Caesar is a thing of joy.  More often though my salads will be veggie based, at once healthy and delicious whilst celebrating the bounty of salad leaves and vegetables spilling from the shelves during the summer months.  Tomatoes, courgettes, beans of all kinds, beetroot, aubergines, carrots, peppers either raw, steamed or roasted.   Loads of verdant green herbs bringing all their gorgeous flavours to the party and lots of salady leaves.  If there is meat or fish it will often be almost as a seasoning, some small cubes of chorizo or bacon for example or salty slivers of anchovy.

You will find lots of suggestions here, Green Beans with Tomatoes and Chorizo (September 2013), Christmas Salad (December 2013), Favourite Green Salad (January 2014) and Roast Vegetables with Pomegranate Molasses (July 2014).   I turn to all these regularly and honestly, never get bored of them.  Todays salad is a new kid on the block and celebrates that trinity of good friends aubergine, feta and mint.  I often use these ingredients in other dishes but this time wanted them to shine and along with some bulgar for body, leaves of rocket and a garlicky dressing it is a stellar combination.

Aubergine and Feta salad 2

Aubergine, Feta and Mint Salad

I have mentioned previously my determination to find a way to make all vegetables agreeable to my children but it would seem that aubergine may be my nemesis…..

2 aubergines, sliced and then cubed

1 tablespoon olive oil

100g bulgar wheat

1 large handful of mint, torn

100g feta (more if you like) roughly cubed

1 large handful of rocket

1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1 teaspoon runny honey

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200, turn the aubergine cubes in the oil and spread out on a baking tray (you may need two), sprinkle with salt and roast for 20-30 minutes until golden.  Put the bulgar wheat into a bowl with a pinch of salt and cover with boiling water to about 1cm over the bulgar and leave for 10 minutes.  After this time taste a bit, if it is still a little hard leave for a few more minutes before draining.   Meanwhile make the dressing by mixing the garlic, honey, lemon juice and oil, season with salt and pepper until you are happy with it.  Mix the bulgar with most of the dressing and then gently mix in the aubergine, feta, rocket and mint.  Taste for seasoning and just before serving pour over a little more dressing.  Serves 4 alongside other things.


Weekend Food

Marble Cake close 2

We had a houseful over the weekend with extras for lunch on Sunday and whilst I wanted everyone to be well fed of course, the last thing on the menu was for me to be stuck in the kitchen (hissing) all weekend.  With ages ranging from 18 months to grandparents and childrens’ teas to add to the mix I had much to do.  Nothing for it but a bit of organisation, a good list and setting Friday morning aside to get ahead.  I thought I’d let you know what we ate and what I was able to prepare beforehand in case any of these tips help.

Saturday lunch was a picnic with Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon Dip (April 2015) with grissini (recipe coming soon) and Wild Garlic Focaccia (May 2014) alongside a big plate of salami, a bowl of tomatoes and a good chunk of cheddar.  For pudding we had meringues with vanilla bean cream and chocolate sauce (recipe coming soon).  I made the grissini, focaccia, meringues and dip on Friday so putting lunch together on Saturday only took a few minutes.  Incidentally the dough for the focaccia will happily sit in the fridge overnight so it can be baked just before lunch.

Wild Garlic Focaccia

At tea the children had orzo with bacon and tomato sauce (June 2015).  Pudding, and for us to tuck into with a cup of tea, was a Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake (October 2013) which I made on Friday.  For supper we had Chicken with Harissa (October 2012) with Little Rosemary Roasties (March 2015) and my favourite Green Salad (January 2014) – couldn’t have been easier.

On Sunday we had Lamb which had been marinading in garlic, lemon and rosemary.  With this Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013) but I used half mint and half parsley which made a funky full of flavour modern take on old fashioned mint sauce.  It went down an absolute treat.

Asparagus with parmesan

We didn’t need much for supper so I roasted several bunches of fabulous in season asparagus (June 2014) followed by Vanilla Pannacotta (July 2014) with poached rhubarb, both of which I made on Friday.

At each sitting I was delighted that the children scoffed everything except one who found the colour of the fresh herb sauce too alarmingly green.  Admittedly I gave myself quite I lot to do on Friday but I have to tell you it was worth it and it helped to know anything left to prepare was easy and also that so much was already in the fridge or cake tin.

Finally please don’t think there is even one iota of smuggery here,  I am rarely this organised but have proved to myself this weekend the virtue of planning and preparing ahead.  You may always be this organised but if not, I hope some of these tips and recipes might help you breeze through it next time you have a houseful.

One more thing, I finished off the leftover poached rhubarb and vanilla bean cream with a last meringue and it was fabulous.  It reminded me of a rhubarb pavlova that I made a couple of times last year and I will post that recipe soon.


Mint Chocolate Drops

Mint Chocolate Drops

Chocolate and Mint is a match (Matchstick) made in heaven, a truly great combination.  For as long as I can remember I have loved that marriage of fresh, clean, cool mint and rich, smooth melty chocolate.  From After Eights liberated on the quiet from their box in the dining room to that crazy Ice Breaker of the 70’s – ludicrously sharp little peppermint shards incased in chocolate – remember that one?  I loved the look of Bendicts Bittermints and though I tried them regularly, desperate to enjoy their sophistication, the super bitter dark chocolate proved an effective barrier between the young me and the soft mint patty within.  Fry’s Peppermint Cream, Mintolas and Mint Aero – don’t believe I’ve ever turned my nose up at any of the above.  Continuing the theme, my parents even had a bottle of Royal Mint Chocolate Liquer – very racy.

So I thought I’d make my own and could it be any easier?  Melt some chocolate, add a little peppermint extract, drop spoonfuls on parchment, let it cool.

Can that be called a recipe?  No, honestly it is just too ridiculously simple but that is pretty much it.  My children love making (and eating) these and they are superb as a present when you go to someone’s house for lunch or supper.  Fun to make during the Easter holidays or afterwards if you need something to do with the surfeit of chocolate that often lingers after the children have gone back to school.

Finally, if like me you have given up chocolate for Lent, I suggest you stockpile some of these, then set your alarm early on Easter Day and tuck in.

Mint Chocolate Drops 2

Mint Chocolate Drops

I use a combination of milk and plain chocolate as that is what we prefer either in the ratio of 50/50 which the children like or 70 plain 30 milk if you want something a little darker and more bitter to serve after dinner.  All plain chocolate is too bitter for me but, as ever, it is up to you.

For every 65g of chocolate use 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract

Melt the chocolate with the peppermint.  I do this in a bowl over barely simmering water but I believe a microwave is an even better way to melt chocolate (I don’t have one).  Either way do it very gently so the chocolate doesn’t seize.  Drop teaspoonfuls onto parchment and leave to cool.   Don’t put it in the fridge as this makes the chocolate go a little dull.  This amount of chocolate yields about 10 drops.

Fresh Herb Sauce

Anna May everyday Iced tea Grenita-3

I cannot rave enough about this sauce – it is simply beyond useful and thoroughly delicious.

We have it with grilled or roast chicken and I wouldn’t contemplate a barbecue without it.  Smoky charred chicken wrapped in a soft flatbread with this fresh herby sauce is a lunch supreme (see Summer Lunch Part 1 last week).  With roast lamb I add mint to the parsley base and it becomes a modern twist on a traditional mint sauce.  With some marjoram or oregano and a pinch of chilli flakes it is the perfect accompaniment to a steak which makes sense as it is a simplified version of an Argentinian chimmichurri.

You can fiddle around with the ingredients to suit your taste, change the herbs as suggested above, add more garlic (or less), substitute lemon juice for the vinegar if you prefer.  Really it  is up to you, the only thing I would urge is that you try it.

Green Herb Sauce

1 bunch parsley (around 30-40 grams)

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

1 pinch of salt

1 pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

Put all the ingredients into a jug and blend with a hand held blender.  Alternatively blend in a liquidiser.  Taste and adjust, you may need a splash more vinegar or a pinch more salt or sugar.  Enough for 4.