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High summer means basil and while sometimes our homegrown stuff doesn’t get enough sun to compete with its Italian cousins this year that’s not a problem – Yay!!! It’s hard to resist making pesto the first time I get basil each year(I hate the stuff in jars) so that’s what I did last night. To get over the pine-nuts costing more than gold problem, I used toasted sunflower seeds instead and they were just grand (and way more local as pine nuts usually seem to come from China which seems like a long way to me). Obviously pasta pesto makes a grand dinner in itself and it was hilarious watching not so baby (18 months already!!!!)Lee shoveling spaghetti into his mouth like a walrus last night but basil is a natural bedfellow for this season’s peaches so I couldn’t resist a salad as well.

I decided to use beet greens as a base and if you’re not familiar with these guys you’re in for a treat. You know the way beetroot is soooooooo good for you? Well, the leaves are actually better for you than the actual beets. Yes! But you have to get them fresh so use them today rather than than let them wilt as they will quite quickly. The colour is amazing – gorgeous ruby stems with dark green leaves so they make everything look fab. Throw them into any salad or juice as soon as you can – your body will thank you.

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Back to our salad – I chopped up the leaves and stems pretty finely, tossed a handful of  toasted sunflower seeds through them along with some goat’s cheese and chopped peach. The dressing was simple, olive oil and white wine vinegar (3:1) then a drizzle of honey over everything just before I served.  Delicious.

Toasted sunflower seed pesto (this will make enough for the salad which serves 2 plus a decent size bowl of pasta for one)

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You’ll need:

60gr basil

3 tablespoons sunflower seeds

2 cloves garlic roughly chopped

5 tablespoons olive oil

a generous pinch coarse salt

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Begin by toasting the sunflower seeds till golden then set aside to cool down completely. Take the basil leaves off the stalks and put into a mortar along with the garlic, olive oil, salt and sunflower seeds. With a pestle pound  to  your desired consistency then stir in the cheese. Needless to say, normally I’d be using a hand blender for this sort of thing if I could but with this kind of quantity you don’t quite have enough to go electric so scale up if you can. Store in a jar under a layer of oil for up to 2 weeks (but it won’t last that long!)

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A salad of Beet greens, peach, goat’s cheese and pesto and toasted sunflower seeds

You’ll need:

1 Bunch beet greens

1 ripe peach

120gr goat’s cheese

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds lightly toasted

Olive Oil

White wine vinegar

Honey

A generous dollop of pesto (as above)

Finely chop the beet greens and stems then wash and dry everything. Peel and chop your peach. Combine the seeds, greens, stems, and peach. Crumble in the cheese. Lightly dress with oil and vinegar. Top with the chopped peach and a generous dollop of pesto. Finally drizzle with a little honey and serve. Summer is served. 🙂

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

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We are well into asparagus season so I thought I’d share our favorite recipe this year as so many of you got asparagus this week.   Like most of finer things in life simplicity is the way forward (I know I say this a lot but it is!!!).

A simple steaming, followed by a drizzle of olive oil or some butter, crushed Maldon…………… yum! Chop up your spears and toss them with pasta and Parmesan and a squirt of lemon for the ultimate in Italian refinement. Have them for breakfast week with eggs…….all they need is a creamy foil to really come alive.

I have a taste for the charred which I got years ago from a chef I worked with in Barcelona and I often cook my asparagus this way.

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Use a griddle pan getting it nice and hot. Add the asparagus turning them when they char. This takes a minute or two depending how hot the pan is. When you have your snazzy stripes, add a little oil and some crushed Maldon salt and shake the pan vigorously. Turn down the heat a bit and cover for a minute and allow the asparagus to steam a little and cook a bit more which should get them nicely al dente.

After this, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil and a spritz of lemon juice on them then some shavings of a nice hard cheese. Parmesan or Pecorino are obvious choices but a nicely matured Manchego also works really well. You don’t need loads just a little bit to add interest. As is it’s a picky starter to have while dinner is coming. This week’s recipe is what you do when you’ve got more people around and/or you want a proper starter. Serve the asparagus on a bed of Marc Michel’s amazing mixed leaves and add chopped walnuts and honey to the dressing.  Simple but really gorgeous and well worth doing to showcase one of summer’s most popular varieties………….

A salad of char-grilled asparagus with aged Manchego  on a bed of Wicklow leaves with a Walnut lemon dressing

You’ll need:

A bunch of asparagus

100gr mixed leaves – washed, dried and ready to go.

40gr aged Manchego (or Parmesan) shavings

For the dressing:

4 tablespoons olive oil

The juice of ½ lemon

A handful walnuts

A teaspoon of runny honey

Chop half the walnuts quite finely and the other half into small pieces and set aside for later.

Trim the tough ends of the asparagus – usually about an inch is more than enough. Heat a griddle pan. Add the asparagus and griddle until stripes appear then turn over and griddle on the other side. When both sides are done, add a little olive oil and a crushed Maldon to the pan and toss over the heat for a minute before turning down the heat and covering. Allow the asparagus to cook for another 2 minutes before removing them from the heat.

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Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil with the lemon juice, honey and the more finely chopped nuts and a pinch of crushed Maldon. Lay the asparagus on the salad leaves and scatter the shaving of cheese on top.

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Drizzle the dressing over this then add the remaining more coarsely chopped nuts. Serve with some crusty bread and sunshine 😉

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

Beautiful Greens

May 17, 2013

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Hey, How’s it going? We’re pretty busy with our new Summer Healthy Eating Programme detox and the longer days are definitely coming in handy but you couldn’t call it summer. This afternoon’s been lovely though…..

Vegwise, we’re still in the middle of what’s called the “hungry gap”  here in Ireland. It’s  the time just before all the summer varieties really kick in. The winter varieties are well and truly finished and there’s a slow trickle of new varieties starting to come through. We’ve already those gorgeous salad greens from Marc Michel and Denis Healy, amazing coriander from Mick Gordon last week and this week Mick brought us his fab spring onions.

Now the only question is what to do with them – champ? pad thai? fresh in salads? Slow roasted? Maybe dipped in romanesco (The Natural Sauce Company based here in Dublin do a great one) . Last night I made a lovely fritatta with the bulbs which I gently sautéed in butter. 20 minutes will get them gorgeously melting then some of your favourite cheese (I used  a Pecorino but it’s up to you). With the bunch in this week’s bag  you could use 6 eggs for the fritatta and feed up to 5 people. Add some spuds and you’d feed 8. Depends on how many come to dinner…. Also fritatta keeps well (but outside the fridge as cold does something strange to it) and makes fab sambos so you can never make enough in my book.

I used the rest of the onions i.e. the green stems to make a salad along with this week’s beautiful spinach and flat beans. Tempted as I was to toss those beans with chorizo after a light steaming they were so spanking fresh that it seemed a shame to waste their lovely nutiness so I used them raw for this salad and was very glad I did.

I’ve been playing around with nut dressings of late – roughly grinding them, then adding them to dressings so you end up with a paste more than a dressing. It’s great, really adds lots of crunch and flavour, aswell as all the amazing goodness that nuts and seeds have to offer. For this dressing I toasted sunflower seeds then stirred them into olive oil and lemon juice. To counteract any bite from the onions I added a little honey. Yum Yum. The whole thing works so well with the fritatta but try it with any veggie main, we’re addicted – Walnuts in a dressing for asparagus in particular is a match made in heaven.

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The Salad Recipe (if you can call it that)

You’ll need:

A couple of handfuls of spinach or any greens you like

A handful of flat beans topped and tailed then cut at an angle

A couple of spring onions (green part only)

For the dressing:

A handful sunflower seeds

Your best olive oil

1 Lemon

Runny honey

Prepare the dressing by toasting the sunflower seeds on a dry pan til just starting to change colour. Allow to cool slightly then grind in your blender to a coarse texture – a few bits don’t matter at all and you definitely don’t want anything powdery.

Combine about 5 tablespoons olive oil with the juice of a lemon adding a pinch of Maldon salt and a scant teaspoon of honey. Stir in the sunflower seeds and mix to a paste. If things seem too thick add a little more oil. You want the consistency of a good pesto.

To put the salad together, toss the spinach with the beans and onions. Spoon the dressing on top along with a scattering of seeds. Serve with ……..anything!

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

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It’s the first week of March and the weather is already sunnier and warmer. Yay! It’s  a rare alignment of dates and weather. Shouldn’t get too excited – it’ll probably be snowing by the end of the week. We have broad beans in this week, a preview of summer to come. You can of course steam then toss them with garlic and chili and stir through pasta for a super quick meal. Go one calorie- tastic step further and sauté them with pancetta and stir in cream, pasta and plenty of pasta for absolute heaven on a plate.

As it’s nearly summer 😉 I made a salad with this week’s white cabbage. It’s a sort of coleslaw I suppose. I shredded the cabbage finely and mixed it with a few finely diced carrots – half and half roughly. Steam the beans and toast the same volume of pumpkin seeds. The dressing is yogurt based and instead of honey for sweetness I used maple syrup which makes a nice change. This quantity makes enough for 2 or 3 people to have as a side with say, fish or as part of a larger picky type meal.

A salad of Broad beans, white cabbage and toasted pumpkin seeds with a yogurt and maple dressing

You’ll need:

Half head white cabbage shredded finely and chopped

2-3 large carrots diced finely

500gr broad beans podded

100gr pumpkin seeds

For the dressing

2 tablespoon yogurt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Pinch salt

Black pepper

First of all make the dressing – whisk all the ingredients together. Check and correct the seasoning if necessary then set aside.

Pod the beans then steam until tender. Allow to cool then pop each bean out of its pod.

Toast the pumpkin seeds by placing with on a frying pan and toasting over a medium heat til they change colour.

To put the salad together. Toss the cabbage and carrot into a serving bowl. Top with the beans and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with a little of the dressing and serve the rest on the side.

Flat bean and cous cous salad
There were quite a few leftover flat beans after last Friday’s then last Monday’s delivery runs so we’ve been having them every which way since then. Steamed  with a drizzle of olive oil, steamed and smothered with garlic butter (nom!), raw and chopped up small and tossed into salads with toasted seeds, with noodles and Parmesan for a mega quick dinner, Asian style with ginger dressings…. All good but this week’s recipe is still one of my favourite ways to eat them – in a  cous cous salad with some pan fried chorizo, a couple of handfuls of chickpeas, a really big handful of flatleaf parsley and, optionally, some crumbled feta.  It’s a dish that makes perfect sense to me, everything complements everything else and the result is so satisfying.
Toasted cous cous salad with flat beans, chickpeas and chorizoYou’ll need:280gr-300gr flat beans (about what you have in your bag this week) topped and tailed1 cup cous cous

1 onion finely chopped

A piece of chorizo 3 inches long

1/2 tin (a large handful) chickpeas)

A bunch flat leaf parsley

Olive oil

Lemon juice

Red wine vinegar

Begin by cooking your beans. Cut them in three so you have pieces about an inch and a half long. Drop into boiling water and cook until tender. Drain, rinse under cold water and set aside.

Prepare 1 cup of cous cous. My method involves toasting the grains on a dry (i.e.. no oil) frying pan over a medium heat and this gives them a lovely nutty flavour which adds to your final dish. When they start to turn golden add 2 cups of hot water, turn off the heat and stir until all the water is absorbed and the cous cous is cooked adding more water if necessary. If you find the grains are still undercooked simply turn on the heat again, add more water and cook until absorbed and the grains are done.

Add the chickpeas and onion and mix through the still warm cous cous. Season and set aside.

Roughly chop the chorizo and gently sauté in a little olive oil for a few minutes before adding the beans. Toss everything over a medium heat for another minute then mix into the cous cous making sure to get as much of the chorizo oil from the pan as possible. Dress with a little olive oil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar to taste.

Just before serving roughly chop the parsley and add that in. This dish is great on it’s own is also beautiful served with fish or eggs (I’m thinking omelettes and quiches rather than sunny side up though!)

Enjoy,

Sarah

I think deliveries from Home Organics have converted more than a few of you to the joys of beetroot. Slow roasting has banished all those awful memories of pickled slices that used to feature in that abomination known as the Irish salad circa 1982.

But what about the leaves? Or beet greens as the Americans call them. You don’t see them that often because they don’t last that long. But if you do get your beets with the greens attached be sure and make the most of them. Not only are they delicious in all kinds of salads and completely gorgeous to behold, they are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. For a super cleansing juice guaranteed to leave your insides gleaming try a few handfuls of the leaves (stems and all) with an apple, a piece of ginger and 2 of this week’s satsumas. You’ll feel like new.

This week’s recipe is so simple. I made it during the summer when we had a glut and I needed to make lunch fast. Beet greens can be bitter so I used a honey dressing with some balsamic for body and flavour. Lots of toasted seeds for crunch then a slab of baked feta as the main event. Ready in under fifteen minutes……

A salad of honey balsamic beet greens with toasted seeds and baked feta

You’ll need:

1 bunch beet greens

1 handful each of sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds

1 block feta (200gr)

Dried oregano

For the dressing:

4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon runny honey

Maldon sea salt

Heat the oven to Gas mark 5/190 degrees. Sprinkle the feta with a little oregano and a few grindings of coarse black pepper then drizzle lightly with olive oil. Wrap in tinfoil and place in the oven and bake for 10 -12 minutes until soft.

As the feta bakes, wash and dry the beets then chop the stalks into  1- 2 cm pieces then the leaves to whatever size pieces you’d like.

Roast your seeds by placing them on a dry pan over the heat until they start to change colour and you can smell them lightly toasting. As soon as this happens take them them off as the next step is burnt (this is the voice of experience talking).

Toss the seeds with the leaves then add the dressing. Top with the cheese and serve immediately.

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

Crispy Artichoke salad

This week brings artichokes to our Mediterranean and vegetable selections and seeing as there’s only one (they are just soooooo pricey) dishes like artichokes a la Grecque (a lovely stew with coriander seeds and lemon) are out. The way to make them go furthest is to toss them in breadcrumbs and fry til golden. After that, with a spritz of lemon juice you’ve got a brilliant dish to pick on before dinner. A word of warning though, don’t break out your fanciest wine as artichokes tend to do funny things to the taste.

I wanted a dish that would feed 2 people for lunch so I used my fried artichokes as a basis for a salad. I served them with some cherry vine tomatoes from Marc Michel, a handful of those wrinkly Greek black olives and some Parmesan shavings and a very light lemony dressing. The crunch of the artichokes makes the salad more filling and we only used bread at the end to mop up the juices. Yum.

Crispy artichoke salad with cherry tomatoes, Parmesan and Greek olives

You’ll need:

1 globe artichoke

Plain flour

1 large egg

A large handful of dry breadcrumbs (those Japanese Panko ones are brilliant for this)

Enough lettuce leaves for 2 washed and dried

6-7 cherry vine tomatoes quartered

1 handful Parmesan shavings

A slightly smaller handful of black olive, stoned and torn (or left whole if you’re not up to that kind of thing)

For the dressing:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Maldon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

First of all put the dressing together so it’s ready for later. Mix the lemon juice and oil, adding a pinch of crushed Maldon and a good dose of black pepper then set aside.

To prepare artichokes I tend to use a range of implements – a large knife with a serrated blade, a small sharp peeling knife and a spoon. If you haven’t done this before basically with artichokes you only eat the heart which is located at the bottom centre of the flower so for this kind of dish the rest needs to be pared away.

Start by slicing off the stem and about 1 cm off the tough bottom of the artichoke. This will make  the tough outer leaves easier to pull or cut off. Now cut off the top part of the artichokes (ie the tougher pointy part).

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Pare back any other tough parts until you reach the heart.

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Yes, it’s a lot of cutting back and what you’re left with seems paltry. I guess this explains why they never really caught on in a big way but all this work will be worth it – I promise!!

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Using your fingers or a spoon scoop out and discard the fluffy stuff you find in the centre.

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Slice the artichoke heart into pieces about 1/2 cm thick. Place the slices in a bowl of water then add the juice of half a lemon and a generous pinch of salt. This will stop the artichoke going brown. Leave the artichoke slices to sit for a few minutes while you toss the lettuce, tomatoes, olives, Parmesan and dressing together.

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To finish off the salad, drain the artichokes and pat dry. Heat about an inch of vegetable oil in a pan and prepare the artichoke slices for frying by dipping them in flour then beaten egg  then breadcrumbs. Add the artichokes to the oil when it’s hot but not smoking otherwise they’ll burn on the outside before they’re done inside. When golden brown, remove from the pan to some kitchen paper sprinkle with salt and  black pepper. Sit on top of your salad with a couple of lemon wedges and serve immediately!!!!

Have a great week,

Sarah