A summery salad from Southwold

May 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

Whilst on our annual pilgrimage to Southwold on the bracing Suffolk coast I tried out a new salad recipe inspired by the cover recipe on this month’s Delicious magazine. It combines two of the season’s best ingredients – asparagus and baby new potatoes and adds to them crunchy radishes and a fresh herby dressing. The Delicious magazine recipe requires you to whip up a herb hollandaise sauce to dress the salad but creating a vinegar reduction, separating eggs and creating a delicate emulsion is not my idea of fun for a quick holiday lunch, and frankly, the idea of all that butter is a little off-putting. I replaced the herb hollandaise with a quick and easy yoghurt and herb dressing that worked really well with the other ingredients.

At this time of year, Southwold’s greengrocer, the Crab Apple in the Market Place is heaving with local Seabreeze asparagus, so much so that one no longer feels the need to treat it reverentially. Wild fennel grows in abundance by the beach and a little of this thrown into the herb dressing adds a fresh aniseed flavour note that works well with the asparagus and potatoes.

The genius part of this salad is that the potatoes are not just plain boiled but after a quick parboil are smashed and roasted in olive oil in a hot oven becoming deliciously crispy.

In terms of aesthetics, the long thin white tipped Breakfast variety of radish look prettiest, especially if you leave on a little of the green radish top. If you can’t get hold of these then the regular scarlet globe-shaped type works just fine.

Here’s the recipe. I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to pep up a holiday lunch and it provides welcome relief from yet another carb-heavy pork pie and sandwich picnic.


Southwold asparagus and crispy potato salad

Serves 4

Adapted from a recipe in the Delicious magazine May 2015 edition.


450-500g baby new potatoes (e.g. Jersey Royals), scrubbed
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
400g asparagus, woody parts trimmed-off and ends peeled
200g radishes, washed, trimmed and halved lengthwise (the long thin white-tipped Breakfast variety look prettiest but the regular

For the dressing

250g full fat natural yoghurt
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
small clove of garlic, peeled, smashed and finely chopped
generous handful of fresh herbs – whatever you can get hold of – I used fennel foraged from the beach, basil and chives

Optional garnish

a spoonful of extra chopped herbs
a little balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C fan. Line a shallow roasting tin with baking paper

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 7-8 minutes until you can just pierce them with a knife point but they are not quite tender. Drain thoroughly and tip the potatoes onto the prepared roasting tin. Press each potato with a fork to squash it partially. Drizzle over the olive oil, season and toss lightly to coat. Slip the roasting tin into the oven and roast the potatoes for about 30 minutes, turning them half way through the cooking time.

While the potatoes are in the oven, make the dressing. Put all the dressing ingredients into a medium bowl, stir to mix, cover and set aside in the fridge.

Steam or boil the prepared asparagus until just tender – about 5 minutes for the plump spears shown in the photograph. Slice each asparagus spear into two halves carefully on the diagonal.

When the potatoes are ready, tip them onto a platter and spread them out. Scatter over the asparagus and then the radishes. Dollop the herbed yoghurt dressing over the salad and, if liked, scatter over a few chopped herbs and drizzle with just a little balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses.

Easy summer recipes: slow-roast beet salad

August 23, 2013 § 2 Comments

I used to think of beetroot as an autumn or winter vegetable until, rather taking me unawares, the deep red globes ready for harvest bulged through the soil of our first year vegetable plot earlier this month.

Here’s an idea to make the most of summer beets – it makes a light lunch for two or would stretch to 3 or 4 if served with other salads.

My photo is nothing to write home about – truth be told I added the watercress to the bowl before the beets had cooled sufficiently which made it wilt rather unattractively. It tasted really good though and I’m looking forward to making it again as soon as the next batch of beetroot is ready.


Recipe for slow roast beet salad with watercress, blue cheese and walnuts


2 medium beetroot, washed with taproot trimmed and leaves removed but leaving an inch or two of stalk
scant handful of walnut pieces
half a bunch watercress
scant handful of crumbled blue cheese – I used Cashel Blue made in Ireland and stocked by Marks & Spencer as well as specialist cheese shops

For the dressing

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of clear honey (approx 1 dessertspoon)
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
grated zest and juice of half a large orange
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon snipped chives

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (fan).

Wrap the beets together in a foil parcel, place the parcel on a baking tray to catch any leaking beet juices. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until tender. Test by piercing the beets with a sharp knife which should slide in easily when they are ready.

Meanwhile make the dressing by whisking together all the dressing ingredients in the medium bowl in which you plan to serve the salad. Taste and correct seasoning.

Once the roast beets are cool enough to handle but are still quite warm, peel them with the help of a sharp knife if necessary, slice them into wedges and add to the bowl containing the salad dressing. Stir to combine and leave for 15 minutes or so to allow the beets to absorb some of the dressing.

Add the watercress to the bowl and toss gently to combine. Finally scatter over the walnut pieces and crumbled blue cheese and you’re ready to serve.

A simple salad for spring

April 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

A ate a simple and delicious little salad for lunch last week in Paris, sitting outdoors in the spring sunshine, just off the the Champs Elysées. It was described on the menu as a “Salade Farandole” or merry-go-round salad, presumably because of the wheel shaped arrangement of the leaves.

The ingredients were chicory leaves, orange segments, strips of smoked duck breast, walnuts and a few spinach leaves together with just the right amount of a citrussy dressing.

It was such a good combination – crisp, bitter leaves, sweet orange, salty duck, crunchy walnuts – that I decided to recreate my own version at home. The Parisian version included some wafer thin slices of what might have been wet walnuts, unlikely at this time of year I know. I didn’t get the opportunity to ask the waiter to ask the chef what this mystery ingredient was. Back home, I remembered that I had a jar of inky-black pickled walnuts at the back of the fridge so I fished one out, sliced it as thinly as I could and added this to my salad for an extra flavour and texture.

Smoked duck isn’t that easy to get hold of, but locally the excellent Smokehouse in Wilmslow prepare their own smoked duck breasts and you can buy them ready sliced from Waitrose or Ocado in the “Reflets de France” range. Talking of Ocado, I’ve being going a bit crazy with their new range of Natoora specialist fruit, veg and deli products so I happened to have a bag of Sicilian blood oranges in my fridge which make a visually appealing addition and taste extra sweet:

It made a lovely light lunch and the slightly bitter chicory combined with the orange were a perfect antidote to all that Easter chocolate. I was so pleased with my little salad that I made it again the next day, this time with some red Treviso radicchio I happened to have left over (I’m going through a bit of a bitter leaf phase at the moment) and with pistachios rather than walnuts as that’s all I had left in my cupboard. There’s no need to be too prescriptive about the ingredients as it’s a salad you can make your own. I hope you enjoy it.

Recipe for chicory, orange and smoked duck salad

Serves 2


For the salad

2 medium heads chicory (white, red or a mixture of both)
2 and a half oranges, peeled and cut into pith-free segments
2 pickled walnuts, thinly sliced
handful walnut halves, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
1 smoked duck breast, cut into the thinnest slices you can manage, fat removed if you prefer
handful baby spinach leaves

For the dressing

juice of the remaining half orange
2 tablespoons walnut oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
few snipped chives, torn mint leaves or other soft green herbs (optional)

Wash and dry the chicory heads. Cut of the base and pick off the larger outer leaves carefully. Arrange in an attractive wheel shape on your serving platter or in individual salad bowls as you prefer. Chop roughly the remaining centre part of the chicory, combine with the spinach leaves and pile in the centre.

Scatter over the salad the orange segments, pickled walnuts, chopped toasted walnuts and strips of smoked duck breast.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad shortly before serving.

Salad from Sale

June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

If you’ve ever been tempted by the mound of dainty salad leaves sold by weight in Chorlton’s legendary Unicorn grocers, you may have noticed not only that they beat supermarket sealed-bag salad leaves hands down for flavour and freshness but also that they are grown just down the road at Glebelands Road in Sale by an outfit called Glebelands City Growers.

Glebelands City Growers threw open their picket gates for last week’s Open Farm Sunday so I decided it was time for another visit to this idyllic little urban growing spot on the banks of the Mersey. Arriving via a very ordinary looking urban street, you turn down an alleyway between two semis and suddenly you arrive in the most unexpected haven of lush greenery.

Glebelands City Growers is not a faceless organisation but is Charlotte, Adam, Sally and Ed who collectively bear more than a passing resemblance to Velma, Shaggy, Daphne and Fred from Scooby Doo – no dogs in evidence last week though. The four of them have established a most happy blend of idealism combined with capitalism. They farm their small patch of Eden using organic methods and produce some of the products that we’re all clamouring for: unusual salad leaf mixtures complete with edible flowers if you’re lucky, coriander, basil, baby spinach, broad beans – the kind of stuff that finds its way into glossy food mag photo shoots at this time of year. So they’ve got the product range right on target and they succeed in making a profit but also follow sound ethical principles too – organic, sustainable, local, all with a healthy dash of pragmatism thrown in.

We were welcomed on our arrival by Adam with big mugs of tea or a glass of his home made elderflower cordial. The forecast rain arrived then, right on cue so we sheltered in one of the seed cultivation areas whilst people arrived ready for the first guided tour. We were in distinguished company – here’s Trafford Mayor Jane Baugh rubbing shoulders with the commoners in the high-tech potting shed:

When 30 or so visitors had arrived, the tour began. The team grow all their own plants from seed, unlike some growers who buy in seedlings to grow on. Polytunnels are used extensively to provide protection from the worst of the weather and play a part in keeping weeds and pests under control. Here’s Ed demonstrating the use of the hoe, the primary technique for keeping weeds under control:

Growing under cover provides protection from the wind and cold, but how are the plants watered if there’s no rain falling on them? The answer came as we entered the next polytunnel which housed a crop of fragrant basil. The plants are nurtured using efficient drip-hoses fed from collected rainwater where possible:

At the heart of an organic farming system is the idea of feeding the soil rather than the plant. This is achieved firstly by applying organic matter in the form of home made compost. The team has an arrangement with Unicorn whereby all the shop waste is composted down and applied to the soil. The second key feature is the use of a crop rotation plan whereby different plants are moved around the plot each year so pests and diseases never have chance to build up in the soil. After a period of trial and error, the team work to a five year rotation in which the land is left fallow in the fifth year. In the next picture you can see a fallow strip on the left and a crop of broad beans on the right, a legume performing its vital nitrogen fixing role as well as tasting good.

Finally, we learned about the harvesting of the leaves which takes place four times a week and is carried out by hand using a pair of scissors. The produce then travels some 3 miles to its primary retail outlet, Chorlton’s Unicorn Grocers (Chorlton is a suburb in South Manchester). It really is fresh and local.

Fortunately for us, there were a few bags of salad for sale on the day. I’m ashamed to say that once the tour was concluded, I raced to the trailer where the salad was for sale, shamelessly overtaking other visitors as I didn’t want to miss out. We were rewarded with a lunchtime salad to savour:

SO, if you can’t grow your own and live in the South Manchester area, get yourself down to Unicorn and try it for yourself. Just remember they’re not open on Mondays though.

Contact details

Unicorn Grocery
89 Albany Road
M21 0BN

Tel: 0161 861 0010
Email: office@unicorn-grocery.co.uk

Glebelands City Growers

Email: contacts@glebelandscitygrowers.co.uk
Web: http://www.glebelandscitygrowers.co.uk/

Pimp that coleslaw

January 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

This salad is simply the best thing that’s ever been done with raw cabbage. I was introduced to it during the Christmas holidays by my friend Janet and I’ve made it every weekend since then. It’s a recipe from Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi and I tracked it down via his Guardian newspaper column.

Don’t be put off by the weird list of ingredients (mixing lemongrass with maple syrup?) – it works. It’s colourful, crunchy, zingy and you feel uplifted after eating it – what more can I say to brighten up your winter mealtimes?

By the way, the title of this post is in deference to one of my favourite quirky websites http://www.pimpthatsnack.com – take a look if you have a few minutes to spare… I’ve gone for ornamentation rather than size though.

Recipe for Sweet Winter ‘Slaw

A recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi featured in UK newspaper the Guardian. My own suggestions are that if you can’t get hold of papaya, then either use 2 mangoes or a handful of diced roast butternut squash – it’s sweet pulpy texture is not dissimilar to papaya.

Serves 6


For the dressing

100ml lime juice
1 lemon grass, chopped into small pieces
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp chilli flakes
4 tbsp light olive oil

For the salad

150g macadamia nuts
10g butter
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chilli flakes
7 inner leaves Savoy cabbage (170g), shredded
½ red cabbage (270g), shredded
1 mango, peeled, stoned and cut into thin strips
1 papaya, peeled, deseeded and cut into strips
1 red chilli, deseeded and cut into thin slices
15g fresh mint leaves
20g fresh coriander leaves

To make the dressing, put all the ingredients except the olive oil into a small saucepan, and reduce for five to 10 minutes, until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat. Once it has cooled down, strain into a bowl, stir in the oil and set aside.

Put the macadamias in a hot frying pan and dry-roast for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly coloured on all sides. Add the butter and, once it has melted, the sugar, salt and chilli. Use a wooden spoon to stir constantly, to keep the nuts coated in the sugar as it caramelises. Be careful because this will take only a minute or two and the nuts can burn very quickly. Turn out the nuts on to a sheet of greaseproof paper and, once cool, roughly chop them.

Put the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl, along with the rest of the salad ingredients. Add the cool dressing, toss and taste. Add salt if you need to, and serve immediately.

Eggs for Easter

April 3, 2010 § 1 Comment

Two simple egg dishes for Easter. The first is a beautiful looking quail egg, pea and ham salad, the second a simple dish of baked eggs with cream and herbs.

They would work equally well as a starter before your Easter Sunday meal or as a lunch or supper dish.

Recipe for quail egg, pea and ham salad

This is hardly a recipe, more a culinary improvisation based on idea on the Ocado online grocery shopping website. I didn’t like the idea of hearty fried bacon in this delicate little salad so replaced it with slivers of ham. Airfreighted fresh peas and mangetout didn’t appeal either so I used lightly cooked British frozen peas which are sweet and good and bulked out the salad with some crisp Little Gem lettuce instead of the mangetout. I simplified the salad dressing too, making it light and lemony.


1 pack 10 quail eggs
2 generous handfuls frozen petit pois, cooked for 1 minute in boiling water and drained
4-6 slices Parma ham, torn into artful shreds
1 bag peashoots
2 little gem lettuces, washed and separated into individual leaves
For the dressing:
2-3 tablespoons of your favourite salad oil (olive, hazelnut or pistachio if you can get hold of it)
Generous squeeze of lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
snipped fresh soft herbs (optional)

Hardboil the quail eggs following the timings specified on the pack. Cool, peel and slice carefully in half lengthways.

Make the dressing in the usual way in a pretty serving bowl. Add the peas while still warm and leave to soak up the dressing for 5 minutes.

Then add the lettuce and peashoots and toss all together gently. Add a little more dressing if the salad needs it.

Strew the eggs and ham artfully over the top of the salad and your done.

Recipe for baked eggs in cream with fresh herbs

Otherwise known as Oeufs en Cocotte, a French classic. I use Julia Child’s instructions in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, a book I refer to very often (even before the film!).

For each serving

1 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons double cream
1 egg
1-2 teaspoons mixed fresh parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon (use whatever combination you have to hand – I particularly like tarragon)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

You will also need a ramekin for each person and a deep tray containing 3/4 inches simmering water. I use a loaf tin if I’m just cooking for one or two people.

Butter the ramekin saving a dot for later. Add 1 tablespoon cream, half your herbs and a little seasoning and set the ramekin in the simmering water over moderate heat. When the cream is hot, break your egg into it. Pour over the remaining tablespoon of cream, season and scatter over the remaining herbs. Top with the reserved dot of butter.

Place in the middle of a moderate oven and bake for 7 to 10 minutes. The eggs are done when they are just set but will still tremble slightly.

Serve with fingers of your favourite lightly toasted bread to dip into the runny yolks and cream.

After such a light lunch, you will have plenty of room to tuck into your easter chocolate:

Happy Easter!

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