MAKS’ Salad. (Mango, Avocado, Kale and smoked Salmon)

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Trying to get the kids and particularly the old man to eat their greens has always been a bit of a problem, but I think I have finally managed to crack the kale issue!

Kale is one of the next Super foods, or so we are told but quite frankly unless you really know what to do with it it can taste rather tough and leathery. The secret lies in the massage. Yes truly if you love your kale then give it a good massage, preferably with some really good olive oil and maybe a splash or two of balsamic vinegar then you can really make something quite delicious-even big K liked it!

I made this salad with mango, avocado, kale and a few other titbits and and it went down a treat!

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Pan fried duck breast with sticky figs and swiss chard

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The fig tree has taken over my tiny garden and  resembles a scene from the film ‘Day of the Triffids!’ With this sudden bountiful crop, I have been eating  a lot of figs; fresh figs, fig jam, roasted figs in honey, caramelised figs with yoghurt, fig tarte tatin.  All delicious but I am now beginning to crave for something savoury…

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Sticky figs with duck breast and chard work really well together. The sweet and slightly spicy  flavour of the figs,  with the richness of the duck breast are  rounded off with the earthy mineral taste of the chard. This really gets your tastebuds zinging.

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English duck breasts tend to be smaller than the French ‘magret’ style duck breasts which are fatter. So allow 2 duck breasts for 3 persons,or for the French magret I allow 1/2 a duck breast per person. I like to serve the duck breasts pink so that the meat is soft and juicy. The best way to cook duck breasts is to score the fat on the breast with a sharp knife in a criss cross pattern taking care not to cut through the fat into the flesh. Season with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and place skin side down into a cold frying pan then turn up the heat. This allows the excess fat to render down and crispen up the skin. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then turn over and cook for another 3-4 minutes (depending on the size of the duck breasts).Leave to rest for in a warm place for 10 minutes before slicing.

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To make the sweet sticky figs. (for 4 people)

6 figs cut in half

1tbsp

sesame seeds Toasted in a frying pan for 1 minute

2tbsp teriyaki marinade or sauce (or 2tbsp soya sauce mixed with 2tsp honey)

Heat a splash of light olive oil in a pan then fry the figs for a couple of minutes on both sides. Add the teriyaki sauce and cook for another minute. Remove from the hat season with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle over the sesame seeds.

 

 

Summer truffles in Amandola

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I have just returned from Amandola, a beautiful medieval town nestled in the Sibillini mountains in Italy. Unlike the UK, the locals were complaining that they have not had the glorious summer we have had here. Rain, rain and yet more rain.The surrounding terrain was verdurous. However this damp weather did have one advantage… The summer truffles! They had been abundant. For just ten euros I could pick up a handful what a treat! Who needs sunshine, with a few eggs, some pasta, a handful of truffles and some local Verdicchio, what more can a girl want?

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Summer truffles have a more delicate  flavour than the pungent white truffles from Alba. However when you grate some over fresh Tagliatelle with a little grated parmesan it still seems rather decadent!

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With the remaining truffles I made a large courgette and parmesan frittata with grated truffles and a drizzle of truffle oil over the top.

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Stir Fried Summer Veggies with black bean sauce

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I have been away for a few days and with the kids at home from uni the cupboards in my kitchen were  looking rather bare. To tired to trail out to the shops I went in search for some sustenance in the garden. The weeks of toiling in the garden in the spring had paid off. I picked a handful of  sugar snap peas, a few leaves of spinach and some courgette flowers. Within ten minutes I had the makings of a delicious supper.

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1 handful of sugar snap peas, spinach, courgette flowers, cherry tomatoes, halved and a couple of broccoli spears

1tbsp black bean sauce

1-2 teaspoons of light olive oil and a little  salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a teaspoon or two of light olive oil in a wok until it starts to smoke. Chop the stems of the broccoli into 1cm pieces then add the peas, broccoli stems and spears to the wok and toss for a couple of minutes in the wok before adding the rest of the vegetables. Season with a little sea salt and black pepper and stir fry for another two -three minutes before adding  a tablespoon of black bean sauce. Remove from the heat and mix well so that all the vegetables are coated in the sauce. Serve with a large glass of chilled white wine. Enjoy.

 

Super healthy wrap that’s got your 5 a day!

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One of my nieces came back from uni the other day and was complaining about suffering from “Freshers 15″, rather bemused I asked her what she meant.

‘I’ve put on 15lbs at my first year at uni ” she moaned, ‘mainly due to eating rubbish food and drinking games!’

‘What can I do?’ she wailed ‘It’s bikini season!’

So I introduced her to my healthy wrap which not only is super tasty but contains your 5 a day so you get a double whammy! My kids are addicted to them.

P10604551 tsp light olive oil

½ red pepper, deseeded and sliced

1-1½ heaped tbsp of houmous (see page 000)

1 multi-seed wrap

7-8 cherry tomatoes, halved

5cm length of cucumber, sliced and halved

½ large or 1 small avocado, sliced

small handful of salad leaves (optional)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a frying pan and, when hot, add the oil and the pepper slices and sauté for four to five minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Spread the houmous over the wrap then arrange the tomatoes, half the pepper slices (save the rest for another time, see below), the cucumber, avocado and leaves in a line on top, leaving a space either end. Season. Fold both the ends in to seal them, then, pressing quite firmly, wrap it up. Cut in half and gobble it up!

 

 

Strawberries dipped in chocolate

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You know when the English summer is at its peak when Wimbledon is on TV and  the strawberries and Pimms are flowing! The strawberries have been particularly juicy this year and what could be more decadent  than sitting on the sofa, watching the tennis whilst eating a large bowl of strawberries dipped in chocolate…

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Take a punnet of strawberries and wash and place on a tea towel to dry.

Break up a 100g bar of chocolate (white,milk or dark depending on what you fancy) into a  small bowl and place over a bowl of simmering water to melt. Do not stir otherwise the chocolate will go grainy. When the chocolate has melted remove the bowl from the heat and dip the strawberries in the chocolate then place on some greaseproof paper on a tray and pop them in the fridge to set.

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White chocolate strawberries above  and Tasha’s milk and dark strawberries below.

 

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After they have set carefully peel the strawberries off the paper and place on a plate. They won’t last long before someone gobbles them up!

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Macaroon madness!

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We had a lot of fun experimenting with macaroons this week. After one or two mishaps we finally cracked it!

Not having a particularly sweet tooth myself I decided to experiment with some savoury..ish macaroons. By switching the almond: sugar ratio the end results were amazing : not too sweet but still lovely and squidgey in the middle.

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I filled the black sesame macaroons with a cream cheese and chive filling which paired very well with the dusky flavour of the black sesame seeds.

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Then I made some beetroot ones which Tasha filled with a light horseradish cream . They went down a treat at the party!

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Saturday Night Dinner

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Natasha took a quick snap of her plate!

Natasha took a quick snap of her plate!

With only 3/4 of the family around we still managed to pull a pretty incredible steak and sauté potatoes out in the garden with a couple of greens snuck in!

Steak and Saute potatoes with roast asparagus.

To  make the best sauté potatoes like my mother-in-law you to make.

10-12 Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes

8-10    garlic cloves skins on

10-12    sage leaves

A few sprigs of Rosemary

Goose fat or light olive or sunflower oil with a knob of butter

Peel the potatoes and cut them into small dice size pieces.

Heat a large spoonful of goose fat or two spoonfuls of oil with a knob of butter in a large frying pan. When melted, add the potatoes. season with salt and pepper, turn the heat down to a low   and cook for ten minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary toss well and cook slowly for a further 30-40 minutes tossing occasionally till the potatoes are turning golden brown and are cooked through.

Turn the heat up, add the sage and cook for a further 3-4 minutes till the potatoes are crisp.

Check for seasoning and serve.

 

To round off a wonderful meal, what better than a generous helping of summer fruits, macerated in homemade orange gin?!

Mmmm.... Fruity goodness.

Mmmm…. Fruity goodness.

Natasha and I are planning on experimenting with savoury macaroons tomorrow as she is home for the weekend, so hold on to the edge of your seats, anything could happen…

Rocket and parmesan salad with courgette spaghetti

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Although the courgettes are just beginning to flower  in the garden (zucchini fritti will be on the menu very soon!) they are not quite ready for picking. However the rocket is growing in abundance. Rocket and Parmesan salad is a family favourite so I made this at the weekend which which has a little twist of courgette spaghetti it went down a treat.

To make the courgette spaghetti you need a julienne peeler (they only cost about £1.50 from hardware/kitchen shop). you use it the same way as a potato peeler and it makes lovely long shoelace  strings-much easier than the traditional way of julienne vegetables and they look very impressive too!

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Asparagus and leek risotto for one

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I was home alone so went foraging in the garden to see what I could find for supper. With this warm  weather the vegetable patch has sprouted.  A veritable verdure to behold! The first asparagus tips poking their heads through like little soldiers lined up to attention. Huge mounds of parsley,rocket and chives spilling over and the pungent aroma of wild garlic in the air. I was spoilt for choice. Dinner for one was looking good!

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So with asparagus, leeks and a big bunch of parsley and basil, I had all I needed for a risotto verde.

For one person

2    leeks washed and finely chopped

A    handful of asparagus spears (about 7-8) cut off the tips and chop the stalks

A    bunch of parsley washed and blitzed with a handful of basil

1-2 handfuls of arborio or carnoroli  (risotto)rice

About a cup of hot vegetable or chicken stock

1/4 glass dry vermouth or white wine

1tbs grated Parmesan  and a little extra for grating

Cook the leeks in a knob of butter over a gentle heat for about the 5-10 minutes until the leeks are soft. Add the rice and stir  well for about a minute then add the white wine. Let it reduce to a syrup before adding  half of the hot stock and keep stirring. Cook for 10 minutes then add the asparagus tips and chopped stalks and more stock when necessary. Keep stirring and carry on cooking for about 5-8 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is  just cooked. Remove from the heat and stir in the blitzed herbs and the Parmesan.

Serve with a little extra grated Parmesan on top.

Tip: If the asparagus spears are very fat, slice the tips lengthways so that they will cook in the same amount of time as the stalks.

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