Pear and Goat’s Cheese Salad with Quick Pickled Onions

pears

I love pickled stuff.  This salad was lunch a few days ago, the pears were so ripe I could smell them every time I walked past the fruit bowl.

This ‘salad’ really is just cutting stuff and arranging it on a plate – except for the pickle bit, which you can absolutely not bother with and it will still be delicious.

I thinly sliced two rings from a red onion, set them in a bowl and tossed them with about half a teaspoon of salt and set them to one side.  Next up, two small pears cut fairly thin and a couple of chunks from a roll of Kidderton Ash goat’s cheese, it’s delicate mould-fluff has speckles of black ash and it is delicious.  Of course other goat’s cheese would be just as lovely, so would some salty feta (although in this instance I would not pickle the onions), brie, halloumi, roquefort.. many cheeses.

By now the onions had left a little pink juice in the bowl.  I shook them off and plucked apart the rings to lay over the pears and cheese.  Drizzle over some honey, a little balsamic vinegar and crack some black pepper.  Finito!

pear-goats-cheese-pickled-red-onion-salad

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

I’m not joking around here.  This asparagus and tomato frittata is fast and it is healthy (unless you make it mostly cheese, then it’s just cheese isn’t it?).  It’s pretty much my take-to-work-breakfast staple.  And lunch, and dinner in the summer when it’s hot and all your body wants is salad, vegetables and ice pops.  It’s vegetables and protein, what’s not to love? 

The silicone baking pan makes all the difference for me, I literally throw everything in, RAW, and shove it in the oven.  That’s it.  If silicone wonder-pan is occupied with other goodies I’ll pop a wax paper/baking paper liner in the bottom of the pan so I can just turf it out when it’s done.  I can’t think of one person who enjoys scraping off burnt egg.  Fact.

cherry tomatoes with asparagus and spring onions for frittataI. could. not. stop. eating. the. tomatoes.  I must have a deficiency only satisfied by tomatoes.  I eat a lot of them. (With too much salt and soaked in vinagery salad dressing. Ahem.)

Raw asparagus and tomatoes ready for frittata

There really aren’t a lot of ingredients for this.

1 bunch of asparagus – about 15 slim spears
10 cherry tomatoes – halved and quatered
5 spring onions – chopped
12 eggs

What you see is what you get.  I snapped the asparagus into two with my hands and cut the tomatoes into either halves or quarters so some could sneak through the asparagus.

But asparagus is woody, you say?  Nah.  The trick to getting rid of the woody end is it to hold the spear in both hands.  One hand on the end and the other hand half way to the tip of the spear, bend it and it will snap where the woody part ends and the stalk becomes softer.  DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WOODY ENDS!  Keep a plastic bag in the freezer (or tupperware box if you have space, I don’t – little kitchen!) with vegetable odds and ends to make stock.  I’m serious!  Onion peelings (yes! the papery skins!), mushroom stalks, celery ends, unwanted herb stalks – but why you wouldn’t use those I’ll never know – any bits of vegetable, it all makes flavour.  It’s so much nicer than using those nasty nasty MSG filled stock cubes (except Kallo, y’all know I love ’em).  There will be a separate post where I’m going to use many exclamation marks to get my point across about this, just you wait.

tomatoes-and-asparagus-with-spring-onions-frittata

Anyway! Next add in the chopped up spring onions, raw again.  Everything will cook just enough in the oven with the eggs.  Who wants soggy vegetable frittata?  Bleugh!  Don’t be afraid to jam pack the pan with vegetables, they’ll all float about and have a swim in the egg custard when it’s poured in anyway.

Parmesan grated into egg custard for frittata

My favourite – a big soft heaping of grated parmesan.  Salty deliciousness. I’ve got about 12 eggs in there.  Yes. Twelve, we need that protein!  I just grated about a handful in, I didn’t want it too cheesy cause I’m trying to get my weight down (hah, never happen).  I also added a pinch of salt, a little black pepper (’cause, y’know, eggs) and about a dessert spoon of truffle oil, just for a background savoury flavour.  Absolutely not necessary or required, I just couldn’t help myself.

parmesan-egg-custard-frittata-2

That’s it!  Mix it up and pour it all in.  Bake it at about 180 C and keep checking on it after 25 minutes until it’s not too wobbly and is cooked through in the centre.  Turn it out quite soon after it’s done so you can drain away any liquid that may have been released by the vegetables, I poured off about a tablespoon but still.. we don’t want it soggy!

Aglio e Olio

aglio_e_olio

I had promised myself that by the end of Thursday the parsley would be all used up.  I got home from work absolutely famished (I’ve started to try out walking to and from work – less pennies, hopefully less inches too). Cue aglio e olio!  So simple, so amazing and so delicious.  Simple always is, isn’t it?  I really shouldn’t act so surprised.

I think perhaps the only thing I did differently was to keep my garlic quite sharp, I only let it take on a mere hint of colour around the edges (sounds awfully pretentious, no?).  I like it with a bit of bite.

This time I was only cooking for one.  Something I’m not very good at, I think I’m always under the illusion that I’m feeding twelve.

100g spaghetti – I grab it out of the packet so that the spaghetti fits between my thumb and first finger when I put the tip of my thumb to my second knuckle.. if that makes any sense to any one!
1 clove garlic – sliced thinly
2 tbsp good quality olive oil – it really makes a difference, particularly as this is a minimal dish
bunch of parsley chopped – mine was about a small handful
grated parmesan – again, about a small handful

Boil up your spaghetti in salty water, I always remember our Italian customers (and now chefs on telly) saying you should cook your pasta in water as salty as the sea.
While that’s going on, gently warm up the olive oil and sling in the garlic. I pretty much just heated my garlic through. Letting it sizzle gently for about four minutes on the lowest heat. Most other folks seem to go for a light browning. Go wild, just don’t burn it.  Burnt garlic is bitter and nasty.
Again, at this stage people talk about adding chilli flakes – if I had had any, I surely would.
Drain the pasta when it’s al dente but don’t drain all the liquid off, keep about two tablespoons in with the pasta.
Chuck in the garlic and oil and coat everything, then the parsley and parmesan. Mix everything around, the parmesan along with the starchy cooking liquor make a beautiful emulsion so everything clings together.
Shove it in a bowl or eat it straight from the pan, no one’s looking!

lemon_for_aglio_e_olio
What I did do when I was almost finished was sling it a little bit of lemon juice, no more than a teaspoon maybe, just to brighten things up a little bit.

Of course you can embellish it with capers; olives; seafood; sundried tomatoes; wilted greens (chard!) etc. etc., but it’s nice to know that something simple and cheap can be wonderful without other ingredients.

Leek and Potato Soup

leek-and-potato-soup

I still have a cold.  I’m not good at not doing anything, so…  Feed a cold, right?

Leeks-and-potatoes

Spring flowers are my favourite flowers, I grabbed them yesterday on a brief supply trip.  There are even some snowdrops in the garden and the footpaths are beginning to have a genuinely dry look about them.  I’m writing this whilst I’m waiting to finish a Blood Orange Meringue Pie, it’s on the step outside cooling as I type.   I think I went on a little bit of a seasonal food spree, hence the leeks and blood oranges.

leeks

I love leeks.  Beautiful colours and so silky in soup.  Just wash them thoroughly, they’ve been banked up and hidden in soil so it gets into the leaves pretty thoroughly.  Top and tail them, remove any grubby/tatty outer leaves and cut half way through the length.  Pop them under running water so you can wipe dirt away with your fingers whilst you pull the leaves aside.

I always begin soup with onion and celery (carrot as well if it’s going to be tomatoey).  Why onions when I’m using leeks?  It’s a different onion flavour plus the slow braising of onion and celery help give the soup more depth, a bloody good chicken stock will also help.  Translucent onions which are brown around the edge make food taste good.

Brown food tastes better!

So.. soup!  It’s creamy and leeky and delicious and is really good with some sharp, jaw tingling cheddar melted onto some oven-crisped bread.

leek-and-potato-soup2

Makes a huge pot of soup, I’d at least half it if you don’t want to eat it for a few days (or freeze it!).

1 onion diced
3 sticks celery, chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 leeks, cleaned and cut into 1 inch chunks
10 new potatoes or salad potatoes or any potatoes you have lying around, washed and in small chunks
2 chicken stock cubes*
Salt and Pepper

Biiiig pan time. Put the onion and celery in with the butter and oil. Coat everything in the oil and leave this on a low heat with the lid on while you wash and cut the leeks.
Put in all the leeks, if you think you need some more butter to coat them when they’ve wilted, go right on ahead. I love butter.
Wilt the leeks and put in the potatoes.
Add the stock cubes and cover everything generously with boiling water.
Boil until the potatoes are cooked.
Use an immersion hand blender or a blender blender. Blitz away! I left a few bits, but not many. I don’t think I look attractive when I run into difficulty getting slippy leeks off a spoon with my face.
Taste it and adjust the seasoning. Even after adding stock cubes I required more salt.
If you want cheddar toasts, grate a little cheese onto slices of bread, pop under the grill until it’s the colour you want. I didn’t toast the bread first, I like it warm and soft.

*I use a lot of stock cubes. I get it, for someone who is.. well.. a food snob.. I use a lot of stock cubes. I also work a lot, I don’t have the time or money to roast an organic free range chicken every time I need chicken stock (unfortunately) but as I’ve said, oh so many times, Kallo cubes are a pretty good substitute.

Fast Falafel Wraps

An open falafel wrap

An open falafel wrap

Exactly that.  Falafel wraps for lunch, and they took all of ten minutes, which was basically me puttering about lazily while the falafel heated up in the oven.

Flames brand Falafel

I know.  I’ve used ready made boxed Falafel.  When we were shopping yesterday (in one of the amazing Asian supermarkets in Fenham, the West End of Newcastle) I knew I wasn’t going to feel any better (I’ve got my first cold of the year) so I grabbed a box.  Plus, they’re delicious and don’t have any weird ingredients in them. So there.

coriander-with-chilli-and-garlic

In any of the Asian supermarkets we can buy four fresh naan or flat breads for £1.  Pretty awesome.  All I really needed to do was make a quick mayonnaise mix of crushed garlic, chilli and coriander then pile everything in.

flatbread-onion-tomato-parsley

I was assembling for two

2 large naan or flat breads
8 falafel
1 tomato, thinly sliced
4 thin slices of onion in rings
2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
4 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 mild heat chilli finely chopped
1 crushed garlic clove
2 heaped tablespoons of mayonnaise
pinch salt
pinch pepper
1 lemon for a few squeezes of juice
2 big handfuls of salad or lettuce or any leaf of your choice

Put the falafel in the oven to warm up. While they’re doing that..
Mix together the chopped chilli, crushed garlic, chopped coriander and mayonnaise with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Grab your breads and spread as much of this tasty mayo on as you’d like.
Top each with salad.
Put four falafel onto each salad pile.
Top with the onion, tomato, chopped parsley, a little extra lemon juice and more spiked mayonnaise if you want (I wanted!).

Roll up tight and eat.  Awesome.