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So, on the hottest day ever, or something like that, here’s a truly simple salad to help you through the heat!  I always like to keep a melon in the fridge in hot weather, as a slice is like an ice pop and perfect for a cooling afternoon snack!  Chilled melon is perfect for this salad, which is delicious as a side salad, a starter or just with fresh crunchy bread if you want something light.

watercressmelonsaladWatercress and Melon Salad with Caraway Seeds

1 handful of watercress, washed
1 handful of lambs lettuce, washed
1 quarter galia melon, chilled
1 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp caraway seeds

Peel the melon and cut into small chunks.  Add the watercress, lambs lettuce and melon to a bowl.  Add the lemon juice and toss the salad.  Sprinkle the caraway seeds over the salad and serve cool.

What do you call a dish of a thick gravy stew topped with mashed potato? Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie?  Well my mum always called it cottage pie, no matter what the ingredients, and it is the oldest recorded name for the dish having first appeared in 1791, so I’ll stick with it.  Besides it seems to make more sense for a vegetarian dish, as ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ has now come to mean a filling of mutton or lamb.  I have come across the theory that actually a cottage pie should have sliced potatoes on top to resemble the tiles on a cottage roof, whereas fluffy mashed potato resembles a woolly sheep!  But I always think a mashed topping is the real comfort food and it allows you to mash up other veg like swede, parsnip, or, as here, celeriac in with the potato.  This is a simple dish, easy to rustle up and open to changes depending what you have in.  The celeriac gives the mash a nice fresh flavour.  Serve with a green veg or salad.


Cottage Pie

500g/1 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped
225g/8oz celeriac, peeled and chopped
75g/2½oz butter / vegan margarine
2 or 3 tblsp milk/vegan milk (optional)

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 can chick peas, drained
1 can tomatoes
1 tblsp passata, or tomato puree mixed with a little water
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp dried basil or oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes and celeriac until soft.  Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and cook the onion, celery and garlic over a medium heat for around five minutes until soft, but not browned.  Add the chick peas, tomatoes, passata, herbs, salt and pepper.  Stir and cook for around five minutes, then pour into a baking dish.

When the potatoes and celeriac are cooked, add the butter/margarine and the milk if using, then mash until smooth.  Spread the mash over the chick pea mixture in a nice thick layer, then fluff up the top with a fork.  Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until the peaks of the potato have started to brown.

I’m always looking for simple and tasty salads in January, to chase away the post-Christmas sluggishness and help beat the winter blues.  This dish really fits the bill.  It makes a great side dish or even a lunch with lots of crunchy bread or a jacket potato.

FennelSaladFennel Salad

1 fennel bulb
1 medium carrot, grated
1/4 cucumber
1 tblsp Roast walnut or sesame oil
1 tblsp Cider vinegar
1 tsp mustard seeds
salt and black pepper to taste

Prepare the fennel by removing any tough outer layers and the base.  Then slice as finely as possible.  Also finely slice the cucumber (I removed the skin first, but that’s optional).  Add the grated carrot.

Dress the salad by pouring on the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, then sprinkle on the mustard seeds to decorate.

Another seriously simple supper!   These baby leeks appeared in my vegetable box last week, even though the leek season really only starts next month.  But that does mean that this recipe can see you through the winter as a quick and nutritious meal.  It was great served with brown rice as here, but this would be indulgent with a jacket potato, or good as a side dish to some veggie sausages.  Before serving, sprinkle on some walnuts, pine nuts or pumpkin seeds for a bit of healthy crunch!


Garlic Baby Leeks with Sugar Snap Peas

1 tblsp olive oil
Small nob of butter
3 or 4 baby leeks, depending on size, cleaned and cut to 1/2 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic
Good handful of sugar snap peas, cut to 1/2 inch pieces
1 large tblsp cream cheese
2 tblsp milk + more if needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Walnuts, pine nuts or pumpkin seeds to serve (optional)

Heat the oil and butter until butter has just started to bubble.  Add the leeks and garlic.  Stir and cook over a medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes until starting to soften.  Add the sugar snap peas and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the cream cheese and the milk.  Add more milk if needed to make a sauce and stir briefly to heat through before serving.  After serving, sprinkle with your choice of topping if using.

I love broad bean season, as it’s one of my favourite foods to eat fresh.  If I get large enough pods, I like to take the inner skins off, leaving a lovely bright green bean, which looks so good in lots of dishes.

To take off the inner skin, just put the beans in boiling water for no more than five minutes, cool, then pinch the grey outer skin off the bean.  They require no more cooking.

The quantities are vague here, so feel free to use as much of anything as you have!

This simple salad recipe makes a great lunch by itself, a delicious filling for jacket potatoes or pitta bread, or as a side dish to a more substantial meal.  It’s highly nutritious too, full of protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and zinc

Quinoa Broad Bean Salad

Broad Bean Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
large handful of broad beans, podded and skinned as above
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
handful fresh mint, chopped
1/2 tsp dried herb, such as oregano
1 tblsp olive oil

Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water for 5 – 10 minutes.  Drain off any excess liquid.  While still warm, mix in the herbs and olive oil.  When cool stir in the beans and tomatoes.

If you want to serve this as a hot dish, briefly put the beans and tomatoes into the quinoa at the end of cooking, then stir in the oil and herbs as before.

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