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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.

food-for-thought

A sad day for veggies, especially London veggies, when Covent Garden institution Food For Thought closes its doors for good on Sunday 21st June.  A former banana warehouse was turned into a vegetarian restaurant in 1971, it was a favourite spot of mine.  It was brilliantly quirky with it’s basement seating – and nearly always a queue up the stairs waiting to be served.  It was always a mystery how the staff did it – keeping so calm while serving in such a tiny space. It will be missed.

asparagusdukkahI can see that this dish is probably mixing my culinary metaphors, but I did think this was a successful combination.  I tasted my first dukkah a few years ago after I was given some as a present, and it has since become a standard in the kitchen, albeit one that gets occasional use.  Dukkah (or duqqa) is an Egyptian condiment, consisting of a mix of ground nuts, seeds, spices and herbs.  The jar I’m currently using contains sesame seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, coriander, cumin, salt, garlic, thyme and black pepper.  I use it mostly as a coating or in this case topping, added to breadcrumbs or cornmeal.  Every family would have their own blend of dukkah, so you could certainly make up your own mix!

The fine spear asparagus was delicious, although thicker spears would work well cooked a little longer.  This dish would make a wonderful seasonal starter, or a main course with a big side salad and chunks of crusty bread.

Asparagus with Dukkah over Chilli Polenta

Large handful of fine spear asparagus, washed and any woody ends cut off
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp dukkah
1 tblsp fine cornmeal / polenta
Dash of sea salt
1 pint water
1/4 pint polenta (I find it works well to measure the polenta as a quarter of the water!)
1 small red chilli chopped.
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.  Put the asparagus into a roasting tin, pour over the olive oil and toss till well coated.  Roast for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile heat the water in a large saucepan.  As it heats, add the polenta, chilli and salt, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Keep stirring until you have a thick, creamy mix, then keep warm over a very low heat (or just put the lid on the pan).

Mix the dukka and the cornmeal.  Take the asparagus out of the oven, turn the spears with tongs, then sprinkle the dukkah mix over them.  Put back in the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Serve on warm plates, by spooning up a heap of polenta and topping with asparagus spears.

red veined sorrelI’m a great believer that good gardening is easy gardening.  This could be because I’m lazy and I’m certainly short of time to spend in the garden.  But surely, working with nature, rather than fighting against it is best, and the plants which thrive in your garden are the ones that most belong there.

A few years ago, I bought a pot of red-veined sorrel at a farmers market.  I transferred the plant to a bigger pot, added a few leaves to a salad every so often, then completely neglected the plant over the winter.  But then the plant seeded itself in the garden, popping up in several places, and generally thriving like a weed.  Not only that, but the slugs seem to leave it alone.

Now all of that seems to me like the peak of gardening success.  And this sorrel has the added advantage of being an attractive plant wherever it chooses to settle.

The young sorrel leaves have a lemony, lettuce like flavour and look good in a mixed leaf salad, while older, more bitter leaves, can be cooked like spinach.  Nutritionally, sorrel provide vitamin C and iron, so more than worth the (non) effort involved!

seedlings

Even growing your own veg can cause dilemmas for the vegetarian gardener.  As a vegetarian for example, I’ve never bought organic compost for my small fruit and vegetable plot, as it usually contains blood and bone-meal.  So I was delighted to discover this vegan organic compost, and use it for planting seeds.  That’s one problem solved.  Just looking forward to tasting the results now!

Vegan organic compost from Fertile Fibre.

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