The arrival of the gruesome sounding blood orange in January is a happy moment for anyone that’s been seduced by the deep crimson flesh and distinct citrus flavour with a raspberry edge. They can be deliciously sweet such as the beautiful red-streaked Sanguinello, to the more bitter deep-red Moro variety. They are smaller than navel oranges with pitted skin and some have a dark-red rind; a hint to the alluring vivid interior. The colour is influenced by how far into the season the fruit was picked – more orange at the beginning and then more red towards the end – but when cutting into one, the element of wonder and surprise never ceases to amaze me.
Blood oranges have a season of only a few months so grab them by the crate load and use abundantly while you can. Fortunately, they are incredibly versatile and it’s not a problem to think of a multitude of mouthwatering uses: beautiful salads with simple, clean flavours; zingy feel-good juices; classy cocktails; citrus singing cakes and tarts; elegant puddings such as soufflés and Panna Cotta; and jewel-toned marmalade. And don’t get me started on icecream and sorbet. Just like asparagus and Jersey potatoes, their special status is preserved by their swift season and my excitement would definitely not be so palpable if available all year round.
Although grown in California, most of the oranges in our shops come from southern Mediterranean and Italy in particular. The best fruits are meant to grow in the volcanic rich soils of Sicily, where the classic winter salad of blood orange, fennel and olive oil is popular – throw in some plump olives and you’ve got heaven on a plate. This stunning Sicilian salad of blood oranges and fennel provides the inspiration for the recipe here.
It’s a simple salad with vibrant colours and palette-awakening flavours; perfect for a weekend lunch or light starter. The earthy sweet beetroot provides a perfect platform for the slightly tart orange, salty feta, delicate aniseed from the fennel and distinctive taste of the walnuts. Toasted hazelnuts or almonds are also particularly good. There’s a mix of textures to keep things interesting and a scattering of mint gives a lovely freshness to the whole dish. With one bite of this salad, you will forget the grey winter outside and be temporarily transported to the sunshine blessed island of Sicily with azure seas, stunning coastlines and majestic mountains.
2 medium cooked beetroot, cut into rounds
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
2 blood orange, peeled and cut into rounds
70g feta, cut into cubes
30g walnuts toasted and roughly chopped
Handful of mint leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp orange juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Half tsp runny honey
- Steam the beetroot for about 1 hour, depending on size. Allow to cool and, with gloves on your hands, slide off the skin. Cut into thin rounds and set aside.
- Remove any tough exterior of the fennel bulb and cut in half lengthways. Using a mandolin carefully shave the fennel into thin slices. Alternatively, use a sharp knife and cut as thinly as possible. If preparing in advance, squeeze some lemon juice over to prevent it going brown.Toast the walnuts in a frying pan over a low-medium heat until golden. Keep shaking the pan so they don’t burn. Roughly chop.
- Cut the top and bottom off the oranges so they are flat, then using a sharp knife cut the peel and pith from each orange. Cut into thin rounds.
- Cut the feta into cubes and set aside. Then for the dressing, put all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified.
- Assemble by laying the beetroot on the bottom and then the fennel and oranges. Scatter over the feta and walnuts, finishing with a drizzle of the dressing and a handful of mint leaves.
After finding myself lucky enough to bring 12 boxes of Medjool dates home after a recent job I am determined to eat every last one of them. They have gone well past their ‘use by date’ but seem to be lasting quite nicely in the fridge. Known as the ‘king of dates’ they are large dried dates that have a honey-like sweetness, chewy succulence and are almost meaty in texture. Once you’ve tried Medjool no other dates will compare and are responsible for making sticky toffee pudding one of the most sumptuous and divine puddings around.
They have been around since 6000BC, which is incredible and makes them the oldest cultivated fruit in the world. For years only royalty and honoured guests indulged in the luxurious sweetness and complexity of flavour while the commoners, meanwhile, had to settle for a drier, harder and less sweet variety. Typical. Thankfully they are now readily available to everyone but they can be quite expensive in supermarkets so it’s worth seeking them out in local Middle Eastern shops, if you can.
I have been happily eating them as a snack, which is very indulgent, but I also love putting them in spice-rich tagines and rich sticky cakes. Today, though, after an artery-clogging weekend of Burn’s night food, I have decided to make a healthy salad for lunch, inspired by Moroccan flavours. This is quite a sweet salad as you’ve got natural sweetness from the orange and a touch of honey in the spiced almonds, but I just love all the different textures and flavours: soft chewy dates, moist refreshing orange, crunchy caramelised almonds, with creamy slices of avocado and tender mild bitter leaves of baby spinach. You could try it with strips of carrot as an alternative to the orange, which would not be quite as sweet. The spiced nuts recipe will make more than you need for the salad as it’s a bit tricky to downsize the recipe. They make a great snack washed down with beer though so sure they won’t go to waste.
1½ tsp rapeseed oil
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp allspice and ground corriander
1 tsp runny honey
½ tsp medium coarse sea salt
100g pack of blanched almonds
8 Medjool dates
1 ripe Hass avocado
Large handful of baby spinach leaves
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 160C/300F/Gas 2. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the spices, salt and honey. Cook the spices for 30 seconds then add the almonds and stir to coat. Spread out on an oven tray lined with baking parchment and roast in oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and caramelized. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Meanwhile, slice the dates in half lengthways. Peel the avocado, remove the stone, cut in half lengthways and then each half into slices. Prepare the orange by removing the skin with a sharp knife, cut into thin rounds and then into smaller segments.
- Combine the dressing ingredients some seasoning and whisk into an emulsion.
- Once the almonds have cooled arrange the baby spinach leaves, dates, orange segments and avocado onto a plate, then finish with a generous drizzle of dressing.
Chicken livers are packed full of nutrients, are low in fat and are really quick to cook. What’s not to like? I know some people are a little put off by the thought of eating offal or maybe just think it looks a little unappetising. Ok, it doesn’t look pretty, but I assure you it more than makes up for it in taste. It also offers very good value for money compared to other meats available nowadays. I think offal is seriously underrated and after the enjoyment of this recipe I will definitely be buying chicken livers and other varieties, such as calves and lambs liver, as well as kidneys, more often.
This recipe was inspired by a seven-spice chicken liver dish I had at Dock Kitchen, run by the hugely talented chef, Stevie Parle. I haven’t used seven spices here but simplified by using cumin, all spice and black pepper – enough of each to give a serious taste punch. The sweetness of the pomegranate seeds and freshness of the salad offset the rich spicy chicken livers perfectly. It really is a super quick meal to prepare so definitely one to enjoy in the week when time is poor but you crave a healthy but satisfying meal. Great served with warm flatbreads and hummus as a side if you’re feeling particularly puckish.
400g chicken livers (preferably organic)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive or pressed rapeseed oil
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp all spice
70g bag of lamb’s lettuce
100g flame-grilled red peppers, chopped into strips
1/4 tin of chickpeas, drained
Handful of pomegranate seeds
- Firstly, prepare the chicken livers. Using some kitchen scissors and cut away any green bits or sinew or they will taste bitter. Cut into as even sized pieces as possible.
- Season the chicken livers with salt. Heat a large frying pan with 1 tablespoon of the oil over a medium heat until hot, add the livers and fry for about 2 minutes on each side so that they are brown and caramelised. Any smaller pieces will take less time to cook so remove these earlier. The livers should be cooked all the way through but still pink in the middle. Rest the livers on a warm plate while you make the dressing.
- Put the red wine vinegar into the same pan and bubble for 5 seconds seconds before adding the rest of the oil and then the spices. Stir the pan and cook for about 30 seconds, add the pomegranate molasses and any juices from the chicken livers, give the pan a swirl to combine and then remove from the heat.
- Arrange the lamb’s lettuce, red pepper, chickpeas and the livers on plates. Drizzle the sticky dressing over the livers, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over and serve.
What I love about summer is eating salads such as this. Vibrant in colour, utterly delicious, and healthy too – so it ticks all the boxes for me. If you can get your hands on some Loch Duart hot smoked salmon then I heartily recommend it. They have some oak roasted salmon that is utterly amazing and is so moist and full of flavour that it had my boyfriend and I uttering lots of “mmm’s” in appreciation. You can buy it online but there’s a list of shops stocking it on their website, too.
Orzo is a pretty rice shaped pasta which is also great substitute for risotto rice. I did a lovely broad bean, red pepper and fennel risotto with it recently. It works really well in salads, as shown in this recipe, but also in stuffed roast peppers and stews too – so it’s a versatile ingredient worth having in the store cupboard. This salad is really quick to put together so it’s perfect for a quick mid-week meal on a sunny summer’s evening.
1 pack hot smoked salmon, broken into large flakes
Half head of broccoli, cut into small florets
100g fresh or frozen broad beans, podded
100g oven-dried or sun blush tomatoes
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
Half yellow pepper, small dice
3 tbsp olive oil
Half tsp runny honey or caster sugar
1 tsp cyder or white vine vinegar
3 sprigs of tarragon, chopped
Large handful of basil, chopped
Good squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Serves 2 (generously!)
20 minutes prep, 15 mins cooking
- Cook the orzo pasta in salted simmering water for 8 minutes until al a dente. Test to see and then drain and rinse under cold water and set aside.
- Repeat with the broccoli but simmer for 4 minutes and then again with the broad beans for 3 minutes. Slip the beans out of their skins and set aside.
- In a large bowl whisk all the dressing ingredients together, reserving some of the herbs to garnish and then add the rest of the ingredients. Combine gently ensuring you don’t break the salmon up too much.
- Serve on a large platter dish and garnish with the remaining herbs.
After a recent trip to Scotland I arrived back with lots of lovely Scottish goodies, in particular a pack of smoked venison from the Rannoch Smokery, which you can also purchase online. After the usual holiday binge and some proper summer weather at last I wanted to make a vibrant seasonal salad. OK, I confess that the pears are definitely not seasonal but they go so well with venison so I balanced this out with new season redcurrants. This is a really simple recipe and can be assembled in 15 minutes so great for a summer evening when you want to spend less time cooking and more time sipping G&T’s outside. Incidentally, I enjoyed this dish with a chilled glass of Vendanges Nocturnes Rose, which was fresh, crisp and went perfectly with the venison and tart redcurrants.
1 pack of smoked venison
Baby salad leaves
80g redcurrants (save a handful for serving)
1 tsp caster sugar
Half tsp red wine vinegar
Squeeze of lemon
1 tsp water
1. To make the dressing put the redcurrants, red wine vinegar and water in a saucepan and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the fruit release their juice and start to break down. Add the redcurrant mixture to a mini food processor along with a small squeeze of lemon juice and whizz until pureed. Pass the liquid through a sieve to remove the skin and seeds. This makes more than you need but chill in the fridge for further use – it would work really well with a feta salad.
2. Assemble the smoked venison slices, salad leaves, thinly sliced pear and pecans on a plate and dot the redcurrant dressing over. Add a small handful of redcurrants to finish.
The sun is finally shining and summer is here! Nothing says sunshine to me more than mangoes so I decide to buy a whole box of heavenly, golden mangoes and know I won’t have any problems using them. So, you will find a few mango recipes on the site as a result! One of my favourite salads is a chicken, asparagus and mango salad but tonight I want to be a bit more exotic, so I opt to use a few of them in a rice salad served with some spicy Thai chicken.
You can obviously cheat and buy the red Thai curry paste but making your own tastes so much more vibrant and fresh than shop bought. The first time I made Thai curry paste using my pestle and mortar the white kitchen walls were splattered with a beautiful pattern of red chillis. I once did a Thai cookery course whilst on holiday and had great fun making curry paste with a huge pestle and mortar – until the chilli flew up in my eye! Ouch.
I now make it in a mini food processor and it does make life a lot easier. It also gives me an excuse to use my favourite kitchen gadget that I use regularly to make spice pastes, dressings and pestos.
The amount for the paste given here is more than enough for the recipe but it keeps well in the fridge in a sterilized jar for up to 3 weeks, so you don’t have to use it all at once unless you really want a real lip tingling experience. I use normal red chillis but if you find Thai ones then use these, although be warned they are a lot hotter.
I have been a bit lazy here and used boneless thighs. I do generally try and joint chicken, which works out cheaper, but when you want 6 thighs then it’s a whole different story! You can use breast meat but I find thighs are so much tastier and they don’t dry out as easily when cooking. If possible, cook the chicken on the bbq but you can also cook this in the oven too, as I did in this instance – just add 5 minutes onto cooking time. The rice salad is a great side dish as it goes well with any South East Asian, Indian or Caribbean style food.
35 minutes prep, 1-4 hours marinating and 10-15 minutes cooking
6 boneless chicken thighs
120g basmati rice
80ml coconut cream
20g cashews, toasted
Half bunch of spring onions
20g dessicated coconut, lightly toasted
1 tsp of sesame oil
Large handful of corriander
Red Thai curry paste
6 red chillis
2 tbsp lemongrass
1 tsp fresh corriander root or stalk
2 large garlic cloves
3cm piece of fresh ginger
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp corriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Pinch of white pepper
1 tsp salt
- To make the paste roughly chop the first 6 ingredients and put in a food processor. Add the rest of ingredients and process to a thick paste.
- Cut slashes into the chicken thighs. Combine half of the paste with the coconut cream and rub well into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Rinse the rice well and boil enough water to cover the rice in a large saucepan by 1cm. Add the rice, stir and cover with a lid. Time for 8 minutes then turn off the heat and leave to stand still covered for a further 5 minutes. Fluff up the grains with a fork and leave to cool and set aside. I always use this method and it produces fluffy rice every time.
- Peel and dice the mango into small chunks. Remove the outer layer from the spring onions and finely chop. Roughly chop the cashews and the corriander. Add the rice to a large bowl along with the spring onions, coconut, cashews, corriander, juice of a lemon and the sesame oil. Add the mango to the bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
- When ready to cook light the bbq or preheat oven to 180C / gas 4 / 350F.
- Remove excess marinade and cook for 10-15 minutes until the juices run clear. Once the chicken is cooked, rest for a few. Serve with lime wedges and a generous portion of the mango rice salad.