Penne with brown butter, arugula, tomatoes and pine nuts

This is a terrific recipe adapted from Giada de Laurentiis and is full of great textures and flavors. Although it’s a pasta dish, it’s really like a room temp pasta salad that’s light, tangy, easy to make and makes a great lunch for friends.

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1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp good Dijon mustard
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large clove garlic, crushed

1 pound penne rigate pasta
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
4 cups baby arugula
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

Firstly, toast the pine nuts by arranging them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven until lightly toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before using.

For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, crushed garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper until smooth. Set aside.

For the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a high-sided skillet, whisk the butter over medium heat until melted. Simmer until foamy. Continue to cook until the butter has a nutty aroma and turns a caramel color, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the pasta, dressing, arugula, tomatoes, Parmesan, pine nuts, and capers. Toss until coated, adding the reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time to loosen the sauce, if needed. Transfer to a large bowl and serve.

Asparagus and crab salad


This makes a light and gorgeous start to a casual dinner party or even an “al fresco” dinner.

20 asparagus spears, trimmed
2 oz baby arugula leaves
4 oz white crab meat

For the dressing
3 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
juice ½ lime
brown crab meat, if you have it, but it’s not crucial to the recipe, rather more luxurious!
olive oil, for drizzling

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the asparagus for 2 mins until just cooked.
Drain, tip into iced water to refresh and drain again. Cut each spear on the angle into 2-3 pieces.

For the dressing
Mix all the ingredients together with some brown crab meat, if you have it.
Toss the asparagus through the dressing, then build a nest of asparagus spears on plates.
Place some white crab meat in the center of each nest, top with a small bundle of rocket.
Drizzle everything with a little olive oil before serving.

Oil Packed-Tuna, Avocado, White Bean, Almond and Arugula Salad

This almost doesn’t need a recipe, but the combination is so delicious and healthy, I had to post it.

Serves 4 and makes about 1/3 cup dressing
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 to 5 oz baby arugula
1/3 cup of lightly toasted slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans (white kidney beans)  canned is fine.
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
6 oz olive oil-packed tuna (preferably line or poll caught)
4 oz crumbled Greek feta cheese
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted and diced small

Whisk together the lemon juice, balsamic, Dijon, a pinch of salt and a couple of twists of black pepper in a small bowl until well combined.
Add honey to taste and slowly whisk in the olive oil until well combined.
Taste and add more salt, pepper or honey if desired.
* The dressing can be made up to 4 days in advance and stored in the fridge.
Arrange the arugula in a salad bowl and top with the beans, quinoa, tuna, feta, almonds and avocado.
Drizzle with half the dressing and serve, passing the additional dressing on the side

Roasted Delicata Squash, Pomegranate and Arugula Salad

This is a gorgeous show stealer for the Thanksgiving table. You can roast the Delicata squash the day before if there is no room in the oven on the day.

Serves 4 to 8

2 medium delicata squash, around 1 and 1/4 lbs total
1 tbsp olive oil
Fine grain sea salt
4 heaping cups baby arugula (or mixed greens if you prefer)
2/3 cup pomegranate seeds (or a generous handful of dried cherries or cranberries)
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or pecans
4 oz Greek feta cheese, crumbled

Maple-balsamic vinaigrette
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp real maple syrup
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 F
Wash the squash and scrape off any tough bits of skin with a knife. Slice the squash into 1/2 inch rounds. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds from each round. Drizzle the squash with a generous tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Use your fingers to lightly coat all the surfaces of the squash with olive oil.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender and golden, flipping halfway.

In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pepitas (or pecans), stirring frequently, until they are fragrant and lightly golden on the edges. Remove from the heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and Dijon mustard with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Once the squash has had a few minutes to cool, combine the arugula, pomegranate (or dried fruit), pepitas (or pecans), crumbled feta and squash in a serving bowl. Toss with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. Serve immediately.

Yields 4 substantial side salads or up to 8 small servings.
To make this recipe vegan, skip the feta or serve it on the side.

Camargue red rice and quinoa with orange, pistachios and pomegranate seeds

Another gem from Ottolenghi!

Serves 4

1/3 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 cup Camargue red rice
1 cup quinoa
1 medium onion, sliced
5 fl oz olive oil
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
5 scallion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried apricots, roughy chopped
1/2 cup wild arugula or rocket
seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300F
Spread the pistachios out on a shallow baking tray and toast for 8 minutes, until lightly colored.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, then chop roughly. Set aside.

Fill 2 saucepans with salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer the quinoa on one for about 12 to 14 minutes and the rice in the other for 20 minutes.
Both should be tender but still have a bite. Drain in a sieve and spread out the 2 grains separately on flat trays to hasten the cooling down.

While the grains are cooking, saute the white onion in 4 tbsp of the olive oil for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Leave to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl combine the rice, quinoa, cooked onion and the remaining oil.
Add all the rest of the ingredients, then taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve at room temperature

Asparagus, orange and goat cheese salad

Light and so gorgeous! It’s also lovely with some sliced cooked beets added.

Serves 4

11 oz thin asparagus spears
1 1/2 cups watercress or baby arugula
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 orange, cut into 12 segments, pith, pips and skin removed
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp good olive oil
2 1/2 oz soft goat’s cheese

Cook the asparagus in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes or until just tender. Rinse under cold water to cool, then combine with the watercress or arugula, red onion and orange segments on a serving dish
Combine the orange juice, sugar, red wine vinegar and 1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds in a pitcher.
Whisk in the oil with a fork until combined and drizzle over the salad.
Crumble the goat’s cheese over the salad and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 tsp poppy seeds over the salad before serving

Chicken saltimbocca skewers with white bean puree

8 x 4 to 5 ounce boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillets, trimmed
24 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup store bought semi dried tomatoes
24 slices of prosciutto
olive oil, for brushing
rocket (arugula) leaves and lemon wedges for serving
White bean puree (see below)
1 regular can white Cannellini beans (16 oz) drained and rinsed
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp finely grated lemon rind
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and black pepper

8 to 10 skewers, soaked inwater for 1 hour

To make the white bean puree, put the drained and rinsed beans, garlic, lemon juice and rind, olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms.  Set aside.

Place the chicken pieces between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, flatten the fillets until 1/4 inch thin at the most.
Cut the chicken pieces into three until you have 24 equal sized pieces. Place 1 sage leaf and 1 tomato on each piece of chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roll up to enclose.

Wrap each chicken roll with a slice of prosciutto.
Thread three chicken rolls onto each skewer and brush with oil.
Preheat a chargrill pan or barbeque to high heat and cook the skewers for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with the white bean puree, rocket and lemon wedges.


Lentils and quinoa with avocado, arugula and burrata cheese

I made this up a couple of nights ago as Ollie was coming to stay the night and he’s been trying to be vegetarian for health reasons. Since the kidney transplant he’s been recommended to minimize meat as it contains Creatinine.
I had some leftovers and wanted to make something vegetarian. It is delicious and well worth trying.
It’s also delicious for the next few days to have cold for lunch!


1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1lb vacuum pack of cooked puy or green lentils (available from quite a few supermarkets and they last months in the fridge)
2 good handfuls or fresh baby arugula
1 large avocado or 2 small ones, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tub of Italian burrata cheese (it usually has 2 balls of cheese in it)

5 tbsp good olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar (you could try lemon juice too)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Put all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify. Set aside.

Cook the quinoa in the chicken or vegetable broth according to the instructions on the packet. Tip cooked the quinoa into a serving bowl.

Remove the lentils from the packaging and put into a microwave- proof container. Heat through on high for about 3 minutes. Break up lentils with a fork, then tip into the serving bowl with the quinoa and mix together with a fork. Pour in all but 2 tbsp of the dressing and mix well.

Gently mix the arugula leaves and avocado cubes into the quinoa/lentil mixture, so the avocado is covered with the dressing and the arugula starts to wilt in the heat.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.
When you are about to serve, break the burrata cheese into big chunks and dot over the salad. Pour the reserved dressing over the burrata and serve

Salmon and Puy Lentil salad with olive dressing

This is my favorite light, lunch or supper salad to entertain with. Everybody seems to love it, and again, it’s fairly effortless. As I get older, I seem to gravitate towards the simpler and interesting flavors.

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Serves 4 but can be stretched and doubled so easily. It also only takes 20 minutes to prep.

*Use plenty of seasoning on this salad.

Ingredients for dressing
1/2 good sized cup of pitted Kalamata olives (all these measurements are according to taste)
5 tbsp good olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp small capers

Ingredients for the salad
1/2 lb pack of fine or ordinary green beans
4 eggs
1lb cooked or steamed Puy lentils ( I buy them ready done in a vacuum pack from the supermarket.)
4 large tomatoes, chopped roughly
1/2lb cold or room temp cooked salmon  flaked into large chunks. (Here, I buy uncooked, skinned wild salmon and saute it on fairly high heat, taking if off the heat while it’s still fairly “rare” and leaving it to one side till needed)
Good handful of arugula leaves (Rocket)

* Although not in this recipe, you can also add coarsely chopped avocado.

Chop half the olives (set the rest aside) then mix with the remaining dressing ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

Boil the green beans for 5 minutes till just tender, then refresh in cold water. Set aside.
Put the eggs in cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Cool, then shell and halve or quarter. Set aside.

Heat the lentils in the microwave for about 3-4 minutes on high. Tip into a bowl and toss with the tomatoes, most of the dressing, the whole olives and green beans. Toss well and taste for seasoning.

Lay out on a decorative platter and arrange the egg pieces and salmon on top, scattering with the arugula leaves and finish with the remaining dressing.
Serve with some crusty bread.