Orange-scented quinoa salad with pistachios and dates

Another beautiful healthy and tasty Summer salad. I can’t have enough of these and am always looking for more of these interesting recipes. We love eating them with a piece of marinated and barbequed fish or chicken.

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Serves 4

6 oz (175 g) quinoa or red quinoa, rinsed
1 oz (30g) shelled pistachios
5 tbsp 70ml) fresh orange juice, plus finely grated zest 1 orange
4 tbsp (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1 scant tsp Dijon mustard
6 green onions, very finely sliced
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 large bunch watercress, tough stalks removed
10 ready-to-eat dates, chopped
Optional- goat cheese or Greek feta cheese to toss through or sprinkle over it

Bring 3 cups (500 mls) water (or 1/2 water and 1/2 broth of your choice) to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa and reduce the heat to low, then cover and cook for 18-20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork and spread over a large plate to cool.

Meanwhile, in a dry frying pan, toast the pistachios until fragrant and starting to brown. Cool, then coarsely chop.

To make the dressing, whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, mustard and vinegar and season well.

To assemble the salad, put the quinoa in a serving bowl and toss with half the dressing. Fork through the orange zest, green onions, herbs, watercress, dates, chopped pistachios and enough of the remaining dressing to coat. Taste and add more salt, pepper and/or dressing if needed, then serve.

Roasted tomatoes with goat cheese polenta and garlic spinach

This recipe is from the blog “Pinch of Yum” and is absolutely delicious. We are trying to eat less meat and you wouldn’t miss it with this.

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Serves: 4

3 cups cherry tomatoes (or small tomatoes – tricolor or heirloom are super pretty!)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic
3 cups spinach
3 cups water or vegetable broth
1 cup loose polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill, also available on Amazon)
4 oz goat cheese
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash the tomatoes, place on a baking sheet, and pat dry. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Roast for 10 minutes, gently turn the tomatoes, and repeat until the tomatoes are browned, about 30 minutes. You can turn the heat up to 450 at the end to get more browning action.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy pan. Add the garlic and saute gently until fragrant, but do not brown – browned garlic tastes bitter and gross. When the garlic is smelling incredible, add the spinach and turn off the heat. You should be able to just keep stirring the spinach around for a minute and it will wilt and reduce in size. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel.

In the same pan, bring the water/vegetable broth to a bowl. Add the polenta and whisk until smooth. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until the polenta has thickened. Add the goat cheese and the salt and stir until smooth. Taste and adjust as necessary. Serve the polenta immediately with the tomatoes and the spinach.

* The polenta thickens and hardens as it starts cooling – but for this recipe, I liked the polenta soft, so if you need to loosen it up a bit, just add some water or milk and whisk until smooth.

Gluten free golden flapjacks with mango, dried cherries and coconut

I love all things flapjack and there is a limitless number of combinations for them. Being gluten-free they are so popular and this is a winning combination of flavors, kind of taking you to blue water beaches, sunshine and palm trees. Wait, that’s here!! Thank you Sophie Dahl for this recipe

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Makes 8 to 12

2 tbsp golden syrup
4 tbsp liquid honey
5 oz salted butter
5 oz porridge oats
4 oz dessicated coconut
3 oz dried sour cherries
3 oz dried mango, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Grease a medium-sized deep baking tray or Swiss roll tin (The depth of the tray will depend on the thickness of the flapjacks.)
In a large saucepan, melt the golden syrup, honey and butter together over a low heat, stirring until well combined.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the oats, coconut, cherries and mango.
Pour the flapjack mixture into the prepared pan and press it down gently into the corners of the tin.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until deep golden-brown on top.
Score the flapjacks into pieces while still hot and allow to cool in the tin turning out and cutting completely

Easy orange, rosemary and polenta cake

I love making cakes when you don’t have to “cream the butter and sugar” As soon as I see a recipe that asks for that, I’m out of there. This one is so easy and uses the whole orange, which gives it a very intense flavor that the fresh rosemary positively flirts with! And a great added bonus is that it is also gluten free.

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Serves 8

Butter, for greasing
2 large oranges
6 extra large free-range eggs
6 oz polenta
6 oz ground almonds
9 oz golden caster sugar
1 heaped tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp demerara sugar

For the orange drizzle
4 oz caster sugar
3 tbsp orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Grated or shredded zest of 1 orange

Grease and base-line a 9 inch springform cake tin. Put the whole oranges in a large pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour, until soft. Remove, cool, then halve and remove the pips.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Whizz the orange halves (with the skin) to a purée in a food processor. Beat in the eggs, polenta, almonds, sugar and rosemary.
Pour into the tin and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for 1 hour, until the cake is risen and golden.
For the drizzle, dissolve the sugar in 100ml hot water in a pan. Boil for 5 minutes but don’t let it color. Remove from the heat and cool briefly. Add the liqueur, rosemary and zest.
Cool the cake in the tin, then turn out and drizzle with the syrup.

Date and oat crumb bars

I love something sweet at the end of a meal, and these are sweet, gooey and crunchy all at the same time. You will love them and so will the family.

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Makes about 8 servings

1lb Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup honey
1 cup water
1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Bring the dates, honey, water and 1 tbsp butter to a boil, remove from the heat and let sit until they cool down to room temperature
Puree in a food processor until smooth
Mix the rolled oats, flours, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
Stir in the melted butter until it forms crumbs
Press half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of a greased 8 inch square pan
Spread the date mixture on and top with the remaining crumbs
Bake in the oven for 25 mins

Baked butternut squash, cheese and bacon polenta cake

Oh my gosh, this combination is pretty heady. If you want to keep it vegetarian, leave out the bacon and use vegetable broth, but I like to incorporate the meaty components.

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Serves 8 to 10

One 2lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced 1 inch thick
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 tsp dried sage, crumbled or 1 tsp fresh sage, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or half and half with 3 cups of water and 3 cups of stock)
2 cups coarse polenta
unsalted butter
5 oz smoked Gouda cheese, shredded or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 375F
Arrange the squash on a large oiled baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, until tender. Transfer the squash to a bowl and mash coarsely. (You should have about 1 1/2 cups)
While the squash is roasting, spread the pine nuts on a pie plate and toast in the oven for 4 minutes, until golden. Coarsely chop the nuts.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the onion and sage and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 25 minutes.Add a few tbsp of water if the onions start getting dry.

In a saucepan bring the 6 cups stock/water to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and 1 tsp salt. Cook over very low heat, stirring frequently, until tender, about 35 minutes.The polenta will get very thick and that is fine. Stir in 1 tbsp butter along with the mashed squash, pine nuts, bacon, onion, Gouda or cheddar cheese and half the Parmesan cheese.Pour the hot polenta into a large springform pan or a 2 quart braising dish sprayed with non stick spray.
Flatten the top of the polenta slightly without spreading it to the edges; refrigerate until firm for up to an hour.

Cut 1 tbsp of the remaining butter over the polenta and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp parmesan cheese.
Bake in a 375F oven for 1 hour, until the top and sides are lightly browned and crisp.
Let stand for 20 minutes before cutting it into wedges
Serve with sauteed mushrooms, braised greens or tomato sauce.

Mediterranean quinoa salad

Don’t be put off by the long ingredient list. It’s a very easy salad to prepare and will be one of the best things you’ve ever eaten.
I absolutely adore quinoa and if you also like it, not only is this recipe great, these two other quinoa salad recipes below, also on this blog, are terrific.

I sometimes make these quinoa salads in double quantities and have them in the fridge for a week, adding chicken or salmon to them if we fancy, or just having a small bowl of it with some home made soup. The beauty of this salad is that you can change up the amounts of the vegetables and can replace or add with other things you like. Basically, play with it! I have also given you a few ingredients that are optional.
It’s very healthy, very filling without piling on the calories and soaks up the flavors.

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Easily serves 4 and can be augmented.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1x 15oz can of garbanzo or borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
2 Roma tomatoes,chopped or 4 oz sliced sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced in half lengthways
2 tbsp capers, drained
1 medium English cucumber, seeded and chopped
5 scallions, chopped or 1 medium red onion, chopped
4 oz roasted red bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped,
1/4 fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup Greek feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 green chili, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts, optional
1/2 cup raisins, optional

Dressing ingredients (you may not need it all)
4 tbsp good olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 anchovy fillets, optional
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp red chili flakes, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Place the quinoa in a saucepan with the stock and bring to the boil. When boiling, turn down low to a simmer and put a lid on. Let it simmer on low for about 12 – 15 minutes until it becomes fluffy and all the liquid is absorbed. You will begin to see the “germ” of the grain appear on each piece of quinoa.
Remove from the heat,fluff with a fork and allow to cool with the lid off. (I sometimes tip it out onto a baking tray and spread it out to dry and cool a bit, it works faster this way)

In a very large bowl, combine the salad ingredients. Add the cooled quinoa to the salad.
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and add about 3/4 of the dressing to the salad. Mix together really well, season with salt and pepper and add more of anything you like to get the exact flavor you want. Chill the salad in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving. This gives the ingredients time to “hang out”
This is a very forgiving salad and I sometimes add toasted pine nuts, or raisins/currants to it for a change.

Semolina, coconut and marmalade cake

This is such a simple, moist and flavorsome cake from the recipe book called “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi. Semolina cakes soaked in syrup are all over the Middle East. They stay moist, with a light texture and are so easy. This cake keeps for 5 days if wrapped carefully to keep the air from it.

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3/4 cup sunflower oil
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade (fine-cut or without peel)
4 large organic eggs
grated zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup superfine sugar (caster sugar)
3/4 cup shredded dried coconut
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp semolina
2 tbsp ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
Thick Greek yoghurt flavored with 1 or 2 drops of orange blossom water to serve

Soaking syrup
1 cup superfine sugar (caster sugar)
1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp water
1 tbsp orange blossom water

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Whisk together the oil, orange juice, marmalade,eggs and orange zest until the marmalade dissolves.
In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients. Mix until really well combined.
The mixture should be runny.
Grease and line with baking parchment or waxed paper  2 x 1lb loaf tins (about 8 1/2″ by 4 1/2″)
Divide the filling evenly between them. Bake for 45 to 60 mins until a skewer inserted into them comes out clean and the top is an orangey brown.
Near the end of the baking time,place the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, start brushing them with the hot syrup with a pastry brush; you will need to do this in a few goes, allowing the syrup to sink down into the cakes before continuing. Use up all the syrup so it is absorbed into the cakes.
Once the cakes have cooled a little, remove them from the pans and leave them to cool completely.
Serve with the flavored yoghurt







Polenta with mushrooms and truffle oil

This recipe is from the incomparable Yotam Ottolenghi and his book “Jerusalem” is one of my 5 “desert island” recipe books.
So easy and with such bold, earthy flavors. All that needs to be served with this is a simple salad.



Serves 2  (but can easily be augmented)
4 tbsp olive oil
¾ lb mixed mushrooms, very large ones halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp truffle oil
1 pint ( 16 fl oz) vegetable or chicken stock
3 oz polenta (instant or traditional)
3 oz Parmesan, grated
2 – 3 tbsp butter
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tbsp chopped chervil
4 oz Taleggio cheese (rind removed), cut into 1/4” slices
salt and black pepper

* There are two types of polenta meal (or cornmeal) available – a quick or instant variety and the traditional, slow-cooking one. For most purposes the quick polenta is good enough. Either one can be used for this dish.
Heat up half the olive oil in a large frying pan. Once hot, add half of the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes, or until just cooked; try not to move them much so you get golden-brown patches on their surface. Remove from the pan, and repeat with the rest of the mushrooms and oil. Off the heat, return all the mushrooms to the pan and add the garlic, tarragon, thyme, truffle oil and some salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan. Slowly stir in the polenta, then reduce the heat to the minimum and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. The polenta is ready when it leaves the sides of the pan but is still runny. If you are using instant polenta this shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes; with traditional polenta it could take up to 50 minutes (if it seems to dry out, add some more stock or water but just enough to keep it at a thick porridge consistency).
Preheat the grill (broiler) to high. When the polenta is ready, stir in the Parmesan, butter, rosemary and half the chervil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the polenta over a heatproof dish and top with the Taleggio. Place under the grill until the cheese bubbles. Remove, top with the mushrooms and their juices, and return to the grill for a minute to warm up. Serve hot, garnished with the remaining chervil.

Ultimate roast potatoes

You will never need another recipe after making these!  A polenta crust and cooking in duck fat ensures the roast potatoes are perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside

Serves 6
4lbs  potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
8 tbsp duck fat
5 tbsp polenta grains

Preheat the oven to 400 F
Parboil the potatoes in salted water for about 10 minutes or until slightly tender when tested with a knife.
Drain well, return to the pan and cover with the lid.
Shake the  pan fairly vigorously to roughen the outsides of the potatoes.
Spoon the duck fat into a large roasting tin and place in the oven for 5 minutes or until the fat is hot and melted.
Sprinkle the polenta over the potatoes and toss to coat (this will make them extra crispy). Carefully tip the polenta-coated potatoes into the roasting tin and turn gently to coat in the hot duck fat.
Roast for about 45 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.