Chinese chicken salad

Don’t be put off by the number of ingredients in the dressing. It is well worth it and you will mostly have them in the pantry if you like Asian-style cooking. This is one of my favorite salads.

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Serves 6

For the Sesame-ginger dressing
3 tbsp Chinese mustard
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 medium piece of ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp hoisin sauce (available in most supermarkets)
1/2 tbsp sweet chilli paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To make the dressing;

Put the mustard in a blender and then add the sesame oil, olive oil, honey, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, hoisin sauce, sweet chilli sauce and salt and pepper (go lightly on the salt because of the soy sauce).
Give it a quick blend and check for seasoning.

For the chicken salad

1 medium Napa cabbage, washed and shredded
1 medium iceberg lettuce, washed and thinly sliced
1 medium romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 green bell pepper, julienned
1 cup snow peas, sliced
4 green onions, chopped
3/4 to 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup carrots, peeled and shredded
1 cup bean sprouts
6 chicken breasts, (6 oz each) cooked and diced
Garnishes for the salad
crispy wontons (available in supermarkets)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted

To make the salad

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, lettuces, peppers, snow peas, peanuts, green onions, carrots, beansprouts and diced chicken.
Toss together with the sesame-ginger dressing until well combined.
Divide the salad among 6 plates and garnish with the crispy wontons, cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.

Stuffed roast peppers with goat cheese, chorizo, rice, tomato, zucchini and orange

This started out as a vegetarian recipe and still can, if you eliminate the chorizo. I happen to think it adds a layer of flavor  that raises the bar. If you don’t like goat cheese they work really well with feta cheese too.

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This recipe serves 2 but can easily be doubled

1¾oz wholegrain long-grain rice
1 red and 1 yellow pepper
olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
8oz Spanish chorizo, diced very small or crumbled.
1 courgette, diced
2½oz cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin ( roast my cumin before grinding it)
1 tsp ground coriander
¾oz toasted flaked almonds
½ orange, zest only, finely grated
3 heaped tbsp roughly chopped fresh Italian parsley (or cilantro)
3½oz mild goats’ cheese, rind removed and cheese cut into chunks (or feta cheese, but make it the Greek one)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F
Cook the rice in a pan of boiling water for 25 minutes, or until just tender, then drain.
Meanwhile, cut the peppers in half from top to bottom and discard the seeds. Place, open-side up, on a baking tray (cut a sliver from the base if necessary to help them sit flat). Bake for 15 minutes.

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a frying pan and over medium heat, fry the chorizo for 5 minutes, then add the onion and courgette over a medium heat, stirring regularly, for 4-5 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, cumin and coriander and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Tip into a large heatproof bowl and stir in the almonds and orange zest.

Add the rice and parsley and season with a little salt and lots of pepper. Mix together.

Fill the peppers with the rice mixture. Dot with the cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until the peppers are softened and the filling is piping hot.

Easy chorizo pasta bake

I love chorizo and often order it online through “La Tienda” a great Spanish website. I like the mild chorizo best but do remember to peel it before using. This is a warming, spicy pasta that you will adore!
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Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 good sized red onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 red peppers (capsicums) roughly chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
6 oz (or even 8 oz) good quality Spanish chorizo, chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch dried red chillies
28 oz tin plum tomatoes
a good handful of fresh basil, ripped up
1 tsp sugar
12 oz penne pasta
8 oz mozzarella

Heat the olive oil in a large pan then gently cook the onion for 5 minutes until soft, adding the garlic and cooking for a further minute.
Add the peppers and chorizo and cook until the meat starts to crisp up.
Stir in the balsamic vinegar, paprika, chilli, if you want an extra kick, and the tomatoes.
Mix it well, breaking up the tomatoes, add the basil, then season with a tsp of sugar and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain and then add to the pan of simmering sauce.
Tear the mozzarella into small pieces and stir half into the pasta mixture.
Turn out into a large ovenproof dish, dot with the remaining chunks of mozzarella and then bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until the cheese is all melted.

Serve with a large green salad and some great garlic bread

Gorgeous Greek gazpacho with feta cheese

This is such a lovely, refreshing and vibrant dish on a hot summers day and so easy as there’s NO COOKING!!
I saw Ina Garten making this on the Food Network and immediately ran to the computer to get the recipe. It’s richer and more interesting than the usual slightly watery and one dimensional gazpachos one gets in many restaurants.
When we start our kitchen remodel in a couple of months, this will be a staple, along with several other great chilled soup recipes as we will be without the kitchen for 2 months.


 Serves 8 to 10
2 thick slices day-old bread, such as Ciabatta
6 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp freshly chopped oregano leaves
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
5 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp good olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 red onions, chopped
1 seedless cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 (46 oz) can good tomato juice, such as Sacramento
4 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz good Greek feta cheese, small-diced, not crumbled

Place the bread, garlic, oregano and parsley in a food processor and process until everything is finely chopped.
Add the vinegar and olive oil and process again until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Place the peppers, red onion, cucumbers, tomatoes and olives separately in the food processor and process until very coarsely chopped. Add to the mixing bowl.
Add the tomato juice, salt and pepper and stir well. Taste for seasoning, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours for the flavors to come together nicely.
Fold in the feta and serve chilled.

Roasted peppers with basil, olives, scallions, feta & toasted almonds

Roasted peppers with basil, olives, scallions, feta and toasted almonds

This is one of the most popular appetizers I serve at home. The recipe started out as one from Nigella Lawson and each time I made it I added ingredients and this is the culmination. It is absolutely divine and is a real taste – tickler!

Serves 4 but is easily augmented.
4 good sized red peppers
a good handful fresh basil leaves
4 – 5 scallions or 1 bunch if you like a lot of scallions, sliced across in 1/4″ pieces
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthways
One 7oz block Greek feta cheese
1/3 cup slivered almonds (the ones with the skins showing at the edges)
Good balsamic vinegar
Good extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

There are two short stages at the beginning which are easy, but important.
1/ About 4 – 5 hours before you want to serve this dish, (or the day before) put your four red peppers over each gas burner turned on full and leave on there until they get nice and black.
Turn them, using kitchen tongs and let the entire skin get good and charred, then either put them in a large glass bowl and immediately cover with cling film and set aside, or get three paper supermarket bags inside each other and put them in there, fold over the top and clip the top shut so it’s well sealed. Leave the peppers for a couple of hours to steam, then the skins will come off really easily, revealing sweet red flesh underneath.
With a tap running, (for your hands, NOT the peppers) remove the charred skin, which should just fall off. Remove the stem and the seeds inside and put the peppers into a colander to drain.
Slice the peppers into long strips, about 1/3 to 1/2″ wide and put them into a shallow serving dish.

2/ Preheat the oven to 400F
Put the almonds on a shallow baking tray and toast until starting to brown, this could take about 10 minutes or more, but keep watching them in case they burn. Set aside until cool. (You can always do as many almonds as you like, and freeze what you don’t need, ready for the next time you make the dish)

Okay, so now the assembly part, and this is a doddle!

To the pepper strips in the shallow serving dish, add the chopped scallions, the olives and the finely sliced basil leaves. Season liberally with salt and pepper and sprinkle a good amount of balsamic vinegar over it. Add about 3 tbsp olive oil and toss the mixture until well coated. taste for seasoning, adding more balsamic or salt if needed.
Crumble up the feta cheese and sprinkle over the dish, then sprinkle a little more balsamic over the feta in decorative streams. Sprinkle a good amount of toasted almonds over the feta.
And you have a really lovely , complex flavored appetizer that people can eat with a small fork.
It is better to bring it to room temperature before serving if you are making the dish in advance, which , by the way, can be done up to 2 days before and will last a good 3 days in the fridge if there are any leftovers.


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Braised Turkish chicken

So many interesting flavors going on here, and all in one pot! I love “one-pot cooking.

Serves 4

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 large free range chicken thighs
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves
1 red pepper, sliced in rings
1 small eggplant, diced into 1 inch chunks
1 green chile, sliced, with seeds
Handful of fresh thyme, tied together with string
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (I roast my own as they are more pungent)
4 oz of spiced Turkish sausage, or chorizo, skinned and sliced in 3/4 inch pieces
2 oz fine bulgar wheat
6 Medjool dates, pitted and sliced
2 tbsp tomato puree
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
17 fl oz chicken stock
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses or tamarind paste
1 small cinnamon stick
1 star anise

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F

Heat the olive olive oil in a heavy based saucepan until almost smoking and season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and a splash of oil.

Put the thighs in the pan, skin side down and cook until the skin is nicely browned.

Lift them out and then add the onions, garlic, eggplant, chile, thyme, cumin and sausage for about 12 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Add the bulgar and dates, followed by the tomato puree and stir well.
Pour in the red wine vinegar, followed by the chicken stock, pomegranate molasses, cinnamon and star anise and bring to the boil.

Turn the heat off and nestle the thighs back in so that the flesh is under the liquid but the skin is still sticking out.
Put a lid on the pan and put it in the oven for 40 minutes.
When you take it out, remove the lid and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Serve with great bread.


Chicken, sausage and whatever you have in the fridge traybake.

This is the most simple, stunning dish you can have in your repertoire. You can throw it together in minutes and let it roast and caramelize for about 45 minutes and your whole meal is on one roasting dish.

All you need is a very large bowl, at least 16” diameter (great to have anyway) and a large shallow baking tray, minimum 16” x 12” x 1”

The other day I was working and we only had 1 hour before needing to be downtown for a concert.
I took out my large bowl and started to throw stuff into it, tossed it all in olive oil and fresh herbs, some salt and pepper and spices and threw it all onto the baking tray, tossed it in the oven and 45 minutes later, we had a really stunning meal.

You can vary the meat and vegetables according to what you have in your imagination/fridge

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 350 F

1 lb organic boneless, skinless chicken thigh, each cut into 3 chunks (Don’t use breast, as it gets too dry)
1lb of sausage you like, chorizo, Sweet Italian, Spicy Italian, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 large onions, red or white, cut into 1 inch chunks
As many cloves of garlic as you want, peeled, and half of them crushed and half of them left whole
A yellow, red and/or orange pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 lb cherry tomatoes, some halved, the others left whole
3 zucchini, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 eggplant, cut into 1 inch chunks
8 oz baby crimini mushrooms,
8 oz Brussel sprouts, halved
1/2 butternut squash, or 2 cups in 1” cubes
Very small potatoes, or cut up ones, as they need to cook till tender

Throw all this into the large bowl and toss together with;

1 tsp paprika, sweet, hot or smoked, depending on your preference
2 good handfuls fresh basil, torn
A good amount of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano, or any other herb you fancy
Some dried chile, if you like a kick
Liberally glug in some really good olive oil, at least 1/4 cup

Mix it all together well so everything is well coated and then tip everything out onto the large roasting tray. Shake till it’s evenly distributed, then put into the oven until it’s starting to get browned and beginning to singe at the edges.
Remove from the oven, taste and re-season.

* Some crumbled feta or blue cheese can also go over everything in the last 15 minutes of cooking

You will start playing around with the flavors and ingredients, trying different combinations, vegetarian, more meat, less vegetables….  The worlds your oyster on this dish!


Spanish style chicken traybake

Another one of those great throw-everything-in-a-roasting-dish  recipes! This time, from the Hairy Bikers recipe book.

Serves 4

1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces
1 large red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into strips (optional)
1lb small potatoes, quartered lengthways
8 whole large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
8 medium tomatoes, quartered
8 oz chorizo, preferably picante, skin removed
8 large boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 heaped tsp sweet or smoked paprika
1 tbsp dried oregano
Good olive oil
Ground black pepper and sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 F
Put the onions, potatoes, peppers, garlic and tomatoes in a large roasting tin and season with sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper then sprinkle lightly with olive oil
Toss everything together lightly and roast for 20 to 25 minutes

While the vegetables are cooking, skin the chorizo and cut the meat into thin slices. Set aside

Put the chicken thighs on a board and carefully slash each one 2 or 3 times with a knife. Season all over with salt and pepper and rub into the chicken.

Mix the paprika and oregano together and set aside

After 20 minutes or so, take the roasting tin out of the oven, scatter the chorizo over the vegetables and turn everything a couple of times.

Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and chorizo and sprinkle with the paprika and oregano.
Season with a little salt and black pepper, sprinkle the chicken pieces with a little olive oil and return to the oven for 40 to 50 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

There are so many variations to this recipe and you certainly don’t have to stick to the quantities of this recipe. Use you imagination!

Roasted vegetable couscous salad with harissa-style dressing

I am not a vegetarian but seem to have a lot of vegetarian recipes on this blog. I adore vegetarian food and always feel better when eating it, I just can’t do without the other stuff!

This is one of, if not the best vegetarian salads you can make.
Delia Smith is a genius in combining these vegetables, lettuces and grains into something you will remember for a long time.

Serve 4 as a main or 8 as a starter

For the roasted vegetables
1 small eggplant
2 medium zucchini
1lb cherry tomatoes, skinned, if you have the patience!
1 small red pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
1 small bulb fennel, chopped
1 large onion, sliced and cut into 1 inch squares
2 fat cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, torn so that they stay visible
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 oz pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
1 heaped tbsp capers, drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the couscous
10 oz medium couscous
18 fl oz vegetable stock, put on to boil. (If you are not vegetarian, it’s nice to use chicken stock)
4oz firm goat’s cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad
1 x 3oz packet mixed lettuce leaves (such as lettuce, cilantro leaves, flat leaf parsley, arugula, spring mix etc)

For the dressing
4 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
1 rounded tsp cayenne pepper
2 level tbsp ground cumin (I use home roasted)
2 heaped tbsp tomato puree
4 tbsp fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

To garnish
1 level tbsp black onion seeds

You will need a large shallow roasting tin for the vegetables

First, prepare the roasted vegetables;
Prepare the eggplant and zucchini ahead of time by cutting them into 1 inch dice, leaving their skins on. Then toss the dice in a level dessertspoon of salt and pack them into a colander with a plate on top and a heavy weight on top of the plate. Leave them on one side for a hour so that some of the bitter juices drain out (Put a bowl underneath to catch the liquid)
After that, squeeze out any juices left and dry the dice thoroughly in a clean cloth.

Preheat the oven to 475 F
Now arrange the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, pepper, fennel and onions in the roasting tin, sprinkle with the crushed garlic, basil and olive oil, toss everything around in the olive oil to get a good coating and season well with salt and pepper.
Place the tin on the highest shelf in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the vegetables are toasted brown at the edges. When the vegetables are done, remove them from the oven and stir in the chopped olives and the capers then remove them to a plate to cool.

When you’re ready to assemble the salad, first place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl, then pour the boiling stock over it, add some salt and pepper, stir it with a fork then leave on one side for 5 minutes, by which time it will have absorbed all the stock and softened.
Meanwhile cut the cheese into sugar-cube sized pieces.
Make up the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl, then pour into a serving pitcher.

To serve this wonderful salad, place the couscous in a large, wide salad bowl, (a clear bowl is lovely so you can see the layers, see the picture)
Gently fork in the cubes of cheese along with the roasted vegetables.
Next arrange the salad leaves on top and just before serving, drizzle a little of the dressing over the top followed by a sprinkling of onion seeds and hand the rest of the dressing around separately.

Note – Onion seeds look gorgeous on this salad, but beware, they can get stuck in your teeth which can make you look like you have a mouth full of fillings!


Grilled vegetable stack

Being on vacation for two weeks in Sonoma County gives me a chance to try all the local produce and what with this weather topping 99F several times, the grill is being used a lot.
I saved this recipe from another blog and the addition of hummus is lovely. You can flavor the hummus with chipotle sauce (not too much) for a smokey hint, or fresh basil and garlic or even some sun dried tomato. It also provides a “glue” for the vegetables to sit on so they don’t slide off the mushroom.

1 large red onion, peeled, trimmed and sliced into 6 slices
2 large red bell peppers, cored, sliced into three pieces
2 large yellow peppers, cored, sliced into 3 pieces
1 large zucchini, halved, sliced lengthways to make 6 pieces
1 large yellow squash, halved, sliced lengthways, to make 6 pieces
1 medium – large eggplant, trimmed, sliced into 6 pieces
6 large portobello mushroom caps, stemmed, gills removed
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 tsp each of dried thyme, dill and parsley
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
Lemon hummus recipe below
For serving
fresh chopped chives

In a large bowl combine the onion, bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and portobello mushrooms.
In a small glass bowl combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, thyme, dill and parsley.
Pour the marinade over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Gently toss to coat.
Cover and marinate for 1 hour.
Heat the grill to medium – high heat

Place the vegetables in a grill basket (or spread them out on a large sheet of foil)
Place on the hot grill, cover and cook until they are tender crisp, about 20 to 25 minutes, depending upon the size of your grill.

Remove the vegetable basket/foil with vegetables to a large platter and set aside.

To serve, create a vegetable stack.
Place the portobello mushroom cap on a serving plate and layer it with a spoonful of lemon or other flavored hummus. Add the eggplant, peppers, zucchini and onion. Top with a dab more hummus, if desired and sprinkle with the fresh chopped chives.
Repeat for the remaining 5 servings


This is so easy to make at home. (If you don’t want to, then buy a good brand and add extra lemon juice, garlic or other flavorings to make it taste less commercial.)

1 x 14 oz can chilled chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), drained. Reserve the liquid
Juice and zest of one large fresh lemon
2 tbsp sesame tahini or almond butter
1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
Pinch of sea salt to taste
4 tbsp good olive oil

Combine the chilled chickpeas, lemon juice, lemon zest, tahini, garlic and sea salt in a food processor. Pulse briefly to combine.
Turn on the processor and pour in the olive oil and a dash of the reserved liquid and process until creamy smooth.

Scoop into a serving bowl. Cover and chill until serving.
Serve this lemony hummus layered in the grilled vegetable stacks (recipe above) or as a protein-rich condiment to your favorite grilled dishes