Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Light meals’ Category

Caipirinha chicken, yogurt flatbreads, spicy pepper sauce, herb salad

caipririnha chicken, yogurt flatbreadsIt’s virtually impossible to ignore a certain sporting event going on in Brazil at the moment, it’s even invaded my kitchen!

I have fond food memories from my travels in Brazil. Plenty of balmy evenings were spent relaxed in a bar, enjoying the amazing array of snacks and small plates paraded around, tempting you to seize the opportunity before they pass by. Platters piled high with hot coxinhas – delicious gooey croquettes filled with chicken and cheese, pão de queijo, empadinhas, outsized skewers of grilled meats…all ready to be washed down with a cold caipirinha or two.

So back to the balmy-ish days of June in the UK, where a warm summer’s evening brings the inevitable scent of charcoal wafting on the breeze.  I find the lovely long light evenings of June just enchanting, when it is light and warm till nearly 10pm. If the temperature holds up, an evening sat outside in the garden till twilight is a rare treat.

So the combination of a long warm evening, the BBQ out and Brazil on my mind led me to dream up caipirinha chicken. I wouldn’t imagine for a second that this dish has even an inkling of Brazilian authenticity to it, but I liked it anyway. Read more

Prawn, feta and watermelon lettuce wraps

prawn, watermelon and feta wrapsA crisp, crunchy, refreshing light lunch for a hot summer’s day. This is a quick dish to assemble, so minimal risk of the sun disappearing behind a cloud whilst you are in the kitchen.

Sweet, fragrant watermelon is perfect combined with the tangy, salty flavour of feta cheese.  The addition of prawns and a chilli and lime dressing makes for a lunch bursting with flavour. And so pretty too!

I bought a pot of ready-prepared melon rather a whole fruit, although the cubes in the package were a little large for this, so I cut them down into about 1cm pieces. Mix together around 100g of watermelon cubes with about 25g feta, also cut into similar size pieces. Add around 100g ready cooked prawns. Finely slice 2 spring onions and add to the mixture. Spritz over the juice of half a lime, a whoosh of tabasco (or finely sliced red chilli if you have it) and a scant drizzle of light olive oil. A generous hand with some fresh chopped mint and coriander plus a little black pepper finishes it nicely.

prawn watermelon and feta wraps

Pile the mixture on top of little gem lettuce leaves.  Makes around 4 topped leaves which serves 1.

Shopping list: little gem lettuce, pot of watermelon chunks, small block of feta, coriander, mint, 100g prawns, lime, chilli, olive oil, spring onions.

Tomato and caramelised garlic tart

May just seemed to disappear this year, which is bit of a shame as it’s one of my favourite months, a month full of potential, the cusp of a new season. Just at the point when you can’t possibly face another root vegetable, suddenly, right on cue, bunches of English asparagus and punnets of early strawberries make their appearance, signifying the start summer, of long bright nights, barbecues in the garden and lazy sunny afternoons.

I spent most of May in California this year, which was a real foodie pleasure. I barely came across the stereotypical monstrous portions of beige food so frequently associated with eating in the US. Not to say that there wasn’t the occasional burger, but it seemed that everywhere I went the main emphasis was on farm-to-fork eating, organic and local. I was spoilt with amazing fresh seafood, juice bars, taquerias, farmers markets, delicious hot garlic fries, a handbag stuffed with peanut butter cups….not to mention a fulfilled ambition of eating at the seminal Chez Panisse.

So of all the back-to-reality post-holiday tasks I could choose, this weekend I decided to defrost the freezer! Lurking at the back, amongst the escapee fish fingers and suspect looking bags of egg white, was a packet of puff pastry, still tightly wrapped in clingfilm, which I decided to use up, rather than return to its frosty home. After a quick rummage in the fridge, I decided on this tomato and caramelised garlic tart, with added goat cheese for good measure.

My favourite part of any dish made with puff pastry is the inevitable stodgy, sticky layer that forms between the crisp, flaky top and the filling underneath. And so it is with this tart; sweet tomatoes and garlic ooze their juice into the pastry, forming a satisfyingly sticky layer of tomato soaked goo. Definitely the best bit.

Baking the tart upside down, like a french tarte tatin, makes the whole thing quick and simple, with minimal washing up. I have a nice, small 20 cm frying pan which is ovenproof, so I could cook it all in the one pan. If you don’t have an ovenproof pan of the right size and shape, no harm will come from transferring the tomato mixture into a baking tin for the oven. Read more

Parma ham breadsticks

Parma ham spiral breadsticksA long bank holiday weekend meant plenty of opportunity to get the oven on and do some baking. And what could a better start  than warm, fresh breadsticks interlaced with salty shards of parma ham?

These aren’t the dry, crunchy variety you can buy in the shops; they have a crisp exterior, but retain a tender crumb inside. The spirals of parma ham are alternately soft and melting then crisp and salty where they have been exposed to the heat of the oven. I can think of oodles of things to eat these with – maybe dunked into soup or a runny boiled egg, or maybe with a nice cold pre-dinner aperitif or perhaps as part of a tapas supper.

Breadsticks are a non-scary way to get into bread making, since I don’t think you really need technical perfection for them to taste and look great. The only thing needed is a bit of pre-planning and patience, as the dough needs a good hour or so to rise, but once the dough is made it can be left to its own devices whilst you get on with other things.

Read more

Potato cakes, smoked salmon, beetroot, ginger, watercress

Potato cakes, smoked salmon, beetroot, ginger, watercress

Potato cakes, potato farls, tattie scones…call them what you will, a stack of hot, buttery potato cakes is a great start to any supper, forming an amenable host to a variety of tasty toppings. I mostly just buy them ready-made, but this week I had leftover mash in the fridge so I made my own. They were so easy I really should do it more often.

My favourite way to eat potato cakes is what I think of as scandi-style: topped with soft, rich smoked fish, pepped up with the addition of hot horseradish or mustard. This time I went for something a bit different, making two little salads to replace the usual dollop of sauce on the side. Firstly, a simple mixture of beetroot and ginger, made with slivers of fiery pickled ginger, the sort you normally find in those little packets in a box of sushi. Secondly, some watercress and rocket to provide extra pepperiness and crunch, drizzled with a tangy goats milk yogurt dressing. Read more

A warm salad of grilled aubergine and puy lentils

A warm salad of grilled aubergine and puy lentilsAfter a long day at work, supper needs to be super-fast. When I’m only putting my key in the front door at 8.30pm, I need something that requires minimal effort and intervention, nothing more than a little slicing, a little stirring.

A salad might not be the first thing that springs to mind, but when it’s getting late, I shy away from the default bowl of pasta and pesto, knowing that it will be still be sitting heavily in my stomach when my head hits the pillow just an hour or two later.  When time is of the essence, a pack of ready cooked puy lentils from my store cupboard stash of pulses is invaluable. The addition of some grilled aubergine, which can be left happily to its own devices, gently charring and softening away whilst I freshen myself up, makes for a light but substantial dinner. Read more

Super green soup

super green soupA simple, vibrant soup. Pure green, green, green – the colour alone is just so beautiful. And the flavour is peppery and bright, refreshing and nourishing. It’s like a turbo-watercress soup, unadulterated by cream or potatoes; just fresh, clean, intense flavour. Read more

A little something on toast: pan con tomate with avocado

Pan con tomato with avocado

Its nice to sometimes have a slightly summery lunch in the depths of winter, on a day when the sunshine makes a frosty appearance and cuts through the winter gloom. Pan con tomate is one of my staple orders in a tapas bar and whilst it undoubtedly tastes much better in the Spanish sunshine, maybe sat out on a little terrace…with a chilled glass of wine… it can also brighten up a January lunchtime in London.

If you’ve not had pan con tomate before, I’ll accept that its not immediately obvious what the magic of a bit of tomato on toast is. It’s one of those simple dishes that is so much more than the sum of its parts. The brief twang of garlic in the background, the grassiness of the olive oil, the crunch of a little sea salt with sweet juicy tomato on top. It’s my favourite thing on toast by a long way. This time I added few chunks of avocado to make it more of a meal, but its not really necessary.

You need a robust white bread for this with a good crisp crust – no pre-sliced industrial loaf here please. Grill chunky slices until just golden. Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side briefly over the crisp bread, just anointing it with a little of its scent. Drizzle over some olive oil, a good quality, full flavoured oil is called for here. Next you need some quite large tomatoes, so they have a decent amount of flesh to them. I find cherry tomatoes are too much pips and skin for this. Rub the cut side of the tomato generously over the bread, giving it a bit of a squeeze as you go. The crispiness from the grill should mash up the flesh a bit and leave a scant layer of pulp and juice over your toast. Add a little extra chopped flesh if you like. A good sprinkle of sea salt plus some roughly mashed avocado and you’re done.

Butternut squash and kale fritters with chorizo and poached eggs

Butternut squash and kale fritters, with chorizo and poached egg

So happy new year! I’m a bit late, I know. January is a bit of an interesting month eating wise. So many friends and family are tucking into salads and staying off the booze. I rarely fancy a salad in January – the cold weather combined with a house stripped of its tinsel makes me feel like I need something comforting, not food purgatory. And there are plenty of tastier ways to up my vegetable consumption and gently get myself into a healthier frame of mind.

My shopping bags are full to bursting with greens this week. Kale seems to be everywhere all of a sudden, in every A-lister’s smoothie, the superfood of the moment. So hopefully you’ve got a bag in the fridge and I promise this will be much nicer than juicing it! Read more