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Cover: A dish for all seasons

Side dishes

12Jul 12

Kiwi Fruit Smoothies Collection

Kiwi smoothieTime to raise a glass to your health!

Kiwi fruit is readily available in the UK from January to August.  This visually stunning fruit is so good for you.  It packs a punch in vitamin C and also contains potassium, vitamin E, vitamin A and plenty of dietary fibre, amongst other nutrients.

It has an intense, and some would say sharp, flavour when scooped straight out of its furry greenish-brown skin.  I love it just like that, or mixed in with strawberries and other fruits to make a colourful fruit salad.  But today, I’m going to share a few smoothie recipes with you: kiwi and strawberry smoothie, creamy kiwi smoothie (pictured) and sherbet zest kiwi smoothie.

These smoothies will make a wonderful dessert or a healthy mid-afternoon filler.  So let’s toast your health together in celebration of the wonderful kiwi fruit! (For a different type of fruit smoothie, try this Indian lassi with cardamom and pistachios.)

 

Kiwi and Strawberry Smoothie

What you need:

  • 2 kiwis, peeled
  • 8 strawberries, topped and sliced
  • 2 bananas, peeled and cut in half
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Generous splash of apple juice
  • 8 ice cubes

What to do:

  1. Pop the ice into your blender, followed by the kiwi fruit, the strawberries, banana and lime juice.  Add a generous splash of apple juice and blend for around 35-45 seconds.  Pour into chilled glasses and delight in the flavours!

5 minutes to prepare

Makes 4 servings

 

Creamy Kiwi Smoothie

What you need:

  • 4 kiwis, peeled
  • 2 tbsp good honey
  • 12 tbsp natural yoghurt

What to do:

  1. Blend the ingredients together in a blender or smoothie maker for around 35-45 seconds, pour into a glass and fill up your body with the wonderful nutrients.

5 minutes to prepare

Makes 4 servings

 

Sherbet Zest Kiwi Smoothie

And now for something a little different…

What you need:

  • 100g kiwi, peeled and diced
  • 100g lime sherbet
  • 200g peeled and diced banana
  • 200g honey dew melon, peeled, deseeded and cubed

What to do:

  1. Blend the ingredients together in a blender or smoothie maker for around 35-45 seconds, pour into a glass and enjoy the tang!

10 minutes to prepare

Makes 4 servings

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10Jul 12

Spinach with bacon and pine nuts

Spinach with bacon and pine nutsA starter that brings four flavours and textures together:  It’s soft, salty, crunchy and sweet.  Go on, try it…

Spinach with bacon and pine nuts uses soft and subtle spinach, brought to life by the saltiness of the bacon, the crunch of the pine nuts, and the sweetness of the raisins.  If you can find a good cured Parma ham, or Spanish Serrano ham to cut into chunks to replace the bacon, they also work really well in this dish.  We often make this dish as a starter, or as a side dish to accompany lamb, beef or pork.  Spinach is in season in the spring.

If you like this combination, I would also recommend these mini-pancakes with mozzarella, spinach and pine nuts.

What you need:

  • 1 kg freshly washed baby spinach leaves
  • 100g small bacon cubes
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 3 tbsp raisins
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper to season

What to do:

  1. Cover the raisins with water in a bowl to soak for a little while.
  2. Wash the spinach thoroughly under running water unless you have bought it prewashed and ready to use.  If you are washing it, pat it gently dry afterwards with kitchen paper.
  3. Heat 250ml water on the hob in a large pan, and when it reaches the boil, add the baby spinach leaves, season with salt, cover the pan, turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for about 5-8 minutes.  Alternatively steam the spinach.  It’s best to cook it for just enough time to soften it, but without overdoing it, so as to keep the nutrients it contains as alive and effective as possible.  When cooked, remove and drain the spinach and set it to one side.
  4. Drain the water off the raisins, and pat them dry on kitchen paper.
  5. Heat the oil in a shallow, heavy-based frying pan, and fry the bacon pieces on a medium to high heat for a few minutes, moving them about as they cook.  Add the pine nuts and keep stirring as you cook for another few minutes.  Now add the raisins and do the same for another couple of minutes.
  6. Add the cooked spinach to the pan, mixing all of the ingredients together.  Taste a little of the dish and add more salt if necessary, then grind over with a little black pepper.

10 minutes to prepare, 15-20 minutes to cook

Makes: 3-4 starters or side servings

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21Jun 12

Grilled stuffed mushrooms

White button mushrooms are one of the most widely consumed mushrooms in the world. They are available in shops all year round, but those who like mushroom hunting can usually find them after rainfall from late spring through to autumn. I love mushroom hunting, but I’m never sure if the ones I’ve picked are edible! So for safety I prefer to use the cultivated ones.

I love them; in pasta sauce, in risotto, in pies, in soups, in salads… they are so verstile. This dish is inspired by some “tapas” we had in Spain this Easter: grilled stuffed mushrooms made with Serrano ham (Spanish dry-cured ham), garlic and parsley. I brought some ham back from Spain so I used that for this recipe and added some sun-dried tomatoes for a personal touch. They are so delicious and easy to make, you should try them!

Little tip: They make a great appetiser for this mushroom risotto recipe.

Grilled stuffed mushrooms
Author: 
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3
 
This dish is inspired by some "tapas" we had in Spain this Easter: grilled stuffed mushrooms made with Serrano ham (Spanish dry-cured ham), garlic and parsley.
Ingredients
  • 12 medium sized white button mushrooms
  • 50g Serrano ham (or any dry-cured ham), finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 medium sized garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Olive oil, for sautéing
Instructions
  1. Clean the mushrooms, cut off the tips of the stems and dry if necessary.
  2. Remove the stems, making sure not to break the mushroom caps. Leave the caps aside.
  3. Finely chop the mushroom stems and mix them with the chopped garlic, dried tomatoes and parsley.
  4. Sauté this mixture in a little olive oil on a high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the chopped ham to the mixture.
  6. Fill the mushroom caps with the mixture. (There will usually be a small amount of mixture left over).
  7. Cook the mushrooms in a grill pan on a medium heat until they are light brown and serve.
Notes
What are "tapas"? Tapas are typical in Spain. They are small portions of food, anything from some simple olives to a dish of paella, served to accompany a drink. In most parts of the country tapas are ordered and paid for separately, but in some provinces, especially Granada and Almería, the tapa comes free with each cold drink you order.

 

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17Jun 12

Traditional Scotch eggs

Traditional Scottish EggsWhile looking for ideas for traditional British food to prepare for our little Jubilee street party at the beginning of the month, I saw some Scotch eggs in the supermarket and thought “typically British!” and realized that I had never tried home-made ones because they can be found all year round in any supermarket. As I’d never made them before, I decided to do a test run yesterday and discovered how delicious they can really be, rolled in sausage meat and breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. Not very healthy, I know!

They can be oven baked, but for tradition’s sake I’m definitely going to use this recipe again for this weekend’s Jubilee celebration; it’s well worth the effort! (If you like eggs, you can also try this typical Spanish dish called a Spanish Potato Omelette. It’s really just eggs and potatoes, but it’s quite a treat!)

Traditional Scotch eggs
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser, Starter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 portions
 
Traditional Scotch eggs, rolled in sausage meat and breadcrumbs then deep fried; delicious finger food for any Jubilee street party.
Ingredients
  • 6 large hard boiled eggs, cooled
  • 450g sausage meat
  • 200g plain flour (seasoned with salt and black pepper)
  • 200g breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • Vegetable oil (for deep frying)
  • Black pepper (freshly ground)
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. Peel the hard boiled eggs and set aside.
  2. Add the parsley, thyme, chives, some salt and black pepper to the sausage meat and mix in a bowl.
  3. Divide the sausage meat mixture into 6 equal portions and flatten them out into ovals.
  4. Roll each boiled egg in the seasoned flour and then warp each one in a sausage meat oval, making sure to totally cover the egg and smoothing out any bumps.
  5. Coat each sausage-covered egg in beaten egg and roll into the breadcrumbs, covering completely.
  6. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan. You’ll know it’s hot enough when you drop a breadcrumb into it and it sizzles strongly.
  7. Place each Scotch egg into the hot oil very carefully and deep-fry for around 8 minutes or until golden brown and completely cooked.
  8. When cooked, carefully remove the eggs from the oil with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on paper towel.
  9. Can be served warm or cold.

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14Jun 12

Rich and Tasty Watercress Soup

Rich and Tasty Watercress SoupWatercress! That crunchy, peppery green leaf that’s in season in May! There are lots of meals you can make with it if you use your imagination. I love it stuffed copiously into sandwiches, laced into salads drizzled with honey and balsamic vinegar, and many other ways. But today I’m here to share a really yummy version of  soup – rich and tasty watercress soup.

It’s developed over time, based on several recipes that I’ve tried and tested until I’ve reached this particular set of ingredients. No doubt the recipe will keep evolving; as I love to experiment and move things on after a while. It’s good to keep fresh and enjoy change in life, wouldn’t you say? I love the addition of a little Tabasco in this soup; it’s just there in the background giving a little extra twang to your taste buds!

Soup and salad is a perfect meal for spring and summer. Why not pair this soup with a watercress and mango salad?

Watercress is actually a member of the mustard family (which explains its mild heat). When you’ve bought it, cut the stems, wash it really thoroughly and then pat it with kitchen paper. You can store it for up to 4-5 days in the fridge in a plastic bag. Watercress is full of vitamins A and C; contains calcium; and is of course fat and cholesterol free – until you add the cream!

Rich and Tasty Watercress Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Rich and tasty watercress soup - featuring that crunchy, peppery green leaf that’s in season in May!
Ingredients
  • 600g fresh watercress, thoroughly washed and roughly chopped
  • 600ml chicken stock, hot
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 medium shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced (or reduce to taste)
  • 3 fistfuls of fresh mint, saving a little to garnish
  • 3 fistfuls of fresh parsley, saving a little to garnish
  • 8 tbsp double cream
  • 4 dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • A generous swirl of extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • Salt flakes and fresh ground black pepper to season
Instructions
  1. Heat the butter in a deep-based saucepan; and then brown the shallots and garlic gently together for 5-8 minutes until soft.
  2. Add in the watercress, fresh herbs and the hot chicken stock; stir and bring the soup up to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes to cook the watercress.
  3. Splash in the Tabasco and spoon in the cream. Continue to simmer for a couple more minutes.
  4. Swirl in the olive oil and season really well with salt and pepper. Transfer into a food blender and whizz until smooth.
  5. Serve in individual bowls topped with a sprig of fresh herbs.
  6. You could also add a spoonful of Greek yoghurt while serving, but that is optional.

 

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04May 12

Authentic Mexican Guacamole

Guacamole

In the US and parts of Mexico, record sales of avocados are recorded around the 5th May.  The Cinco de Mayo festival commemorates the battle of Puebla between the Mexican army and French forces in 1862. It is celebrated most strongly in Mexico in the state of Puebla, and in some other regions to a lesser degree.  It is a national holiday in the US where the date has become a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture, more than a commemoration of the famous battle.  Authentic Mexican guacamole is made by the bucket-load around this time; portioned out on the streets at the festival, and made in countless homes and communities to share in celebration together.

Guacamole is said to have originated with the Aztecs as far back as the 16th century.  The name is derived from an Aztec dialect and literally means ‘avocado sauce’.

Avocados are said to be one of the true super foods, containing a plethora of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  So if you make up a whole load of authentic Mexican guacamole to celebrate this May, you’ll be filling your body with wonderful goodness at the same time. (Also try this avocado and mango salsa with corn chips.)

Serve with a nicely chilled Mexican beer; in the bottle, with a little lime juice squeezed in, and a segment of lime sitting at the top of the bottle.

What you need:

  • 6 large ripe avocados
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped as finely as you can
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 8 mild chillies, finely sliced
  • 2 bunches of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 3 tbsp water
  • The juice of a lime
  • A generous pinch of salt to season

What to do:

  1. Crush the coriander, tomatoes, chillies, onion and salt into a fine paste in a pestle and mortar.  If you don’t have one, the round end of a rolling pin in a small bowl works just as well.
  2. Put a little water into the mixture.  Chop the lime in half and squeeze it over the bowl, catching any pips with the palm of your other hand as you squeeze.  Add the avocados, mashing everything together.  Stir in a little more water if you feel the guacamole is too thick.
  3. Serve with nachos to dip.

Less than 30 minutes to prepare, no cooking required

Makes 8 portions

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03May 12

Curly Asparagus Salad with Goat’s Cheese and Medjool Dates

Asparagus SaladA little inspiration for a way to enjoy the first of the spring season’s asparagus…

Curly Asparagus Salad with Goat’s Cheese and Medjool Dates combines lengthy ribbons of peeled asparagus with sweet dates and crunchy peanuts, topped with a well-matured and hard goat’s cheese and drizzled all over with a balsamic reduction.

I have two other variations for this salad: sometimes I use toasted pine nuts and parmesan in place of the nuts and the cheese.  At other times I use toasted flaked almonds and drizzle it over with a lime butter, topping off with lime zest and fresh coriander.  All three variations are fun to make and yummy to eat.  Enjoying asparagus raw is a great way to maximise on the nutritional benefits of this wonderful vegetable.

What you need:

  • 450g fresh asparagus (thicker stems work best), thoroughly washed
  • 60g honey-toasted peanuts
  • 50g Medjool dates, stones removed
  • 7 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
  • 60g hard goat’s cheese
  • Salt flakes and ground black pepper to season
  • Extra virgin olive oil to dress

What to do:

  1. Lay a single stem of asparagus on its side on a chopping board.  Grab the tough end, and using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, shave off ribbons of asparagus from stalk to tip, peeling away from the tough end that you are holding.  Repeat with the rest of the bunch.  You won’t be using the tough ends so put them aside to compost.
  2. Reduce the balsamic vinegar on the hob until it is thick, sticky and very viscous.
  3. Arrange the ribbons of asparagus prettily in a medium-sized salad bowl, then drizzle over with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss the salad carefully with tongs.
  4. Chop the dates into thin strands.  Put the peanuts in a small sandwich bag and bash them on a wooden block with a rolling pin to break them up.
  5. Sprinkle the chopped dates and peanuts over the top of the salad and toss it again very gently.
  6. Use the same peeler to shave off some goat’s cheese curls directly off the block.  Drizzle over with the balsamic reduction, season with a little more salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

20 minutes preparation, 10 minutes cooking

Makes 3-4 servings

Note: For a hot asparagus dish, try this scrumptious asparagus and cheese pudding.

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