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Cover: A dish for all seasons

Recipes with balsamic vinegar

05Jun 12

Lamb’s Lettuce Salad with Serrano Ham and Apricots

Spring Salad with Serrano Ham and ApricotsLamb’s lettuce salad with Serrano ham and apricots is a really simple salad with few, but very tasty ingredients.  I like the subtle play between the sweetness of the apricots and the saltiness of the Spanish ham.  Both are balanced wonderfully by the creamy texture of the avocado and the subtle freshness of the lamb’s lettuce.

Lamb’s lettuce is said to contain around three times the level of vitamin C that a common lettuce contains.  This salad makes a good light lunch or supper, but if you’re feeling ravenous, you can always eat it with a big hunk of buttered bread, or as a starter to a more substantial meal. (For more lamb’s lettuce salads, try this seared scallops with brittle Parma ham recipe.)

Lamb’s lettuce is in season through Winter and Spring.  It is a hardy plant that doesn’t rely solely on insects for pollination.  The wind helps to carry and drop the seeds, and in certain eras, it was thought to carpet the British countryside in swathes.  I love it for its softness and appearance – those rich green floral-shaped leaves make any salad look beautiful.

What you need:

  • Pack of lamb’s lettuce, ready washed
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 pack of Serrano Ham
  • 12 soft, preserved apricots
  • 1-2 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar

What to do:

  1. Open the pack of Serrano ham about an hour before you want to eat it, letting it come up to room temperature.
  2. When you are ready to make the salad, arrange the lamb’s lettuce on the plates, covering almost the entire surface of the plate.
  3. Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and the skin and slice into strips lengthwise.
  4. Tear the soft apricots roughly in half.
  5. Make the dressing by mixing the olive oil, runny honey, sugar, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard in a small bowl with a teaspoon.
  6. Arrange the avocado on the lettuce in a floral circle and dot the apricot pieces in between.  Roll the ham into the shape you like and space it out over the top of the salad, making sure that all of the ingredients are visually balanced.
  7. Drizzle over the dressing in a spiral pattern, or serve the dressing in a small bowl on the table.
  8. Season the salad all over with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

15 minutes to prepare

Makes: 2 servings

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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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05Apr 12

Steamed Spring Vegetables with Toasted Pine Nuts

Steamed Spring Vegetables with Pine NutsAn incredibly fresh and healthy accompaniment to any meat or fish dish that you are preparing – steamed spring vegetables with toasted pine nuts are particularly delicious alongside herb crusted salmon with salsa rosso.  In fact, I sometimes eat a big bowl of this and nothing else for my supper, when my body is calling out for greens, greens and more greens, as it often does! 

Asparagus and broccoli are in season in the spring in the UK.  They are bursting with vitamins and minerals, as well as flavour, when you dress them up in a little tasty topping.  Also works well as a starter. You can add Parmesan cheese to top it off at the end, but that is up to you!

What you need:

  • Bunch of fresh asparagus tips
  • Large handful of pine nuts
  • 12 stems of broccoli
  • 30g snow peas
  • 2 generous pinches of Malden sea salt flakes
  • Extra virgin olive oil to fry the nuts and to drizzle over the dish
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Handful of fresh basil, roughly torn
  • A hearty drizzle of a good balsamic vinegar

What to do:

  1. Wash and prepare the asparagus.  Bend each stem, and if it is really fresh, it will break naturally to give you perfect tips.  Lay them to one side.  Wash the broccoli and trim off the ends. Rinse the snow peas.
  2. Prepare your steaming equipment and steam the prepared vegetables for 10-15 minutes, or until they are tender but retain a slight crunch (if you like them al dente like me).
  3. Whilst the vegetables are steaming, toast the pine nuts in a little olive oil over a medium to high heat on the hob.  This should only take a few minutes.  Sprinkle them over with a pinch of the sea salt, remove them from the heat and leave them sitting in the pan to keep warm.
  4. Once the vegetables are cooked, drain them and then serve them into pretty bowls or side plates.  Top with the pine nuts, and then drizzle over a generous helping of olive oil and swirl over with the balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle all over with the fresh basil and season well with salt and pepper.  Cover the vegetables in the topping rather than just the centre.

Note: For a change, try substituting the balsamic vinegar for the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon.

10 minutes to prepare, 15 minutes to cook

Makes: 2 generous servings

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