Recipe: Blue Cheese & Pear Salad

Hands up who is fed up of the weather we’ve been having lately? Humid, very wet days alternating with very sunny days. Coupled with my office air-con being set to Arctic mode (I genuinely took a scarf in last week!) it’s left me confused about what to wear and, more importantly, what to eat.

 photo Blue Cheese Pear Salad_zpsjeu2m2q4.jpgTypically in warmer weather I crave lighter food. Salads, zingy flavours. Less of the carb heavy meals I love in winter. But the grey skies together with coming home dripping wet (because BBC Weather told me I didn’t need an umbrella) have got me craving comfort food. I’ve been turning to warm salads recently – the perfect combination of comforting and lightness – and this one is one of my favourites.

The pear provides a subtle freshness to the dish that, as long as it’s no over-ripe, just avoids being too sweet. The toasted walnuts give crunch. Fresh peppery leaves (I like a combo of spinach, rocket and watercress but most generic bags of salad work well). A punchy balsamic dressing. And lots and lots of blue cheese. We went for dolcelatte – it’s both strong and creamy which just the right amount of smelliness for me. AKA it tastes good and strong, but doesn’t make my fridge stink to high heaven. I also have a major love for slightly softer cheese in my salads. All the ingredients come together to make a big bowlful that’s heavy, light and fresh, but with enough cheese to be comforting. If I’m being naughty I love this served with some really good bread, lightly toasted, and a glass of chilled white wine.

Oh, and it you’re not a veggie, I highly recommend a rasher of bacon, finely chopped, and fried until really crispy. Blue cheese and bacon is another of my favourite combos…

 photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 9_zpstlok4l3x.jpg photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 11_zps6aakhlb7.jpgIngredients (Enough for 1)

  • For the dressing – olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard
  • 1 large pear – I found blush pears to work best
  • A knob of butter – goat’s butter* works really well
  • A bowl of salad leaves
  • A good handful of crumbled blue cheese
  • Another good handful of walnuts

Pop the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile throw the leaves in a bowl and season with a little black pepper. Mix up the dressing – add the ingredients to a small jar and beat. Taste and adjust as you go to make it to your liking. I’m a massive balsamic fan but W’s not so keen so I’ve deliberately not given any qualities. The only thing I will say is you really do only want a tiny, tiny bit of mustard. And don’t use English mustard here, I speak from experience when I say it really doesn’t go well!

Slice the pear (no need to peel). Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the pear. Fry for 30 seconds before adding the dressing and warming through – you want the pears to be in the pan for no longer than around 90 seconds or they will go too soft. Add the pears to the salad bowl, and scatter over the walnuts and cheese. Enjoy!

 photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 12_zpsqnuup0kq.jpgAlthough I haven’t tried it, I’m also told that this works just as well with cold sliced pears as part of a lunch box. One I’ll be giving a go very soon…

What’s your favourite salad recipe?

Recipe: Beetroot & Goat’s Cheese Salad

Ah, beetroot. My new favourite thing. I know I probably say that an awful lot when it comes to food, but I do think this is my absolute favourite. For now at least. I love the vibrant colour, the earthy yet slightly sweet taste, and how it goes so well with some of my most lovely ingredients. Pair it with black pudding, mix it up with goat’s cheese, use as a pizza topping, even whip it up into a brownie. Oh, and it makes the best ‘tomato’ sauce substitute I’ve tried, but more on that another day…

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 4_zpsh4lfhiuw.jpgThe only bad thing? Ringing your mum in a panic one weekend, thinking you have a serious medical issue. Then realising you’ve eaten beetroot six days out of seven…

This salad has become a bit of a go-to when we’re planning meals. It’s pretty quick, nice and light, but still filling. I’m finding it’s the perfect February balance between healthy and comforting.

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 3_zpsl2wknelb.jpg photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 1_zps6hgnzjpo.jpgIngredients (for 1)

  • 2 beetroot, either fresh or vac-packed
  • 50g goat’s cheese (or less if you want to be healthier)
  • 2 handfuls of salad leaves
  • Dressing (makes several servings) – 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon djion mustard
  • Optional – black pudding, green lentils, nuts (hazelnuts and walnuts work well)

If using fresh beetroot, wash, peel and chop into 2cm cubes. Drizzle with a teeny bit of oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes. If using vac-packed, chop, season (you may not need oil) and roast for 20-25 minutes. Mix together the dressing in a small jar; taste and adjust if you like. Cube the goats cheese.

Toss the roasted beetroot with the salad leaves, drizzle over a little dressing and scatter over the goat’s cheese and nuts. If you want to eat it cold, let the beetroot cool before adding it to the leaves (no one wants a wilted salad!). To add black pudding to the mix, simply cube and fry until crisp, and toss together with the beetroot. Green lentils are lovely warmed up with some of the dressing stirred through, and taste even better the next day. Basically, it’s a pretty versatile salad!

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 2_zpsxvm17aqr.jpgThis has fast become a favourite meal of ours, it’s so quick to make after work, doesn’t break the bank (you can often get 4 beets in a vac-pack for around 50p) and is just so tasty. I know beetroot is a bit of a ‘ew’ vegetable, so if you’re not sure about it, I’d recommend trying a different recipe first – I’ve got a great one scheduled for in a few weeks!

Are you a fan of beetroot? What’s your favourite salad recipe?

Recipe: Asian Steak Salad

When I’m trying to be healthier, my go-to flavours are Asian; Thai, Vietnamese. Fresh, vibrant and aromatic. They instantly brighten up what should be a dull plate of veg, add life, and make things ten times tastier. I always find they fill me up a lot more too.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.10.13_zpsn6lc6hz5.jpgThis salad was inspired by wandering around the aisles of Morrisions (seriously, the one kinda near me is amazing!) for nearly an hour. Their fresh produce was amazing, and after a carb-laden lunch (read more on Saturday) we wanted to lighten things up. The steak came about because chicken  (free range, that actually tastes of something) is expensive. Turns out that with the right ingredients, the thin cuts of cheaper frying steak are more than delicious. I’ll definitely be picking up more of these.

 photo 2015-01-10 19.54.37_zpsenqrwzl9.jpgSteak is also a lot, lot quicker to cook than chicken. These only had a minute on each side, and to be honest I wouldn’t even give them that next time. You can have this salad ready within about 15 minutes of walking through the door. And the dressing? Add noodles and leftover salad – there’s lunch for tomorrow. It also works perfectly to add extra zing to a noodle soup.

Ingredients (for 1, but makes extra dressing)

  • Frying steak
  • 1/2 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 red chilli (check the heat by tasting a little bit, and adjust the amount accordingly)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • A splash of soy sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Squeeze of honey
  • Coriander
  • Salad – we went for julienned carrot, watercress and a small amount of onion
  • Sesame seeds – optional, only to top the salad, but we really enjoyed them

 photo 2015-01-10 19.54.57_zpsupq9ewg4.jpgBegin by making the dressing. Finely chop the ginger, chilli and garlic together. Add to a small bowl or mug, then pour over the sauces, lime and honey. Mix together, taste, and add more of an ingredient if you think it needs it.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.01.22_zpsith0jknh.jpgToss your salad together with your coriander.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat, with a teeny amount of oil. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, and flash fry extremely quickly until just cooked.

Cover the steaks with foil to rest briefly, and tip any sauces from the pan into the dressing.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.08.46_zpsqci8hzwi.jpgToss the salad in the dressing, top with the steak, sprinkle over sesame seeds and serve. I added a teeny bit of rice to mine (and a lot of rice to W’s) but it honestly didn’t need it.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.09.54_zpsyk0ey3wo.jpgThe perfect diet meal!

What’s your favourite healthy recipe?