Courgette & ginger turkey burgers.

SAM_1944

I’m butter’s biggest fan.  It’s no secret.  Well, not since my waistline decided to advertise the fact.  My road to summer is going to be one filled with salad and fruit.  Yes, I’m going to do my best to eat better, so that I can spend my summer days eating in true Last Piece of Cake style.  I’m still going to post recipes that hit the right spot, but just to mix things up, check out what’s been on my menu recently.

I’m sharing a recipe that has a real summer freshness about it and I think I’ll be rustling up these courgette and ginger turkey burgers while the sun’s out.  Okay, it’s not a peanut butter or chocolate fest and you won’t find any melted cheese around, but trust me when I say that these burgers will take you down to flavour town.

Courgette & ginger turkey burgers

500g turkey mince

1 courgette (chopped)

1 egg

1 red onion (quartered)

1 garlic clove

thumb-sized piece of root ginger (peeled)

3 tblspoons dark soy sauce

1 tspoon chili flakes

It couldn’t be easier.  Put everything except the turkey mince in a food processor and blitz to a puree.  In a bowl, pour the puree over the turkey mince and combine everything thoroughly; I use my hands for this part.

The water content of the courgette is high, so you may find that the mixture is not very firm.  I used a large spoon to drop the turkey burgers into a frying pan containing hot oil; the mixture was too loose to handle.  It’s easy to shallow fry these burgers and press them flat with a fish slice once they’ve been turned once.  Towards the end of cooking, press them firmly to release excess moisture.  They only take a few minutes each side and you can get around ten little patties out of this recipe.  They’re great with a crisp salad or in buns with mayo and sweet chili sauce.

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As fresh as it gets.

Man cannot live on cake alone.  I’ve tried.  To keep things fresh and light for the summer, I’ve been mixing up the evening meals to include things that make use of the herbs in my garden.  Mint, lavender, parsley, sage, thyme, Greek oregano and lemon thyme are all bursting into life right now, so it would be silly not to take advantage.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is a far cry from the chocolate craziness that I’ve thrown your way before.  It’s really delicious, a doddle to prepare and it goes well with so many things that you’ll easily be able to make it a part of at least one meal.  All you need are some fresh herbs and a few minutes to make this classic crowd pleaser!

Tabouleh

4 tblspoons fresh mint (finely chopped)

1 bunch fresh parsley (finely chopped)

100g cous cous

half a cucumber (chopped)

1 onion (finely chopped)

4 ripe tomatoes (chopped)

juice of half a lemon

4 tblspoons extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

I used cous cous to make my tabouleh which is a deal-breaker for many people.  Bulgur wheat is used in a traditional tabouleh.  Cous cous was all that I had to hand on the day that I made this and I’ve no regrets.  I also added a little more olive oil than stated in my recipe, but it’s really up to you to season this beautiful salad how you like it.

I cooked the cous cous for a few minutes in boiling water until soft and set it aside to cool.  I then lined a bowl with mixed leaves.  In another bowl I added the cous cous and the rest of the ingredients.  I gave them a good mix and kept tasting as I seasoned everything.  A little more lemon juice here, a bit of oil there…it was fun getting a nice balance.

Once everything was nicely combined, I tipped the tabouleh carefully into the bowl lined with salad leaves.

You can serve the tabouleh immediately or cover it and leave it in the fridge for an hour or so like I did.  The flavours were wonderful.  This is a seriously uplifting dish and one that benefits from the use of ultra fresh ingredients.  I can’t wait to serve this with some grilled lamb and lots of pita.

The game isn’t played on paper.

Some things just don’t look right on paper.  Some partnerships shouldn’t work, but they do.  Unlikely pairings and new combinations keep cooking interesting.  In life, however, we can find surprises in the people we meet.

Take my wife.  Heehee!  Joking aside, we are so different.  So different that it’s scary sometimes.  My spontaneity balanced by her need to plan ahead.  My love of the summer heat.  Her joy in the cosiness of winter.  My love of dark chocolate and her taste for white chocolate.  It’s all there.  The differences stack up whenever I think about our personalities and tastes.  Of course, balance is everything and many a sentimental word has been written about the complimentary nature of opposites.

You’ll be glad to hear that I’m not too sentimental and that my train of thought is actually chugging towards nothing soppier than a salad dressing.

When I buy a butternut squash, I always plan two dishes.  One of the dishes I’d decided to make recently was a roasted butternut squash and rocket salad.  For someone who insists they aren’t into salad, I sure am making enough of them.  This is one that I tried before, but I made a dressing with far too much vinegar and I wasn’t happy with it.  This recipe is my attempt to right that earlier wrong.  You didn’t taste it, but believe me, I need to make things right and share the outcome with you.

Butternut squash adds beautiful colour to dishes and though some criticise it for being on the bland side, I think it lends itself well to dishes with bigger flavours.  This salad is so easy to make.  You may not have thought to pair squash with rocket, but in fact, my dressing for the salad is what I find most unusual.  It’s an odd combination of ingredients.  It just doesn’t look right on paper; on screen.  It shouldn’t work, but it does.

Roasted butternut squash & rocket salad 

Half of a butternut squash (cubed)

70g rocket (arugula)

1 sweet pointed pepper (sliced)

1 red onion (quartered)

1 tspoon dried chilli flakes

sea salt

black pepper

(For the dressing)

3 tblspoons olive oil

2 tblspoons cider vinegar

1 tblspoon light soy sauce

1 tblspoon balsamic cream (or balsamic vinegar)

To roast the squash.  Spread it out on a baking tray with the onion and drizzle olive oil over.  Sprinkle plenty of sea salt on and add the chilli flakes and toss to coat the cubes.  Roast in the centre of the oven on the highest heat until the squash is beginning to colour and soften.  This may be about fifteen minutes, but keep checking on it and tossing the squash to ensure even cooking.  The squash should maintain its shape.  We don’t want it to turn to mush.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing.  Put all the ingredients in a small bowl stir continuously until emulsified.  Adjust to taste.  It shouldn’t be too sharp.  When the squash is out of the oven and has cooled slightly, add to the rocket with the sweet pepper and toss.  Dress the salad, add more seasoning to taste and toss gently before serving.  Try not to break the cubes of squash when you are mixing the salad leaves.  A nice touch would be to serve this with some toasted pine nuts thrown in.  It works!

I’m going to eat seasonally. Is Chorizo in season?

Is eating seasonally something you find easy to do?  I find that it is easy to buy some seasonal items, but not all of the time.  Large supermarkets push seasonal produce when it suits them and a lot of people rely on supermarkets to inform them about what is in season.  It’s much better, however, to find out for yourself and look ahead to the coming months so that you can plan what to cook and pair seasonal ingredients together in dishes.

A good start is http://eatseasonably.co.uk/ which really helps me see things at a glance.  Eating produce at the time of year that it grows best means that it tastes better, is more readily available and therefore cheaper, and is better for the environment.

At the moment, cos lettuce (or romaine) is in season and I thought it would be a good opportunity to make a fun salad with it.  Yeah, another salad!  What’s up with me?  Anyway, rather than churn out a predictable Caesar, I had a look in the fridge to see what would inspire me.  Spotting some double cream and Chorizo, I thought a cool dressing would be good to accompany grilled turkey steaks.  I used plenty of lovely tomatoes to bump up the salad and it all turned into something very colourful, very tasty and rather seasonal.  It felt good.  See what you think.

Grilled turkey salad with Chorizo dressing

2 turkey steaks

1 cos lettuce

4 tomatoes

100ml double cream

50g thinly sliced Chorizo

3 tblspoons parmesan (grated)

1 slice wholemeal bread

1 tspoon dried oregano

salt

pepper

olive oil

I brushed the turkey steaks with olive oil and ground some black pepper on them.  I used a griddle to cook them for a few minutes each side, but you could use a grill or a griddle pan.  As long as they aren’t pink in the middle, they’re good.  Don’t cook them for too long, or they will dry out.

Meanwhile, I removed two good leaves from the lettuce and kept them whole to serve the salad in.  I washed them and set them aside.  I washed the rest of the leaves and roughly chopped them.  Next, I cut the tomatoes into pieces and sprinkled salt onto them.  I put the leaves and tomatoes in a bowl ready for the dressing.

To make the dressing, I put a tablespoon of olive oil in a milk pan and chopped all but a couple of slices of Chorizo into little pieces.  I gently fried the Chorizo until it released that lovely paprika-coloured oil and then stirred in the cream.  Once the dressing was a light pink colour, I stirred in the parmesan and kept stirring until it was melted.  I tasted the dressing and seasoned it.

Using the wholemeal bread, I made croutons.  I cut the slice of bread into big squares and tossed them in olive oil and dried oregano.  Then I baked them in the oven on a tray lined with foil on the highest heat for a few minutes until crispy.

I let the turkey steaks rest for a moment and then sliced them diagonally.  I tossed the lettuce and tomatoes in the dressing which had cooled a little and then served the salad in one of the lettuce leaves with the croutons, a row of the grilled turkey strips and some extra Chorizo for garnish.  You could sprinkle extra parmesan on too.

Maybe it was the cheese and Chorizo that made me enjoy this salad so much.  With the double cream dressing, it wasn’t the healthiest of salads.  Tasty though!

The Queen of Salads.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the online scramble to get as many tomato recipes posted as possible before summer comes to an end.  I know what you’re thinking: Dimitri, you’ve been pouring Cherry Coke on pork, hardly seasonal!  Yeah, I know, but it was great, wasn’t it?  I mean Cherry Coke and pork; Escoffier would love it, I’m sure.  Well, my summers are usually dominated by pizza and anything with plenty of colour.  I love tomatoes and will do my best to eat them as often as possible because they’re just so good for you.  In the salad I ate tonight, however, they were the least exciting ingredient and that doesn’t happen too often.

My wife, N, is of French descent and as such, her love of salad is not a secret.  She loves nothing more than a plate of fresh salad to accompany her meals. Her appreciation of a well dressed or carefully prepared salad is something that must be earned.  When N compliments me on one of my salads, I feel like I’ve truly achieved something (although I’ve never really achieved anything, so I’m only guessing that it feels that way).  The pick of the bunch is, of course, a good ol’ Nicoise.  We both love it because of the tasty balance of flavours.

The summer is beginning to fade, but that doesn’t mean we should start on the road to stews and soups just yet.  Grab a bunch of ingredients and take some time preparing perhaps the greatest salad of them all.

Nicoise pittas (adapted from the French…all of them)

4 wholemeal pittas

4 ripe tomatoes (quartered)

6 anchovies

handful Kalamata olives

2 eggs (hard-boiled and quartered)

1 tin tuna in sunflower oil (drained)

1 onion (finely chopped)

4 tblspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tspoon Dijon mustard

1 lemon

a handful of lettuce leaves (I used iceberg this time)

Begin by chopping the onion and placing it in a small bowl of water.  Set this aside.  The water makes the flavour of the onion milder which is a real boon when eating it raw as in this salad.  Chop the lettuce leaves and place in a medium bowl.  Make a dressing by whisking together the olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and the Dijon mustard.  Add the tomatoes to the lettuce, pour over the dressing and toss together.  Add the anchovies, tuna, olives and a little black pepper.  Drain the water from the onion and sprinkle over the salad.  It’s unlikely that you’ll need to add salt because the anchovies act as your seasoning.  Toss the salad gently and then place the eggs on top.

You could serve the salad as it is, but tonight, we went for the handheld option.  I grilled some pitta bread and filled each with the salad.  A delightful meal for a summer evening.  Take it from someone who is not a big fan of salads, this one is worth the effort.