Weekend womanscraft: summer recipes

Picture of peas in a podWe haven’t done one of these for a while!

I have decided to do more cooking and food prep at home. It’s not a New Year’s resolution, although it sounds like one; it is a decision inspired by things which just happen to be taking place around this time of year. But basically, the last half of last year involved far too much take-away food for me, due to a whole bunch of factors, many of which impacted on the time I had available for food-at-home.

Bought food is often too salty, sweet and/or oily for my taste when I eat it on a regular basis, so I start to feel a bit *bleugh* when I eat it too often. And then I find myself not particularly enjoying foods that I would normally buy specifically for pleasure, partly because of the *bleugh* factor and partly because it starts to get boring, especially if I am going for one of several standard dishes because time pressures = quick decisions = easy options = good old standard dishes.

Add to that the facts that the portion sizes are generally quite wrong for me and it costs a whole lot of money (and I realise how fortunate I was to be able to be in a position where I could afford to spend money on take-away food, but I’d much rather save it or use it more productively or on things I will value more etc) and, well, you might see why I have made the decision to do more at home.

I am particularly planning to experiment with quick and easy-to-prepare food, so that if the time pressures build up again I don’t fall back into take-away habits.

The other night, I made a salad that was particularly yummy and seriously easy. It was also great the next day for lunch (not true for all salads, unfortunately).

There is nothing all that creative about it, but the recipe is below if you are interested. Together with a list of possible mods which is far longer than the recipe…

How about the rest of you? What summer foods have you been making/would you like to make/are you dreaming of? Or any old favourite recipes you’d like to share?

Bean salad

Drain and rinse one tin of red kidney beans. Drain one tin of sweetcorn. Mix together with chopped carrot, chopped tomatoes and shredded fresh coriander. Dress with macadamia oil, balsamic vinegar and green habanero sauce. Add pepper to taste.

Possible mods: The obvious mods involving switching other oils and vinegars/acids in the dressing would apply, although I particularly wanted the nuttiness and sweetness with this salad. That said, I think mango would work really well in this salad, and as that would add a whole lot of sweetness, I probably would use lime or lemon juice instead of balsamic. Similarly, actual nuts (peanuts, macadamias and/or almonds) could mean a nut oil might be redundant, flavour-wise.

On the same kind of note, if you don’t like the spiciness of the habanero, then you will want to change that to something milder. Equally, you could go with something spicier if you like. I don’t know how well tabasco would work, but then I am not a particular fan of the flavour of tabasco, so there is that.

Similarly, fresh or pickled chillies or spicy paprikas would be a lovely alternative to the spicy sauce. Another alternative (or possible addition) would be chopped onion, particularly spanish onion.

A lettuce or other green leaf base would work if you wanted the extra greenery; capsicum would add a nice crunch (and if you use red or yellow, again you might decide that adds enough sweetness to get rid of the balsamic); pasta or pre-cooked potato cubes would work well if you wanted the extra carbs. I think some kind of cheese could also round this out nicely, but can’t quite put my finger on what would work best. Possibly grilled or fried haloumi, but I am always a fan of that. Maybe a really salty feta. And if you want extra protein in the form of meat, then I think chicken or kangaroo would both work well.



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18 replies

  1. A favourite summer salad lunch is simply iceberg lettuce plus baby spinach plus baby rocket with tinned tuna, bean sprouts, cucumber, avocado and lightly tossed with a bit of japanese kewpie wasabi mayonnaise (which is such a lovely delicate green you think it will only taste mildly of wasabi – this is a trap for young players).
    Sometimes for dinner I do a warm salad with garlic prawns & feta. Put the prawns in an oven proof dish with some crumbled feta, a small sprinkling of cumin seeds (whole) and some tomatoes (either fresh cherry tomatoes halved or sun-dried from the cupboard), Cook at 180 degrees Celsius for 18 minutes, then take out and drizzle with lime juice. Toss fresh rocket through the warm salad while still in the baking dish so that all the juices coat the leaves as they delicately wilt, then eat while still warm.

  2. Mmmm, they all sound delicious. I’ve got an unpredictable amount of spoons ATM, so I’ve been doing batches of stuff that I can package up and freeze for the days when my hands are busted. One of the things that’s worked really well this summer has been different varieties of chicken rissoles/meatballs.
    One is a sort of italian style: Mix chicken mince, lemon zest and a bit of juice, grated garlic, parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, chopped spring onions, chopped feta, lots of ground black pepper, an egg, some breadcrumbs, capers. Make them into little balls, then pop in the fridge for an hour or so. Then shallow fry them quickly (they only take a few minutes.) Great with lots of different salady things.
    Spicy ones: Mix chicken mince, grated garlic and ginger, tiny bit of kecap manis, chilli flakes (or fresh if you have them), bit of seseme oil, chopped coriander, chopped spring onions, egg and breadcrumbs. (Sesame seeds are a good bread crumb replacement too.) Words really well with slightly stir fried veg or a Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese style salad.
    Both versions freeze really well and make doing portion size easier – have the same challenge as you with that Jo. The other thing I’ve discovered are the packages of small potatos at the local Colesworth. They roast quickly and make fantastic potato salad, or frittatas. Less chopping for the win!

  3. Ooh, definitely recipes I am going to have to try (although will have to substitute other things for the seafood – maybe tempeh for the tuna, and chicken or tofu for the prawns).
    And those rissoles really do sound fantastic for freezing purposes 😀 I don’t really do rissoles much, not sure why. I must fix that…

  4. I don’t get on with several traditional salad ingredients, so it’s always good to hear alternatives. I’m quite fond of a lentil and beetroot salad: finely slice one red onion (although brown will do too) and sauté in olive oil until soft, adding in 2-3 cloves of minced/crushed garlic. Drain and rinse one 425gm can of brown/green lentils. Add about 10 baby bocconcini, cut in half, and 5-6 baby beets, cut into pieces the same size as the cheese. Roughly chop a large handful of parsley and put this in with the cooked onions and their cooking oil. Toss all together with a generous amount of black pepper and your favourite Italian style dressing. This keeps well in the fridge for several days.

  5. I’m picking up that we do seem to love our pepper 😀
    That sounds great, too, angharad. I am not a huge beetroot fan, but anything with bocconcini always makes me prick my ears up 🙂 Cherry tomatoes would be an obvious sub for the beetroot, although it would then be a very different salad. Maybe chunks of pre-roasted sweet potato would work – yummmm. And a bit of rosemary (maybe sauteed with the onion and garlic).

  6. I love black pepper. I like to put a lot of it into mashed potatoes, along with a big handful of parmesan cheese.
    The roasted sweet potato idea sounds great. I don’t think I’ll be trying it, alas, as Mr a does not like them.

  7. For those like myself who like opportunities to put in the minimum of effort, if I have guests and I need to put a salad out I like to fill a bowl with baby bocconcini and cherry tomatoes exactly the same size, with just a few herby leaves of whatever smells nice in the garden, + salt & fresh ground pepper (there it is again!). Looks so pretty!
    Tangental but related: we’re just putting in a courtyard round the back using big sandstone flagstones, and I’ve decided to put nice smelling small herbs in all the cracks between them, for a cottage garden feel. Sun only part of the day, sandy soil, but topping up with potting mix, rubbish gardener. Any suggestions for the right plants for this scenario? I’ve put in a lemon bergamot that is looking very happy, but I fear the thyme will be too inclined to grow long strands, instead of staying compact.

    • Corsican mint is meant to do well in cracks between paving, and particularly likes the shadiest, dampest parts (i.e. needs lots of water, so perhaps not ideal).
      Creeping thymes are a classic for the sunnier sections, there’s plenty of them, so maybe mixing and matching and just regularly giving them a haircut?
      Chamomile is also meant to be a good ‘un. We can’t all have the space for a chamomile lawn, but a path with chamomile edging as part of it still sounds rather redolent, no?

  8. One of my favourite summer recipes is a chicken salad. When you buy a cooked chook from the shops the breasts are often dry, and everyone wants the hindquarters… so buy one (or two for a larger crowd/family), eat the hindquarters, then chop the breast meat and pickings into a salad with lots of finely diced apple, a little celery, pecan bits, spring onions, and a homemade lemony aioli. Boiled eggs an optional extra if you want to up the protein; or sliced raw snow peas, or capsicum, or halved grapes, or whatever else you like.
    Aioli: juice of a lemon, two very fresh* egg yolks, emulsify; add 1/2-1 cup of a bland neutral oil (rice bran, macadamia, canola, peanut, grapeseed) drizzled in very slowly while whisking; add pinch salt, ground black pepper, half a tsp of mustard powder, a little minced garlic).
    This can be eaten as is, dobbed on a green salad, spread on crusty bread, or whatever.
    The aioli should coat the ingredients but they shouldn’t swim in it, so you’ll have leftovers for dipping wedges into. It keeps for up to a week in the fridge, covered.
    *I kept thinking I was making mayonnaise wrong, and adjusting my technique, and reading all the troubleshooting guides…. but no, use today’s or yesterday’s egg yolks and you can basically throw the whole lot into a jug at once and shove an electric whisk into it, and it works.

  9. If corsican mint is anything like regular mint it will do very well in paver cracks. It will also go mad and take over as much of your garden as it possibly can. Parsley doesn’t mind shade and will also grow in cracks. It is quite hard to keep small though, especially when it is setting seed. What about chives? They grow in smallish tufts -I could see them working in the intersections between pavers…

    • I believe the point of choosing corsican mint is that it doesn’t go feral in the same way as many other mints. But I don’t know this from experience, only from hearing others talk about it.

  10. For planting in the cracks, I’d go for a variety of thymes, and maybe some creeping marjoram and some sage where it’s less travelled. Frequent haircuts happen with thyme, since it’s such a versatile ingredient!

  11. Hmm, I might have to keep an eye out for it then. I have been trying to restart a herb garden since we moved with mixed success.

  12. The mint family were originally bog/swamp plants, which means it’s physically impossible to give them too much water. They’re also as hardy as all get-out, and will survive frost, snow, drought, drying out to the point of dessication and then being re-soaked again (yes, I have subjected various mint plants over the years to all of these), and any other extremes you can think of – I haven’t had one go through a bushfire yet, but I suspect it’d cope, given a bit of water afterwards. For that reason, any mint will always do best in a pot, because otherwise it can and will invade everything.
    If you’re wanting something small to fill in gaps between pavers, alyssum is a nice change. You can buy purple versions, but they tend to revert to white over a few generations, If there’s a patch in near-permanent shade, try native violets there – they’re small and reasonably hardy. Both will attract nectar-eating insects (and thus their predators) into your garden area, and add a few flowers to the place.

  13. You can add being eaten down to a nub by snails to that list Megpie71 🙂

  14. I knew this would be the place to get informed opinions on that.

  15. angharad: I’m not surprised. Mine regularly gets chomped something ‘orrible by the cabbage white butterflies every spring and autumn, and it comes back just as strong. It’s certainly a good plant for indifferent gardeners, I’ll say that much for it.

  16. Since this post, I have been cooking with eggplant quite a bit, as they have been on special and also, I love eggplant, when I have the time to cook it so that it is gooey rather than spongey.
    My favourite eggplant recipe so far is set out below. Also, I made El’s spicy chicken meatballs, well, sort of, I substituted tarragon for coriander and actual onions for spring onions because that is what I had. They were great and yes, froze well. They were especially good with cauliflower 😀 Thanks El!

    Chop a smallish eggplant into 1 cm-ish cubes. Soak in brine for an hour or so. Drain and squeeze/press.
    Saute finely chopped onion and coarsely chopped garlic with dry cumin, fresh tarragon and whole black peppercorns until fragrant. Add squeezed eggplant. Saute on medium-high heat until eggplant is browned fairly evenly (onion will probably go crispy in this process).
    Drain and rinse tin of lentils. Add to eggplant, together with liberal splash of white wine and a couple of chopped fresh or frozen chillis.
    Simmer down on very low heat.
    Serve on barley, liberally sprinkled with chopped parsley.
    Some mods: If you don’t want to use alcohol, a bit of cider vinegar in water will probably do the trick. Dried chilli, or no chilli, will also work. If you don’t want chilli but do want an extra tang, I suggest ground paprika added with the cumin. Experimenting with different herbs is probably worthwhile – I might try adding a bay leaf next time. Garnishing with finely chopped celery will add some crunch and lightness.

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