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Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

The end of summer holidays, everyone is back to school and the leaves already seem to be turning a rusty hue. However, the abundance of late summer vegetables such as courgettes, capsicums and tomatoes allow us to hold onto summer for a few precious weeks longer. I’m determined to fend off autumn for as long as possible and this baked chicken recipe with its summery mediterranean flavours is the perfect way to do it.

What’s great about this dish, is that you can mix it up, substitute the feta for halloumi, change-up the vegetables or experiment with different herbs. You can even leave out the olives or cheese if you don’t have them. Basically, it’s one of those helpful ‘use whatever you’ve got’ dishes. Even better, you just pop it all in a baking dish, whack it in the oven and pour yourself a wine while you wait for the chook to cook. And that’s what we all need when holidays are over and it’s back to reality!

 

Lemony summer chicken serves 2

Ingredients
– 2 courgettes, sliced in half lengthways
– 1 capsicum, sliced
– 2 chicken breast fillets, skinless and boneless
– 200g feta, thinly sliced (or halloumi)
– handful of Kalamata or black olives (preferably pitted)
– 5 sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano
– ¼ cup olive oil
– 2 cloves garlic, crushed
– cracked black pepper
– lemon zest and juice of 1 lemon (unwaxed)
– handful of small ripe tomatoes (cherry toms are best)

Method
1. Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F).

2. Lay the courgettes in the bottom of a baking dish. Place the chicken breasts, capsicum and slices of feta on top of the courgettes.

3. Sprinkle over the olives and sprigs of thyme.

3. In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, black pepper, lemon zest and half the lemon juice. Taste and add the rest of the lemon juice if you think it needs extra tang. Pour the dressing evenly all over the chicken.

4. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

5. Add the tomatoes and continue baking for a further 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

6. Serve with a simple green salad and a few extra lemon wedges.

Now, fingers crossed the weather improves this weekend and we can squeeze in a couple more BBQs!

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The wonderful selection of fruit and vege at our local farmers market gets me excited every week at the moment. I think this is partly because the summer produce season in England is so fleeting. Asparagus lasts all of about 4 weeks and delicious English strawberries even less. So we treasure the juicy tomatoes, the fat broad beans and the bright plump raspberries just that little bit more. In stark contrast, summers in New Zealand seem to last and last.

When I think of summer, it’s always of Northland circa 1988. The school holidays along with the heat and humidity seem endless, and we’re playing cricket or riding around on our BMXs with all the neighbourhood kids at our bach up north. The other thing that epitomises summer for me is corn. Mum and Dad used to grow corn in our backyard. Next to the tennis court. In the middle of town. Yep, slightly random I know. Of course, back then, to an eight year old, totally normal! And what’s not to love about an endless supply of fresh corn on the cob! We also had a Pawpaw tree outside the back door, so there you go.

So for me, fresh corn means long, hot summers. Corn bought with the husks still on, boiled in salty water and slathered with butter and more salt. Or drizzled with a mixture of olive oil and soya sauce before grilling on the BBQ, yum.

Corn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, what I’ve been doing a lot lately, is simply cutting the fresh kernels off the cob, toasting them for a minute or two in a fry pan before adding them to salads.

Sweet corn, avocado and quinoa salad

 

When I can’t be bothered with the toasting bit, I just add them raw. A few days ago I came across this simple guacamole-style avocado dressing and all I could think about was how well it would go with corn, fritters to be exact! But instead of waiting for the weekend to make my favourite brunch meal, I made this quick salad instead and topped it with the avocado dressing.

The dressing is so creamy and delicious, you’ll keep having to remind yourself that this is healthy. Which is great because you will want to have seconds and this is one meal where you definitely can! Here’s the recipe:

Sweet corn salad with avocado dressing
Serves 2-4 as a light main meal, 6-8 as a side dish

Sweet corn and green bean salad with avocado dressing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients
2 ears sweet corn, husked
– 1 big handful salad leaves (rocket, watercress and lambs lettuce are good choices)
– 3 big handfuls green beans, ends trimmed
– 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
– 1 small bunch of chives, finely chopped
– 1 small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
– 1 handful of pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds or a mixture of both

Avocado Dressing
– 1 clove garlic, crushed
– 1/3 cup thick Greek yogurt
– juice of half a lemon
– 1 avocado
– sea salt to taste

Method
1. Bring a small pot of salted water to the boil. Add the green beans for 1 minute, drain and refresh with cold water. Drain again and leave to cool completely.

2. Put a fry pan on medium to high heat and sprinkle in the pumpkin or sunflower seeds without any oil for a couple of minutes until they are nicely toasted. Keep them moving in the pan so they don’t catch.

3. Husk the corn and cut all the kernels off. Add to a large salad bowl along with all the other salad ingredients. Toss gently.

4. To make the avocado dressing, puree the garlic, avocado, yogurt and lemon juice together with a hand blender or mash with a fork thoroughly. Add a pinch of sea salt, taste and add more salt if necessary. Cover the dressing with cling film to stop the avocado from browning if you’re not planning to serve the salad immediately.

5. When you’re ready to serve, add the dressing to the salad and gently toss to coat everything evenly. Taste and season again if needed.

I added some warm, sliced grilled lamb and crumbled feta to turn this salad into a more substantial dinner. You could also add some nuts to the pan when you’re toasting the seeds, walnuts would be especially tasty. A sprinkle of cumin to the avocado dressing would be nice too. The ideas are endless!

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Two of my dearest friends back in NZ have recently become first time mums and I received the loveliest emails from them both this week full of baby news and the cutest pics of their lovely wee men which inspired me to make something with them in mind. Now, without any first hand experience of what first time mums go through and without wanting to generalise too much, I decided that I needed to pick something that would be quick, easy, nutritious and of course tasty that those on minimal sleep might not mind making and of course enjoy eating. Other consideration – as they both live Down Under, I wanted to use something that would be in season for them but wasn’t totally out of season over here (so that the odd sleep deprived elsewhere in the world might benefit from too). I decided upon courgettes.

Now before you all grumble booorrrring!!!. Let me explain why I like courgettes. Firstly, I like their sweet, delicate flavour and texture . As long as you don’t boil them until they’ve turned into a lump of waterlogged mush (which is normally the reason people don’t like them – school dinner memories anyone?!), they hold their flavour and texture well. Courgettes are such a versatile vegetable as well. You can pretty much do with them what you want – boil, steam, bake, char-grill on the BBQ…and as you will see below, they are also very pleasant raw too.

So here’s my ridiculously quick, flavoursome and filling Courgette & Pesto Ribbons which is  easy to whip up for lunch or dinner (especially if you’re on your own, it’s time to eat and inspiration to cook has completely deserted you). It would work equally well as a side dish or salad to have with a BBQ.

Courgette & Pesto Ribbons (for one)

Ingredients:
– 1 large courgette
– half a shallot, finely diced/almost crushed like garlic
– 1/4 cup raw pine nuts
– handful of fresh basil leaves
– few fresh sage leaves
– pinch of sea salt
– 2cm piece of leek, chopped
– 2 tablespoons olive oil

Wash and dry your courgette. Grab a vegetable peeler and peel the courgette lengthways to create long, thin pasta like ribbons. Set aside.

Add all the ingredients (except the courgette ribbons and shallots) to a food processor or blender and pulse gently until well mixed. Taste and season further if required. If you need to adjust the consistency, add a little more olive oil or even water. Play around with the other flavours as well if you want – add a few more basil leaves, a few more pine nuts etc until you’ve got it just how you want it to taste. You pretty much can’t wreck this!

Add the shallots to the pesto mix and then in a bowl, gently toss the courgette ribbons through the pesto to coat evenly.  Done! How easy is that?!

If you did want to make it a bit more substantial, you can add other veges and some type of protein like I did for my dinner last night (steamed broccoli and tofu).

Courgette & Pesto RibbonsSome ideas: cherry tomatoes and avocado, steamed asparagus, chop up and steam the rest of the leek or toss through some fresh rocket leaves, lambs lettuce or pea shoots. Add some cooked chicken or lovely goats or feta cheese and some tasty black Kalamata olives. Pretty much anything goes! Because it’s a tad cold here now, I also lightly  steamed the courgette ribbons and then softly patted them dry with absorbent kitchen paper to remove the excess water before tossing through the pesto.

 So I hope that this may come in useful to y’all (esp. Mands and Nicki). Thinking of you both lots. Oh and I hope you both don’t mind but I have to share this gorgeous pic of the boys – they are just too cute not too! Big hugs to you both. x

L: Lochie – nearly 3wks old. R: Hughey coming up 6mths.

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