Here's how to make easy vegetable stock from kitchen scraps. This is my quick way to make sure we always have fresh stock to hand for soups, stews and thinning down sauces while still keeping things flavourful. The best part is you can make this as you go and freeze it in small batches in ziplock bags. Need more stock? Grab a few extra bags from your freezer!Read More
I always know Summer is coming by the amount of vinegar and oil being added much more regularly to my shopping basket. The minute the weather picks up and the new produce comes into season, I gorge on fresh vegetables and have a constant rotation of simple dressings that add flavour and interest.
With that in mind, I thought I'd share some of my go to recipes and a few tips for getting great results in a quick and simple way. Keeping the cupboards stocked with a few basics means you can knock together a healthy and tasty dish in just a few minutes.
Tips for easy, yummy dressings:
Jars- I keep pesto jars, jam jars and spice jars with screw on lids. That way I can pop my ingredients in, screw on the lid and give it all a vigorous shake. It's really quick, not at all messy and any leftovers can be popped in the fridge for the rest of the week.
Ratios- The rule of thumb here is 3 parts oil to one part acid. You can mix things up by adding herbs, mustard or garlic but this basic ratio will yield a good dressing every time.
Oil- I like to use cold pressed Olive Oil or at a push, extra virgin oil. I do use some of the nut oils like sesame from time to time but I don't think you can really go wrong with Olive Oil.
Acid- Vinegar (balsamic, red wine, cider, white wine) or lemon fall into this category. I have been known to use limes but that pushes us into the fancy pants dressing range and that's a conversation for another day.
Crush- When adding garlic or shallots, I like to use the flat of my knife to smash them along with a little sea salt. This helps grind them up and break them down further so you don't get that blast of onion or garlic that leaves you breathing your salad over people for the rest of the day.
Mellow- If you are adding onion or garlic, try to allow 20 minutes for the garlic or onion to sit in the oil. This softens and mellows it a bit, infusing into the oil.
Timing- Always try to add dressing right before you serve to avoid soggy greens.
My go to recipes:
Jamie Oliver's Yoghurt Dressing- This one is perfect for that creamy dressing craving you have and a healthier option too. My addiction to sharp, unsweetened live full fat yoghut pays off here. Delicious.
Whole Food's Simple Vinaigrette- I love this one for a more complex dressing over just oil and vinegar. I keep a range of herbs in a tin bath in the garden and just snip a handful of what I feel like that day. Basil with griddled asparagus and halloumi is a must!
Simple Lemon Vinaigrette- Summer is here so it's time to stock up on about a million lemons. Trust me on this tip, nothing bad every came of too many lemons (see this post on lemon and lime curd if you don't believe me!)
Chinese Grandma's Balsamic Vinaigrette- I love the taste of honey with the kick from mustard on this one. This is probably my go to on any given day. Balsamic vinegar just lifts vegetables to a whole new level!
So now the real question is, what salads and vegetables are you currently gorging on? I feel a trip to the farmer's market coming on!
The other day I popped out to meet a friend for a playdate with our toddlers and on my way went past a really yummy looking vegetable stall. I couldn't help but slow my pace, point to the figs with the Tot and start adding things to a basket. It was a cold and damp day but I wasn't feeling soup. I wanted lots of vegetables but without the boiling. I wanted colour. I wanted flavour.
I came home with a portion of squash. I'm not sure the exact variety but it had a creamy green skin and bright orange flesh. It looked great next to the purple and golden beetroot that I also brought home that day. I pondered and rummaged in my fridge, googled around and decided to sort of throw it all together and see what happened.
What happened was delicious.
Here's some rough notes for how I accidentally made the best 'Shoulder Season' salad I've ever made:
- Take equal volumes of various beetroots and squash- just go with whatever you find and look fr fun colours to put on your plate. Cube and skin them.
- Cut some red onions into wedges and put all the chopped veg into a large roasting dish, big enough not to overcrowd them. Toss in about 2 tbsp oil (I used coldpressed olive), season and pop in the oven on 225c for about 35 mins.
- Meanwhile steam some green beans. I think rocket or spinach would be wonderful here too.
- During last 10 minutes of the roasting, drizzle 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar over the beets, onions and squash and shake it well before popping it back in.
- Chop about half a cups worth of walnuts and crumble a block of goats cheese.
- Remove roasted veg from oven and toss in the beans and walnuts. Sprinkle over the cheese.
I'd also seriously think about a maple and balsamic vinaigrette next time like this one I found- it looks delicious.
What started as a potential conflict, has rapidly turned into one of the biggest food inspirations I have had in a while. A few days ago, while working our way through meal planning, The Giant declared that 'we just don't eat enough vegetables'. I was immediately horrified and argued all the vegetables we have in each meal. He pointed out the lack of side dishes that make a dinner a bit more.... adult?
He had a point.
Thus began much consideration of salad, seasonal vegetables and how to spruce up plain eating habits. Having a carbohydrate fixated toddler in the house has meant I've eaten a fair amount of mash and potato, pasta and rice. The plainer the better as far as she is concerned. Somewhere along the way time factors and family factors just took over and I stopped varying what we do as much.
So I dutifully whipped up a salad for dinner today and stared, disappointed at the same salad that has been my default option for some time: Salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber. Possibly beetroot. There HAD to be something better!
So I split the salad. Tomorrow we'd have all the tomatoes but no beetroot and tonight? Beetroot and grapes. Things were getting a little crazy in the Playful House! In all seriousness, this was all I had in but it got me thinking about how the Tot loves fruit but is suspicious of vegetables and The Giant will not tolerate fruit in a main course. It was time we all learned to experiment more because seriously, have you tried avocado and pink grapefruit together? It's epic. I want to eat like that!
I then reviewed the much maligned recipe books on my shelves. FOUR. Four books dedicated to just vegetables. Then there's the vegetable binder full of seasonal recipes and oh yeah, the Riverford Organic weekly recipes from the Veggie Box delivery days. I'm far more vegetarian than I am carnivorous and there's so much inspiration to be had in seasonal produce so how did I even reach this point? I decided that from here on in I was rolling my 'must use more fresh herbs' thing together with my 'more fresh, seasonal vegetables'.
Pleased, I rewrote the meal plan and added 'trip to green grocers' to our morning out exploring tomorrow. Perhaps letting the Tot choose her veg will inspire some new attempts? I sat back in awe of the healthy and wholesome family we were destined to become. No one burst my bubble here. Let me live in this dream of asparagus munching happiness.
I then looked across at the salads, and the dressing in particular, that I had just put on the table. Well that had to change too surely? Lemons and limes, straight into the grocery order. Time to reach for red wine vinegar instead of balsamic, dust off that Tahini jar that's been neglected for too long (on second thoughts, I'll add a new jar to the order. That's looking a bit dicey).
So fresh and so clean (clean).
All those great intentions and the rain just never stopped falling. I spent the morning peering hopefully out the window then gave up in favour of soup and blog reading. After the second batch of soup and the smell of fresh bread baking I knew I'd made the right decision.
I did venture out. I mean, I couldn't resist a little puddle jumping.
Soup menu for today? Potato and Kale soup adapted from Hurrayic's blog entry
I lacked any regular Kale or onions so I went for the purple Kale and Cavolo Nero and some red onion I had in (I was not brraving the weather when there was perfectly good ingredients inside). The colours were very satisfying during the prep but were a bit 'muddy' in the outcome. I knew it wouldn't look as appetising but the soup was delicious so I consider it an ugly duckling soup.
While I was in the mood and feeling a little more human than I have been all week, I decided to improvise a Butternut Squash and Carrot soup. I'll blog that one up soon. Oh and PJ? Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese recipe will go up too. Promise x
Have a happy Friday everyone!
ETA: oh and I'm having a go at You Capture this week. I am leaving the house with my camera and no rain is going to stop me! Stay tuned.....