The delights of summer

Christmas this year has been delightful. This year, we don’t have a baby anymore, we have a toddler. Windhorse can run around in the sunshine. She exclaims “Oooh!” at the sight of presents. She takes decorations off the Christmas tree and tries to put them back on. She has discovered that strawberries and vegetables come from the garden. Oh, wonders! She says “Stawby, Stawby, Stawby,” which started off meaning strawberry and now means anything desired.

Two of Windhorse’s cousins moved to Seattle just before she was born. They’ve come back for a Christmas visit and have met her for the first time. She is having so much fun with them and her Wellington cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. She loves having people around to play with and talk to, and the days have been filled with chuckles and giggles and squeals of excitement. She has been kicking and throwing balls, playing peekaboo, splashing in paddling pools, swinging and sliding at the playground, digging in the garden and playing at the beach.

The beach! Last year Windhorse was quite uncertain about it, but this year on Boxing Day she was absolutely gleeful. Sand! Sand to pick up! Sand to dig! Wet sand! Water! Waves to run from! Waves to fall into! Water to jump in! Sticks to dig with! Sticks to draw with! Dogs to point at! Birds to point at! The fun seemed limitless.

It is such a delight watching her enjoy the summer.

Christmas day was busy and noisy and fun. When I was a child, Christmas gatherings usually had 3, 5 or maybe 6 people. This Christmas 27 of us gathered for lunch, including all Windhorse’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and two sets of great aunts/uncles.

There was an amazing spread for lunch. I’m not too modest to declare that our contributions to the Christmas table were absolutely delicious… and they disappeared quickly too. They were so scrumptious they need to be shared more widely, so I will leave you with our contributions to the menu, and recipes for these dishes. I can’t eat much dairy and I made a dairy free dessert so I could indulge in a bit of cheese in the salads. The salads would be yummy without the cheese as well. I’d put extra hazelnuts in the courgette salad if leaving out the cheese.

Happy festive season!

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Christmas 2013 Culinary delights 

Sweet Beetroot & Nectarine Salad

Courgette and hazelnut salad

BBQ tofu with pomegranate molasses marinade and BBQ sweet peppers

Rose, pistachio and pomegranate creamy dreamy meringue dessert (too fancy to be called Eton Mess)

Dairy-free rose, pistachio and pomegranate creamy dreamy meringue dessert (too fancy to be called Dairy-free Eton Mess)

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Recipes

Sweet Beetroot & Nectarine Salad (adapted from two Ottolenghi salads).

4 beetroots

100g almonds

20g honey

15g Dijon mustard

25ml cider vinegar

30mls olive oil

1 clove of garlic

½ tsp ground allspice

Salt and pepper

4 white nectarines, sliced into wedges

180g creamy blue cheese

50g small lettuce leaves (not iceberg) or mesclun

50g rocket leaves

Set the oven to 200C. Wrap the beets individually in foil and bake for 40-70 minutes, depending on size. To check, push a sharp knife through to the centre of each one – it should be soft all the way through. Set aside to cool, then peel and cut into a rough 2cm dice.

Turn the oven down to 170C and toast the almonds for about 10 minutes. When they have cooled, coarsely chop them.

To make the dressing, whisk together the honey, mustard, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, allspice, a small pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper (if the honey is very thick, melting it first will make it easier to blend in).

To create a visually splendid salad, arrange the leaves on a platter and lay the beetroot and nectarine wedges on top. Sprinkle with the almonds and crumble the blue cheese over the top. Drizzle dressing over everything.

Alternatively, to ensure everyone in the crowd gets a bit of everything in their serving, throw everything into a bowl and mix it all together. Everything will end up stained with beetroot but it’ll taste wonderful.

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Courgette and hazelnut salad

50g toasted hazelnuts

4 courgettes

1 block of feta

A few sprigs of mint

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Lightly toast the hazelnuts in the oven or in a frying pan. Slice the courgettes very thinly (you can use a vegetable peeler to get extra thin long ribbons). Cut the feta into small squares. Shred the mint leaves. Arrange in a dish and drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. So fresh and summery.

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BBQ tofu with pomegranate molasses marinade and BBQ sweet peppers

1 block of firm tofu

A few mini peppers or Hungarian peppers

Marinade

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp paprika

A pinch of smoked paprika

A pinch of cloves

A pinch of chilli powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the tofu into slices about 7mm thick.

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and roll the tofu in it. Leave to marinade in the fridge.

Don’t leave the tofu on the BBQ for long or it will dry out. If you’re not a tofu fan, just give BBQ mini peppers a go. They are so sweet and juicy and melt in your mouth delicious.

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Rose, pistachio and pomegranate creamy dreamy meringue dessert (too fancy to be called Eton Mess)

2 cups of crumbled meringues (you could buy plain but we made Ottolenghi’s version of rose and pistachio meringues – recipe here –  and they were divine! We used most of a batch in the dessert)

1 cup of crumbled pistachio macaroons (we used the recipe below but you could just use more meringues to keep it simple – we went all out for Christmas day extravagance!)

500mls cream

2 tsp rose water (or more if you are using plain meringues)

1 punnet of strawberries

1 pomegranate

Pomegranate molasses or pomegranate juice

A few chopped toasted pistachio nuts.

Slice the strawberries. We left the strawberries to macerate in a mixture of pomegranate molasses and pureed strawberries. Nigella leaves them to macerate in pomegranate juice.

Pop the seeds out of the pomegranate.

Whip the cream until it is thick and incorporate the rose water towards the end. Mix most of the meringues and macaroons into the cream, leaving a few for the top.

Put a layer of cream/meringues/macaroons in the bottom of the serving dish, followed by a layer of strawberries, pomegranate and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses if you have it. Alternate layers to fill the dish, ending with a creamy layer. Sprinkle the remaining pieces of meringue/macaroon, a few pomegranate seeds, chopped pistachios and rose petals on top.

Serve before the meringues dissolve!

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Pistachio macaroons

1 eggwhite

25g ground almonds

25g ground pistachios

100g castor sugar

½ tsp vanilla essence (optional)

Whisk egg white until starting to thicken. Continue whisking while adding the sugar and whisk until stiff. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Drop teaspoonfuls of mixture onto a tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 170C for 15-20 minutes (until just starting to brown around the edges).

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Dairy-free rose, pistachio and pomegranate creamy dreamy meringue dessert (too fancy to be called Dairy-free Eton Mess)

Put 300g silken tofu, 300g strawberries and 1 tsp rose water in a blender and process until very smooth. Use this in place of the cream in the recipe above.

Enjoy!

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