Roast Pumpkin, Red Rice, Cavolo Nero and Haloumi

Pumpkin, red rice, calvalo nero, haloumiMy favourite standby dishes come and go quite quickly. I guess this is due to mainly what is in season, in the fridge and how bothered I am to make an effort. Fatigue can set in early once I arrive home from work and find a glass of wine in my hand. This is recipe is easy, trust me.

I try to think of ways to add pickled red onion to everything at the moment. I pretty much love pickled anything, full stop. I can’t stand harsh raw onion in salads especially the continued after taste. Once you lightly pickle them they become softer, sweeter and brighter.  It’s my substitute for a dressing, it’s like my winter vinaigrette.

You could easily make substitutions for the other ingredients. Sweet potato instead of pumpkin, pearl barley would work well instead of the red rice and of course there are many substitutes for the cavolo nero. Mix it up with strong winter greens, like kale, or swiss chard. The haloumi is kind of a must for me although a persian feta could also do the trick I guess.Pumpkin, red rice and cavalo nero

Roast Pumpkin, Red Rice, Cavalo Nero and Haloumi 

3 wedges of pumpkin ( not a dry pumpkin, I like jap or butternut) leave the skin on, you can eat it.

125g of haloumi, sliced

4-5 leaves of cavolo nero or kale, washed stalks removed and roughly chopped

35g Thai red rice

60mls red wine vinegar

3/4  teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 small red onion

Set oven to 175°C. Stand the pumpkin up in a shallow tray, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in the oven for 45 minutes. The cooking time will depend on how thick you cut the wedges.

Combine the red wine vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Warm on a low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add onion. Leave to cool. You will only need a small amount of this. Keep remainder in the fridge for a week to use on other salads.

Place the rice in a small saucepan just covered with cold water (about an inch above usually suffices). Bring to the boil and reduce to a low simmer, covered for 12-15 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

When the pumpkin is nearly ready, grill the haloumi in a dry pan on med-high heat until golden brown. When you have turned the haloumi over add the cavolo nero to the other half of the pan to wilt.

Remove pumpkin from the oven and place in serving dish. Spoon over red rice, then the cavolo nero, a small amount of the pickled onion and the haloumi.

Serves one hungry person.

Roast Escarole, Beetroot and Walnut Quinoa

escaroleescaroleThere are some vegetables, actually quite alot, that I find beautiful. I often buy them then wonder what the heck I’m suppose to do with them, like escarole.

Last night I steamed some of the escarole in an attempt to retain it’s colour and make an effort to retain some nutrients. I didn’t like it at all, bitter, bitter, bitter. I don’t know what I expected, it is from the bitter leaf family. Maybe it was the kimchi I put with it, but I don’t think so. Now roasted, it’s a whole different story. It becomes sweeter, like most roasted things, bringing out it’s sugars. I really wasn’t sure it would work but it did.escarole

Quinoa was another little challenge. I have struggled to like this old seed but I think I’m finally there. If you’ve got some sitting in your cupboard or have given up trying to cook it, here are some tips.

Firstly you must to rinse it. This removes the saponins from it’s outer layer. This is their bitter defence mechanism, which (according to Harold McGee) will actually penetrate within the seed if you soak them for too long. The second tip is not to overcook it. It seems like there are a matter of moments between perfectly cooked quinoa and overcooked, irretrievable mush, so be attentive.

Roast escarole and beetroot quinoa

Roast Escarole, Beetroot and Walnut Quinoa

1/2 cup quinoa

1 large beetroot

1/4 large head of escarole, roughly chopped and washed

1 medium carrot, sliced

a few radish, thickly sliced

1-2 spring onions finely sliced

handful of walnuts

marinated feta

lemon infused olive oil ( I use Colonna Granverde brand)

Set the oven to 180°C. Wrap the beetroot in foil and roast for about an hour or until cooked. While still warm remove skin and cut into bite size pieces.

Rinse the quinoa in a fine sieve. I don’t have one so have to use a muslin lined sieve, which requires you to scrap some bits stuck onto the cloth when you transfer it to the saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave covered for 5 minutes. Drain and use a fork it to fluff up.

Meanwhile roast the carrot, and radish with a little olive oil for about 35 minutes, turning half way through cooking. Cook the escarole in a baking tray with a little olive oil and salt, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Bake walnuts for 8-10 minutes.

In a large bowl combine the carrot, beetroot, radish, spring onion, escarole and quinoa. Add pepper and a swirl of lemon infused olive oil. Divided onto two serving dished and top with roasted chopped walnuts and crumbled feta.

Serves 2.

Warm courgette, pearl barley, white bean and basil salad

Courgette saladGee I’m finding it hard to get back into work this year! Is anyone else having the same problem? or is that a silly question. I don’t know if it’s the glorious beach weather or the fact that I’m so over my job that is causing this. I suspect a bit of both.

Quite often I have to eat lunch around 1130am before I go to work and end up having dinner when I get home, anywhere from 730pm -1100pm. So, in summer, these are the dishes I live off, quick fridge and cupboard creations.

Yes it’s vegetarian but I make most of my salads that way. If anything a whisper of shredded chicken or if you want to make it even more substantial some pan fried lamb fillet would work well.

Warm courgette, pearl barley, white bean and basil salad

1 medium courgette

about 55g pearl barley

about 100g cooked white beans (I used cannelini)

1 small spring onion, finely chopped

2 sprigs of basil

persian fetta (optional)

ground pepperberries


I large tablespoon greek yogurt

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Put pearl barley in a small saucepan, cover with water so it’s about an inch above the barley and bring to boil on the stovetop. Reduce to a simmer for 12-15 minutes until cooked but still retaining some bite. While the pearl barley is cooking, slice the courgette. Lightly oil (I used spray) a med-hot pan and lay courgette in a single layer. Lightly oil the side facing up while in the pan and add salt and pepper. Turn then over when lightly browned. Don’t cook the courgette to a mush, you want them to be lightly browned and just cooked through. Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Adjust to taste.

To assemble scatter half the drained pearl barley in your dish, top with half your spring onions, and half your white beans, lay some courgettes over top, and repeat. Top with basil leaves, a small amount of crumbled fetta, dollop a few teaspoons of the dressing around and sprinkle with ground pepperberries. If you don’t like a dairy overload you can choose either the fetta or dressing but I like a little of both. The dressing will keep for two weeks in the fridge. It’s great on other salads too.

Crisp Ham Hock and Pumpkin Salad by Alice Hart

I bought the new cookbook by Alice Hart, sight unseen. The cover was my only glimpse into this fabulous book. Although that’s not totally true, I’ve cooked from Alice’s books before and I knew it would be great, I new I needed to have it (words from a cookbook addict for sure).
And I was right. The book is a beautiful and Alice should be very pleased with this one. Friends At My Table is a collection of recipes you can use individually or as a menu to share with friends. From Vietnamese inspired bridal showers, to Autumn picnics, glamping, and a beach cricket barbeque menu. There is alot of the outdoors in Alice’s books which reflects her love of traveling in her beloved campervan, Myrtle the Hurtle. It’s inspiring.

I was going to share the recipe for these delicious little blueberry, almond and vanilla choux buns with you but then I made the crisp ham and pumpkin salad. Alice describes the recipe as her favourite in the book, and I know why.

OK so the picture doesn’t do it justice. There are a few components to the dish before assembly but it’s simple and you will want to make it again and again. I reduced the serving size by a third to make two perfect portions. The recipe is not exactly the same as printed but pretty much. It is shared with you by the kind permission of Quadrille Publishing.

Crisp Ham Hock and Pumpkin Salad, chilli dressing and toasted pumpkin seeds.


1 small smoked ham hock

300g pumpkins, peeled and diced 5cm

1 tablespoon olive oil

35g pumpkin seeds

2 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves

a small handful of coriander

a small handful of thai basil leaves or more coriander

1 large ripe avocado, cut into segments


2 kaffir lime leaves (I thought I had some in the freezer but no, so I added lime zest when the juice is added)

3 tablespoons mild olive oil

1 shallot, very finely sliced

15g palm sugar or 1 tablespoon of brown sugar

1/2-1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

thumbnail size piece of ginger cut into fine matchsticks

half a garlic clove finely chopped

1 lemon grass stalk, outside leaves peeled to the white inner and finely sliced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

juice of half a lime

half a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil


Preheat oven to 140°C fan. Put the hock into a small roasting tin, cover with foil and roast for 2 or so hours until the meat is falling off the bone. Let it cool enough to remove the skin and excess fat. Break into small pieces. This maybe done up to two days in advance. Return meat to room temperature cover with foil and heat in a low oven.

For the pumpkin heat the oven to 220°C fan. Toss the pumpkin in oil, season  and roast in a lined baking tin for 30 mins or until tender and edges golden. This can also be done two days ahead and reheated in the same way as the hock.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan, shaking them about until golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the lime leaves, stack them on top of each other, cut out the stalk, roll tightly and slice as thinly as possible. Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a moderate frying pan, add shallots and cook gently for 10 minutes but not to colour. Add sugar and cook for two minutes. Then add the chilli, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and lime leaves. Keep the heat very low and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly before adding soy sauce, lime juice (and lime zest if using instead of lime leaves), remaining olive oil and sesame oil.

Combine salad leaves and herbs, scatter the pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, avocado and ham pieces over it, followed by the dressing and cracked black pepper to taste.

Very happily serves 2.