Tag Archives: olives

Greek Salad with Marinated Tofu

Standard

Greek salad is one of my favourite light dishes. It’s simplicity, of course, is dependent on great quality ingredients and one of the benefits of making it yourself is that you can make sure they are up to standard. Alongside the vegetable and olives, is the feta cheese, it’s salty creaminess offset the sweetness of the tomatoes and the crunch of the cucumber. Of course, if you’re keeping away from dairy you have to find a substitute.

I thought of tofu, marinaded and then griddled to take the place of the feta and it has worked well beyond my expectations. It is, I think, down to the amount of salt I use in the marinade. 1/2 tsp is a lot, but most of it stays in the marinade and feta is salty. As ever with marinades, the more time you can leave your ingredients in them, the better. For this dish I’d leave it at least a couple of hours, so if you’re making it for lunch, I’d start things straight after breakfast.

Don’t try and pretty this salad up. It should be made by Greek grandmothers, cutting the vegetables straight into the dish without benefit of chopping boards, so keep things chunky.

 photo DSCN1811_zpses6ysmzo.jpg

Ingredients

For the tofu and marinade
200g tofu, drained and pressed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt

For the salad
1/2 onion, sliced
wine vinegar
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
1/2 onion, sliced
wine vinegar
12 black olives
olive oil
dried oregano

Slice the tofu in half, widthways and put in a sealable plastic bag.
Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour over the tofu in the bag.
Seal or tie the bag and leave in a cool place to marinade for a couple of hours.
About half an hour before you want to prepare the salad, put the onion slices in a small bowl and pour over a splash of vinegar, set aside. This will soften the flavour of the raw onion.
When you’re ready to prepare the salad, put a griddle or frying pan on high heat and leave to get hot.
Chop the tomatoes and cucumber into bite-sized chunks.
Put in a serving bowl and scatter over the olives and drained onion slices.
When the griddle is hot, take the tofu out of the marinade and put on the griddle to sear.
Turn the heat down to medium and cook for five minutes or so, turning the tofu over so that it colours on both sides.
When cooked, remove from the pan and cut into chunks.
Scatter the tofu on the salad.
Season with salt and black pepper.
Drizzle over some olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of dried oregano.

Serves 2 as a light lunch with some crusty bread to mop up the juices

Recipe: Summer pasta

Standard

My brother Jon and my sister-in-law Maria are both excellent cooks. They’re not vegetarian, but I always get fed well when I go to stay. And one of my brother’s pasta recipes reminded me of summer, so let’s pretend that autumn’s not sneaking up on us rapidly.

First time around, both Jon and I put mushrooms in, as we happened to have some lurking around and outstaying their welcome. Jon adds parsley as well. I made the recipe again and replaced the mushrooms with feta cheese, and the parsley with basil. This one had a lighter, less earthy taste. But you might want to dial back on the capers and/or olives if you don’t like dishes too salty.

2014-09-05 17.27.49

Ingredients

Clove of garlic, crushed

Couple of spring onions, finely chopped

Half a chilli, finely chopped

Handful of small tomatoes, halved

A dozen small black olives, finely chopped

1tsp of capers

Feta cheese

Fresh basil

While the pasta is cooking (penne or fafalle is probably best), sweat the garlic, chilli and spring onions very gently in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the tomatoes, olives and caper, and warm through. Drain the pasta and mix the topping through it. Add plenty of torn basil leaves and ground black pepper. If you’re veggie rather than vegan, it benefits from feta cheese crumbled on the mushroom-free version or some hard pasta cheese (Tesco’s is very good) on the original. Parsley works better than basil on the mushroom dish.

Recipe: Vegetarian Piedmontese Peppers

Standard

There was a time in the mid-late 90s when this roasted pepper dish was ubiquitous at British dinner parties. It featured in St Delia’s Summer Collection TV series and book, but I don’t think that’s why it was so popular. It’s because it’s a simple, delicious recipe with great flavours and is very forgiving as a starter. You can prepare it well in advance. If the guests are late an extra ten minutes in the oven will not mar it, or you can take it out and it will taste just as good cold as hot and every temperature in between. It featured in the first dinner party I ever gave.

It’s taken me a while to post this recipe, principally because I needed to find a substitute for the anchovies that pack such an umami punch in the original. I decided to use a mixture of capers and olives a la grecque and they work very well indeed. If you can’t get olives a la grecque then black olives would do, but you’d have to add some salt before cooking.

I don’t normally use extra virgin olive oil in cooking, but this is one time where you want your best ingredients. It’s not one for a low-fat diet, either I’m afraid. I have tried it without the oil and it just doesn’t work.

Piedmontese Peppers photo DSCN1682_zps2fd354cf.jpg

Ingredients
2 red peppers
2 medium tomatoes, skinned and halved
4 olives a la grecque, chopped
1 tbsp capers, chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, sliced
8 tsp extra virgin olive oil
black pepper
4 basil leaves

Heat the oven to 180C.
Take each pepper and cut in half lengthwise through the stalk.
Keep the stalk on each half, but scoop out the seeds and white pith.
Put the halved peppers in a shallow roasting tin, cut side up.
Divide the tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic and olive oil into four and fill each half pepper.
Sprinkle with black pepper, but no salt if you’re using olives a la grecque
Put in the oven and roast for 45-60 mins, checking after 45 mins to make sure they’re not burning or going dry.
Serve with a basil leaf on each half with the juices poured over.

Serves 2 as a starter with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices

Recipe: Pear, Orange and Rocket Salad

Standard

The pears in my fruit bowl were getting past the ripe and juicy stage and arriving at the bruised and woolly stage. I had to throw a couple out but, luckily, some were salvageable. I didn’t want to use them in a sweet recipe, and decided to try them in a salad instead. The result is this bright, fresh side-salad.

The trick with this salad is to balance the flavours so it’s neither too sweet, or too sour. That’s why I only give a guideline as to how much vinegar to put in the dressing, it really depends on how ripe your orange is. Taste as you mix it. And be careful with the mint – you just want a hint of coolness, not toothpaste!

Pear, orange and rocket salad photo DSCN1655_zps86124030.jpg

Ingredients
2 smallish pears
1 orange
1 bag rocket (70-100g)
3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tsp cider or white wine vinegar
4 mint leaves, shredded
4 olives (black or green), sliced

Top and tail the pears.
Cut them in half and scoop out the core.
Slice them thinly.
Segment the orange and squeeze the juice from the remains into a bowl.
Add the rocket, orange segments and pears into a salad bowl.
Mix the olive oil into the orange juice.
Add the vinegar a teaspoon at a time until you have got the right balance.
Season it with salt and pepper.
Stir in the mint leaves.
Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss thoroughly.
Serve with the olive slices scattered over the top.

Serves 2 as a side salad

Recipe: Black Bean Hummus

Standard

I wanted to make normal hummus, but was out of chickpeas. Luckily I had a tin of black beans to hand. As the colour was already going to be dark I decided to add some more dark ingredients. This is a nice change on ordinary hummus – the olives and tomatoes don’t overwhelm the flavour but add some nice notes in the background.

Black Bean Hummus photo IMG_0001_zps8a2ace93.jpg

Ingredients
400g tin black beans, drained
1 large clove garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp tahini
7 black olives
3 sundried tomatoes
2 tbsp sundried tomato oil
handful of fresh parsley

Put all the ingredients, bar one olive, in a food processor.
Blend until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with the remaining olive sliced as a garnish.

Serves 2

Recipe: Beetroot and Walnut Pesto

Standard

This has to be one of the weirdest combinations my food-obsessed brain has come up with, but it works. The earthy sweetness of the beetroot is complemented by the dryness of the walnuts, the saltiness of the olives and then highlighted by the fragrant dill.

It is also pink.

If anyone decides to use this as a dinner-party item, please put Barbie Pasta on the menu.

Beetroot Pesto photo DSCN1142_zps6080b047.jpg

Ingredients</b
150g spaghetti
2 pre-cooked beetroots
1 clove garlic
50g walnuts
6 black olives
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp dill, chopped

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water.
Put all the ingredients except the dill into a food processor and whizz until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and then return to the warm pan.
Stir in the sauce until all the pasta is coated.
Serve with the dill sprinkled over the top.

Serves 2

Quick Bite: Veggie Anchoiade

Standard

As you can guess from the name, this recipe should contain anchovies. I’ve included my favourite olives a la grecque instead as I did in the recipe for puttanesca sauce. This makes a gutsy and substantial snack. They would also work as a crouton placed on the top of a bowl of (vegetarian) french onion soup as well.

Anchoiade photo DSCN1097_zps3a487a27.jpg

Ingredients
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 small tin chopped tomatoes (drain off most of the juice)
4 olives a al grecque, finely chopped
2 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp parsley or basil, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
15cm baguette, sliced into 6 rounds

Mix the onion, tomatoes, olives, sundried tomatoes, garlic, parsley and olive oil together in a bowl.
Season with salt and pepper.
Toast the bread slices on one side under a grill.
When the bread is browned, spread the tomato mixture over the non-toasted side, making sure you take the mixture right to the edge of the bread.
Put under the grill again.
When you can smell the mixture cooking, it’s ready.

Serves 1