Community kitchen - Lazy food for hot summer days
My favourite hotel in Rome is the Hotel Quirinale - one of Europe's Grand Hotels, with its cool garden (below) that was a haven in the noise and heat of a Roman summer. Sitting on the restaurant terrace, overlooking the garden, my favourite meal was the chef's chicken salad. Here is my version - the nearest I can remember.
Chicken Salad Quirinale - per person
- 2 tablespoons chopped cold chicken breast
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped celery
- 1/4 tablespoon blanched or flaked almonds
- 1 tablespoon runny mayonnaise (make your own - see recipe below, or mix some white wine vinegar into shop-bought mayonnaise)
- Sea salt to taste
- black pepper - not too much
- Chopped dill (optional) to decorate
Mix it all up, then serve on baby crisp lettuce leaves
If you are going to serve this to friends, sprinkling chopped toasted flaked almonds and dill - if you have it - on the top makes it extra special
If you want to make your own, it does taste that much nicer, but beware of the raw eggs if you are pregnant!
- 2 free-range egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 250mml oil (olive, sunflower, etc. whatever you have available and to taste)
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or lemon juice
- Sea salt to taste
Whisk egg yolks, add Mustard, then slowly dribble in oil - drop by drop at first, until it starts to thicken then you can add more. Add in vinegar and sea salt to taste. If you are making the recipe above, add more vinegar to get a runny consistency to coat the chicken and celery.
One thing I have learnt is to pace myself; don't try to do everything all at once.
- Assemble all the ingredients - it won't do them any harm to stand around and get up to room temperature
- Mix ingredients and often you can leave them to cook later, unless they have whipped egg whites in the recipe
- Cook when you are ready
Another rule is to ensure I have as much vitamin C and protein in my diet as possible. According to a leading nutritionist, Lily Soutter, how to be veggie and still get lots of protein is one of the main questions she is consistently asked. And, in a new YouGov survey commissioned by Goodlife, protein was highlighted as one of the most important factors for Brits when it comes to their daily diet.
I call these Protein Biscuits. They make a tasty snack.
- 120g Plain Flour
- 120g Butter
- 120g Mature Cheddar Cheese (protein)
- 1/2 tsp Mustard Powder or Cayenne pepper if you prefe
- 1 egg (protein)
Set oven to 170C/fan 150C/gas 5.
Rub all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl using your hands until they form crumbs, then bind together with an egg until dough is formed
Roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm. Then use a cutter to cut out the biscuits. You can grate more cheese on top for extra crunch - Parmesan cheese is good, if you have it.
Place the biscuits onto a greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden and crispy.
Vegan friends tell me this is a 'goodie', and pretty well everyone enjoys it. It doesn't need any kneading, so is ideal if you can't make ordinary bread. And some people can't take spelt and other 'heavy' ingredients - so again this is ideal.
- 225 g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
- Half a tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Pinch of salt
- 200 g plain natural yoghurt (or plant-based live yoghurt) (protein)
- 40-60 ml milk (or plant-based alternative) (protein)
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour.
Mix flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the yoghurt and half the milk and stir to combine.
When the ingredients start to make a dough ball, use your hands to bring everything together. If the dough is dry, add a little more of the milk (You may not need it all).
Tip out the ball of dough onto a floured surface, turn and shape the dough into a round loaf and transfer to a baking sheet which has been lightly dusted with flour.
With a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the top of the loaf - you want to go almost right through but be careful not to cut the soda bread into pieces!
Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden brown. When cooked, the loaf will sound hollow when you tap on the bottom. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then slice and enjoy!
The American cancer charity Livestrong often has useful vegan recipes on its website with good ideas such as this one.
Using up egg whites
Make meringues with the egg whites left over when making mayonnaise, see recipe in this previous edition of community kitchen. Use 2 tablespoons of caster sugar to one egg white.
You can then use them for Eton Mess, or for Pavlova:
Make little nests of meringue, cook in very lukewarm over for 1 - 2 hours, then when cold fill with a layer of thick cream and then a layer of soft fruit - strawberry, raspberry etc.
There has never been a better time to show your support to British farmers who are managing to get their fruit and vegetables into a store near you. Have a look at the labels and make an effort to support local farmers - it's better for the environment and our health!
In season now - and at their peak of deliciousness - include:
Apricots (yes, we've grown them for years in England), Blackberries Blackcurrants, Broad Beans, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cherries, Chicory, Cucumber, Gooseberries, Greengages, French Beans, Loganberries, New Potatoes, Onions, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb.
If you have a large family, search online for cherries or any fruit that you fancy and up may come details of farms that deliver to your home in 1 - 5 kg quantities. Expensive at first but share with family/neighbours and the cost reduces dramatically.
Furthermore, local markets should have piles of goodies, or if you live near allotments, you could wander down there - growers often have surplus for sale.