Smashing summery sides

Fancy a little something on the side tomorrow night? Give these smashed baby potatoes and this minty fresh quinoa salad a spin!

I need to go to bed so I’m going to make this quick, just like I made these delish side dishes. Ready, set, go!

Quinoa salad & smashed baby potatoes

Boil a bunch of fresh baby potatoes until they are cooked through. Arrange on a baking tray, ‘smash’ with a fork, drizzel with olive oil and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper and place under the griller until they become golden and crispy. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan, freshly chopped parsley and a good squeeze of lemon juice and serve immediately. Done and dusted!

Smashed baby potatoes

For the quinoa salad, cook 1 1/2 cups of quinoa (red or regular) to packet instructions then set aside to cool. Blanche a good handful each of asparagus and sugar-snap peas until just tender and put into iced water to refresh. Cube some fetta (about a pack of cards size black will do) and get a handful of snowpea tendrils washed and ready to go (or you could use baby rocket or spinach).

Quinoa salad with asparagus and sugar-snap peas

Once that’s all prepped whip up this amazing mint vinaigrette adapted from Pamela Salzman

Vinaigrette

½ cup fresh mint leaves

1 clove minced garlic

¼ cup roughly chopped red onion

3 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp sea salt

A good pinch of freshly ground black pepper

½ cup good olive oil

Splash of lime (or lemon) juice to taste

To make the dressing put everything except the lime juice and oil in a blender and blend together well, then, with the blender running, add the olive oil in a thin steady stream until it is gone. Taste and add the lime juice to give it that final zing. I like mine tangy but start with a little and see how you like it. The dressing will mellow out in the salad so dont be afraid if it gives you a little kick!

In a bowl combine the cooled quinoa, asparagus, snap peas, tendrils with the dressing and mix well then add the fetta and gently combine.

Lip smacking and best served with BBQ’ed crispy skinned salmon.

Quinoa salad with amazing mint dressing Potatoes, baby!

Sides, side by side

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The BBQ chicken we’re still talking about

Don’t go looking too closely at this picture because you might just notice that half the chicken breast is missing. Yes, my friends, it’s probably the worst food photo I’ve taken. A hunk of half eaten chicken and some left over salad. Why? Because it was so good that it was almost all gone before I came to my senses and took a photo!

We had a barbeque over the weekend with my brother, sister in law and my gorgeous Niece Rosie and I wanted to do something different from our usual fare so I looked online for a smokey, lip smacking chicken marinade that didn’t require the dreaded overnight element I love so much. This one took about 5 minutes to put together and is apparently effective with as little as 10 minutes marinating. It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe found here. I love Jamie Oliver’s cooking style. He has nailed the kind of recipe that requires little time but has maximum impact. Unfussy but still special, easy yet still fun to make. I have been meaning to add more of his recipe books to my collection but while I love my recipe books they seem to sit pretty on the shelves while I go straight to my favourite recipe websites. This is because I tend to come up with an idea of what I want to cook first and look for a recipe or technique based on that, rather than having a blank canvass and looking at books for inspiration. It is much easier to type a few key ingredients into a search bar than to trawl through the index of 10 different books!

Marinade ingredients

Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp of hot chilli powder (or more if you like it hot)
1 ½ heaped tsp smoked paprika
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 tsp olive oil
pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 skinless chicken breasts

Mix together all the ingredients (besides the chicken) in a bowl or container big enough to fit all the chicken breasts. Set aside 3 tbsp of the marinade in a separate bowl for basting. Put the chicken in the container and coat it well. Leave it to marinade for at least 10 minutes.

Get your BBQ nice and hot and cook the chicken for about 5 minutes each side, turning and basting every minute, but be careful not to overcook it as chicken breasts dry out easily.

Goes perfectly with a snowpea, rocket, cherry tomato and radish salad with honey lemon dressing (if you have a fabulous sister in law like I do, she might just bring one for you!)

A salad with a bad reputation

I’m going to share one of my favourite quick & easy recipes. The Fancy Rice Salad. Is there any other kind you ask? The answer is yes. Now I’m not going to name names, recipes or small country towns but where I come from, when someone brings a rice salad to a BBQ it usually consists of white rice, tinned corn, diced red capsicum and little else (flavour, my dear friend – that means you).

In fact among the people I know, rice salad has such a bad reputation that when I say I’m bringing a rice salad there is an audible pause which is my cue to say oh don’t worry, it’s a fancy rice salad, you’ll love it!. And they usually do. More often than not they cannot actually mask the look of relief when they can see I was telling the truth. It is fancy, phew! And hey, some people like the white rice/corn situation, and that’s fine, but I prefer my rice salad with a little more oomph.

This recipe was given to me by Eleni, fellow lover of food and a kitchen whizz. It’s quick, it’s easy, you can make it a few days ahead and people will want seconds.

Salad ingredients

1 cup of cooked brown rice (I like mine al dente)

1 green capsicum, finely diced

1 red capsicum, finely diced

1 large handful of chopped coriander (or parsley if you prefer)

½ cup of smashed roasted cashews (I use salted, you can use unsalted if you like)

¼ sunflower seeds and pepitas (also known as pumpkin seeds)

1/3 cup currants

4 finely sliced spring onions (also known as scallions)

Dressing ingredients

3 tbsp of olive oil

5 tbsp of Japanese soy sauce (I use the Kikkoman brand)

1 crushed garlic clove

½ lemon juice

The recipe I got never actually said what half exactly, ½ a cup? ½ a lemon? Who knows? I start with about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and keep adding to taste. The dressing will taste quite strong and soy-saucy on its own but once it is mixed into the salad it will mellow and the garlic and oil will balance it out.

Method

Combine dressing ingredients, whisk well and set aside

Combine salad ingredients well. Add dressing and mix well again. Be thorough but gentle, you don’t want to squish all the rice.

And that’s it folks. You can eat it on the day, or it will be delicious the next day*. You can top it with diced avocado, tinned tuna or cooked chicken. It’s also great with lamb. It’s just great, ok? Trust me.

This rice salad is bringing fancy back.

* just a little note to remind you to take care when storing your rice salad. It seems innocent but cooked rice is considered a high-risk food and must be stored correctly. See here for more information.

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