Do I have to call it a salad?
Serves: 4, Prepare in: , Cook in:
We welcome back our guest blogger, Lee, she's here to share her first recipe with us, and we are very excited to give this one a go. Take it away Lee...
That’s a bowl of limp green leaves, with a few over ripe tomatoes thrown in for colour, right?
Not in the world of “The Sweet Life” by me, Lee Majhen-Todd.
Well not since I was lucky enough to spend a few years in America picking up, stealing and generally cajoling anyone I came in contact with (friends and chefs beware) to give me their recipes.
Add to this my Northern English and Croatian heritage and a few years of living in Belgium, you can imagine I’ve accumulated, cooked, and ate a lot of very good, and sometimes very bad, food.
For this set of blogs, I’m going to pick some of my best recipes to share with you,
but only recipes I know will go perfectly with any of the flavoursome Vale of Mowbray pork pies.
Living in Cincinnati Ohio for a few years, certainly left an impression on me.
Not just for the new friends, the business I grew, not even the sunshine and theatrical thunderstorms that threatened to flood our basement (yes, I did say basement not cellar).
It wasn’t even the “Have you received your invitation to Will and Kate’s wedding yet?” This asked as I stood in line at the checkout waiting to pay for my fresh, crisp green beans. Any trace of a British accent immediately brought up images of Bobbies on the beat, Dick Van Dyke, and a place where everyone is on first name terms with the royal family.
It was the fact that as a person who needed to cook and bake just to keep sane, I was an exception.
The first cooking impression made on me was when I was teaching.
I handed my students a recipe for a basic sponge cake and asked then to bring the completed cake to class the following week.
After the sharp intake of breath, eye rolling and hushed whispers, not from a bunch of teenagers being asked to give up their mobile phones, but by a group of stay at home “Moms” who had all assured me they cooked every day for their family.
I wondered what all the sideways glances were about.
I could have asked them to design the new space shuttle and may have had the same reaction.
Turns out, and this was news to my recently Americanised person, that a scratch cake (a term used by many to describe, well, just a cake baked from scratch was.) was something that appeared on cooking shows and rarely on household tables.
To me, always cook from scratch person, I was surprised to learn that a cake was usually called a packet cake.
Why? You guessed it. Cakes came from a packet.
The second thing I learned fairly early whilst living I America was, they don’t know what a pork pie is
,let alone a great pork pie such as one made by Vale of Mowbray.
This is something I soon put right.
Vale of Mowbray pork pies really do travel well. No passport needed
The third thing was, if you’re in a restaurant, don’t be fooled when it says that there is a salad on the menu.
A salad is never quite what you think.
Just like the team of pie fairies who make Vale of Mowbray pork pies, when thinking about recipes for “The Sweet life”, my preferred method of cooking is to source just the right amount of the best ingredients, which when put together make something you can’t wait to put in your mouth, no matter the occasion. Cooking doesn’t need to be difficult to be tasty.
This Green Bean Salad is a take on a thanksgiving staple. Every American family usually has a green bean salad recipe which has been passed down from generation to generation
A Thanksgiving green bean salad side is traditionally made with tinned green beans and a tin of Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup with a whole bunch of packet fried onions. (see, not a salad leaf in sight)
Now this may not be your cup of tea, but its certainly perfect for a recipe adaption to include fresh ingredients sourced locally to me, just like Vale of Mowbray pork pies. Whilst I may not want to eat it every day, when I do want green beans, this is a recipe I’ll choose, just like vale of Mowbray pork pies.
- 2lb fresh Green Beans – topped, tailed and washed
- 3 medium or 2 large Shallots – finely chopped
- 300g cleaned and sliced Mushrooms (*See Tip Section)
- 300g mini Tomatoes – sliced in half
- 1 fresh Chilli – finely sliced (seeds removed if preferred)
- 4 cloves sliced Garlic
- 4oz crumbled Feta Cheese
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 2oz chopped Walnuts
- 100g Butter (may need a little more or a little less)
For the Dressing
- 4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
- Juice and rind from 1 fresh lime
- 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Put the cleaned and trimmed beans into a large pot and cover with water. Add the stock cube. Bring the beans to the boil, lower the heat and simmer the beans until they are soft but still have a little crisp bite to them. Once cooked, drain well.
- While the beans are cooking, melt some of the butter in a heavy bottomed frying pan. Add the sliced garlic and fry until a light golden brown for approximately 3-5 minutes (**See Tip Section). Remove onto a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain and set aside
- In the same heavy bottom pan, melt another tablespoon of butter. In batches, fry the cleaned and sliced mushroom in the hot butter, (adding pepper to taste) Turning only occasionally until light golden brown (***See Tip Section). Once all batches are cooked, set aside on kitchen paper to drain.
- In the same heavy bottom pan, add another tablespoon of butter, reduce heat, add the chopped shallots and chopped chilli. Cook both gently until soft. Set aside on kitchen paper to drain.
- Add all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix together with a fork until mixed well.
- Add all of the cooked ingredients to a large bowl, add the tomatoes, chopped walnuts and crumbled feta. Pour over the dressing and mix until all the ingredients are coated with the dressing
Enjoy hot or cold
* Mushrooms are very absorbent so don’t wash them, otherwise you’ll end up with soggy sponges. Cut off the end of the stalks and using a damp piece of kitchen paper, wipe away the dirt.
** When cooking the garlic, don’t take your eyes off it. Burnt garlic is very bitter, but beautifully golden fried garlic is nutty and flavourful, worth staring at.
***The way to get beautifully golden mushrooms is to have your butter very hot, and don’t overcrowd the pan. So cook the mushrooms in batches in the hot butter for perfect mushrooms. Worth the wait.
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