Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber

Herby Ricotta 1

Despite a few cool, misty mornings we have been enjoying a bit of an Indian Summer recently, my children were swimming in the sea three times last week (and even I joined them on one occasion…) and there are still shorts and summer dresses being sported in the playground.  We expect (and hope) July and August will be hot for the school holidays but September heralds a return to work so to have fabulous balmy weather always feels like a treat, a bonus, a little extra.

As such I like to eke out the summer feeling with barbeques and eating in the garden whenever possible.  If, however, you’ve had enough of those leafy green salads then try this for your lunch – smooth, creamy herb flecked ricotta which is unbelievably quick and easy to make (yes make yourself!) accompanied by sweet and sour crunchy cucumber.  The latter is a riff on my quick pickled onion and you could of course use that instead.

I like the ricotta spread on slices of baguette, topped with the tangy fresh cucumber slices, a little more substantial than lunches in the height of a hot summer but not yet a headlong dive into the autumnal soups yet to come.

Herby Ricotta 2

Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber

You can use whichever soft herbs you like, I use parsley, chives and dill because that is a combination I love.  The dill along with the pickled cucumber give a bit of Scandanavian vibe and go together perfectly.   The ricotta would also be fabulous on little crispy toasts topped with chopped cucumber as a canapé and of course, prior to the herbing this ricotta is perfect for any other sweet or savoury recipe you have up your sleeve (so much better than supermarket ricotta and I struggle to find fresh around here).

300ml pot single cream (you can use double if that is what you have)

600ml whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

A handful of chopped herbs of your choice

Put the cream into a pan and fill the empty pot twice with milk and mix this into the cream along with the salt.  Bring to the boil and them remove from the heat and add the vinegar and give it a stir.  You will see the mixture separate, pour into a muslin lined colander and leave to drain for an hour or so until you have a crumbly creamy cheese.  Mix in the herbs and check the seasoning, you may need a little more salt and some pepper.  Heavenly.

Pickled Cucumber

Half a cucumber

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt

Put the sugar and vinegar into a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt and leave to dissolve. Using a vegetable peeler, take long slices of cucumber avoiding the watery seeds in the middle and add to the bowl.  Leave for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally, for the cucumber to “pickle”.

This amount would serve two for lunch or more along side other dishes.

Roast Vegetables with Pomegranate Molasses

Roasted Veg Salad 3

I went into the larder yesterday and a pile of vegetables were gazing balefully at me.  I had bought them for the weekend but we had done other things and my menu plans had gone awry.  As I am going away I knew they needed to be eaten up, there is nothing worse than having to throw something away which was fine one minute and gone off the next.  So, courgettes, peppers, aubergine and onions all jostling for the top spot.  Aubergine curry, a provencal tian, soup – lots of things crossed my mind but it is hot and I wanted a salad.

I used to make a salad like this all the time in the 90’s – I can see myself now, in the kitchen of my flat, Oasis blaring and a vat of Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon on stand by.  It was great then and I’ve made derivations of it ever since but I wanted to jazz it up a bit.  I roasted all the vegetables and made a dressing with olive oil and pomegranate molasses.  The fruity tang was just the thing to bring this up to date, both sharp and fruity and along with some crushed garlic made the perfect dressing.  I’m not very keen on couscous, it always seems a bit pappy and, for me anyway, still has a whiff of school semolina about it.  Bulgar wheat however has bite and texture so that is what I used.  Piles of fresh herbs, the mint being one of the few things the fat slugs haven’t scoffed in the garden, and some rocket completed the picture.

If I’d planned this earlier I would have made some labne, strained Greek yogurt which I could have blobbed over the salad but some garlicky regular yogurt was an excellent alternative.  I had forgotten how much I adore this salad, roasted, sweet and slightly charred vegetables, the nutty bulghar, masses of verdant herbs and the lip smacking dressing.  This would go down a storm with barbecued meat or fish but is substantial enough to have for lunch on its own.  Truly a winner, I will be making this all summer and beyond.  Back in couple of weeks!

Roasted Veg Salad

Roasted Vegetables with Bulghar and Pomegranate Molasses

The following vegetables are what I had but use an equivalent amount of whatever you like.  Should I be overwhelmed with courgettes later in the summer (if the slugs don’t eat those too) I will make this with those and perhaps throw in some feta and chives.

2 red peppers

1 aubergine

2 courgettes

3 onions

Olive oil

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch mint, chopped

2 large handfuls rocket

100g bulghar wheat

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

Half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200.  Chop the vegetables into small and similar size pieces, turn in some olive oil, put onto baking sheets and cook for about 30 minutes turning occasionally until soft and just catching at the edges.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.  Put the bulghar wheat into a bowl with a pinch of salt and cover with boiling water to about 1cm above, leave to soak for 15 minutes then drain.  Mix the garlic, oil, pomegranate molasses and some salt and pepper to taste.  In a large  bowl, toss the vegetables, bulghar, herbs, rocket and dressing, stir to combine and have taste, a squeeze of lemon will probably be all you need.  Serves 2 on its own or 4 as an accompaniment.

Roasted Veg Salad 2