Ramsons & Bramble

Made-from-scratch food that delights!

Sunday

30

March 2014

A Colourful Spring Salad of Rhubarb, Fennel & Radishes with a Lemon-Honey Dressing

Rhubarb, Radish & Fennel Salad

This stunningly coloured salad showcases late winter/early spring vegetables and with minimal effort looks absolutely beautiful on the plate. Although raw rhubarb may not instantly appeal, I can assure you its sharp, sour flavour is gently softened by the liquoice notes of the fennel and the lightly sweetened lemon-honey dressing, which all work together in subtle, sweet-tart harmony.

Rhubarb

I initially made this salad as an experiment with rhubarb as a savoury vegetable and was somewhat doubtful about the combination, but it really did work. And with a veritable riot of fresh vegetables and shades of luminous pink, it will make a bright, healthy, joyful splash on your dinner table.

I really, really, love sour so the idea of rhubarb had always appealed, but I have been reluctant to eat it adulterated with tons of sugar as it always is in desserts. Also, I am not the biggest fan of cooked, stewed fruit, which is how rhubarb is typically served in the UK, so my thoughts turned instead to a raw, savoury recipe. I knew I had a pretty high tolerance for sour (see my recipe for super-sour lemon juice here) – surely there was an appropriate rhubarb recipe out there for me?

Radishes

A quick flick through the internet revealed this lemon-pickled rhubarb recipe on The Guardian newspaper’s website, where I got the principle flavours for this dish. I have a real soft spot for lemon-pickles (see my recipe for lemon-pickled red onions here). The bright, zingy acid juice helps soften both the texture and the flavour of strongly flavoured vegetables, and all this achieved in about ten minutes and with no preserving equipment.

In The Guardian’s recipe it was used as a garnish for mackerel, but I think its fabulous colours and textures deserve individual attention, so I have adapted it into a sunny salad.

Shaved Rhubarb

Shaving all the vegetables as thinly as possible will produce the best texture in this salad, allowing the lemon juice to penetrate and soften the vegetables quickly and providing an all round better eating experience. When shaved, the salad is crunchy, but not too ‘raw’ tasting – and definitely without any overly tough chunks to chew.

I would recommend using a mandoline for this, but mine is packed away somewhere, so all I had available was my parents old peeler and a knife. They worked absolutely fine, if a tiny bit more arduous.

Lemon

This salad is a plateful of life-affirming health. Although there is a little sweetener to take the edge off the sour ingredients, the rest of the plate is filled with fresh, raw, antioxidant-rich vegetables dressed in the nutritional powerhouse that is lemon (read more about it’s astonishing disease-preventing attributes here).

Rhubarb, Radish & Fennel SaladThere is a lot of pink in this recipe. The lemon juice quickly encourages the radishes and rhubarb to release some of their beautiful colour, dying the lemon dressing a vivid rose to match the trim on the cut vegetables.

Rhubarb, Radish & Fennel Salad

If your radishes come with the leaves still attached you can use them to flesh out this salad or to add a delicate garnish if you decide to plate it as pictured for a fancy dinner party dish. In fact any green you add, for example other mild lettuces, will offer a superb colour contrast to the glorious pinks. The colours and unusual combination definitely give this dish major wow factor.

Rhubarb, Radish & Fennel Salad

Rhubarb, Fennel & Radish Salad with Lemon
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Dressing
  1. 1 lemon, juiced
  2. 2 teaspoons honey or agave
Salad
  1. 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered & tough core removed
  2. 200g rhubarb
  3. 200g radishes
  4. salt
  5. freshly ground black pepper
  6. radish leaves to garnish or fill out the salad
Dressing
  1. Mix the lemon juice with the honey and stir until dissolved.
Salad
  1. Using a mandoline, peeler or your excellent knife skills, slice the fennel, rhubarb and radishes as thinly as possible. Toss the vegetables immediately in the dressing - this will stop the vegetables discolouring. Leave for 10-15 minutes to give the dressing time to pickle the salad slightly and soften the vegetables' raw texture.
Notes
  1. This salad will hold for an hour or so, but the lemon juice will continue to work, softening the vegetables further and leeching even more pink into the dressing.
Adapted from The Guardian
Adapted from The Guardian
Ramsons & Bramble http://www.ramsonsandbramble.com/
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Friday

28

March 2014

Artichokes Roasted in New Season Olive Oil

Roasted Artichokes

This is another luscious artichoke recipe I discovered while staying in Rome (see my other recipe, Roman Artichokes with Mint Pesto here). There I ate this versatile preparation stirred into pasta, piled onto pizza, sandwiched between focaccia.

I use an app on my phone to record all the food I eat. I started it as an experiment, just to see what I was actually eating. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re eating one way when you just look back through your memory and pick out all the best bits, but more difficult when you actually have to write everything down. The app also analyses various aspects of your vitamin and mineral intake which I find absolutely fascinating. Alarmingly, it has been insisting since I started using it that I am extremely low on potassium. And I wasn’t really sure what to do about this.

Artichokes

On my first day in Rome I tried some artichokes. From that day on I was hooked. I ate artichokes every day, in every preparation I could lay my hands on. At the pizzeria it was extremely difficult not to shovel their artichoke topping into my mouth every time I was anywhere near them. It is the absolutely unique, lightly metallic aftertaste of artichokes that I find so mouth-wateringly irresistible. What was that taste?

A little look on Google revealed it was the minerals that artichokes are packed full of – magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, and all-importantly… potassium! My body was insisting that I cram into it the very thing my diet has been lacking of late. Fascinating! (Although it could also have been that they tasted freakin’ delicious!)

Roasted Artichokes

I was lucky enough to have some artisan, new season, olive oil to drizzle over my artichokes. All five litres of it. My chef hosts in Rome very, very kindly allowed me to buy some of their restaurant stock. For only €10 – my bargain of the century. Well worth risking a fine in the airport for an overweight bag (thank you Norwegian for not charging me!).

New season olive oil is the first, fresh press of olive oil made at the beginning of the season in October or November. It is lightly grassy and a wonderful glowing green – the most flavourful and fragrant oil of the season. If you would like to know more about olive oil, I strongly suggest you check out this blog, Truth in Olive Oil. I only realised there was a ‘truth’ to be know about olive oil after reading Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit, by Mort Rosenblum. T’was a fascinating book that delved deeply into the murky world of olive oil production in a pleasingly detailed and witty fashion. Who’d of thought an appraisal of the world of olive oil branding could be described as “witty”?

Italian Olive Oil

Anyway, this blog picks up where the book left off, publishing interesting reports on the various scams and controversies that swamp this life-giving oil. The blog’s last post was a thorough overview of the scientific evidence for and against the consumption of olive oil – interesting stuff.

In Rome, they absolutely doused everything in olive oil. They probably used about ten times as much as I typically would. And then when the dish was finished, they drizzled it with another load of olive oil just to make sure that everything was definitely covered in olive oil. But it was delicious.

So these two experiences have changed me. I am now throwing myself wholeheartedly behind olive oil. Butter is to be sidelined. Having five litres of it to hand helps.

Roasted Artichokes

I don’t think I can quite bring myself to eat jarred artichokes now. That faintly pickled flavour detracts too much from the delicate savoury of the artichokes, the thing that makes them truly worth the effort. But fresh artichokes are often thin on the ground here in the UK (although I did get some for only 50p each at my fantastic local Turkish shop this week). Has anyone had good experiences with frozen artichokes? How to they compare to the fresh ones? Could they be the answer to my new obsessive need for artichokes?

There are so many options available to you when using these roasted artichokes. Pasta, polenta, risotto, pizza, sandwiches… The star of the meal or a scrumptious side. You decide.

Roasted Artichokes

Artichokes Roasted in New Season Olive Oil
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Ingredients
  1. 6 artichokes, trimmed (see guidelines here)
  2. 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  3. salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Roughly chop the artichokes and add straight into an oven-proof dish. Season with salt and drizzle over the olive oil. Toss to combine.
  2. Cover with tin foil and bake at 200c for about 45 minutes. The artichokes should be tender and fully cooked, with a little caramelisation in places.
Notes
  1. Use straight away or store in the fridge for up to a week, ready and waiting to enliven almost any meal.
Ramsons & Bramble http://www.ramsonsandbramble.com/
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Saturday

22

March 2014

Super-Sour & Nutritious Lemon-Lime Juice

Lemon & Lime Juice In Preparation 2

This post is barely a recipe at all, but it is such an important part of my daily diet, I wanted to share it with you. And it’s an excellent distraction from the sour chewy sweets I used to love eating.

Lemons and limes are absolute powerhouses of positive, alkalising nutrition, reducing the risk of contracting various long-term health problems and giving a boost to the immune system in general.

Lemons & LimesProviding an excellent source of vitamin C, they are helpful in preventing osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. They also contain unique flavonoid compounds and limonoids, which provide powerful, long-lasting, anti-cancer effects (source: World’s Healthiest Foods).

Juicing Lemons 1

They are also deliciously sour. Although I enjoy utilising them in a wonderful variety of cooking applications, my absolute favourite way to harness this nutritional potential is by drinking lemon or lime juice (watered down of course!), often several times a day. A large glass of lemon or lime juice in the morning is a fantastically healthy way to start your digestion off in the morning, and throughout the day, this drink can give a welcome boost to your vitamin C intake among the other multiple benefits I have already gushed about.

Lemon & Lime Juice In Preparation 1

I used to only be able to drink this with a little sugar added, which is unlikely to maximise the health benefits, but I have retrained myself to appreciate it as it is. If you’re struggling with the sourness, I suggest using a little less juice and building up a resistance to the (delicious!) sour, rather than adding a sweetener.

Lemon Juice Ice Cubes 1

Lemons and limes don’t get much of a chance to go off in my house, but if they do in yours, it’s good to know that they freeze well – just defrost overnight in the fridge. If you are as keen on this drink as me (or you don’t have room in your freezer for loads of fruit), you might like to consider squeezing a large batch of juice and freezing it in ice cube trays. This will preserve the nutrients in a way that the fridge will not and all you need to do is pop a few ice cubes in a glass of water when you fancy a drink. Read about other fascinating uses for lemons and limes here.

Lemon & Lime JuiceThis drink really is a superb addition to your day. If you live somewhere with cheap lemons and limes, spare a thought for me – I moved to Stockholm in Sweden yesterday and the biggest shock so far has been the price of limes. I’m still recovering.

Lemon & Lime Juice 2

Lemon & Lime Juice
Serves 1
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 lemon or lime
  2. one medium glass of water
Instructions
  1. Squeeze the lemon or lime juice through a strainer into a small bowl. I have found a wooden reamer to be the best implement for the job. You do not have to strain the juice, but I really don't enjoy a lumpy drink, so for me it is important.
  2. Pour into the glass of water.
  3. Drink!
Ramsons & Bramble http://www.ramsonsandbramble.com/
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