Broccoli, Tomato, Feta and Hazelnut Salad – Avoca Cafe Cookbook

Aidan wasn’t so keen on the carrot and courgette salad so I thought I’d add a new salad for supper. I hadn’t been able to do any salads with nuts for lunch and Aidan loves broccoli so I decided to do the broccoli. feta, tomato and hazelnut salad from the Avoca Cafe Cookbook The Avoca book says it’s their most popular salad in the cafes. I was surprised before making it but even with a couple of other salads we ate a lot of this between 4 of us for supper. I’ve put the quantities from the Avoca book below but next time I’d do a bit less dressing and put in the rest of the pack of feta.

I made this salad again a couple of days later to use the rest of the feta and the one head of broccoli left in the fridge, I think this is destined to make a regular appearance on our table.


  • 110 g/4 oz. hazelnuts, shelled, with brown husk attached
  • 400 g/14 oz. (or one large head broccoli) broccoli florets (bite-sized)
  • 110 g/4 oz. good-quality feta cheese, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 225 g/8 oz. cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
  • 200 ml/7 fl. oz French Dressing


  1. Preheat the oven 180 degrees C, gas mark 4.
  2. Toast the hazel nuts in the oven spread out on a baking sheet, for about 5-10 minutes. Be careful to check them at the end because they can burn very quickly. Once they are done, tip them into a clean tea towel and rub them vigourously to take off the skins (this step is entirely optional if you don’t mind the skins, but toasting the hazelnuts gives a creamier flavor than when added raw). Let the hazelnuts cool,
  3. Optional just barely blanch broccoli (I did this by pouring boiling water over broccoli, draining immediately and rinsing with cold water)
  4. Gently toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl until everything is coated with the dressing, season with pepper and serve.
  5. This salad keeps very well covered in the fridge for about three days, and is an excellent idea for a picnic

Tomato and Mozarella Salad

Tomato and Mozarella salad is another very simple salad to make up. You must get the best flavoured tomatoes you can for this.


  • 200g Tomatoes, I used baby plum tomatoes here
  • pack mozarella, I used a pack of mini mozarella balls above
  • 4 sundried tomatoes (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • basil (optional)


  1. Slice large tomatoes and cut out the woody stem end
  2. Slice mozarella
  3. Arrange on plate
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and toss
  5. Slice sundried tomatoes and sprinkle on top
  6. Sprinkle torn up basil leaves on top


Carrot with Roasted Sesame Seeds Salad – Avoca Cafe Cookbook

I needed to make a nice lunch for vegetarian guests where one has a nut allergy (but no problem with seeds) so decided to make some salads and soup from the Avoca Cafe Cookbook. I made the roasted carrot and roasted pepper soup I blogged a little while back, Carrot salad, tomato and mozarella, a bean salad and baked brown rolls.

The carrot salad was very simple to make (especially using the magimix processor). I made a variation by adding courgette but kept everything else the same. The courgette made it look pretty (looks better than in the picture).


  • 4 coarsely grated carrots
  • 2 coarsely grated courgettes
  • French dressing
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds


  1. Toast sesame seeds in dry frying pan
  2. Mix carrots and courgettes, add all but a tsp sesame seeds
  3. Add dressing and toss
  4. Top with remaining sesame seeds

Mushroom Risotto, Spinach Salad and Lemon Cheesecake – Jamie’s 30 minute Meals

I was watching Jamie’s 30 minute meals whilst ironing last Sunday when Aidan (13 yrs) wandered in and got interested. He decided he’d try cooking the menu shown on the tv from Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals that evening. Now I must admit to being skeptical about a mushroom risotto plus salad plus dessert in 30 minutes given risotto usually needs constant attention and is best cooked slowly but overall the taste of Jamie’s 30 minute menus have ben worth the effort.

Our first hiccup was my food processor has given up so I have to chop the dried mushrooms, onions etc by hand so that took extra time. And great as Aidan is in the kitchen this was more ambitious than he’d ever made so I was coaching him through making the meal. We took at least an hr ! But it was very enjoyable cooking with Aidan and he learnt a lot so both of us were happy to spend the time. One of the areas he was not so sure on was identifying herbs so we spent a bit of time in the garden looking at the different herbs.

The spinach salad was nice but I felt too much dressing and I couldn’t work out the benefit of effectively soaking the pine kernels in the dressing before tossing. Next time I would make less dressing, toss the salad then sprinkle the toasted pine kernals on top (and much as we all like pine kernels and it pains me to say it you really could have got away with half the quantity of pine kernels. Family opinion was divided on the merits of adding the cucumber.

The cheesecake was really nice. I’ll get Aidan to make the cheesecake desserts a few other times. I think they could end up being very quick to make up. Perhaps using mascarpone next time. Not sure how many raspberries we used we picked what was available in the garden. One of the good things about this dessert is you could improvise with quite a few ingredients. I liked the individual servings.

Mushroom Risotto 


  • 1 large white onion, halved and peeled
  • 1 stick celery
  • 15g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 300g risotto rice
  • 1/2 a glass of white wine
  • 1 vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 litre boiling water or stock (we used Marigold swiss bouillon)
  • 500g mixed mushrooms, wiped clean and torn (we used a mixture of chestnut, shiitake and portebello mushrooms)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • a small bunch of thyme, leaves picked
  • a large knob of butter
  • 40g Parmesan, grated
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • small bunch of flat-leaf


  1. Put the onion, celery and dried porcini into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Heat a large saucepan on medium and add a good lug of olive oil. Scrape in the processed mixture and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Throw in the chopped rosemary and rice; stir well for a minute. Pour in the white wine and crumble in the stock cube. Stir until the wine is absorbed and then season.
  4. Add a couple of ladles of the stock or water and stir in well. You need to then keep coming back to the risotto every minute for about 16-18 minutes – stirring in a bit more stock each time. Add half the mushrooms after a couple of minutes.
  5. Heat the grill.
  6. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan and add a couple of good lugs of olive oil, the remaining mushrooms, garlic, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir for a second, add half the thyme and take off the heat. Add the remaining thyme to the rice.
  7. Put frying pan of mushrooms under the grill to crisp up, turn the grill off when they are golden and crispy.
  8. When the rice is al dente stir in the butter and most of the Parmesan, add lemon juice and taste for seasoning.
  9. Stir in half the parsley and throw the rest over the grilled mushrooms.
  10. Put the risotto onto a serving bowl and spoon some grilled mushrooms over the top with some extra Parmesan.`

Spinach Salad


  • 100g pinenuts, (50g is sufficient)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 200g baby spinach, sliced roughly into 1cm thick strips
  • 3 large sprigs of fresh mint, leaves picked
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, halved and sliced on an angle about 1cm thick


  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry non stick pan
  2. Put balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper into a large salad bowl and add the pine nuts (I’d add them later next time).
  3. Add the spinach, mint leaves, sun-dried tomatoes and cucumber. Don’t toss until the last minute.
  4. If you haven’t used the pine nuts sprinkle this on top.

Quick Cheesecake


  • 50g butter
  • 50g blanched hazelnuts
  • 8 gingernut biscuits
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 heaped teaspoons good quality lemon curd
  • Approx 150g raspberries
  • 250g light or low fat  cream cheese, marscapone cheese or crème fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or extract
  • A splash of milk
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • Good quality dark chocolate for grating ( approx 70% cocoa solids


  1. Place 4 tumblers for these cheesecakes into the freezer.
  2. Put the butter into a medium frying pan on a high heat. Wrap the hazelnuts and biscuits in a clean tea towel (we used a plastic food bag) and quickly bash with a rolling pin.
  3. Turn the heat off under the melted butter, tip in the bashed nuts and biscuits and stir. Finely grate in the lemon zest and mix well.
  4. Take the tumblers out of the freezer and divide the mixture between them, gently patting it down until firm.
  5. Put 1 heaped teaspoon (or two) of lemon curd into each tumbler and top with a few raspberries.
  6. Spoon the cream cheese, marscapone or crème fraiche into a bowl and add the vanilla paste or extract and a splash of milk. Stir, then ass the icing sugar and another splash of milk and mix really well until it looks soft and silky smooth. Divide between the tumblers.
  7. Scrape over a few gratings of dark chocolate and set aside until you are ready to serve.

Waldorf Salad – Jamie’s America

Jamie’s America is another cookbook I bought because (a) it was Jamie and I like his books, and (b) it looked to have a really interesting selection of recipes, but somehow I just never managed to use it. Since I was making a range of different salads and this was near the beginning of the book I decided to make it. To be honest it was a bit of a disappointment, it was pleasant but nothing special (whereas Jamies cucumber salad in my previous post was really tasty). Maybe it would work better with frisee ? I’d used romaine lettuce which may not have had a strong enough flavour. This book gets great reviews and Jamie is normally very good on salads so I’m not too sure what happened here.

Note as I entered the ingredients and instructions I realised I’d forgotten to add the blue cheese. I’ll try again with frisee and all his ingredients next time!


  • 4 large handfuls of salad greens (eg. fresee, romaine, arugula, watercress, baby spinach)
  • 2 large handfuls of seedless green or red grapes, halved
  • 3 medium celery stalks, trimmed
  • 2 large handfuls of walnuts (approx 100g), roughly chopped
  • Small bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1 red apple
  • 150g blue cheese (dolcelatte)

for the dressing

  • 1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp natural yogurt
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Toss together salad greens and grapes. Peel outer layer from celery. Slice at an angle then add to greens and grapes.
  2. Toast walnuts in a dry frying pan, shaking every 25 seconds. Watch them closely to make sure they don’t burn.
  3. Cut off tough ends of parsley stems and discard. Finely chop remaining stems and save them for the dressing. Chop the leaves and add to the salad greens. Add chopped parsley to rest of dressing ingredients — add enough olive oil to equal about three times the amount of the combined mustard and vinegar (in other words the acidic part of the dressing). Add the yogurt, salt and pepper and either whisk together the dressing or put everything in a jar and shake it up until the dressing has emulsified.
  4. Drizzle dressing over salad leaves. Slice apple into matchsticks (or thin slices, which is what I did) and scatter over the salad. Add toasted walnuts and use hands or tongs to mix everything together.
  5. Transfer salad to platter, piling grapes and walnuts on top. Scatter bits of blue cheese over everything. Finish with a quick drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Cucumber salad – Jamies 30 minute menus

I saw Jamie making this salad on tv as part of his Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals series and thought I’d give it a try. We were doing a barbecue, we usually do vegetable kebabs and have a basic salad with a barbecue but I fancied a change so I decided I’d make a variety of salads.  This was quite quick to make and looked pretty. When we came to eat it was very popular, I’d definitely make it again but I think I’d reduce the quantities of dressing, as there seemed to be a little too much dressing but I wouldn’t reduce the quantity of sesame oil as it wasn’t at all noticeable. (I’ve given Jamie’s quantities below for the dressing but adjust to your taste). Since I wasn’t using coriander leaves in any other dish I didn’t bother messing around with coriander stalks and haven’t included that step. The soy sauce in the dressing does make it most suitable as a side dish for any oriental  dishes but it can be used more widely. It would be a great salad to put into individual bowls as part of a Japanese meal.


  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cucumber
  • Small handful of fresh coriander
  • ½ a fresh red chilli


  1. Peel and grate 2cm of fresh ginger on to a serving platter and add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime, then check the seasoning.
  2. Use a speed-peeler to peel the cucumber in long ribbons over the platter. Discard the watery core.
  3. Finely chop ½ a chilli and sprinkle over.
  4. Take to the table but don’t toss and dress until you’re ready to eat.

Spinach, Avocado and Bacon salad

It’s been ages since we made this salad, I can’t remember where I originally saw the recipe for this salad but at one time we made it quite often. It is very simple and very tasty.


  • 200g small spinach leaves
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 lemon
  • 200g bacon
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


  1. Wash spinach leaves and dry in salad spinner, place in salad bowl
  2. Peel avocados and cut into pieces, toss in lemon juice (to stop discolouring) and place in salad bowl
  3. grill bacon until crispy, cut into pieces and place  in salad bowl
  4. Mix remaining ingredients and use to dress salad shortly before serving

Chicken Caesar Salad

The above photo really isn’t very good, in reality it looked much more appetising.

Chicken Caesar salad is a great favourite in our house. The croutons in particular appeal to the teens so they are a mandatory part of the dish but we all love anchovies as well. One of the great things about chicken ceasar salad is even though it’s pretty quick to make from scratch you can prepare the components the day before and assemble just before serving. Some of this is personal choice, we really like anchovies so will use a whole tin, other people may prefer just a taste.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 Chicken breasts
  • Cos/Romain or iceberg lettuce
  • 4-6 chunky slices good quality white bread
  • sea salt
  • olive oil
  • 50g tin anchovies
  • Ceasar salad dressing (either home made or good commercial dressing)
  • parmesan cheese


  1. Cook the chicken in a griddle pan.
    Add a little olive oil to the pan turn heat up to high. Slice chicken to be about 6mm thick. Add chicken slices to pan when pan is hot. Cook one side until griddle lines form then turn over, again cook until griddle lines form then turn down to a lower heat until chicken is cooked through.  Check if it’s cooked by poking the tip of a sharp knife into the thickest part; there should be no sign of pink and juices will run clear.
  2. Make the Croutons.
    Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Tear the bread into big, ragged croutons or, if you prefer, cut with a bread knife. Spread over a large baking sheet or tray and sprinkle over 2 tbsp olive oil. Rub the oil into the bread and season with a little salt if you like (sea salt crystals are best for this). Bake for 8-10 mins, turning the croutons a few times during cooking so they brown evenly.
  3. Thinly slice parmesan
  4. Cut the lettuce into strips about 3-4cm wide, then wash a spin (size of lettuce is personal choice)
  5. Arrange lettuce either in one large bowl or on individual plates. Break up anchovies and place on top of lettuce, add dressing. Toss gently.  Place chicken on top, add croutons and parmesan and serve.

Greek salad

I don’t need to look up a recipe to make a Greek salad but I thought it would be useful to post one up so I can direct my boys to it when I want them to make up a Greek salad for dinner.

These quantities make enough for 6 people (or 4 with leftovers for lunch the next day) and it takes about 10 minutes to make. We had this salad together with with a piece of pitta and humus each and some grilled halloumi cheese for dinner tonight.


  • 1 cucumber
  • 8 medium tomatoes
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 200g feta cheese
  • handful pitted black olives
  • 3 generous slugs of olive oil


  1. Slice or chunk cucumber and put in large salad bowl
  2. cut tomatoes in half, cut out the core then cut each half into 3 pieces and put into salad bowl with cucumber
  3. Peel red onions, cut in half then cut each half into thin slices and put into salad bowl
  4. Put three good slugs of olive oil over salad and toss
  5. Cut up feta cheese into cubes and put on top
  6. Cut or tear olives in half and put on top
  7. Toss salad gently to mix a bit more
  8. Serve