Sweet salads and blackberry cheesecake for the summer!
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Sweet salads and blackberry cheesecake for the summer!

Denise Phillips gets interesting with leaves, nuts and berries

Blackberry & Spinach Freekeh Salad

Freekeh is a super grain, wheat that is harvested while young and green.  It is roasted over an open fire; the inside grain is firm, slightly chewy and has its own distinct nutty and smoky flavour.

It has been a staple grain in Middle Eastern diets for centuries, but is now having an international revival.

Loaded with nutrients, high in fibre and protein and low in fat, it is in fact superior to quinoa but, of course, not suitable if you don’t eat gluten.

Use bulgur wheat as a tasty alternative to freekeh if you can’t buy it.

Preparation: 15 minutes    Cooking:  15 minutes plus cooling time  Serves:  4-6 people 

Blackberry & Spinach Freekeh Salad

Ingredients

  • 250g freekeh
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder
  • 75g baby spinach leaves
  • 100g red cabbage – tough core removed, very finely sliced
  • 1 small eating apple – cored and cut into match sticks (leave skin on)
  • ¼ small red onion – sliced wafer thin
  • 15g walnut pieces
  • 75g blackberries

Dressing:

  • 1½ tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1½ tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 90ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Method

  1. Put the freekeh and 1 litre of water in a pan, together with 1 teaspoon salt
    and 1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder.
  2. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer covered for 15 minutes
    or until just tender. Leave to cool.
  3. Comnine all the dressing ingredients together.
  4. Bunch the spinach leaves together on a chopping board and slice them finely.
  5. When the freekeh is cool, stir in the spinach, cabbage, apple, onion, walnuts and blackberries.
  6. Transfer to a serving bowl.
  7. Add the dressing just before serving.

Asparagus with spiralised Courgette Salad

Asparagus with spiralised Courgette Salad

This is a tasty simple salad that uses the freshest and finest ingredients and is perfect as a starter or light lunch.  To embellish it, add cheese or cooked and fresh flaked salmon or smoked salmon slices.

Asparagus is low in calories and a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Stem thickness indicates the age of the plant with the thicker stems coming from older plants. In the UK, the asparagus season begins on 23 April and ends on Midsummer Day; its short season is one reason asparagus can demand a premium price.

White asparagus shoots are grown covered with soil so they are not exposed to sunlight, ie no photosynthesis starts and hence the shoots stay white. They grow more abundantly in Europe and are often referred to as ‘white gold’ or ‘edible ivory’ asparagus.  White asparagus tends to be less bitter and more tender.

Preparation: 10 minutes    Cooking:  3 minutes     Serves:  6 people           

Ingredients

  • 200g fine asparagus
  • 2 large courgettes – about 250g
  • 100g black olives
  • 100g baby plum tomatoes – cut in half

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon olive oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup or honey

Method

  1. Place the asparagus in a perforated metal tray.
  2. If using a steam oven, press steam at 100ºC and cook for three minutes or cook on hob in a saucepan with 2cm of boiling water for three minutes. Drain.
  3. Remove and leave to cool.
  4. Using a spiraliser or grater, grate the courgette into ribbons.
  5. Add the olives and tomatoes.
  6. Combine the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad just before serving. 

Toasted Almond & Blackberry cheesecake

I love this black and white combination of blackberries and cheese. Make it a day in advance so it has time to chill and the flavours to merge. The secret to its light texture is to cook the cake on a low slow light, which also helps to prevent cracking. Decorate just before serving for best results.

Ingredients

Base:

  • 200g tea biscuits
  • 75g toasted flaked almonds
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 150g melted butter

Filling:

  • 900g medium fat soft cream cheese
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 200ml sour cream
  • 250g blackberry jam
  • 25g toasted flaked almonds
  • 100g fresh blackberries

Icing sugar and cream to serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC / 180ºC fan / Gas mark 6.
  2. Line and grease a loose-based 23cm cake tin with baking parchment.
  3. Place the base ingredients in a food processor and whizz together to form a fine crumbled mixture.
  4. Transfer to the lined baking tin, firmly pack and bake for
    10 minutes.
  5. Whisk the cream cheese and sugar together until thick. Add the flour, vanilla extract, eggs and finally the sour cream and whisk again to combine.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the tin with dollops of jam as you go. Smooth the top as gently as possible.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes and then scatter over the toasted flaked almonds.
  8. Decrease the heat to 110ºC/ 90ºC fan/ ¼ gas for a further 35 minutes.
  9. Turn off the oven and leave to cool for about two hours. Transfer
    to the fridge to chill overnight.
  10. Remove from the tin and carefully peel away the baking parchment.

To serve the stylish way: Dust with icing sugar and decorate with fresh blackberries.

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