The joy of having an allotment is that I have become so much more aware of the seasons and what foods are available when. All I have to do is take a stroll amongst the plots and have a chat to the neighbours to see what they are growing, as well as working out how to grow the most productive vegetables in the particularly chalky soil we have.
I can tell you that we have lots of spring onions, garlic, onions and some purple sprouting broccoli growing and a tiny patch of rhubarb that should be pretty good this time next year. Hoping for our soft fruits to do us proud later in the year too but have been warned about the many pests that we have to net all out produce from. So, it still is very much of a try and see experiment this year. With the added on water ban of course!
This happens to be a good time of year for watercress and rocket which I love and I have began to get back into my salad eating, encouraged by the glorious early sunshine of a few weeks ago. So, here I have for you a very simple salad with a curiously savoury chocolate balsamic dressing to compliment some little savoury baked cheesecakes.
I am a big fan of baking Ricotta cheese both individually and as a whole savoury cheesecake. It is a healthy, light yet bland cheese but I have added some flavouring which brings it singing to life somewhat and all you need is a fairy cake tin in which to bake them!
Baked Ricotta Cakes, Watercress & A Chocolate Balsamic Dressing
Ingredients :-Makes 6 mini Ricotta cakes enough for 2 people as a lunch dish
1 tub Ricotta
Zest of half a lemon
1 crumbled dried bird’s eye chilli
1 or 2 tbsp Parmesan grated
Half a bunch of basil roughly chopped
6 cherry tomatoes for the topping
Lots of salt & pepper
For the baked Ricotta :-
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees and butter 6 holes of a bun/fairy cake tin.
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and season well.
Divide the mixture between the bun tin holes and top with a cherry tomato cut in half.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the Ricotta cakes look golden around the edges.
For the chocolate balsamic dressing:-
This dressing was inspired by a recipe for chocolate balsamic vinegar from Chantal Coady’s book “Real Chocolate” which I made then created a dressing of my own.
Make a balsamic syrup by placing 50g of sugar along with 40ml balsamic vinegar and 10ml sherry vinegar in a pan and heat it until the sugar is dissolved. Leave it to simmer slowly for about 5 minutes.
Add in 10g of good dark chocolate chopped finely. Stir to combine and leave to cool.
Add 1tsp of the chocolate balsamic, 1tsp of good red wine vinegar, 1tbsp olive oil and a splash of water to make the dressing and season.
Store the remaining balsamic reduction in the fridge for later use.
For the watercress salad :-Serves 2
1 pkt watercress
1 pear thinly sliced
Assemble the dish :-
Place the watercress into a 2 bowls and add the sliced pear. Spoon over the dressing.
Put the Ricotta cakes on top of the salad and spoon over a little more dressing.
This makes a very good lunch along with lots of good crusty bread and some cured meats and deli goodies. You could even have some more of the balsamic reduction with strawberries for pudding. I am!