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Packs a punch


So I know I said the South of France in June was paradise, but London at this time of year is also FINE. Things are a little slower to get going, but once they do, BAM! Best of British all around! Grown in Sussex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Berkshire! An overwhelming choice of greenery and goodness, all grown on our doorstep. A trip to the greengrocer becomes a veritable test of my British geographical knowledge (poor to very poor) and a whistle-stop tour of the Fair Isles. I just came out laden with fresh produce because my very hungry caterpillar eyes were a little bigger than my shopping bag. I had to stuff overflowing bunches of mint and coriander into my handbag and was even complemented in the stationary shop on the way home for the literal whiff of summer I brought in with me. Maybe I'll start wearing mint in my hair.

And I'll make a guilty confession: I did miss M&S. British Halloumi? Don't mind if I do. Bluemin White made by Yorkshire shepherds? Never heard of it, but sounds delicious. It's lucky I'm here for a few weeks, so I'll have plenty of time to sample the plethora of British cheeses now available on the shelves. And it's so tricky to find chia seeds and flax in Cassis.

I'm starting rehearsals for a new project this week and am mostly looking forward to how smug I'll feel about my superior summer packed lunch offerings. It's not a competition, but I do enjoy the daily buzz of excitement when I'm about to reveal my daily creation.


Pea, broad bean and cheese salad

Makes two servings, takes 25 minutes

salad / easy peasy / nothing fancy / spring / summer / baby / vegetarian

This is a colourful and satisfying salad. Spelt has the perfect level of chewiness to compliment the veggies. It also contains a different kind of gluten to regular wheat, which is more easily digested and contains more helpful fibre. Goodie.

* Spelt - half a glass

* Peas - 500g (unpodded weight)

* Broad beans - 500g (ditto)

* Watercress - a couple of handfuls

* Bluemin White cheese (or other goat/sheep cheese) - 60g

* Toasted pine nuts - a handful

* Extra virgin olive oil - to drizzle

* Lemon - to serve

Simmer the spelt in a glassful of lightly salted water for 20 minutes. All the water should have evaporated by the end. Meanwhile, pod the peas and broad beans, keeping them separate. Boil the broad beans for about 3 minutes and then add the peas to the pan for a further 2 minutes. Drain. Divide the salad ingredients between two plates/bowls/lunch boxes and drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a squeeze of lemon. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

* If this is for a packed lunch, and I hope it is, carry the dressing with you in a separate little jar to dress when you eat. It'll keep it crunchy....and add an extra flourish to the unveiling.

Vietnamese chicken salad

Makes two servings, takes 20 minutes

This is FRESH and zingy. There are zillions of variations you can try - squid or prawn instead of chicken; adding glass noodles; trying different veggies - baby sweetcorn/beansprouts/sugar snaps; peanuts instead of cashews. The world is your oyster (sauce).

* Lime - juice of 1.5

* Coconut oil - 1 tsp

* Chicken breasts - 2, sliced

* Carrot - 2, peeled

* Cucumber - about 2/3, peeled

* Coriander - a big handful, chopped (with stalks is fine)

* Mint - a big handful, chopped

* Cashew nuts - a handful, chopped

* Fishsauce - 2 tbsp

* Rice vinegar - 1 tbsp

* Soy sauce - 2 tbsp

* Sugar - 1 tsp

* Chili flakes - 1 tsp (I usually fresh chili for this, but I forgot to buy any)

* Sesame oil - 2 tbsp

Squeeze one of the limes over the chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper. Heat a griddle pan on a high heat with the coconut oil. Grill the chicken for about 10 minutes, turning once. As it's in strips it will cook quickly, so keep an eye on it so it doesn't dry out.

Meanwhile, use a peeler or a mandolin (fancy) to make fine ribbons of the carrot and cucumber. Divide the vegetables, herbs and nuts between two bowls and toss to combine.

Whisk together the rest of the lime juice with the remaining ingredients to make the dressing. Dress the salad and place the chicken on top when it's cooked.


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