More balcony delights and Greek food with friends

This week I’ve once again been enjoying my home grown produce.  First up I had a fairly large amount of tomatoes that had all ripened at the same time and I wanted to make a dish which really showcased them.  The tomatoes I used to buy in Britain didn’t really have much of a flavour, they were just kind of there.  Getting fresh tomatoes out here was a revelation and growing my own even more so.  Suddenly there was something too these little red fruit.  No more would they be on the side or just a base, I could instead enjoy dishes that showcased them.

For this particular collection of tomatoes I decided to make a polenta , tomato and mozzarella tart.  I love using polenta as a base to tarts, it makes a really interesting and healthy alternative to pastry as well as having the benefit of being gluten free.  Admittedly it takes a little more work than just using readymade pastry, but if you’re after something a little different and an interesting mix of crunch and softness then it’s worth the extra five or so minutes work.   This particular batch of tomatoes turned out to be really sweet making this tart absolutely divine.  I was so glad I made it.

Ready to be cooked

The tart ready to go in the oven

One of the easiest things to grow in even the smallest of spaces are salad leaves.  A little while ago having finally accepted that the violas I had planted in Spring were past their best I threw then out and sewed some spicy salad leaves mix instead.  Three weeks later I suddenly had plenty of salad use!

My spicy salad leaves

My spicy salad leaves

I’ve also found that in the summer, when I can keep things alive, it works out much cheaper to buy a small herb plant from the local garden centre to grow on the balcony than to keep buying cut bunches of herbs from the local supermarket.  As a result I’ve been growing most of my favourite herbs (basil being the main exception –having somehow killed 6 different basil plants since moving here I have finally accepted that it does not like the particular microclimate of my balcony!).

So with plenty of spicy salad leaves and lots of lovely herbs to use up I opted to make some Vietnamese Summer rolls.

These are a little fiddly to make as the wrappers have a tendency to stick to themselves, but they are worth the effort.  A really fresh and verdant summer lunch.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

The other foodie moment of note last week was that I had some friends round for dinner.  On a recent trip over here my mum had been kind enough to bring me some halloumi cheese and since I was looking for a good excuse to use this present I decided to go for a bit of a Greek theme.  The starter was the simple celebration of good cheese that is saganaki and for main course I made a dish of cod baked with tomatoes, lemon and garlic served with some spinach rice.

After all those heavy flavours I thought I’d make a nice light dessert of a frozen lemon yogurt, curd and zest mixture and some broken up meringue pieces.  I don’t usually do frozen desserts, but I thought I’d have a go.  The recipe I used said that this would set in the freezer in 3 hours – it lied – when my friends arrived it was still distinctly liquid!  Luckily by the time we came to eat it it was semi-solid and I was able to serve it, but I’ve definitely learnt my lesson.  Next time I’ll be getting this in the freezer the night before!

Halloumi Saganaki

Halloumi Saganaki

The remains of the cod!

The remains of the cod!

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