Did someone say Bikini-body for summer…?

Well, not really, but we have been eating an awful lot of raw main meals this week. never hurts to try and cut down on unhealthy fats and the uptake of fresh fruit and veg has been great.


Lunch – Coleslaw lettuce wraps with mustard and maple syrup dressing.


Dinner- Raw chestnut mushrooms stuffed with spicy guacamole and cucumber, tomato and basil salad.



Melon, banana, strawberries and clementine.


Lettuce and avocado salad with mustard and maple syrup dressing.  I am just loving this dressing… it is just a tablespoon of dijon mustard, a tablespoon of maple syrup and the juice of half a lesson stirred vigorously. Mmmm…… simple and good.


This was a huge hit in our house. It was simply raw courgette ribbons topped with salsa. I chopped up raw tomatos, crushed one garlic clove, a tiny bit of diced onion and marinated it in olive oil, lemon juice ad fresh basil leaves for several hours. I then made the courgette ribbons by using the vegetable peeler added the salsa and scattered with walnuts. It was really very good indeed!




Radish salad.

This is by far my favourite way to eat radishes- which are a favoured vegetable. Thinly sliced radish, 1 crushed garlic clove, chopped spring onion, salt, pepper and a tablespoon of sour cream.  I do not know if this is an Eastern European dish, I just know that every time I saw this on a menu in Kiev I would order it.



Tomato salad

Tomato,olive oil, lemon juice and fresh basil. I often add chopped black olives and/or crumbled feta cheese.


Cucumber salad

Cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice and fresh mint. I am afraid today’s version was without mint due to an unfortunate mishap featuring one of our cats and a mis-timed leap onto the window sill.

Today we encouraged summer by having the first BBQ of the season. Grilled halloumi, pineapple and pepper skewers were a perfect match for the above.

Butter Bean and Avocado Spread


I find I get tired of hummus very quickly, and so am often looking for an alternative. Today I had a tin of butter beans, several rapidly ripening avocados and thought that combining the two would be rather nice to use in place of hummus, or margarine, or as a dip or as anything else really.


1 tin butter beans in water, drained and rinsed

1 medium sized avocado

1 tablespoon olive oil

juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon paprika (I used sweet as this is all I have, but hot might be nicer)

splash of water to allow for smooth blending

salt and pepper to taste

fresh parsley chopped on top.



This was quite okay. Very mild and creamy tasting. A recipe for tweaking.

* I mentioned this was a recipefor tweaking. H-Gusto tried it the next day and suggested more lemon and a bit of cumin. It lifted the taste right up. P1070286


Meat-free Monday- Ratatouille, roasted asparagus and walnut sauce


Ratatouille, crusty bread and white wine is a summer staple for us. Summer still seems to be a very long way off, but we thought we might hurry it along a bit.

This walnut sauce I usually use for steamed green beans. But we had a bunch of asparagus that needed eating. With crusty bread and butter or olive oil for spreading, plus a bottle of good french white, this was a delicious, meat-free Monday meal.


1 aubergine – diced

1 medium courgettes- diced

1.5 can tinned tomatoes with herbs

2 garlic cloves crushed

1/2 cup red wine

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

sautee garlic and onion in oil. Add aubergine and courgette and sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add tinned tomatoes (I was doing the quick and easy version!) and simmer until cooked and vegetables tender.

Walnut sauce

1 cup walnuts

gloop of olive oil

squeeze of lemon

1 small bunch parsley finely chopped

1 garlic crushed

add ingredients to a blender, blend until a coarse paste. You may need to add water to make it more saucy. Gently heat and pour over top of roasted asparagus. As a variation, this sauce is also lovely if you add cream and stir through hot flat ribbon pasta.

Green Pepper and cashew dip


I hate green peppers. Absolutely hate them, with a pure hate.

And so these green peppers- bought in a fit of optimistic hopefulness- have been ignored until they have become wrinkly. I could not bring myself to throw them out and waste them, and hoped that H-G would oblige by eating them wholesale, but when that did not happen I had to do something with them.

Some years ago I made a delicious red pepper and cashew nut pesto. While rifling through the cupboards I came across cashews and thought it may be possible to re-create this, but as a dip for vegetables which are much more to my liking. The darned things were only going to be chucked anyway, so it was worth a try.

I put the peppers into a hot oven for 40 minutes, until they blackened.


Then I peeled off the skin and put the chopped  peppers into a plastic jug and added cashews.


This I blended with my trusty hand-held blender and added about 3 teaspoons of salt.


mmmm. Yum. No oil was added at any stage, so this was a gorgeous, yummy, healthy, dip. I ate this with carrots, cucumber and breadsticks. It will also be great tomorrow as a sandwich spread instead of mayonnaise.

I am not likely to become a fan of green peppers anytime soon… but if one must, then this is quite an acceptable way to eat them.

Russian Salad ‘Olivier’

dolls,faces,Matroishkas,Matryoshka,Matryoshka dolls,Matryoshkas,nested dolls,nesting dolls,Photographs,Russia,Russian dolls,Russians,toys,wooden dolls,wooden toys

When I lived in Kiev I had a strict Friday evening post-work ritual. I would go to a nearby cafe and eat Russian Olivier salad with rye bread, followed by Chicken Kiev (yes, they really DO eat it in Kiev) all washed down with a margarita or two. If there were no friends or colleagues available to join me I would take a book and just relax and unwind and settle in to the weekend.

I was reminded of Russian Olivier salad and how much I loved it just recently when I was flicking through one of my (many) cookbooks. I am on a bit of an Eastern European cuisine fixation right now, and thought that making up a vast pot of Russian salad to eat with pumpernickel bread sounded as good a way as any to spend today.


1 large potato, diced small

1 large carrot diced small

1 cup peas

4 good sized pickled cucumbers diced small

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Diced chicken or smoked sausage. (I used chicken)

I decided to google Russian Olivier salad, and discovered it has a romantic history which featured jealousy, plagiarism and betrayal. All that drama contained within one, rather scrumptious, dish.



Leeks au gratin

Husband-Gusto loves leeks with a passion but I am not so keen. However, yesterday on my evening commute home I eavesdropped overheard one woman telling her friend about a meal out they had that week, which featured leeks au gratin and which had fried breadcrumbs on top. Hmmm. Leeks! With Cheese! And Crunchy Bits! I thought that sounded pretty good so started with that as an idea for a side dish for this evening and then built the rest of the meal around it. In the end we decided to go for roast pork, apple sauce, leeks with crunchy bits and veg.

I bought five good sized leeks, cut the tops off, cut them lengthways and layered them in an oven proof dish. Then I poured boiling water over them and soaked the leeks for an hour, changing the water twice. I did not want to put the leeks on the hob and overcook them, so just soaked them. Next time though I think I will boil for 5 minutes or so, as they were still a little crunchy.

After this I made a normal white sauce (butter, flour and milk, stirring hard so that it was smooth.) When the white sauce was ready I drained the leeks and poured the sauce over it. Then added grated cheese.

I then put this dish in the oven and baked it at 220 Celsius for 25 minutes, added homemade breadcrumbs (brown bread, toasted, attacked with a rolling pin and sprinkled). After the baking I turned the grill up, dotted the top with splotches of butter and grilled for about 2 minutes.

This was quite okay. I thought they were acceptable, H-G thought they were ‘great but perhaps a bit of mustard would have gone well’, B-G ate his quite happily. So, it may well be that cheesy leeks will become a staple in the Gusto household. (Perhaps.)

It must have been my day for eavesdropping. I also managed to insinuate myself into a conversation on the ferry that debated the merits of ‘The Anchor’ over ‘The Painter’s Arms’. If by any remote chance those people are reading, I hope you enjoyed your first visit in Cowes.