Four of the Best Attractions in Cambridge

Posted on: September 15th, 2014 Posted by

 

Cambridge

 

Best known for being home to one of the world’s top ranking universities, Cambridge is a city in the East Anglia region of England, around 50 miles from London. Cambridge is rich in history and steeped in tradition, with a charming atmosphere that makes it a great choice for a romantic holiday or city break with friends. In this blog, we suggest four of the best things to see and do during a stay in Cambridge.

 

punting on river cam

Punting on the River Cam

A trip to Cambridge would not be complete without a punting adventure on the scenic River Cam. Punting has been an important part of Cambridge’s history since the early 1900′s, and a ride on one of the small flat-bottomed boat is an unusual and fun way to see the city. There are a number of punt hire companies operating with a typical guided tour lasting around 45 minutes and offering great views of the famous “College Backs” and bridges. For those who are feeling energetic, go for the self-guided hourly hire option and set out on your own!

 

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Cambridge Sculpture Trails

Cambridge Sculpture Trails is the name for three specially designed walking routes which introduce visitors to a diverse collection of modern art. There are over 60 sculptures scattered through the historic and modern districts of the city with pieces from internationally acclaimed artists and those who are less well known. Trail One is approximately two hours long and explores the south of Cambridge, Trail Two runs through the city centre and can be broken down into shorter segments if preferred, while Trail Three is set in west Cambridge and passes through beautifully maintained college gardens. Maps for the trails can be found online or picked up from the Tourist Information Centre.

 

 cambridge botanical gardens

Cambridge University Botanic Gardens

The heritage-listed Cambridge University Botanic Gardens first opened in 1846 and features over 40 acres of trees, flowers and herbs from around the world. This amazing collection of plants includes a British wild flower garden, a Fen display, glasshouses with tropical and desert species, as well as themed walking trails. The gardens are open daily from 10am, and it is worth allowing at least 3 hours to look around at all the features.

 

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Denny Abbey Farmland Museum

Located by the village of Waterbeach, a short drive or bus ride from Cambridge, Denny Abbey Farmland Museum offers a fascinating look at the rural history of the region. The grounds of Denny Abbey provide an apt setting for the theme, having been farmed for over 2,000 years, and the ancient abbey itself is beautiful. Highlights of the museums exhibits include a 1940′s style farm-worker’s cottage, recreations of craftsmen’s workshops and displays of farming equipment that was once used by local people. Facilities on-site include picnic areas, a cafeteria and gift-shop.

 

 

The UK’s Best Events and Festivals in September 2014

Posted on: September 8th, 2014 Posted by

 

autumn

 

As summer draws to a close, it may be time for the kids to go back to school and life to return to the usual routine – but that doesn’t mean the fun has to end. This September stave off the post-vacation blues and add some pizazz to your weekends by planning a trip to one of these super events and festivals going on throughout the UK this month.

 

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Abergavenny Food Festival, Wales

Taking place on the weekend of 21st – 22nd September, the Abergavenny Food Festival won the National Tourism 2013 Award for the Best Event in Wales. Originally a small scale event , the food festival has expanded over the years but still maintains its core philosophy that celebrates the craft of food production,  the diversity of Welsh food and the pleasures of eating. This year, along with top exhibitors from a huge number of suppliers from the local area and beyond, the weekend also includes lots of special activities, from chef demonstrations and tasting sessions to live music and kid’s workshops.

http://www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com/

 

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Newent Onion Fayre, Gloucestershire

If you are looking for a day out with a difference, that won’t break the bank, the Newent Onions Fayre could be the answer. Taking place on Saturday 13th September, this one day event, which celebrates the first day of the onion harvest, is free to enter and is the UK’s only onion festival. The festival has its roots in the 12th Century and was relaunched in the mid-1990s, quickly becoming famous for its unique character. Highlights of the day include an onion show, an onion eating contest (we dare you to join in!) and a dog show, as well as a produce market, live music and street entertainers.

http://www.newentonionfayre.org/

 

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Air Cooled VW Show, York

Love music and classic campers? Then the Air Cooled VW Show is right up your street. Running from 12th – 14th September on the Escrick Park Estate, the show is a hot-spot for vintage VW campers, but you don’t have to own one to participate. Head to the event to see gorgeous examples of restored vehicles, show off your style in the themed fancy dress competition and enjoy the diverse range of musical acts on stage. There is even a dog show, so that your canine companion can join in the fun too!

http://classicvolks.com/vwfieldofdreams.html

 

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The Jane Austen Festival, Bath

The Jane Austen Festival is Bath’s annual event in honour of one of the England’s best-loved authors – Jane Austen. Running from 12th – 21st September, the festivities open with a Guinness World Record attempt for the largest gathering of people in Regency costume, and continue over ten days. Other events include literary talks, etiquette classes, concerts, dance lessons and much more – all with a distinctive period theme.

http://www.janeaustenfestivalbath.co.uk/

 

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Heritage Open Days, Various

Don’t miss out on the heritage open days taking place in hundreds of historic locations throughout England from 11th – 14th September. Special volunteer led events include guided walks, talks and the opportunity to access parts of properties that are not usually open to the public. For further information and to discover what is happening in your area, check out the link we’ve added below.

http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/directory

 

 

Exotic Fruits from Around the World

Posted on: September 1st, 2014 Posted by

 

exotic fruit

 

While once they were seen as exotic fruits, apples, pear, plums and even bananas are now commonly sold in supermarkets and on market stalls in most regions of the UK. However, there are plenty more fruits out there that you probably haven’t tried yet. In this week’s blog we take an adventure of flavour, looking at some of the diverse exotic fruits available across the globe.

 

ackee fruit

Ackee

The national fruit of Jamaica and in the same family as the better known lychee, the ackee fruit originated in West Africa and was taken to the Caribbean on slave ships during the 1700s.

Despite its popularity, ackee can actually be toxic if consumed before fully ripe, and was once referred to by the US publication TIME Magazine as one of the most dangerous foods in the world. When mature, the segmented fruit has a red rind, which opens to reveal shiny black seeds, along with edible pinkish coloured flesh. Ackee is at is best in the traditional Jamaican dish of Salt-cod and Ackee, which makes the most of its subtle flavour and texture to contrast with the fish in the recipe.

 

black sapote fruit

Black Sapote

Related to the persimmon and native to Mexico and Central America, the black sapote is known for its unusual chocolatey flavour. In season from around August until January, the fruit is similar to a tomato in appearance with a green skin and soft, dark brown flesh. Although not widely cultivated, this fruit is growing in popularity as many people seek out healthy alternative to sugar-filled sweets and desserts. Recipe ideas include using it to make smoothies, puddings and even to make ice-cream.

 

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Natal Plum

Native to coastal regions of South Africa, the natal plum or sarissa, is a low-growing shrub with white star-shaped blooms and oval shaped red fruit. High in vitamin C and a surprising good source of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, the natal plum is an important cultivated crop in Africa, however in other countries, it is grown mainly for its attractive appearance in gardens. Natal plum is eaten whole without peeling or removing the small seeds, and has a tart flavour which is often likened to strawberries or cranberries.

 

yangmei fruit

Yangmei

Also known as the chinese strawberry, the yangmei is native to China and has been cultivated there for thousands of years. Unlike the strawberries that we know and love, yangmei grows on trees and is a round-shaped fruit turns from a yellow colour to red when ripe. This fruit plays an important part in Asia medicine and is said to be helpful in the treatment of arthritis, be beneficial for the function of the heart and the digestion, as well as containing many powerful anti-oxidant vitamins. The flavour is sharp but sweet, rather like a blackcurrant or pomegranate, and it is delicious served on its own, or in juices and preserves.

 

Has this given you a craving to try something new? Is there any fruit you’d like to tell us about?

 

Five Glasgow Attractions to Visit With Your Children

Posted on: August 26th, 2014 Posted by

glasgow4

 

The city of Glasgow is one of Scotland’s most popular tourist destinations and a great choice for a family break. With lots of art galleries, museums and more, there is plenty to see and do in the city, and many attractions which are designed to appeal to the younger generation as well as grown ups. In this blog, we explore five of Glasgow’s best attractions to visit with your children.

 

glasgow science

Glasgow Science Centre

Located on the banks of the River Clyde, the Glasgow Science Centre offers an interesting day out for all age groups, and is an ideal option for days when the weather is less than pleasant. The extensive centre has three floors of interactive exhibits and workshops, plus a live lab, where you can see scientists at work. Other highlights include the 127m Glasgow Tower, a huge planetarium and an IMAX cinema. The Science Centre also has a café, snack bar and vending machines for refreshments.

 

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Scotland Street School Museum

Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1903 and opened in 1906, the Scotland Street School Museum was a school for over 70 years and now tells the story of Scottish education through the ages. With three reconstructed classrooms, the museum will take you and your kids on a journey into the past. The museum has activities throughout the year and the chance to dress up in old-fashioned costumes, play traditional games and more. As a bonus, the Scotland Street School Museum is free to enter, which is perfect if you are travelling on a budget.

 

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Tollcross Park

Nestled in the heart of Glasgow’s East End, Tollcross Park is a spacious public gardens with lots of fun features and well-maintained facilities. Spread over 37 hectares, the park has a magnificent rose garden, a children’s farm with friendly animals to meet, a sensory garden, an adventure play area for under 12′s, a nature walk and picnic areas. There is also an excellent leisure centre with swimming pool, gym and café.

 

 

 kelvingrove

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum

As one of the United Kingdom’s most visited attractions, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a must see – and it is also free to enter. Opened in 1901, this large gallery and museum has 22 themed galleries featuring amazing artefacts, artworks and memorabilia. Highlights include a Spitfire plane, works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and other influential Scottish artists, and a Scottish archaeology exhibit. The museum also has a café, which has a special children’s menu to cater to younger tastes.

 

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Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel

The award-winning Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel  is located on the northern banks of the River Clyde and is housed in an elegant concept building that was designed in 2004. The museum features a vast collection of transport related objects, from bicycles to cars and skateboards to locomotives. Three street scenes with reconstructed shops that you can go into add to this exciting experience.

 

What is your favourite family-friendly attraction in Glasgow?

 

 

Seven Marvellous Facts About Mustard

Posted on: August 19th, 2014 Posted by

mustard plant

 

Probably one of the world’s most popular condiments, mustard is used in cuisines as diverse as French, Indian and African. In this blog, we investigate this hot and pungent food-stuff and discover seven marvellous facts about mustard. Along the way, you’ll learn more about its history, as well as picking up a tip or to on how to use it!

 

  1. Mustard is made from the seeds of the mustard plant, a member of the brassica family which also includes cabbages, broccoli and brussel sprouts. White, yellow, black and brown mustard seeds are harvested from three varieties of mustard plant, and prepared using different methods depending on the type of mustard being made.

 

  1.  The powerful conqueror Alexander the Great was said to have sent a sack of mustard seed to his opponent Darius, with the message “that you may taste and acknowledge the bitterness of my victory”.

 

  1. Mustard has a very low calorie count (an average of around 5 calories per teaspoon) and since you only need a little to enjoy its powerful flavour, it is a great option for anyone on a weight-loss diet who wants to add an exciting new dimension of taste to their meals.

 

  1. The word mustard is thought to have its origins in the Latin mustum ardens. Mustum means must, referring to the un-fermented grape juice that the Romans used to prepare it, and ardens meaning burning, which of course refers to the piquant flavour.

 

  1.  Mustard has long been used as a medicinal plant. For centuries, mustard plasters – a poultice of crushed mustard seeds – were prescribed as a remedy for coughs, pneumonia and chills, while mustard baths were a standard medical treatment for muscle pains, fevers and stress for centuries.  While these treatments are still used in some countries today, the risk of burns from the mustard oils means that they tend to be less popular than they once were.

 

  1. Mustard seed sprouts make an unusual and delicious addition to salads – and they are healthy too! Growing your own couldn’t be easier – simply soak a pack of mustard seeds for 12 hours then drain, rinse, and place in a large jar. Cover with a piece of muslin cloth and place in a cool, light spot. Rinse again every 8 hours or so, and within a few days, you’ll have fresh mustard sprouts, ready to use.

 

  1. Although mustard will not visibly deteriorate if stored outside the refrigerator, the volatile oils which give it its distinctive flavour can be lost. Therefore most mustard manufacturers will encourage you to keep your mustard in the fridge once opened. The exception to this is dry mustard powder, which is made up as needed, and keeps for years without losing its intensity.

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Rich in natural beauties and with a wealth of well-preserved historic sites to discover, the Historic High Country is a popular touristic region in Georgia. Comprising of 17 counties in the north-western area of the state, travellers to this area are spoilt for choice with museums and galleries to visit, outdoor activities to try and plenty of great shopping and dining options. In this blog, we take a look of some of the leading attractions within the Historic High Country, offering a short “must-see” guide for anyone visiting the area.

 

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Funk Heritage Center

Funk Heritage Center is located in the city of Waleska within the Reinhardt University Campus. As an official National Parks certified Trail of Tears interpretation center, the museum is intended to tell the story of the Native American people who were forced to move from their homelands in the south-east during the 1830s. Highlights of the exhibitions include an award-winning documentary film about the tribes of the region, dioramas which demonstrate scenes of Native American daily life, an art gallery and the Hall of the Ancients, which is dominated by an mysterious petroglyph. Outside, there are walking trails and a native garden to wander around, as well as a reconstruction of Appalachian style settler cabins and farm buildings.

 

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Bartow History Museum

Located in the city of Cartersville in Bartow County, the Bartow History Museum is dedicated to providing an insight into 200 years of local history. From the arrival of settlers, to the development of the iron and textile industries which have played a key role in the economy of the region, the museum use a unique collection of artefacts, photos and more to tell the story of the region. The museum also boasts an excellent interactive gallery, where visitors can sit at an old-fashioned school desk, try their hand at textile making and touch objects which once belong to Cherokee and settler families.

 

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Rock City, Lookout Mountain

Located near Chattanooga, Rock City is a family-friendly attraction which was first developed in the 1930s. Perched on top of Lookout Mountain, this extensive park features awe-inspiring natural rock formations, beautifully planted gardens, a waterfall and suspension bridge, as well as a lookout point where it is said you can see over seven states. A final magical touch is brought to the experience by the collection of gnomes and fairy figurines which have been part of Rock City since its early days – the Fairy Caverns at the end of the walking trail are a quirky sight which is truly unforgettable!

 

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Pine Mountain Gold Museum & Scenic Railway

Located within Stockmar Park in Villa Rica, the Pine Mountain Gold Museum and Scenic Railway is a wonderful day out for all ages. There is an extensive museum which tells the story of the Georgian gold rush and a documentary which gives a detailed history of the Villa Rica mines. Visitors can enjoy an outdoor picnic, try their hand at gold-panning and wander the trails to see the historic mill buildings and waterwheel, as well as taking a ride on the scenic railway. The site also has a charming farm animals exhibit with sheep, horses and more.

 

Are you planning a tour of Northwest Georgia or have you already visited the Historic High County. Please let us know what you think.

 

 

 

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Looking for something fun and different to do with your family this summer? You are in luck – in this week’s blog we’ve gathered a selection of the most interesting events taking place throughout England this August.

 

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Go Gaga For Garlic at The Garlic Festival

Taking place on the 16th and 17th of August in the very scenic setting of Newchurch on the Isle of Wight, The Garlic Festival is an event with a difference. Blending a love of locally produced food with top quality entertainment this annual event will appeal to foodies and music fans alike. Garlic is centre-stage during the whole weekend with cookery demonstrations and tastings offering the chances to sample some unusual treats (garlic-flavoured beer anyone?) while other highlights include a fun fair and arts/crafts stalls.

http://www.garlic-festival.co.uk/

 

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Hone Your Woodcraft Skills at The National Forest Wood Fair

On  Bank Holiday Monday (25th August) head to Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire for the tenth National Forest Wood Fair – a celebration of trees, woodlands and timber. This action-packed day out in the countryside is perfect for adults and kids of all ages. From demonstrations of chainsaw carving by expert lumberjacks, falconry shows and wood-crafts lessons, to “have a go” sessions where can try your hand at wood-working, the fair also has lots of child-friendly activities, as well as a market, displays from local businesses and eateries.

http://www.nationalforest.org/visit/woodfair/

 

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Revel in the Ambience at The Notting Hill Carnival

From 23rd to 25th August, The Notting Hill Carnival brings an irresistible party atmosphere to West London, in the colourful and vibrant Caribbean style. This unforgettable event starts off with an open air steel drum concert, with family-orientated events taking place on the 24th, and the grand finale procession on the 25th.  Music, food, dancing and creative costumes make this one of London’s biggest and most exciting events of the year.

http://www.thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com/

 

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Discover British Wartime History at the Lytham 1940s Wartime Festival

On the 16th and 17th of August, the Lancashire town of Lytham welcome visitors from all over the world to their fifth annual 1940s Wartime Festival. With many participants turning up in 1940s style costumes, this event has a unique ambience and lots of themed activities and attractions. From replica vehicles and re-enactments to a fashion show and vintage tea-room, there is something to appeal to everyone.

http://www.lytham1940s.co.uk/

 

Is there a fantastic festival going on in your area that you think everyone should know about? 

 

What to See & Do In Dublin

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 Posted by

dublin

 

If you are looking for a lively and versatile holiday destination which offers something for every age group and personality, why not consider Dublin? Located on the east coast of Ireland, where the famous River Liffey joins the Irish Sea, the capital city is an ideal choice for a family break, a romantic weekend or a fun getaway with friends. In this blog, we suggest a selection of top things to see and do during a visit to Dublin.

 

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Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship & Famine Museum

The historic Custom House Quay, which was constructed in the late 1700s, is home to the The Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Museum. The tall ship is a replica of the original Jeanie Johnston, a cargo ship which took numerous Irish emigrants to the United States of America during the mid-19th Century. Tours of the ship are offered regularly throughout the day, to give visitors an idea of what life would have been like for the emigrants who made the journey to escape the famine in Ireland. Life-size mannequins and a gloomy under-deck area create an atmospheric setting, while with the knowledgeable guides who tell the stories of real people that took the life-changing trip make this a fascinating experience.

 

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Grafton Street & St Stephens Green

Considered to be Dublin’s leading commercial zones, Grafton Street is a paradise for anyone who loves to shop. High street stores rub shoulders with designer boutiques, beauty salons and delicatessens, and there is an excellent selection of restaurants, cafés and bars in this bustling and stylish area. While in the area, make time to spend a peaceful moment or two in Dublin’s oldest city park – St Stephens Green. Opened in 1880, the 22 acres recreational area has been kept with its original Victorian layout and has an ornamental lake and children’s play area, as well as a garden for the visually impaired and several statues of important figures from Irish history.

 

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Dublina

Dublina is a trio of exhibitions focused on the Medieval and Viking history of Dublin. Ideal for visitors of all ages, and particularly popular with youngsters Dublina is a fun and educational attraction with lots of interactive elements. The Viking exhibition includes a Viking long-ship and weapons, the chance to dress up in Viking gear and a reconstruction of a Viking house, while the Medieval exhibition takes you back in time with a Medieval street, traditional games and more. The third exhibition is focused on archaeology, demonstrating how historians work with artefacts to uncover Dublin’s past.

 

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Guinness Storehouse

One of Dublin’s iconic attractions and a must-visit for Guinness lovers is the Guinness Storehouse. Attracting millions of tourists since opening in 2002, the Storehouse is a historical building which has been developed to include some clever features – including the world’s largest pint glass. As you explore, you’ll discover everything there is to know about the story of Dublin’s most famous brew and the secrets of the production process. The Storehouse also has a gift and memorabilia shop, a restaurant serving dishes cooked with Guinness, as the Gravity Bar, where you can enjoy your pint and the marvellous panoramic views of the city.

 

Are you planning a trip to Dublin, and which attractions do you plan to see? Or is there an attraction that you think we should have included in our blog? Comment and let us know your thoughts.

 

 

 

Flowers have long been used as dining table decorations, but did you know that many of them are also suitable for eating? In this week’s blog, we look at the topic of edible flowers, and introduce you to some ideas of how to use them in the kitchen.

 

 yellow rose

 

Which Flowers Are Edible?

There are a wide variety of flowers that are safe for us to eat and it can be great fun to experiment, discovering the variety of flavours and textures that can be offered. Rose and violet are probably the best known – you’ve probably seen crystallised petals (coated in sugar for a sparkly look) on cakes and sweets. However, you might be surprised to find out that carnations, nasturtiums and chive flowers are edible too. Carnation petals have a clove-like taste and aroma, while vibrant nasturtium blooms have a surprisingly peppery kick and chive flowers have a subtle flavour reminiscent of onions. Other tasty florals include lavender, pansy, mustard-flower and borage.

 

 camomile tea

 

How To Use Flowers in Your Recipes

Flowers can be used in a wide variety of ways to bring colour, texture and unusual flavours to your dishes. To start, you could try sprinkling petals or small flowers over a salad, freezing them in ice-cubes or using them as an attractive garnish for cocktails and desserts. Other interesting and simple uses for edible flowers include infusing them in hot water to make an herbal tea, blending into a vinagarette or using them to make a syrup.  As your confidence for working with flowers grows, you can get more creative – stuffed courgette blossoms are a delectable seasonal treat and a seriously impressive dinner party starter, and dandelion petals are wonderful mixed with batter and fried to make fritters.

 

Top Tips

  • Only use flowers which you can positively identify as an edible variety. There are many excellent guide-books available to help you learn more.
  • Avoid picking road-side flowers which may have been contaminated by car exhaust fumes.
  • Buy edible flowers from organic suppliers or florists who don’t use pesticides or chemicals. Another alternative is to grow your own – many seed merchants now offer a specialist selection of seeds for edible blooms.
  • Pick the flowers in the coolest part of the day, when in full bloom. This ensures you get the best quality and taste.
  • Be cautious of consuming flowers if you suffer from asthma, hay-fever or other allergies.

 

 

Has this blog inspired you to try experimenting with flowers in your recipes? Or perhaps you’ve successfully used flowers to garnish or add flavour to your recipes in the past – why not share with us

 

 

Three of the Best Summer Salads

Posted on: July 14th, 2014 Posted by

 

family outdoor eating

 

If you are looking for healthy and tasty ways to feed your family this summer, then this week’s blog is for you. We’ve gathered three of the best summer salad recipes to help inspire your menus and bring fresh flavours to the table.

 

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Leafy Chickpea Medley

This delicious vegetarian salad is full of essential nutrients and has a lovely citrus dressing that makes it very refreshing as a light lunch or supper. Start by gathering your ingredients – a good mixture of salad leaves is the basis for this recipe, along with juicy cherry tomatoes and cooked, tinned chickpeas. Choose a couple of different types of lettuce (we like a mixture of red-leaf and romaine) as well as rocket, baby spinach, dandelion greens and lamb’s lettuce, as available. Tear larger leaves into bite-sized pieces but keep smaller ones whole. Prepare the cherry tomatoes by slicing in half and rinse/drain the chickpeas. To make the dressing, combine lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic, a pinch of salt and black pepper, plus finely chopped parsley, and mix thoroughly. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well.

 

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Thai Seafood Salad

This exotic salad is a delicious combination of seafood and Thai flavours that is perfect for lunch with friends or family. The easiest way to make this salad is to start with a pack of (pre-cooked and frozen seafood (look for one that includes shrimp, mussels, squid and scallops) as this cuts back preparation time considerably. While the seafood defrosts, shred up a generous quantity of iceberg lettuce leaves, cut a cucumber into cubes and finely slice some spring onions. For the dressing, blend lime juice and fish sauce with sugar, chopped green chillies and crushed garlic. Serve on individual dishes for each guest, decorating with a wedge of lemon or lime.

 

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Mediterranean Pasta Salad

With a Mediterranean theme, this filling salad is best made in advance and packs up perfectly for picnics and al-fresco dining. Begin by cooking your preferred pasta – shells, twists and tubes all work well. The other ingredients for this recipe are red and yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, black olives and red onions, as well as canned tuna chunks and feta cheese.  When the pasta is cooked and cool, simply combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. This salad can be dressed with olive oil and a splash of lemon juice, or you could opt for a vinaigrette made from balsamic vinegar, wholegrain mustard, salt and olive oil. To garnish, sprinkle with crushed fresh basil leaves.

 

Do any of these tickle your taste buds? Will you be making any today? Let us know if you have any better recipes.