I'm finally back in the UK after my year in Madrid. It's a strange feeling- leaving the midst of summer there and 35 degree heat, open terraces and sunbathing in the parks, to return to the still spring-like English countryside, wide open fields that stretch for miles and a timetable where bed time means 10pm!
I'm going to miss Madrid hugely. I've fallen in love with the city over the last 10 months and know that one day I'll be back. It's a really great place to live. There's always something new going on in the foodie world over there and you can't help but feel in a good mood when you wake up to strong coffee, beautiful bright sunshine and Spanish red wine.
It's taught me a lot about how I am, the people around me and how to learn to live and be comfortable in my own skin, finding the confidence to live in a world where you adapt to new cultures, new languages and new favourite places.
And I've been lucky enough to meet beautiful people from all over the world with whom to discover Madrid's hidden secrets.
In a week's time, I'm going back there with some of my oldest friends from home and I told them I'd show them around my favourite places- but the truth is, it's just too hard to pick!! Everywhere in Madrid has such charm. I've been meaning to let you in on my Madrid foodie secrets all year but just have't found chance to capture them all- when I return I'm going to pick out my all time favourites for you and let you in on the best places to wine and dine in the city!!
However, being back in the UK does mean that I'm finally back in a proper kitchen. I've had so little time over the last few months to cook and experiment with that I've lost a little inspiration in the kitchen and suffered my own kind of writers block. But returning home to a proper kitchen, the summer vegetable patch in full swing and more free time, means I've got lots of new ideas coming your way. Starting with this fresh summer salad, using the first of our homegrown giant spinach leaves and peppery watercress and tossed with salty feta, toasted almonds, a sweet honey dressing, and tangy za'atar grilled apricots. This would be a great accompaniment for a BBQ, especially if you can grill the apricots on the bbq to give them a slightly charred, caramelised exterior.
1tsp heaped za'atar
1tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 packet of feta cheese
Large handful of pistachios
3-4 small Radishes
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
Put a grill pan on a high heat. Let the pan get really hot (do not add any oil) and then carefully add the apricots. Grill them on each side for 2-3 minutes until they begin to caramelise. You may want to do them in batches so that you can watch them and turn them evenly.
Chop up the feta and pistachios and thinly slice the radishes. Put another frying pan over a medium heat and add a large handful of flaked almonds. Toast the almonds for 3-4 minutes until lightly golden and then remove from the heat. (Watch these as they will burn very quickly!! )
Wash your salad leaves (I used spinach and watercress but you can use any mixture you fancy). Add the salad leaves to the mixing bowl which contained the apricots and coat the leaves in the remaining marinade along with another tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a little salt and pepper. Then add in the grilled apricots, feta, pistachios and radishes. Toss all the ingredients together and then sprinkle over the flaked almonds.