best salad recipes

Jan 252017
 

Grilled Endive, Blue Cheese, Pear and Walnut Salad

 

 

Growing up on both sides of the Atlantic, I have always vacillated between whether to use American spellings (ie. flavor) or British spellings (ie. flavour). I am certainly guilty of mixing it up here on my blog.

 

I have spent more time than I need to trying to decide which type of spelling to follow. And my final decision is that I can’t decide. My formative education was in the US (and American spellings are just so simple for everyone to follow) but I went to University and worked in the UK (and British spellings are just so elegant). Either way, I feel like I am betraying one side of the pond.

 

It gets even more complicated when it comes to names of food. An ‘aubergine’ in the UK is an ‘eggplant’ in the US. A ‘courgette’ in the UK is a ‘zucchini’ in the US. And don’t even get me started on ‘rocket’ versus ‘rucola’ versus ‘arugula’.

 

I am having the same issue with the ‘endives’ in this recipe, which can also be called ‘escarole’ or ‘chicory’. In the case of endives, it is not just the name but the variety which is also causing some confusion. Endives can be loose frizzy heads of lettuce but they can also be submarine-shaped tightly packed firm leaves. For this recipe, make sure that the endives (or escarole or chicory) that you get are the tightly-packed submarine-shaped ones. Choose red or white according to what you have available.

 

Endives are slightly bitter, but bitter foods are supposed to be good for you because when your tastebuds sense bitterness, they send signals to your body to start producing more digestive juices. The increase in digestive juices means that your body is able to absorb more nutrients from your food. So, a bitter salad is a great way to start a meal.

 

You can eat endives raw, but I find that if you grill them it enhances their flavour (or should it be flavor?).

 

 

GRILLED ENDIVE, BLUE CHEESE, PEAR AND WALNUT SALAD

(Serves 4 as a starter or side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp honey (optional – it is not necessary but it will help balance some of the bitterness in the endives)

 

Salad Ingredients:

4 heads of endive (room temperature)

A little extra virgin olive oil to brush onto the endives before grilling

150-200g / 5-7 oz blue cheese, crumbled

1 pear (about 200g / 7 oz in weight)

80g / 2 oz walnut halves, roughly broken or chopped

 

Directions:

  1. Remove the outer leaves from the endives and slightly trim the base, making sure to leaves enough of the base attached so that the endive leaves remain attached. Cut the endives in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides with some olive oil.
  2. To grill the endives, warm up a griddle pan or Panini press on medium heat. When the griddle is hot, place the endives cut-side down on the griddle and leave for 5-7 minutes. If you do not have a griddle pan or Panini press, you can also grill your endives in an oven-proof dish in a 200°C oven for 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare your dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a jar and shaking well. Set aside.
  4. When ready to serve, arrange the endive halves on a platter. Scatter them with the walnuts and crumble some blue cheese on top.
  5. Make sure you slice the pear just prior to serving to avoid discolouration.
  6. Cut the pear into quarters lengthwise, remove the seeds and then slice each quarter horizontally (widthwise) to get small triangle slices of pear. Scatter the pear on top of the salad.
  7. Drizzle the salad dressing on top (you may not need to use all of it).
  8. This salad can be served either warm or cold.

 

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Jul 242016
 

Saffron Couscous and Chickpea Salad

 

‘Saffron Couscous and Chickpea Salad’ is a great summertime salad to bring to a picnic. It is packed with flavour, delicious at room temperature, and doesn’t get soggy. By steaming the couscous in saffron-infused stock (chicken or vegetable), all the delicious flavours are imbued directly into the grains so there is no need to make a separate dressing.

 

 

 

SAFFRON COUSCOUS AND CHICKPEA SALAD

(Serves 4)

 

Ingredients:

 

200g dried coucous

250ml hot stock (vegetable or chicken)

½ tsp loosely packed saffron strands

1 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp EVOO + 3 Tbsp EVOO

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

240g drained tinned chickpeas

8 cherry tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, deseeded and cut into bite-size pieces

6 radishes, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

1 small or ½ large cucumber, quartered and chopped

2 Tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

2 Tbsp mint leaves, chopped

 

Optional garnish (pomegranate seeds, chopped nuts, sumac)

 

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare hot stock and add the saffron strands, 1 tsp coarse sea salt and 2 Tbsp EVOO into it. Allow the mixture to infuse for 5 minutes.
  2. Pour the dried couscous into a saucepan (with a lid) and pour the seasoned stock on top. Mix quickly and then cover and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, uncover and fluff with a fork. Allow to cool. Once the couscous is cool, add 3 Tbsp EVOO and 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar. Toss well.
  3. While the couscous is cooling, drain and rinse the tinned chickpeas.
  4. Prepare all your vegetables by chopping your cucumber, tomatoes and radishes into bite-size pieces and roughly chopping your coriander leaves and mint leaves.
  5. In a large bowl, add the cooled couscous, drained chickpeas, and all the vegetables and herbs. Toss well.
  6. Refrigerate for upto 3 days .
  7. Before serving, scatter pomegranate seeds, chopped nuts and a good sprinkle of sumac over the salad (optional).

 

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Jun 172016
 

Grilled Aubergine Salad with Spice Maple Dressing

 

Grilled vegetables give salads a lovely depth and heartiness and one of my favourite vegetables to grill is aubergines (eggplants). To get lovely tasty grill-lines on your aubergines, you will need to use a griddle pan, panini press or barbecue. If you don’t have any of these, fear not. Roasting your aubergine slices in a hot oven or pan-frying them in a little olive oil also works well (although you won’t get the coveted grill-lines).

 

Whether you decide to salt your aubergines before cooking them (to eliminate bitterness) or not is entirely your decision. I don’t salt aubergines before cooking them and I have never experienced the bitter flavour which people talk about. However, I do tend to buy small or medium sized aubergine, so it is possible that these don’t have as much of a problem as the larger variety.

 

This aubergine salad recipe has a nice punchy Spicy Maple Dressing, and is easy to make in advance. If refrigerated, it should be allowed to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving for the best flavour.

 

 

 

GRILLED AUBERGINE (EGGPLANT) SALAD WITH SPICY MAPLE DRESSING

(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

 

Salad Ingredients:

500g / 1.1 lbs purple aubergines/eggplants, cut into half-inch (1 cm) thick discs with the peel left on

Extrta virgin olive oil to coat the eggplant slices before grilling

 

 

Dressing Ingredients: (makes 1/3 cup)

1 plump garlic clove, peeled

1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled

¼ – ½ tsp cayenne powder/red chilli powder (according to taste)

4 Tbsp maple syrup

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp coarse sea salt

Garnish with pomegranate seeds, chopped nuts or coriander leaves (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. To make the dressing in a food processor, process all the garlic and ginger until the pieces are very small. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients into the food process and process until well combined, about 15-30 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Pour the dressing into a jar and set aside. If you do not have a food processor, use the fine side of a grater or microplane to finely mince your garlic and ginger. Place all dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid, shake well and set aside.
  2. Wash and dry your aubergines and cut them into ½ inch thick slices.
  3. Pour several Tbsp of EVOO into a dish (preferably with edges so that the EVOO doesn’t spill over). Dip both sides of the aubergine slices in the EVOO and set on a plate. Do this for all the aubergine slices, adding more EVOO when necessary.
  4. Grill the aubergine on medium-high heat in a griddle pan, panini press or barbecue until the aubergine has nice dark lines on it, around 4 minutes. Alternatively, you can roast them in a 200C/400F pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes or pan-fry in a little olive oil (the aubergines will taste good but you will not get grill-lines).
  5. The aubergine slices in batches and allow them to cool on a plate. You can refrigerate the grilled aubergines for upto 48 hours. If you do refrigerate the aubergines, allow them to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.
  6. To serve, arrange the aubergine slices in a nice pattern on a flat serving dish.
  7. Spoon the maple dressing on top. You may only need to use about half of the dressing. The rest can be refrigerated and used in another dish or as a marinade.
  8. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, nuts and coriander leaves if desired.
  9. Keeps well in the refrigerator for upto 3 days.
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Jan 132016
 

Tuscan Kale and Bread Salad

 

Strictly speaking, a recipe for ‘Tuscan Kale and Bread Salad’ should be made with Tuscan kale. But I bent the rule with this one by using Curly kale instead as it is the only type of kale I have come across in Dubai. However, in keeping with the Tuscan theme, I have used other traditional Tuscan ingredients in this salad such as dried bread, cannelini beans, tomatoes and cheese.

 

Tuscan kale (also called lacinato kale or dinosaur kale) is a variety of kale which has long flat dark green textured leaves and is slightly less tough and bitter than the more common Curly kale.

 

As with all kale salads, make sure that you remove the stalks and massage the leaves with your hands for 2-3 minute to soften them and release their flavour (technique described in step 2 of the recipe directions below).

 

 

Tuscan Kale and Bread Salad

 

 

TUSCAN KALE and BREAD SALAD
(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated on the fine side of a grater

1 tsp coarse sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

100g / 3.5 oz kale leaves (weight of leaves without the stalks)

1 tin cannellini/fagioli beans (235g / 8 oz drained weight)

10 cherry tomatoes (about 120g / 4 oz)

Wedge of parmesan or pecorino cheese (according to taste)

2-3 slices of good bread (avoid ciabatta and focaccia as they are too rich for this purpose)

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare your salad dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients well in a jar. The amount of garlic you use should depend on how strong your garlic cloves are and how much you like to eat raw garlic. Cover and set the jar aside.
  2. Remove the long stalks which run along the length of your kale leaves. Wash and dry the leaves well, and then thinly shred them. To make the kale leaves softer and more tasty, I recommend ‘massaging’ them. Do this by putting the shredded kale leaves in a large bowl and squeezing the leaves on your hands for 3-4 minutes. This will soften their tough texture and release more flavour from the leaf. Massaged kale keeps well in the fridge for several days, so it’s often worth preparing a larger amount of leaves than you need so that you can keep dipping into it throughout the week.
  3.  Drain and rinse 1 tin of cannellini beans (or use freshly cooked beans). Place the beans in a large bowl.
  4. Add the kale to the large bowl and toss with the beans.
  5. Add the salad dressing and toss well to evenly coat the kale and beans.
  6. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half and throw them on top of the salad.
  7. Shave some fresh parmesan cheese on top of the salad (the amount should depend on your own taste). You may want to shave a little extra parmesan to garnish the top of the salad before serving.
  8. Toss everything loosely. The salad can be kept in the refrigerator like this for upto 3 days before serving.
  9. Prepare your bread by toasting some slices in a toaster until they are crisp but not burnt. After they have been toasted, allow them to sit in the toaster for 5 minutes to cool and dry out a bit. Once dry, tear them into bite-size pieces by hand. Keep the bread separate from the salad until you are ready to serve otherwise the bread will get soggy.
  10. To serve, re-toss the salad if it has been refrigerated for a while. Spread it on a platter and garnish with some extra parmesan shavings and the toasted bread.

 

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Nov 252015
 

Oriental Brussels Sprout and Clementine Salad

 

This crunchy Oriental-inspired salad is full of flavour and can be made with either raw Brussels sprouts or cabbage. If the idea of raw Brussels sprouts fills you with dread, try slicing them up and blanching them by covering them in some freshly boiled water for about a minute to take off the raw edge.

 

I had intended to make the salad with traditional green Brussels sprouts but in the run-up to Thanksgiving there were only purple ones left in the supermarket. Luckily, it turns out that purple Brussels sprouts are meant to be sweeter than their more famous green brothers, ostensibly making them a better option for salads.

 

Join the conversation: Have you tried purple Brussels sprouts yet?

 

Oriental Brussels Sprout and Clementine Salad

 

 

ORIENTAL BRUSSELS SPROUT AND CLEMENTINE SALAD

 

Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

500g / 1.1 lb Brussels sprouts

4 radishes

2 scallions / spring onions

1 clementine

2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare the salad dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shaking well. Set aside.
  2. Remove the outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts and trim the stalk. Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts. Thinly slice or shred the Brussels sprouts using a sharp knife. You can eat the shaved Brussels sprouts raw but I like to take the edge off them by putting them in a heat-proof bowl or pot (not on the heat) and pouring freshly boiled water from the kettle over them. I allow them to sit in the water for 1 minute and then drain. If you want to keep the colour vibrant, dunk the Brussels sprouts into a bowl of ice-cold water for 10 seconds and then drain. Allow to cool.
  3. Wash and trim the radishes. Cut them in half lengthwise and thinly cut into half-moon slices.
  4. Trim the scallions / spring onions and remove the outer later. Cut finely, using both the white and green parts.
  5. Peel the clementine and separate it into segments. Cut each segment into three or four bite-size pieces.
  6. In a bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts, radishes, scallions / spring onions, and clementines. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
  7. Add the dressing and toss well.
  8. Refrigerate and eat within three days.

 

Join the conversation: Have you tried purple Brussels sprouts yet?

 

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Oct 142015
 

Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach Salad

 

Who doesn’t love a good roasted vegetable salad? Well, I recently discovered a really delicious recipe for ‘Warm Cauliflower Salad’ on BBC Good Food ME. It has lightly charred cauliflower, roasted red onions, fresh spinach, crunchy toasted almonds and sweet raisins in it. Did I mention that the dressing has only 2 ingredients in it? Yes, this salad is pretty easy to put together once you have your oven pre-heated to 200C/400F.

 

I followed their recipe to the letter, except for omitting the dill because there was no dill in my supermarket on the day I went shopping. And even though this is a ‘warm’ salad, I can vouch for the fact that it is also delicious when served cool.

 

 

Share your thoughts: What’s your favourite way to eat cauliflower? If you have a great cauliflower recipe, feel free to link below.

 

 

Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach Salad

 

 

WARM CAULIFLOWER SALAD (BBC Good Food ME)

(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

3 Tbsp sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1&1/2 Tbsp runny honey

 

Salad Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets (the cauliflower I used weighed about 900g / 2 lb)

2-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (to be used for roasting)

Pinch of sea salt

250g / 9 oz red onion, thinly sliced

3 Tbsp raisins

3 Tbsp toasted almonds (flaked or roughly chopped)

50g / 1.8 oz baby spinach

Small bunch dill, snipped (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.
  2. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower, wash it, and cut it into florets. Toss the cauliflower florets in an oven-proof dish with 2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
  3. While the cauliflower is roasting, peel and thinly slice your red onion. After the cauliflower has roasted for 15 minutes, add the sliced onion (and 2 more Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil if necessary) to the cauliflower and toss. Roast for another 15-25 minutes. Make sure you don’t let the onions burn. Remove from the oven when done and set aside to cool.
  4. To make the dressing, mix the vinegar and honey in a jar and set aside. You don’t need to add any olive oil to the dressing because there is already a good amount of olive oil on the roasted vegetables.
  5. Toast your almonds either in the oven alongside the cauliflower (around 10 minutes, tossing halfway through to avoid burning) or by tossing on a dry pan until lightly browned.
  6. Wash and dry the baby spinach and roughly chop it. Do the same with the dill (optional)
  7. To serve, toss the spinach (and dill) in the vinegar-honey dressing. Add the roasted cauliflower and red onion and gently toss. Sprinkle the toasted almonds and raisons on top.
  8. Serve immediately for a warm salad.
  9. The salad is also nice when served cool (if refrigerated, allow it to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving). It can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

 

Share your thoughts: What’s your favourite way to eat cauliflower? If you have a great cauliflower recipe, feel free to link below.

 

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Sep 292015
 

Grilled Zucchini (Courgette) and Chard Salad

 

In Dubai, one of my favourite locally grown vegetables is kousa, a small light-green zucchini (courgette). One of my favourite moments is when I’m shopping for groceries and I get to the mountain of stacked kousa, taking my time to choose the smallest ones in the pile. Because it’s grown locally, it’s very inexpensive compared to the large zucchini which is imported from Europe, and I am able to stock up on it without worrying about the cost.

 

I use kousa in anything and everything from stews and curries to omelet fillers. It often makes it’s way to my table sliced lengthwise and roasted with olive oil and sea salt – a healthier and better-tasting alternative to french fries.

 

When grilled, kousa is delicious in salads. My recipe for ‘Grilled Zucchini and Chard Salad with Hazelnuts’ uses a nice combination of flavours and textures along with a simple lemon vinaigrette to make a delicious and beautiful side dish.

 

 

Grilled Zucchini (Courgette) and Chard Salad

 

 

Share your thoughts: What’s your favourite vegetable to grill and throw into a salad?

 

 

GRILLED ZUCCHINI (COURGETTE) and CHARD SALAD with HAZELNUTS

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Generous pinch of sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

400g zucchini (courgette), trimmed and sliced 1cm thick

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra is needed)

1/2 tsp sea salt

250g fresh chard or spinach leaves, washed and chopped

1 avocado, diced

3 Tbsp toasted hazelnuts (or any other type of unsalted nuts you have)

Fresh parmesan cheese (use as much as you want), thinly shaved

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare salad dressing by combining the dressing ingredients in a jar and set aside.
  2. Next you need to grill your zucchini. Preheat your grill pan or panini press to medium heat (if you don’t have either of these, you can use a regular frying pan or preheat your oven to 200C/400F). While you are waiting for the grill to heat up, wash and dry your zucchini and slice it into 1cm thick slices. Toss the sliced zucchini gently in a bowl with 3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 tsp of coarse sea salt. If you are using a grill or frying pan, cook the zucchini on both sides until it gets nice brown grill marks. If you are using a panini press, place the zucchini in the press and cook for a few minutes until you get nice brown grill lines. If you are using an oven, roast your sliced zucchini for 20 minutes (flip the slices halfway through cooking). Set aside.
  3. Wash the skin of your avocado. Cut it in half and remove the seed. Cut the avocado into cubes, discarding the skin. Set aside.
  4. Wash and dry the chard or spinach leaves and chop them (roughly or finely depending on your preference). Set aside.
  5. Toss with the grilled zucchini and avocado.
  6. To put your salad together, place a layer of chard or spinach leaves on a platter (if you are serving straight away, toss the leaves with some dressing. If you are serving later, leave the dressing out as it will make the greens limp). Place your grilled zucchini on top. Scatter with avocado cubes and hazelnuts. Thinly shave some parmesan cheese on top of everything.
  7. Pour the dressing on top just prior to serving.
  8. Serve straightaway or refrigerate for upto 24 hours.

 

Share your thoughts: What’s your favourite vegetable to grill and throw into a salad?

 

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Jul 052015
 

Petit Pois Salad

 

Last week, the award-winning bistro La Serre asked me to try making one of the new summer salads on their menu, ‘Petit Pois Salad’. I was excited that La Serre had reached out to me but also somewhat nervous. I’m a confidant home cook, but this place has a great reputation for excellent food – would I really be able to re-create some of that food in my kitchen?

 

La Serre was started in 2013 by Executive Chef Izu Ani, the former Executive Chef of La Petite Maison in Dubai. In April 2015, La Serre was the first restaurant in the Middle East to be awarded the ‘Snail of Approval’ by The Slow Food Movement. The award is a recognition of the restaurant’s commitment to sourcing authentic, sustainable ingredients and respecting the time and effort it takes to create truly good food. A few months later in June 2015, Chef Izu was named Head Chef of the Year (Independent Outlet) at the Caterer Middle East awards.

 

The list of ingredients

The first thing I noticed about the recipe for Petit Pois Salad was that the ingredient list was comprised of easily accessible items which I have at home most of the time. The one ingredient that was not so easy to find in Dubai was the fresh petit pois, so I decided to use frozen organic peas instead. Sliced raw mange-tout would also work well and flavour-wise might be a closer approximation to fresh petit pois, so that’s an option I will experiment with next time I make this salad.

 

A small challenge with measurements

Despite the ingredient list being very accessible, what I found more challenging was one of the things which separates professional kitchens from home kitchens: the measurement units. In a professional kitchen, food is made in much larger quantities so measurements of salt, sugar and olive oil are often given in grams rather than the tablespoons and teaspoons which home cooks are accustomed to using. My manual weighing scale (which measures in units of 20g) did not manage to accurately weigh out 10 grams of sea salt. A small digital weighing scale may work better for this, but I don’t have one so I decided to just eyeball it and add as much salt, sugar and olive oil as looked right to me, which I think worked out well.

 

Confit tomato: to make it or buy it?

True to their ‘Slow Food’ ethos, there is one part of the Petit Pois Salad which requires three long, slow hours of cooking – the confit tomato. It was not difficult to make, but you would need to find a time when you will be at home for three hours straight. Since the heat is set extremely low (40 degrees Celsius), you can’t double-duty the oven by using it for anything else at the same time (forget throwing in a leg of lamb to cook alongside it for dinner). Although the concentrated flavour of the confit tomato was very good, the recipe helpfully suggests a short-cut for anyone who does not have the time or inclination to make homemade confit tomato: sun-dried tomatoes can be used as an alternative. It would be even better if you can find semi-dried tomatoes which are slightly plumper and more juicy than sun-dried tomatoes. While I am glad that I tried making home-made confit tomato, next time I will probably look for a jar of good quality semi-dried tomatoes to use instead.

 

The final result

I haven’t eaten the Petit Pois Salad at La Serre so I don’t know how closely mine compares to it, but I was very happy with the end result. Each bite was packed with fresh and vibrant flavours and would make a great summertime accompaniment to grilled fish or lamb. Below, I have included my own version of the recipe first (with the changes which I made along the way) and then the original version of the recipe from La Serre below it.

 

 

Share your thoughts: Have you tried the Petit Pois Salad at La Serre, Dubai? I would love to know your thoughts on it!

 

Petit Pois Salad

 

 

I have included my own version of the recipe first and the original version of the recipe afterwards.

 

PETIT POIS SALAD (Total Salads’ version)

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

 

Ingredients:

280g small Italian peas, frozen peas, or raw mange-tout (sliced)

40g shallots

20g chives

2 Tbsp basil leaves (julienne – finely sliced)

40g confit tomato (see recipe below)

 

For the confit tomatothis can be substituted for sun-dried tomatoes 

  • 70g tomatoes (approximately 2 medium tomatoes)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • A sprig of thyme
  • 1 plump garlic clove, finely chopped

 

For the white balsamic dressing

  • 1 Tbsp white balsamic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp jalapeno jus (juice from jalapeno jar)
  • 1/4 tsp Maldon salt flake

 

Directions:

  1. To make the confit tomato, blanch the tomatoes and skin them. To blanch the tomatoes, cut an ‘x’ into the bottom of the tomatoes and place them in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove them from the water and immediately place them in a bowl of ice-cold water. Allow them to sit in the cold water for 1-2 minutes.The tomato skins should easily slip off.
  2. Cut the blanched tomatoes into quarters and remove the seeds inside. Remove any moisture with a paper towel.
  3. Put the tomatoes into a bowl and add the salt, sugar, oil, thyme and garlic. Mix thoroughly and spread out on a baking tray and leave to dry in a warm oven (40 degrees Celsius – my oven starts at 50 degrees Celsius so I used that temperature instead).
  4. Leave in the oven for three hours, remove and leave to cool. Dice, then set aside.
  5. To make the dressing put all ingredients into a Tupperware container and shake thoroughly.
  6. if you have fresh petit pois, separate them from their pods. If you are using frozen peas, boil them until al dente. If you are using mange-tout, wash and dry them and then slice them into 1-inch pieces.
  7. Season the peas with salt and then add the shallots, chives, basil leaves and confit tomato cubes then mix thoroughly.
  8. Arrange on a plate and dress liberally with the white balsamic dressing
  9. Season to taste, then serve.

 

 

 

PETIT POIS SALAD (La Serre’s original version)

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

 

Ingredients:

280g small Italian peas

40g shallots

20g chives

Basil leaves (julienne) 

40g confit tomato (see recipe below)

 

For the confit tomatothis can be substituted for sun-dried tomatoes 

  • 70g tomatoes
  • 10g sea salt
  • 15g sugar
  • 45g olive oil
  • A sprig of thyme
  • 4g finely chopped garlic

 

For the white balsamic dressing

  • 200ml white balsamic
  • 320ml olive oil
  • 40g jalapeno jus (juice from jalapeno jar)
  • 10g Maldon salt flake

 

Directions:

  1. To make the confit tomato, blanch the tomatoes and skin them. Cut them into quarters and remove the insides, turning them into petals. Remove any moisture with a paper towel.
  2. Put the tomatoes into a bowl and add the salt, sugar, oil, thyme and garlic. Mix thoroughly and spread out on a baking tray and leave to dry in a warm oven (40 degrees Celsius).
  3. Leave in the oven for three hours, remove and leave to cool. Dice, then set aside.
  4. To make the dressing put all ingredients into a Tupperware container and shake thoroughly.
  5. Season the peas with salt and then add the shallots, chives, basil leaves and confit tomato cubes then mix thoroughly.
  6. Arrange on a plate and dress liberally with the white balsamic dressing
  7. Season to taste, then serve.

 

Share your thoughts: Have you tried the Petit Pois Salad at La Serre, Dubai? I would love to know your thoughts on it!

 

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May 082015
 

Oriental Ginger Coleslaw


 

My mother once told me a story about ginger.

 

When I was small we lived in Switzerland, a beautiful country but not one known for the use of ginger in its cooking. My mother, being Pakistani, would regularly cook with ginger, garlic, onions and lots of spices. One day while she was shopping, my mother filled a bag with several pieces of ginger root and added it to her basket. A lady approached her and asked her, ‘Excuse me, but how do you cook this vegetable?’ My mother tried to explain to her in her best French that it was not a vegetable but in fact a herb and that using a small amount went a long way. I don’t know if that lady ever did learn how to use ginger in her cooking. Hopefully she did, because the benefits of ginger are many and amazing!

 

Ginger has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for more than 2000 years in Asian cultures. Some of its benefits include:

  • easing nausea and motion-sickness
  • soothing the digestive system and intestinal tract
  • fighting cold and flu symptoms
  • stimulating circulation
  • reducing inflammation in the body.

 

My recipe for Oriental Ginger Coleslaw is a zesty alternative to the creamy type of coleslaw which many people are accustomed to. When I use fresh ginger in a salad dressing, I usually grate it on the fine side of a cheese grater. When grating it this way, you will end up holding a small pile of tough stringy ginger pulp which you should discard. Make sure you only use the soft ginger which comes out on the underside of the grater.

 

The taste of raw ginger is quite pungent and the amount you use will depend on two things: your own taste preferences and the potency of your ginger root (I have found that organic ginger is stronger than non-organic ginger). Add 1/2 Tbsp of freshly grated ginger if you don’t love ginger or your ginger root is very potent. Add 1 Tbsp of freshly grated ginger if you’re the sort of person who loves adding a shot of ginger to your fresh fruit juice or enjoys sipping on fresh ginger tea. Remember, you can always start with less ginger and add more after tasting your coleslaw.

 

Share your thoughts: What is your favourite way to eat raw ginger? Grated in a salad dressing, steeped in tea, added into juice, or sucked on like candy?

 

Oriental Ginger Coleslaw

 

 

 

ORIENTAL GINGER COLESLAW

(Serves 4 as a side salad)

 

 

Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 – 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated (TIP: use the fine side of a cheese grater, discarding the tough stringy pulp which is left at the end of grating)

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2 tsp sugar (preferably brown sugar)

1/2  – 1 tsp coarse sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

200g / 7 oz cabbage (red or white), shredded

200g / 7 oz carrots, peeled and grated

100g / 3.5 oz radishes, grated

3 Tbsp fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, chopped (or more to taste)

3 spring onions/scallions, finely sliced (white and green parts)

3 Tbsp crushed peanuts (or more to taste)

2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)

 

 

Directions:

  1. Make the dressing first to allow the flavors to develop. Get a jar or small bowl. Take some ginger and grate it on the fine side of a cheese grater (discard the stringy pulp which is left over after grating). The amount of ginger you use will depend on your own taste and also the strength of the ginger, but anywhere between 1/2 and 1 Tbsp would be a good amount. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and combine well. Set aside while you make the salad.
  2. If you have a mandolin or grater attachment for your food processor, it will make grating the vegetables much easier. If you don’t, then I recommend using a cheese grater to grate the carrots and radishes and a knife to finely shred the cabbage.
  3. Wash and dry your vegetables, and grate or finely shred them. Place them in a large bowl.
  4. Wash and chop 3 spring onions/scallions (using both the white and green parts). Add it to the bowl.
  5. Wash and chop enough fresh coriander/cilantro leaves to get at least 3 Tbsp of chopped herbs. Add it to the bowl.
  6. Add 3 Tbsp of crushed peanuts and 2 Tbsp of toasted sesame seeds to the bowl.
  7. Toss everything until combined well.
  8. Pour the salad dressing on top of the salad and toss until evenly mixed.
  9. Serve immediately or refrigerate for upto 3 days.
  10. It is delicious served as a side dish to fish or chicken.

 

 

Share your thoughts: What is your favourite way to eat raw ginger? Grated in a salad dressing, steeped in tea, added into juice, or sucked on like candy?

 

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Apr 222015
 
Simplest Italian Tomato Salad

Two years ago, on an evening when I was feeling rushed off my feet and uninspired in the kitchen, I decided to make that old cop-out: Breakfast for Dinner. At our house, this usually means cheese omelettes.

 

Rather than making roasted tomatoes to go with our omelettes (I didn’t have the patience to wait for the oven to heat up), I quickly made a tomato salad with ingredients which I usually have in my kitchen. I had no intention of posting the recipe because the truth is that the recipe is so simple and obvious that it is barely a recipe at all. But then I realised that sometimes it is the easiest and most obvious recipes that we overlook. This recipe for Simplest Italian Tomato Salad is really more of a reminder that something so simple can be so delicious.

 

This salad should really be prepared no more than an hour before you plan to serve it – simply wash your ingredients and have them ready to chop just prior to eating. However, if you are planning to prepare the salad more than an hour before serving, deseeding the tomato will avoid excess liquid collecting at the bottom of your salad.

 

Share Your Thoughts: What is your go-to easy dinner for the evenings when you just can’t be bothered to cook (take-away doesn’t count!). Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

Simplest Italian Tomato Salad

 

SIMPLEST ITALIAN TOMATO SALAD

(Serves 4)

 

 

Ingredients:

450g/1 lb tomatoes (any type, as long as they are good quality)
3-4 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 generous pinches of sea salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Chop the tomatoes and put them into a bowl. If you are serving them straightaway, you can use the entire tomato. However, if the salad will sit for more than an hour, it’s probably a good idea to deseed it so that the salad doesn’t get soggy.
  2. Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to the bowl, and mix well.
  3. Chop the basil roughly and mix it into the salad.
  4. Serve immediately, otherwise refrigerate for upto 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes before serving.

 

Share Your Thoughts: What is your go-to easy dinner for the evenings when you just can’t be bothered to cook (take-away doesn’t count!). Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

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Apr 142015
 

Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing

 


Asparagus is the quintessential spring vegetable, in season between March and June.

 

It comes in a variety of colors – most commonly green, but also purple or white. White asparagus is considered a delicacy. Although it is the same variety as green asparagus, its white colour is cultivated by being covered with soil while it grows. This prevents it from receiving the sunlight necessary to make the chlorophyll which turns vegetables green. White asparagus tends to be twice as expensive as the green variety.

 

Asparagus spears come in a variety of thicknesses depending on their age, from super-skinny to medium to thick. Surprisingly, the thickness of the asparagus has little bearing on how tender the asparagus spear will be. Although older thicker stalks do benefit from some peeling of the fibrous outer skin, its inner flesh is often very tender.

 

There are a variety of ways to prepare asparagus for a salad. If the asparagus is very thin, you can simply eat it raw. However, I find that raw asparagus doesn’t have the same depth of flavor as cooked asparagus. Roasting, sautéing, steaming, boiling and blanching are all good options.

 

In this recipe, I wanted to keep the flavors very fresh, so I opted for blanching my asparagus. Blanching is simply simmering your vegetables for a few minutes until they are just al dente and then plunging them into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. The ice water also helps brighten and set the beautiful green colour of the asparagus.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below: In the market, I have always reached for the green asparagus and just stared wistfully at the white asparagus wondering whether it is worth the extra cost. Do you think white asparagus tastes better than green asparagus?

 


Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing

 

ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH LEMON-SHALLOT VINAIGRETTE

(Serves 4)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

1 shallot, very finely diced (approximately 2 Tbsp)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I used 4 twists of the pepper mill)

 

Salad Ingredients:

250g asparagus, bottom third cut off (discard or save for use in a stock)

200g green beans (stalk trimmed off) (alternatively, you can use green peas)

2 baby gem lettuces (enough lettuce to put a few leaves on the base of each plate)

4 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 Tbsp chopped pecans/walnuts

 

Directions:

  1. To make the dressing, finely dice a shallot (you need around 2 Tbsp of diced shallot). Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside to allow the flavors to develop. Refrigerate if you are not using within an hour. This dressing can be made upto 48 hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
  2. Roughly chop some walnuts or pecans (you will need about 4 Tbsp of chopped nuts). Set aside.
  3. Wash your radishes and lettuce leaves. Place them on a tea-towel to dry. Thinly slice the radishes. If you are using baby gem lettuce, you will not need to chop it as the leaves are small. If you are using another type f lettuce, you may want to chop it a little.
  4. Wash your asparagus. If the stalk is thick, cut off the lower third and then use a potato peeler to peel off one layer of the remaining lower half of the asparagus.
  5. Wash your green beans and cut off the stalks. I prefer to leave the green beans long rather than chop them.
  6. To blanch your vegetables, fill a large bowl with water and ice and set it aside. You will need this water to plunge the vegetables into after cooking.
  7. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to the boil. Add some salt to the water. When the water is boiling, drop in the asparagus and cook them until they are just al dente, around 3 minutes (depending on thickness – mine were quite thick). Do not drain the water (you will need it for the next batch of vegetables). Remove the asparagus from the cooking pot with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water for about 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the ice water and place them on a tea-towel to dry. Add more ice to the water if necessary.
  8. Make sure the pot of water is boiling and drop the green beans into it. Cook them until they are just al dente, around 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove them and place them in the ice water for about 1 minute. Remove them from the ice water and place them on a tea-towel to dry.
  9. If not serving immediately, refrigerate your vegetables.
  10. To serve, allow the vegetables 10 minutes out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. Place the lettuce leaves on the bottom of the plate. Scatter some green beans on top and then place a few asparagus spears. Scatter some sliced radishes and chopped nuts on top.
  11. Shake the dressing. Serve the dressing on the side or drizzled on top.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below: In the market, I have always reached for the green asparagus and just stared wistfully at the white asparagus wondering whether it is worth the extra cost. Do you think white asparagus tastes better than green asparagus? 

 

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Mar 182015
 

 

Spinach, Feta and Walnut Salad

 

My recipe for ‘Spinach, Walnut and Feta Salad with Pomegranate Dressing’ is inspired by one of my family’s favorite casual Persian restaurants. As soon as we sit down, we are welcomed with a plate of feta cheese, mint leaves and walnuts. It’s a lovely combination of varied flavors and textures that whets our appetite for the main course, which is a massive platter Chelo Kebab – buttery saffron rice and tender flattened kebabs grilled on a skewer, which the three of us can easily share.

 

With ‘Nowruz’ just around the corner (‘Nowruz’ is the Persian New Year which marks the first day of Spring, usually celebrated on or near 21 March), I thought a salad using feta, mint leaves and walnuts would be fitting.

 

Pomegranate Molasses is used often in Middle Eastern cooking, so I have made a Pomegranate Dressing to go with the salad. If you haven’t tried it before, pomegranate molasses tastes like a liquified cherry lollipop but tangier. If you can’t get your hands on pomegranate molasses, feel free to replace it with a slightly sweet vinegar like balsamic. The molasses will not emulsify with the olive oil (don’t even try). Just shake it up and drizzle it over the salad immediately before serving.

 

This salad is guaranteed to increase your appetite and is a great first course in the run-up to a large dinner.

 

Now if I can just get my hands on a good recipe for Persian Chelow Kebab!

 

Share your thoughts: If you celebrate Nowruz, share some of the food you traditionally eat on the day in the comment section below. (And if you have a good recipe for Chelo Kebab, please share!)

 

Spinach, Feta and Walnut Salad

 

 

SPINACH, WALNUT AND FETA SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE DRESSING

(Serves 4-6 as an appetizer)

 

 

Dressing Ingredients: (makes 1/2 cup)

2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (also called pomegranate syrup/concentrate) – alternatively, you can use balsamic vinegar

6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Generous pinch of sea salt

 

 

Salad Ingredients:

12 cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half

100g / 4oz / 6 handfuls / 6 loosely packed cups of fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped

4 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, washed and roughly chopped

100g / 4oz feta cheese, diced or roughly crumbled

4 Tbsp walnuts, roughly chopped

 

 

Directions:

  1. Combine dressing ingredients in a clean empty jam jar with a lid. Close the lid and shake well. Keep at room temperature while you prepare the salad.
  2. Wash and cut the baby spinach leaves, mint leaves and cherry tomatoes. Toss them together in a large bowl.
  3. Chop up the walnuts and feta cheese, and fold them into the salad.
  4. Refrigerate the salad until ready to serve. Drizzle with the pomegranate dressing (a little goes a long way) just before serving.

 

Share your thoughts: If you celebrate Nowruz, share some of the food you traditionally eat on the day in the comment section below. (And if you have a good recipe for Chelo Kebab, please share!)

 

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