Dairy Free Salads

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).

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
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.
Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
May 022016
 

Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote

 

Rhubarb and strawberries come into season at almost the same time, with rhubarb making its appearance first and strawberries following soon on its heels. Their flavours work beautifully when lightly stewed together. At its simplest, all you need to add is some brown sugar and a little water. I like to incorporate other flavours into it as well. This recipe for ‘Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote’ uses vanilla essence and rosewater to bring some Eastern flair to the dish. The compote stays fresh in the fridge for upto a week, and is delicious spooned onto yoghurt, smoothies, porridge, custard, chia pudding, pancakes or meringue.

 

RHUBARB AND STRAWBERRY COMPOTE (with a hint of rosewater)

(Makes 3 cups)

 

Ingredients:

250g fresh strawberries

450g fresh rhubarb (discard leaves as they are inedible)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup water

1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

2 tsp rosewater (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Take your strawberries and remove their leaves and stems. Wash your strawberries and then cut them into 1-inch pieces. Place in a medium-sized saucepan (with a lid).
  2. Trim off the top and bottom of your rhubarb stalks. Rhubarb leaves are toxic and inedible so make sure you discard them. Wash your rhubarb stalks and then slice them into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in the saucepan with the strawberries.
  3. Add the sugar, sea salt, and water into the saucepan with the strawberries and rhubarb.
  4. Place the saucepan on the stove over medium heat until the mixture starts to simmer. Stir a few times to keep everything well-mixed.
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes. If necessary, use the lid to partially cover the saucepan to maintain a low simmer until the rhubarb and strawberries have just turned soft.
  6. Stir in the vanilla essence.
  7. Taste and add more brown sugar or vanilla if necessary.
  8. If you like rosewater, stir it into the mixture (optional).
  9. Pour into a dish to cool.
  10. Can be covered and refrigerated for upto a week.
  11. Rhubarb and Strawberry compote can be added to many things including yogurt, smoothies, custard, porridge, chia pudding and pancakes.

 

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
Dec 012015
 

Seasonal Snacks: December - Citrus Fruits

 

In December, make sure you fill up your basket with the a wide variety of citrus fruits for a quick and healthy snack:

  • Clementines – Clementines are sweet and juicy and usually seedless. Because they are easy to peel and break into segments, this small citrus fruit is the perfect snack to grab when you’re on the go.
  • Navel Oranges – Navel oranges are seedless and tend to be larger than the average orange. On the blossom end of the fruit, you will find a navel-like circle which gives it it’s name. Because they do not have seeds, they are one of my favourite fruits to cut up and put into fruit salads.
  • Blood Oranges – Blood oranges are sweet with a hint of raspberry flavour. Their skin is either orange-coloured or has a slight reddish blush. It is only when you cut into a blood orange that you see the beautiful hue of its flesh which can be anywhere from pink to red to dark maroon. The colour is due to an antioxidant called anthocyanin which develops as the fruit ripens. Their thick skin can be tricky to peel, so they are best eaten cut into wedges.
  • Grapefruits – Grapefruits come in a variety of colours including white, yellow, pink and red. Try to opt for pink and red grapefruits which get their colour from an antioxidant called lycopene (not present in white or yellow varieties). Grapefruits have a very unique flavour which takes some getting used to. They are bitter and acidic with a hint of sweetness right at the end. If you like grapefruit, the best way to eat it is to simply cut it in half and eat the segments with a spoon. However, if you are not upto eating a grapefruit on its own, try tossing it into a fruit salad with other sweeter citrus fruits.
  • Pomelos – Pomelos are the largest citrus fruit variety and have a very thick yellow or green skin. They are similar to grapefruits but taste milder and sweeter. For this reason, many people find pomelos more palatable than grapefruits.
  • Lemons – Lemons are bitter and sharp and there is only a small percentage of the population who can happily suck on a slice without their faces puckering up. I always keep a lot of lemons on hand to squeeze on top of food and into drinking water.
  • Limes – Limes are sweeter than lemons and have their own unique flavour. Again, there are not many people who would happily eat a whole lime on its own, but it’s delicious squeezed on top of food and into drinking water.

 

The above fruits are in season in December in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, December seasonal fruits include blueberries, raspberries, papayas, peaches, grapes and watermelons.             

 

 

Seasonal Snacks: December - Citrus Fruits

 

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
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?

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
Nov 152015
 

Zesty Carrot and Parsley Salad

 

I will admit that I have been suffering from carrot envy lately. Trawling through Instagram, Foodgawker and Pinterest for food photos, I keep being met with cute images of rainbow-coloured carrots in shades of purple, red, yellow and white making my ordinary orange carrots seem dull and boring.

 

Living in Dubai, you can pretty much find anything you want to buy as long as you look hard enough, but I have never been able to get my hands on these jewel-coloured carrots. Until now. Yes, it is now possible to find these beauties in Dubai. I found them at Spinneys supermarket, but they may be available in other grocery stores as well. And not only are these carrots rainbow-coloured, but they are organic rainbow-coloured. Score!

 

Although you can eat these carrots raw or roasted, roasting them tends to dull their colour a bit. I love showing off the beautiful hues in this zesty raw carrot salad. And don’t worry if you can’t find rainbow-coloured carrots. I’ve also made this salad using only orange carrots and it’s just as delicious!

 

 

Share your thoughts: Is it easy for you to find rainbow-coloured carrots where you live?

 

Zesty Carrot and Parsley Salad

 

 

ZESTY CARROT and PARSLEY SALAD

(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1-2 plump garlic cloves (according to taste), peeled and grated on the fine side of a grater

1/2 tsp sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

500g carrots

4-5 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

3 Tbsp sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare your dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid. Shake well and set aside.
  2. Wash and dry your carrots and then peel one layer off them. You can cut the carrots in whichever shape you like. I like making carrot shavings by running my peeler over the length of the carrot to get long shavings. If you have a mandoline (which I don’t), you could also use that.
  3. Wash and dry your flat-leaf parsley, discard the stems, and roughly chop the leaves.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the carrots, parsley, dressing and sunflower/pumpkin seeds.
  5. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for upto 48 hours.

 

Share your thoughts: Is it easy for you to find rainbow-coloured carrots where you live?

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
Oct 262015
 

Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring

 

Although this blog post is about my experience making Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring for Halloween, it can just as easily be used for many other holidays including Eid, St Patrick’s Day, Pakistan National Day and Christmas.

 

 

Every Halloween, I browse through Pinterest looking at the cute little healthy Halloween ideas posted by super-creative parents. There are the little banana ghosts and the clementines cleverly made to look like mini Jack-o-Lanterns. Every year I promise myself that I am going to make these healthy treats, but somehow every year time gets away from me and I don’t quite manage it.

 

But this year is different – I am making Spooky Green Lemonade for a Halloween party. And I am dying it using homemade Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring.

 

Synthetic food colouring is something I have never felt totally comfortable with – all those artificial additives and preservatives. Making your own food colouring takes a little more effort than buying a small vial of food dye, but it’s a much healthier alternative. And honestly, it’s not that difficult.

 

There are many amazing blog posts out there about how to make natural food-based dyes, and I am looking forward to experimenting with a whole rainbow of colours. But for my Spooky Halloween Lemonade, I only need green.

 

There are a few different ways to make Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring. I decided to use spinach as my base because most people seem to use spinach with very good results. Some people recommend using the spinach raw (simply juicing it or blending it with water and straining it). I prefer simmering the spinach in some water for 15 minutes to reduce the risk of pathogens (after all, I am making this for children so I want to be extra careful). After a quick blitz with my blender, I strain it through a fine mesh colander and voilà – Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring!

 

Of course, I did a test-run before the actual party to make sure that (a) it really does colour the lemonade green and (b) it doesn’t make the lemonade taste like spinach. It passed on both counts. Yes, even (b). I taste-tested it on my family, and guesses ranged from lime to mint to green frogs. But no one guessed spinach.

 

Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring can be used to colour any light-coloured drink such as lemonade, coconut water, elderflower juice, vanilla or banana milkshakes. It may also work on pale-coloured food (ie. mashed potatoes, oatmeal) but I haven’t tried it so I can’t personally vouch for that yet. I did try mixing it into buttercream frosting, but I found it difficult to blend and the colour was very pale. But for drinks, this homemade green food colouring definitely works a treat!

 

Although this blog post is about my experience making Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring for Halloween, it can just as easily be used for many other holidays including Eid, St Patrick’s Day, Pakistan National Day and Christmas.

 

Share your thoughts: Do you make homemade natural green food colouring? If so, please share your tips in the comment section below.

 

 

Healthy Natural Green Food Colouring

 

 

HEALTHY NATURAL GREEN FOOD COLOURING

(makes 2 cups / 400mL)

 

Ingredients: (recipe can be halved)

6 cups (9 oz / 255g) fresh spinach leaves

2 cups (400mL) water

 

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan, place the spinach and the water.
  2. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat slightly to a rolling simmer.
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes, partially covered.
  4. Blend using a hand-blender or a regular blender (if you use a regular blender, allow the spinach and water to cool down a little bit before blending).
  5. Place a fine mesh colander in a large bowl or pot (you can line a colander with cheesecloth if you do not have a fine mesh colander). Pour the blended spinach and water through the colander into the bowl. Run a spoon in the colander to help the liquid ease out (if you are using cheesecloth, gather it into a ball and squeeze out the liquid). There will be some pulp left in the colander which should not be forced through. You can discard the pulp or save it for another use.
  6. Allow the liquid to come to room temperature. It is now ready to use.
  7. (Optional) If you want a very smooth food colouring, you can refrigerate it for 24 hours and then strain it through a fine mesh colander again to remove the last of the very small pulp. However, this step is not necessary unless you want to be super-particular about it.
  8. The green food colouring can be kept in the refrigerator for upto 3 days. It may separate in the refrigerator, but just give it a good stir and it will be mixed again.
  9. Some websites say that it can be frozen in ice-cube trays and then transferred to a freezer bag for later use.
  10. To give you an idea of proportions, I used 50mL of food colouring for 1.75L of lemonade.

 

Share your thoughts: Do you make homemade natural green food colouring? If so, please share your tips in the comment section below.

 

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
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.

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
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!

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
May 252015
 

Lettuce with Tarragon Vinaigrette

 

I recently got some locally grown organic Green and Red Oak Leaf lettuce heads from The Farm House (Dubai). Oak Leaf lettuce is a loosely packed head of lettuce with a soft leaf and mild flavour. It’s perfect on its own served with a simple vinaigrette.

 

As luck would have it, I’d been eyeing a deliciously simple herby vinaigrette dressing on the Williams-Sonoma website for ‘Butter Lettuce with Mustard Vinaigrette’, so I knew exactly how I wanted to serve these beautiful tender lettuce leaves.

 

I made a few small changes to the salad dressing, such as slightly increasing the amount of extra virgin olive oil and substituting scallions/spring onions for chives (I didn’t have any chives in the house), but I basically stayed true to the original recipe.

 

Although Williams-Sonoma calls the dressing ‘Mustard Vinaigrette’, for me the main flavour coming through loud and clear is the fragrant fresh tarragon which is why I have called it ‘Tarragon Vinaigrette’. To get the best flavour, it is crucial to give the flavours time to infuse by letting the salad dressing rest for about 2 hours at room temperature or upto 48 hours in your refrigerator.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section: What is your favourite salad dressing for simple lettuce leaves?

 

Lettuce with Tarragon Vinaigrette

 

LETTUCE with TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE

(Serves 4 as a side salad)

 

 

Dressing Ingredients (makes 1/2 cup):

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1&1/2 Tbsp red wine (grape) vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp tarragon leaves

1 Tbsp parsley leaves

1 Tbsp chives or scallions/spring onions

pinch of sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

2 heads of loosely-packed soft leaves (ie. Oak Leaves, Butterhead, Boston, Bibb)

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare your salad dressing first so that you give it enough time to rest for the flavours to develop (2 hours at room temperature or upto 48 hours in the refrigerator).
  2. Wash your herbs and dry them in a tea towel or kitchen roll. Place them on a cutting board and finely chop them.
  3. If you are using scallions/spring onions instead of chives, remove the outer layer and roots. Wash and dry it, and thinly slice it (both green and white parts).
  4. Get a jar with a lid and some measuring spoons. Add the extra virgin olive oil, red wine (grape) vinegar, Dijon mustard, herbs, scallions and a pinch of salt. Shake it well. Taste it to check if you need to add more salt. At this point, don’t be discouraged if you can’t taste the tarragon as it takes time for the flavour to develop.
  5. Set the dressing aside (2 hours at room temperature or upto 48 hours in the refrigerator).
  6. Prepare your salad by separating the leaves. If the outside leaves are wilted, then discard them. Otherwise if they are fresh, you can go ahead and use them.
  7. Wash the lettuce leaves and dry them well in a salad spinner or on a tea towel/kitchen towel.
  8. Refrigerate the leaves once they are dry, wrapped in some kitchen roll/paper towels.
  9. When you are ready to serve, remove the dressing from the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Get 4 small plates and place 5-6 lettuce leaves on each one. Serve immediately with the dressing on the side or drizzled on top.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section: What is your favourite salad dressing for simple lettuce leaves?

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
May 202015
 

Kale Tabbouleh

 

I really enjoy eating traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh, but making it is a true labour of love! Although Tabbouleh is a very simple salad to make, there is one rather time-consuming step: separating the large quantity of parsley leaves from their stalks.

 

I am not the only one who finds this a big job. I’ve seen boxes of pre-chopped parsley in my supermarket in Dubai, so there must be others who struggle with the same thing. Of course, the problem with pre-chopped parsley is that it has very little flavour and aroma compared to freshly chopped parsley.

 

But then something happened which changed the way I make Tabbouleh.

 

This week I attended the official opening of The Farm House, a shop which sells local organic produce in the UAE. The event was hosted at The Change Initiative in Dubai where Chef Yogesh prepared amazingly fresh, seasonal dishes with a ‘twist’ using mostly local organic produce. One of the many delicious dishes he prepared was Kale Tabbouleh. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was hooked from the first bite. I knew immediately that I wanted to go home and try to replicate this dish. I don’t know exactly what Chef Yogesh’s recipe is, but I think I got pretty close to it with my version of Kale Tabbouleh.

 

I love the taste of this recipe, and I also love the fact that chopping kale is so much easier than chopping parsley. Unlike delicate parsley leaves which take a long time to separate from their stems, kale leaves come off very easily from their tough stalks.

 

The main thing to remember when using kale in a salad is the importance of massaging the leaves for a few minutes to break down their cellulose structure (I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this). Raw kale leaves are quite tough and it’s hard to get much flavour from them. Massaging the kale gives you a softer, more flavourful leaf. It also shrinks the leaves to about half their volume which makes them easier to toss with other ingredients. The technique for massaging kale is to tear or cut the kale leaves off their stalks, shred the leaves, place them in a large bowl, and rub and squeeze them between your hands for 3 minutes. By the end of the first minute, the kale will smell like a freshly mowed lawn and by the end of 3 minutes it will be very pliable and soft.

 

If you are a fan of kale, you will love this salad. If you are not a fan of kale, you will become a kale convert after eating this 😉

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below: Do you like experimenting with traditional recipes and updating them, like this Kale Tabbouleh? Or do you think it’s better to leave traditional recipes as they are?

 

Kale Tabbouleh

 

KALE TABBOULEH

(Serves 4 as a side dish; recipe can be doubled to serve more)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

1 cup cooked bulgur (1/4 cup dried bulgur usually becomes 1 cup when cooked)

1/2 cup freshly boiled water

1/2 tsp salt

100g/3.5 oz kale (weight with the stalks removed)

2 scallions/spring onions (white and green parts), thinly sliced

2 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

4 cherry tomatoes or 1 large tomato, seeds removed and cut into small pieces

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare the dressing by combining the extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and sea salt in the bottom of the bowl you plan to toss your salad in.
  2. To prepare your bulgur, follow the directions on the packaging. I made mine by combining 1/4 cup dried bulgur, 1/2 cup freshly boiled water (from the kettle) and 1/2 tsp salt into a pot with a lid. Cover and allow to sit for 20-25 minutes. Alternatively, you can boil the bulgur for 10-15 minutes in a pot of boiled water. Drain if necessary and spread on a plate to cool.
  3. To prepare the kale, remove the kale leaves from the tough stalk which runs the full length of the kale leaf. This can be done by pulling the leafy parts off by hand or cutting them off with a knife. Wash the leaves and then dry them thoroughly in a clean tea towel or kitchen cloth. Thinly shred the kale and put it into an empty bowl. Massage the shredded kale leaves with your hands by rubbing and squeezing it for 3 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Finely chop your scallions/spring onions and mint leaves. Set aside.
  5. Deseed your tomatoes and cut into small pieces.
  6. Take the large salad bowl with the dressing in it, and add the kale, cooled bulgur, scallions/spring onions, mint and tomatoes.
  7. Toss all the ingredients well with the dressing.
  8. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  9. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  10. This salad will stay fresh in your refrigerator for 3 days.

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below: Do you like experimenting with traditional recipes and updating them, like this Kale Tabbouleh? Or do you think it’s better to leave traditional recipes as they are?

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
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?

 

Follow Me:
facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram