eat clean

Apr 022017
 

Quinoa Salad with Thai Dressing

 

 

In my opinion, the best quinoa salads are the ones which are slightly outnumbered by the other ingredients in the salad. I’ve been subjected to several quinoa salads in restaurants which were really not much more than simply a plate of cold bland quinoa with a few vegetables and a barely-there dressing. Quinoa is a wonderful carrier of flavours so virtually any dressing works well with it. The Thai Dressing used in this recipe is flavourful yet light. I tossed my quinoa with lots of fresh crunchy vegetables diced small enough so that each forkful gets a little bit of everything.You can use the same vegetables as I did (carrots, red bell peppers and cucumbers) or any combination of your choice as long as the total amount of vegetables comes to 3 cups.

 

QUINOA SALAD WITH THAI DRESSING

 

Dressing Ingredients:

40ml fresh lime juice

1.5 Tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

1 Tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp soy sauce

½ tsp brown sugar

Tiny pinch of salt

Red chilli flakes or chilli powder (according to taste)

 

Salad Ingredients:

2.5 cups (500ml) quinoa, cooked and cooled (1 cup of dried quinoa will cook into about 3 cups of cooked quinoa)

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup red bell peppers (capsicum), diced

1 cup cucumber, diced

3 spring onions (scallions), sliced

½ cup fresh coriander (cilantro), washed and chopped

1 cup toasted cashew nuts (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare the dressing by combining all dressing ingredients together in a jar with a lid. Shake well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (the dressing will taste quite salty but it will be fine once it is tossed with all the salad ingredients). Set dressing aside.
  2. Use pre-cooked quinoa or boil your own. To boil quinoa, measure out 1 cup of dried quinoa, rinse it in the sink, and simmer in some salted water. Drain and allow to cool.
  3. Wash and chop all the vegetables. You can use the vegetables above (carrots, red bell peppers and cucumbers) or any combination of your choice as long as the total amount of vegetables is 3 cups.
  4. If you want to add toasted cashews, place the cashews in a dry pan on medium heat and toss for a few minutes until lightly toasted.
  5. In a large bowl, toss the quinoa and dressing together until evenly combined.
  6. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss evenly.
  7. Refrigerate and serve within 3 days.

 

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Jan 152017
 

January Salads

 

I am really pleased to share this guest blog post which Judy Ridgway has written for my readers. Judy is an independent olive oil expert and here she shares her knowledge about Early Harvest extra virgin olive oil including suggestions for which ones to look out for. She also includes two delicious salad recipes, ‘Greek Village Salad’ and ‘Tomato, Cheese and Mackerel Salad’. Judy Ridgway is co-author of ‘The Olive Oil Diet’ and blogger at www.judyridgway.co.uk. She can also be followed on Twitter @judyoliveoil.

 

If you want to check out my guest post for Judy (which includes the two salad recipes pictured above, ‘Sicilian Winter Salad’ and ‘Grilled Endive and Blue Cheese Salad’), go to http://www.judyridgway.co.uk/great-winter-salads-from-blogger-total-salads/.

 

 

Early harvest oils

 

I have just seen the first “early harvest” extra virgin olive oil of 2016 on sale on the internet, and the shops should see their first oils soon. The olive harvest in the northern hemisphere begins in October or November, depending on the region, and goes on until all the olives have been picked. Some producers make a special feature of the oils from the very first olives to be picked and label them “Early Harvest”. At this stage the olives are relatively unripe and when pressed produce an oil which can be stronger in flavour than later oils from the same olive grove. Even an oil which is usually very sweet and delicate will have a greener style, perhaps with some bitterness or pepper, if it is made from early harvest olives. Oils that are naturally more aggressive will be very bitter and peppery.

 

As the harvest progresses the phenolic and aromatic substances in the oil which give it much of its flavour and health benefits peak and then begin to fall off but the oil content of the olive continues to increase as it ripens. This explains why early harvest oils are particularly flavourful. Because of their higher phenolic content they are also likely to offer more health benefits so they are well worth looking out for.

 

Late harvest oils

 

In the past some producers also highlighted oils pressed from olives picked towards the end of the harvest. However, oils labelled “Late harvest” are now rare. This is probably because the softer flavours of these oils is no longer very popular. This is something of a culinary loss. Despite their lower levels of polyphenols these oils did add to the wonderful range of special tastes that can be found among extra virgin olive oils. A particularly unusual example of “Late Harvest oil” is Biancardo oil from Liguria which may be pressed as late as April or May. These oils have a very light creamy, buttery flavour. Some “late harvest” oils pressed from California and Australian Mission olives have a similar taste.

 

Early harvest oils in salads

 

The combination of early harvest extra virgin olive oil and fresh raw salad ingredients is hard to beat and at this time of the year when fruit and vegetables are not always as plentiful early harvest olive oil brings an extra dollop of beneficial nutrients to the table. Teaming up early harvest oils with salad leaves and tomatoes, which are not at their full complement of antioxidants at this time of the year, will boost these salads back to their usual beneficial levels. Here are a couple of salads which use early harvest oils from Greece and Spain.

 

GREEK VILLAGE SALAD 

Greek Salad from Terra Creta 

 

This traditional Greek Salad is rustic and chunky and uses Terra Creta Early Harvest EVOO from the island of Crete. This deeply herbaceous oil is pressed from specially selected groves in late October, a few weeks before the main harvest starts.

 

Terra Creta olive oil: Based in Crete, this excellent company has again produced an early harvest oil pressed from Koronieki olives from specially selected groves in October. It is green, fresh and spicy with really herbaceous tones. For more information see http://www.terracreta.gr/pages.aspx?lang=en&id=295#.WHZRRlOLTIU

 

Salad Ingredients:

3 medium organic tomatoes

1/3 organic English cucumber, washed, quartered, chopped in 1/2 inch chunks

1 each yellow and green pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks

1small thinly sliced red onion

10 Kalamata olives

1 tsp Cretan oregano

1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans or white cannellini beans

Pinch of dried red pepper flakes

2/3 cup sheep or goat cheese Feta, cut into 1 inch chunks

Dressing Ingredients:

50ml Terra Creta early harvest extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Cut two of the tomatoes into quarters and then cut in half again. Peel, seed and finely chop the third tomato and keep on one side for dressing the dish.
  2. Combine all the remaining ingredients, except the feta cheese in bowl.
  3. Toss with all the dressing ingredients.
  4. Plate up in rustic wooden bowl and top with the Feta chunks, finely chopped tomato and another sprinkle of oregano.

 

 

TOMATO, CHEESE AND MACKEREL SALAD

 

Tomato, Cheese and Mackerel Salad

 

This rather unusual salad comes from the chef of Restaurante Casa Piolas in Algarinejo – hometown of Orodeal. It is quick and easy to make and tastes really good.

 

Orodeal Early Harvest olive oil: This very well flavoured and really fruity Spanish oil is unfiltered and will be available from mid-January after it has been allowed to settle properly. It is pressed from Picudo and Hojiblanca olives grown in Granada province in southern Spain. See http://1916gourmet.com/english/products html www.freshfoodexpress.co.uk

 

Ingredients:

Mix of seasonal salad leaves

Tomato

Soft Goats Cheese

Cucumber

Fresh or tinned mackerel

Olives

Guindillas (Basque chilli peppers) in vinegar

Orodeal Premium olive oil

 

Directions:

  1. Peel and thinly slice the cucumber, chop the tomato’s into chunks
  2. Wash and dry the salad leaves. Mix the salad leaves, olives and Guindillas in a bowl. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. Thinly slice the goat’s cheese.
  4. Place a small amount of salad leaves on plate. Surround with the thinly sliced cucumber. Place the sliced goat’s cheese onto the first layer of salad leaves.
  5. Add another layer of salad leaves, olives & guindillas. Top with the Mackerel.
  6. Sprinkle with a pinch of Maldon Salt and a good drizzle of Orodeal Premium olive oil.

 

 

Here are some more Early Harvest oils to look out for

 

Gonnelli Santa Tea EVOO: This Italian producer has always offered an early and a late harvest. They are now known as Raccolta di Olive Verdi pressed from unripe green olives and Raccolta di Olive Nere pressed from olives that are just fully ripened. The two offer a lovely contrast of lighter and more robust flavours to use in the kitchen. See http://www.gonnelli1585.it/en/prodotti

 

Seggiano Seggianese EVOO: This oil is labelled New Harvest but it is pressed from olives picked early in the season in the Monte Amiato region of southern Tuscany. Here the Olivastra olive thrives and it gives an oil which is much more delicate than the more usual Tuscan oil pressed from varieties such as Frantoio, Moraiollo and Leccino. See http://www.seggiano.com/Shop/Seggiano-Olivastra

 

Disisa Early Harvest EVOO: This oil from Sicily is pressed from Cerasuolo olives which are picked in October when they are still small and green. Quite strong herbaceous tones with tomatoes are the flavour tones here. See https://www.thegiftofoil.co.uk/olive-oils/premium-olive-oil/early-harvest-sicilian-olive-oil.html

 

Belazu Early Harvest Arbequina EVOO: Catalonia in northern Spain is the home of this well-flavoured early harvest oil. An oil which is pressed from olives which are picked even earlier is Verdemanda. More about this oil shortly at www.judyridgway.co.uk

 

Eleones Early Havest: This Greek oil is from Halkidi in the north. The groves, planted with Hondrolia olives, are situated around Mount Athos. It is expected to be ready for sale by mid-January. This is quite a peppery style of oil and is used locally to make a robust salad dressing with mustard, balsamic vinegar, yogurt, mayonnaise and a dash of honey. Try it on the Greek Village Salad above/below. See http://www.eleones.com/frontend/index.php

 

Olive Branch Early Harvest: This is another Greek early harvest oil, this time from the Lasithi province of Crete. Koroneiki olives are picked a little earlier than the main harvest and bottled specially for this UK importer. See http://myolivebranch.co.uk/

 

Ardoino Biancardo: This Ligurian oil is particularly unusual in it is pressed from taggiasca olives picked in May. When the sap starts to rise for the flowers at this time of the year it starts to take the chlorophyll from those olives which are left on the tree.  It is traditionally very pale in colour and very sweet in flavour, almost like butter. This type of oil only comes from the tops of the mountains and it is not produced every year. It is not yet known if there will be a Biancardo oil this year. See http://www.olioardoino.it/

 

Terra Creta: Based in Crete, this excellent company has again produced an early harvest oil pressed from Koronieki olives from specially selected groves in October. It is green, fresh and spicy with really herbaceous tones. See http://www.terracreta.gr/pages.aspx?lang=en&id=295#.WHZRRlOLTIU

 

Orodeal Early Harvest: This very well flavoured and really fruity Spanish oil is unfiltered and will be available from mid-January after it has been allowed to settle properly. It is pressed from Picudo and Hojiblanca olives grown in Granada province in southern Spain. See http://1916gourmet.com/english/products html www.freshfoodexpress.co.uk

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Dec 042016
 

Muhammara

 

 

It is sometimes hard to accurately trace the origins of a dish to a specific city, but that is not the case with Muhammara. This spicy red pepper and walnut dip originates from one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world – Aleppo in Syria. Muhammara combines sweet, sour and tangy ingredients to create an addictive multi-layered flavour. Traditionally, Muhammara uses Aleppo chilli peppers to bring a mild smokey spiciness to the dip. However, if Aleppo chilli peppers are not available then using a mixture of red chilli powder and paprika, like I have done, is a good alternative.

 

 

MUHAMMARA

(makes 1 cup)

 

Ingredients:

2 red bell peppers (capsicum), roasted and peeled (directions below)

1 plump garlic clove, peeled and cut into 4 large chunks

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, lightly toasted (I toast a medium-sized piece of pitta bread and let it air-dry)

1 tsp ground paprika

1/2 tsp red chilli powder or flakes (or according to taste)

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

2 tsp pomegranate molasses

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions:

  1. To roast your red bell peppers, preheat your oven to 220°C (fan assisted). Wash and dry your bell peppers and then cut them in half (top to bottom). Remove and discard the seeds, membranes and stalks. Place your bell pepper halves (cut-side down) on a baking tray lined with baking parchment paper. Roast in the middle shelf of your oven for 20-25 minutes. The skin can be allowed to get quite charred without any problems, but do check from time to time to make sure they are not burning. Remove from the oven and immediately put the hot bell pepper halves into a bowl covered with a lid or plate. The steam created in the bowl will help loosen the skin and make it easier to remove from the bell peppers. After 5-10 minutes, remove the lid and peel off the bell pepper skin. Place your peeled bell peppers in a bowl. They are ready to use immediately or refrigerated and used within 5 days.
  2. Lightly toast your walnuts in a dry pan on the stovetop or in the oven.
  3. Lightly toast your breadcrumbs. I find it easiest to do this by simply popping some bread (I use a medium-sized piece of pitta bread) in my toaster for a few minutes and then letting it air-dry. I then run it through my food processor to turn it into crumbs.
  4. To make the Muhammara dip, put all the ingredients into your food processor and process until desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  5. Refrigerate and eat within 4 days.

 

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Oct 212016
 

The Olive Oil Diet

 

 

If you follow my blog, I am almost certain that you have a bottle of extra virgin olive oil sitting in your kitchen right now. But how much do you really know about the olive oil you have bought?

 

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, but not all extra virgin olive oils are created equal. Anyone who wants to get a better understanding of why it is important to buy olive oil which contains the optimal level of health benefits should read ‘The Olive Oil Diet‘ (available as a paperback or e-book on Amazon). Knowledge is power, and that is definitely the case when it comes to olive oil.

 

The Olive Oil Diet‘ is written by two experts who have a lot of experience with healthy eating. Dr Simon Poole is a General Practitioner who regularly writes and speaks about primary care in medicine and nutrition. Judy Ridgway is an international olive oil expert who frequently travels to olive oil producing regions to meet the growers and taste oils (she was the first non-Italian judge to sit on the judging panel of the prestigious Leone d’Oro international awards for olive oil). Judy also gives incredibly interesting olive oil tasting workshops, which I attended in London (we tasted 16 oils!).

 

The Olive Oil Diet‘ describes a diet for life which focuses on including a wide variety of foods in your day. In an age where people follow restrictive diets for a little while and then drop them for the next diet trend, the Olive Oil Diet describes a way of eating which is enjoyable, adaptable and can become a long-term sustainable part of your lifestyle. The authors stress that while a traditional Mediterranean diet naturally follows the principles of the Olive Oil Diet, the tenets of the diet can in fact be applied to cuisines from all over the world (yes, even curries, salsas and noodles).

 

The book assumes that the reader has limited prior knowledge about olive oil, so it is a wonderfully comprehensive introduction to the world of oils. Even for those who know quite a bit about olive oil, it’s a great refresher and handy reference book. The book is divided into four well-organised parts which are easy to understand and full of useful information. Most importantly, you will immediately be able to apply what you learn in the book the next time you buy olive oil.

 

Part 1 focuses on the health and nutrition aspects of olive oil based on research information published in peer-reviewed journals and scientific articles. A lot of people know that eating olive oil is not just delicious but also very healthy. Good quality olive oil is beneficial for inflammation, heart disease, insulin levels, cholesterol levels, weight and a host of other issues. The benefit of antioxidants in olive oil is explained in-depth as well as the role different fats plays in the Omega 6:Omega 3 balance. It is enlightening to read about the reasons behind the relatively new introduction of polyunsaturated seed oils (including canola/rapeseed, sunflower, safflower, corn and soybean oils to name a few) versus monounsaturated olive oil which has been used for thousands of years. Once you understand the science behind the health claims, it is much easier to make an educated decision about what type of oil you want to put in your body every day.

 

Part 2 is all about what to look for when you buy olive oil. It is important to pay attention to the type of container the oil is kept in as well as being able to decipher the real meaning of what is written on the label. Once you understand what clues to look for, you will know very quickly which olive oils to buy and which ones to walk away from for the sake of your health. A label of ‘extra virgin olive oil’ is not always a reliable indicator of the quality of the oil inside. Some companies have been found to mix their oil with other things so buyer beware!

 

Part 3 discusses the principles of the Olive Oil Diet. It is based on the inclusion of seven types of food (the Seven Pillars) which you should aim to eat every day. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Olive Oil Diet is not simply limited to a traditional Mediterranean diet but can be applied to any type of cuisine in the world. The authors also address the commonly asked question of whether or not it is healthy to cook with extra virgin olive oil (you may be surprised at the answer and the reasons for it).

 

Part 4 is where you can experiment with your meals. It is filled with a wonderful collection of diverse recipes which use olive oil. For a sneak peak into what sort of recipes you can expect, I have listed a few below to show how varied they are:

  • Mango chutney
  • Aubergine Bruschetta
  • Herring and Beetroot Salad
  • Soupe au Pistou
  • Cavatelli with Broad Beans and Peas
  • Spicy Seafood Stir-Fry with Noodles
  • Moorish Chicken with Orange and Lime and Coriander Bulgur
  • Banana Pancakes
  • Plums with Almond Crumble Topping
  • Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Icing

 

 

I recommend ‘The Olive Oil Diet‘ to anyone who is looking for a long-term solution to optimise their health by following a delicious nutrient-rich and inclusive diet with olive oil at its heart. There is a lot about olive oil that the average consumer is not aware of and simply taking the time to educate yourself about olive oil is an easy investment you can make for the sake of your health. Knowledge is power and this book is an invaluable guide to help you make good decisions regarding what food you choose to put in your body.

 

 

Full Disclosure: I was given a copy of the book ‘The Olive Oil Diet’. All words and opinions are my own.

 

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Oct 112016
 

Beetroot Hummus

 

A platter of freshly made Beetroot Hummus is always a show-stopper when you serve it to friends and family. The strikingly vibrant shade of pink is thanks to the pigment betacyanin which is the antioxidant responsible for giving beetroots their reddish colour.

 

Combining roasted beetroot into your favourite hummus recipe not only adds colour but also brings a deliciously subtle earthy sweetness to the dish. It is a great way to add extra nutrients and fibre to an already healthy dip.

 

 

BEETROOT HUMMUS

(makes 500ml)

 

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized beetroot (150-200g / 5-7oz)

240g cooked chickpeas (tinned or freshly boiled)

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (no seeds)

1 plump garlic clove, cut into 6 pieces

1 tsp coarse sea salt

2 Tbsp cold water

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling on top of the hummus)

Fresh herbs and toasted nuts, to garnish (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F.
  2. To roast your beetroot, trim the stalks and leaves off your beetroot (if you stalks and leaves are fresh, you can save them for cooking). Wash your beetroot, wrap it in aluminium foil and place in a baking dish. This recipe only calls for 1 medium-sized beetroot, but it is worth making more so you have beetroot available for other recipes as well. Roast in the oven for between 60-90 minutes. Your beetroot is ready when a skewer goes through it easily. When cooked, remove your beetroot from the oven, unwrap and allow to come to room temperature. Once the beetroot is cool enough to handle, trim the top and bottom off and pinch off the skin.
  3. If you prefer not to cook the beetroot yourself, you may be able to find vacuum-packed cooked beetroot at your supermarket. Make sure you do not use pickled beetroot.
  4. Cut your beetroot into 6-8 pieces.
  5. In a food processor, combine the beetroot, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, peeled garlic clove, sea salt, and cold water.
  6. Process the hummus until it is almost your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (you can add more tahini, lemon juice, sea salt or water according to your taste).
  7. Process again until desired consistency.
  8. Eat immediately or refrigerate in a covered bowl for upto 3 days.
  9. To serve, spread the hummus evenly onto a small flat plate. Run your spoon through the hummus in a circle to make a well to pour some good extra virgin olive oil into.
  10. Garnish with fresh herbs and toasted nuts (optional).

 

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Sep 252016
 

Roast Chicken, Beetroot and Fig Salad

 

 

This is a wonderful salad to make when you want to turn some leftover roast chicken into a delicious and healthy meal. I love roasting my chicken with lemons, garlic, bell peppers, fresh thyme, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, so these flavours come through in my salad. Use your favourite roast chicken recipe or buy some good quality ready-roasted chicken from your supermarket or deli.

 

Beetroots can be conveniently roasted in the oven at the same time as your chicken. Simply trim the stems (without cutting into the beetroots), wrap the beetroots in some aluminium foil, and roast in an oven-proof dish at 200°C/400°F for approximately 30-60 minutes (depending on the size of the beetroot). The beetroots are ready when they can be easily pierced with a skewer. Allow the beetroots to cool to room temperature and then pinch off their skins. They are now ready to eat. Beetroots can also be bought ready-cooked and vacuum-packed in a bag. If you decide to buy ready-cooked beetroots, make sure they are not the pickled type. (NB: If your beetroots have fresh-looking stems and leaves, you can chop and sauté them for another dish).

 

Figs bring an important taste component to this salad but are not always in season. Figs have two seasons – a short season in early summer and then a longer season from late summer until autumn. If you can’t get fresh figs, you can use dried figs or dried apricots.

 

 

ROAST CHICKEN, BEETROOT and FIG SALAD

(Makes 2 main course salads)

 

Ingredients:

1-2 cups roasted chicken, roughly chopped

3-4 heads of Baby Gem lettuce

2 medium-sized beetroots

4 small figs

4 Tbsp Pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds

4-5 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar

Sea salt (to taste)

 

Directions:

  1. This recipe assumes that you have already cooked your roast chicken and beetroots. You can use any recipe for roast chicken which you like or buy some good quality ready-roasted chicken from your supermarket or deli. Beetroots can be roasted at the same time as the chicken. Simply trim the stems (without cutting into the beetroots), wrap the beetroots in some aluminium foil, and roast in an oven-proof dish at 200°C/400°F for approximately 30-60 minutes (depending on the size of the beetroot). The beetroots are ready when they can be easily pierced with a skewer. Allow the beetroots to cool to room temperature and then pinch off their skins. They are now ready to eat. Beetroots can also be bought ready-cooked and vacuum-packed in a bag. If you decide to buy ready-cooked beetroots, make sure they are not the pickled type. (NB: If your beetroots have fresh-looking stems and leaves, you can chop and sauté them for another dish).
  2. Prepare your balsamic vinaigrette by combining the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt in a small jar. Taste and adjust as necessary. Set aside.
  3. Remove the outer leaves of the Baby Gem lettuce heads. Wash and dry the lettuce and then chop into bite-size pieces. Divide between two main course salad bowls or plates.
  4. Cut the beetroot into wedges and scatter on top of the lettuce.
  5. Wash and quarter the figs and scatter them around the salad
  6. Roughly chop the chicken into large bite-size pieces (it is upto you if you want to include the skin or not). Loosely place in the centre of the salad.
  7. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds on top.
  8. Cover and refrigerate for upto 12 hours.
  9. Pour the dressing on the two salads just prior to serving.

 

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Sep 062016
 

Chicken and Cress Spread

 

 

After a long and relaxing summer holiday, school has started again. While it’s nice to get back into the routine, one thing which can get a bit tiring is the daily task of figuring out what to put in my child’s lunchbox. I avoid processed lunch meats because of the preservatives and artificial ingredients in them, which means that I often rely on turning dinner leftovers into quick sandwich fillers. But then there are days when dinner just doesn’t translate into a sandwich filler.

 

Because of this, I often prepare my own sandwich spreads which last well in the refrigerator for three days. A simple homemade sandwich filler which I sometimes make is ‘Chicken and Cress Spread’. The chicken is gently poached in salted water with some aromatic spices and garlic cloves. Adding fresh cress (also called garden cress) brings a distinctive peppery taste to the sandwich spread. Don’t confuse it with watercress which has a larger leaf. Cress is usually sold in small pots or tubs and only the stem and leaf should be eaten raw, not the seeds. Cress will grow back again after cutting so simply use scissors to snip off as much cress as you intend to use, leaving the roots intact. New shoots should start growing for another harvest of cress (this can be repeated several times).

 

 

CHICKEN AND CRESS SALAD (SANDWICH SPREAD)

 

Ingredients:

3 skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut in half

3 whole garlic cloves (peeled)

3 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs of thyme (optional)

Sea salt (to taste)

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

Cress/Garden Cress (to taste)

 

Directions:

  1. Bring a medium-sized saucepan of water to the boil.
  2. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add 2 tsp of sea salt, 3 whole garlic cloves (peeled), 3 black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, and 3 sprigs of thyme.
  3. Trim your chicken breast and cut it in half. Place it in the simmering water. Adjust the heat if necessary so that the water remains simmering.
  4. Simmer for around 8-10 minutes. You want to cook the chicken until it is white all the way through. Be careful not to overcook it or it may become tough.
  5. Once cooked, remove the chicken breasts and the garlic cloves from the water and put on a plate. Discard the cooking water and spices.
  6. Allow the chicken to cool so that it is not steaming.
  7. In a food processor, add the chicken, garlic cloves and 3 Tbsp mayonnaise. The garlic becomes very mellow and subtle after simmering in water, but if your child does not like garlic you can still save the garlic cloves and mash them into your own sandwiches.
  8. Pulse gently until you get the desired consistency (less pulsing for a chunky spread; more pulsing for a smoother spread).
  9. Remove from the food processor.
  10. Taste the chicken. If it needs more mayonnaise or salt, add it now and fold it through.
  11. Snip the desired amount of cress from its pot. Rinse and pat it dry before folding it into the chicken spread. If some people do not like cress, you can always add it to individual sandwiches rather than directly into the sandwich spread.
  12. Refrigerate and eat within 3 days.

 

 

 

 

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Aug 012016
 

Seasonal Snacks: August - Watermelon

 

Watermelon is the quintessential summertime fruit snack. True to its name, watermelons are more than 90% water so are extremely refreshing and hydrating. However, despite their high water content, watermelons are powerhouses of nutrition as well.

 

  • Lycopene – Lycopene is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants, usually found in pink and red fruits and vegetables. It helps keep a variety of diseases at bay by clearing your body of harmful free radicals and has been shown to protect your skin against harmful UV rays. While tomatoes are especially well-known for their lycopene content, watermelons have an even higher concentration of lycopene than tomatoes.
  • Vitamin A – Vitamin A is good for maintaining the health of your eyes, skin and bones.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C is an antioxidant which helps support your immune system, maintains skin elasticity, and helps your body heal and repair itself. It is also believed to increase your blood flow by helping your blood vessels to relax.
  • Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 is important for converting food into energy and maintain good metabolism.

 

There are more than 1200 varieties of watermelon, ranging from dark red to pale yellow. When choosing a watermelon, try to find one which feels heavy for its size, with a smooth rind (skin), and a hollow bass sound when you knock on it. You may be surprised to know that every part of the watermelon is edible, including its seeds and rind (nb: if you eat the rind, try and make sure it is organic).

 

 

* The produce above is in season in August in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, August seasonal produce includes pineapples, blood oranges, and artichokes.

 

 

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Jul 012016
 

SS: July - Cherries and Peaches

 

 

Summertime is prime stone-fruit time and my two favourites are cherries and peaches.

 

Cherries: When I was a little girl, I remember eating cherries straight out of a colander, freshly rinsed. I was taught that the darker cherries were sweeter and I would spend time examining the pile looking for the darkest cherries, with extra joy when I found twin-cherries joined by the stem. However, there are many varieties of sweet cherries which  come in a variety of colours from deep burgundy to bright red to yellow. When buying cherries, look for glossy firm skin and green stems. Cherries stay freshest in cold storage so make sure you keep them in your refrigerator rather than on your countertop (unless you plan on eating them straight away, in which case your countertop is perfectly fine). Cherries freeze well if you remove their stone, place them in a single layer on a tray in the freezer until frozen through, and then seal them in a freezer-bag. You can then throw these cherries into smoothies and desserts directly from your freezer.

 

Peaches: Peaches took me a little longer to appreciate because my mini-self objected to their lightly fuzzy skin, but I soon overcame that hurdle and enjoyed many moments of simple pleasure in the company of a perfectly ripe peach, it’s juice running down my wrist. Even now, I sometimes try to eat my peaches quietly away from the rest of the household to fully absorb myself in that moment of simple joy. When buying peaches, look for unblemished skin and a slight give when pressed with your thumb. Peaches come in a variety of shades from pale yellow to blush red to maroon, and can be large round orbs or small flat discs (my preference is for flat peaches). The scent of a peach is a good indicator of its taste. Peaches are delicate so make sure you carry them on top of the rest of your shopping rather than at the bottom (as I have learned the hard way). Peaches are at their peak in July and August.

 

* The produce above is in season in July in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, July seasonal produce includes papayas, mandarins and golden delicious apples.

 

 

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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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Jun 012016
 

SS: June - Berries

 

June is the start of summer and the month to look out for all types of berries. There are probably 1,000 great reasons to eat berries by the handful while they are in season, but the best reason is that they will be at their sweetest and juiciest at this time of year.

 

Look for shiny firm berries with a strong colour and avoid ones which are soft, bruised or leaking. Eat them on their own, or add them to yogurt, cereal, desserts or salads for a boost of fiber and the antioxidant Vitamin C.

 

Strawberries  ·  Raspberries  ·  Blueberries  ·  Blackberries

Mulberries ·  Bilberries ·  Black Crowberries ·  Boysenberries

Elderberries ·  Loganberries ·  Gooseberries ·  Blackcurrants ·  Redcurrants

 

 

* The produce above is in season in June in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, June seasonal produce includes pears, kiwifruits and kale.

 

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May 182016
 

Kale and Spring Vegetable Salad

 

Kale is one of my favourite green leaves to put into a salad because you can pre-toss it in dressing and it won’t get limp for days. My general method with most kale salads is to massage the kale leaves by chopping them and then squeezing them between my hands for about three minutes. It makes a world of a difference because the relaxed kale leaves become softer and more flavourful.

 

These days, I’m tossing my kale salads with roasted spring vegetables. Any three vegetables that roast well would work in this recipe, but do try and look for different coloured vegetables to get the most variety. Here I used carrots, leeks and beetroots. I’m using some irresistibly cute mini vegetables which I found in my market, but if you can’t use mini-sized vegetables feel free to use the regular-sized ones and simply cut them into bite-sized chunks.

 

 

Kale and Spring Vegetable Salad

 

Dressing ingredients:

5 Tbsp EVOO

2½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Good pinch of sea salt

 

Salad ingredients:

1 bunch of kale (about 8 large leaves)

400g baby carrots

400g baby leeks

200g baby beetroot

Nuts (optional, for garnishing)

Extra virgin olive oil for roasting the vegetables

Sea salt for roasting the vegetables

 

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400C.
  2. Wash, peel and trim the carrots. If they are baby carrots, cut them in half lengthwise. If they are regular sized carrots, cut them into generous bite-size pieces.
  3. Remove the outside layer of the leeks and trim off the top and bottom. Wash well. If you are using baby leeks, leave them whole. If you are using regular sized leeks, cut them into large chunks.
  4. In a medium-sized baking dish, add the carrots and leeks and toss them with 2-3 Tbsp of EVOO and a generous pinch of sea salt. Roast them for around 30 minutes until nicely caramelised, tossing once halfway through cooking. When they are ready, remove them from the oven and allow to cool.
  5. To roast the beetroots, first wash the skin and cut off the leaves at the top. Wrap in two layers of aluminum foil and place on a baking tray. Roast them for around 1 hour (or until a skewer goes easily through the beetroot). When they are ready, open the foil and allow them to cool. Once cool, pinch off their skin with your fingers and cut into bite-sized cubes.
  6. While everything is roasting, you can prepare the kale by removing the leaves from the thick stalks down the center. Discard the stalks.
  7. Wash and dry the kale leaves, then roughly chop them.
  8. Place the chopped kale in a large bowl and massage it by squeezing it between your hands for 3 minutes (set the timer). This will make the kale softer and more tasty, and in my opinion is a necessary step for any raw kale salad.
  9. Toss the massaged kale with all the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  10. Add the carrots, leeks and beetroots and toss well.
  11. Scatter some nuts on top for garnish (they can be added at this point or just prior to serving).
  12. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
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