Gluten Free Salads

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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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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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.

 

 

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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

 

 

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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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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?

 

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Nov 102015
 

Roasted Pumpkin, Garlic and Feta Dip

 

It’s November and there are pumpkins everywhere I turn – smooth yellow ones, big orange ones, knobbly green ones – so I decided to try making a pumpkin dip. I’m a big fan of dips because they make eating healthy very easy. A healthy dip waiting for me in my fridge plus vegetable sticks equals a healthy snack I can turn to in between meals.

 

Roasting is the best way to cook pumpkins. You don’t have to remove the skin, which can be tricky when the pumpkin is not entirely smooth. For roasting, you simply need to cut your pumpkin in half and roast it with the skin on (removing the skin after roasting is much easier). Some people discard the pumpkin seeds, but I recommend roasting them because they are high in zinc and make a delicious snack (see my tutorial on how to Roast Pumpkin Seeds).

 

I am in the habit of throwing a few garlic cloves into the oven whenever I roast anything, so adding roasted garlic with my roasted pumpkin was obvious for me. Feta brings some cool savouriness to the dip, and the saltiness of the feta means that you may not need to add any extra salt.

 

Roasted Pumpkin, Garlic and Feta Dip is delicious served with vegetable sticks, bread, crackers or corn chips. It also works well as a warm meal tossed with hot pasta.

 

Share your thoughts: Do you have a favourite pumpkin dip recipe you would like to share?

 

Roasted Pumpkin, Garlic and Feta Dip

 

 

ROASTED PUMPKIN, GARLIC AND FETA DIP

(makes 2 cups/400ml)

 

Ingredients:

700g raw pumpkin in its shell for roasting (or 400g/300mL freshly roasted pumpkin) – any pumpkin variety will do except for a jack-o-lantern pumpkin

8 fresh raw whole garlic cloves, with their paper skin still on

100g feta cheese, roughly crumbled

salt, according to taste (I did not need to add any as the feta was salty enough)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F to roast the pumpkin and garlic cloves.
  2. To roast the garlic: In a small oven-proof dish, toss the garlic cloves with a little olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Allow it to cool to room temperature. Remove and discard the paper skin and cut off the hard root end from the garlic cloves.
  3. To roast the pumpkin: Cut your pumpkin in half lengthwise. Use a tablespoon to scrape out the strings and seeds in the cavity of the pumpkin. Some people discard the pumpkin seeds, but I recommend roasting them because they are high in zinc and make a delicious snack (see my tutorial on how to Roast Pumpkin Seeds). Rub the inside of the two halves of the pumpkin with some extra virgin olive oil and place them face down in an oven-proof dish. Roast for 40 minutes or until the pumpkin flesh is soft. Turn the pumpkin over and allow to cool. Once cool, mash the pumpkin flesh and scoop it out of the skin. Discard the skin. If you have too much cooked pumpkin, you can save it in the fridge or the freezer for another recipe.
  4. In a food processor, put in your 8 roasted garlic cloves and 100g crumbled feta cheese. Process  until smooth. Add 400g/300mL freshly roasted pumpkin and process to desired consistency. Taste and add salt if necessary (depending on the saltiness of the feta)
  5. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within 3 days with vegetable sticks, bread, crackers or corn chips.
  6. For a warm meal, this also works nicely tossed with pasta.

 

Share your thoughts: Do you have a favourite pumpkin dip recipe you would like to share?

 

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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.

 

 

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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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Oct 062015
 

Mushroom Pate

 

I’m a big fan of savoury spreads and I have been looking around for a good Mushroom Paté recipe for a while.

 

Most of the recipes I have come across include some kind of spreadable dairy component such as creme fraiche, sour cream, or cream cheese. I tried a recipe with creme fraiche and although it was good, the mushroom flavour was rather diluted.

 

What I wanted – what I craved – was a Mushroom Paté with a savoury umami mushroomy flavour front and center. After some experimentation and the discovery of a half-used forgotten jar of dehydrated mushrooms at the back of my spice cupboard, I came up with a recipe which is bursting with that concentrated mushroom flavour that I just adore. If you love mushrooms, I’m sure you will love this recipe too!

 

Share your thoughts: What is your favourite way to eat mushrooms?

 

Mushroom Pate

 

MUSHROOM PATE

(Makes 1.5 cups)

 

Ingredients:

(You will need a food processor or blender for this recipe)

1/2 cup / 40g / 1.5 oz walnuts

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

7g / 0.25 oz dehydrated mushrooms + some hot water to rehydrate them (once rehydrated and chopped, the mushrooms should come to about 3 Tbsp)

250g / 9 oz fresh mushrooms (one type or a mix of mushrooms – anything except white button mushrooms which lack flavour)

100g / 3.5 oz onions or shallots, diced

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 loosely packed Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves (fresh sage or thyme would be good alternatives)

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

 

Directions:

  1. Put your dehydrated mushrooms in a small bowl and cover them with about an inch of hot water. Leave the mushrooms to rehydrate for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the rehydrated mushrooms from the water (you will not need the mushroom water for this recipe, but you can reserve it for another purpose.) Chop the rehydrated mushrooms.
  2. While your mushrooms are rehydrating, you can toast your walnuts (either on the stovetop or in the oven). (1) To toast your walnuts on the stovetop, put them in a dry pan (I use a small cast iron pan) and turn the stove on medium-high heat. Toast the walnuts in the pan for about 3 minutes, tossing the walnuts frequently for even cooking. (2) To toast your walnuts in the oven, preheat the oven to 350F/175C and spread the walnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven for 7-10 minutes, shaking from time to time for even cooking. When toasted, remove the walnuts from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Wipe your fresh mushrooms with a dry kitchen towel (if they are very dirty, wash them first), and then chop them. (You will use a food processor or blender later, so the pieces can be roughly chopped.)
  4. Chop your onion and garlic.
  5. In a saucepan, warm 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil on medium heat.
  6. Sautée the chopped onions until just translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and sautée for a further 2 minutes. Do not allow the onions or garlic to get brown.
  7. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and sautée for a minute.
  8. Add the fresh chopped mushrooms, herbs and 1 tsp salt.
  9. Sautée until all the water in the saucepan has evaporated.
  10. Turn off the heat and add 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard. Mix well to combine.
  11. In a food processor, add the toasted walnuts and process until just broken up.
  12. Add the mushroom mixture into the food processor and process to desired consistency. You want the mixture to stick together but not become too smooth.
  13. Pour the mushroom pate into a small container or jar, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set.
  14. Serve on top of thinly sliced baguette, crackers, or cucumbers.
  15. You can add optional extra garnishes such as pickles or capers.

 

Share your thoughts: What is your favourite way to eat mushrooms?

 

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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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