Grain 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).

 

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Nov 102014
 

Puy Lentil Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Garlic

 

 

It’s that time of year again (autumn/winter) when pumpkins and winter squash are piled high in farmer’s markets and supermarkets. I love seeing all the different varieties of pumpkins, some with smooth bright orange skin, others with knobbly green skin, and some pale yellow or even white. 

 

My favorite variety of winter squash has to be butternut squash. I use it in soups, pasta sauce, pumpkin pie and of course I roast it to use in salads. Remember not to throw out your pumpkin seeds. They are packed with zinc and excellent for helping you fight off infections and germs which are so prevalent throughout the colder months. Here is my easy recipe for How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds.

 

When roasting butternut squash, I often throw in a couple of heads of garlic cut in half. The garlic cooks at the same pace as the pumpkin, so they are ready at the same time and can be used together in most dishes (probably not pumpkin pie, though!)

 

What’s your favorite way to cook pumpkin?

 

 

PUY LENTIL SALAD WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND GARLIC

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

 

 

Ingredients:

200g / 8 oz / 1 & half cups of dried Puy lentils (or double the amount if already cooked)

1 bay leaf

1 tsp salt

 

600g / 1 lb 5 oz butternut squash (peeled, deseeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes)

2 whole heads of garlic, do not remove the papery white skin and cut the garlic heads in half horizontally through the cloves (ie. each cut garlic head should have a top and bottom)

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

 

 

Directions:

  1. For easy instructions on how to cook dried Puy lentils, see my Cooking Tutorial on How To Cook Puy Lentils (with pictures). Allow the Puy lentils to cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F to roast the butternut squash and garlic.
  3. Take two whole heads of garlic. Keeping the papery white skin on, hold the garlic head on its side and cut horizontally through the entire garlic head so that it has a top and a bottom. Set aside.
  4. Wash and dry the skin of your butternut squash. The easiest way to peel a butternut squash is by using a potato peeler. Once peeled, cut the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. If you want, you can roast the seeds (ADD LINK!!). Cut the butternut squash into 1-inch pieces.
  5. In a medium-sized baking dish, add 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp of sea salt. Toss the butternut squash pieces in the oil and salt in the baking dish.
  6. Take your 4 garlic halves and rub the cut side on the bottom of the baking dish to coat with oil and salt.
  7. Put the baking dish in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss the butternut squash, being careful not to disturb the garlic too much (the cloves might fall out – if they do, don’t worry). Put the baking dish back in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
  8. When the Puy lentils and butternut squash are both at room temperature, toss them together in a bowl. Using a knife, remove the garlic cloves from the cut garlic heads and toss them in with the lentils and squash.
  9. I don’t find the need to add anything more to season this salad, but if you want you can add a little olive oil or vinegar.
  10. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for upto 2 days.

 

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Aug 222014
 

Bulgar and Herb Salad with Two Cheeses

 

Last week, I walked by the cheese section of my supermarket in Dubai to pick up my usual weekly suspects: parmesan, cheddar, feta and goat’s cheese. I usually also add a cheese from a rotating list in my head – tomme, appenzeller, or brie. But I felt like I wanted to try something different this time.

 

I have to admit that I have been quite bad about trying the local cheeses from the Middle East. Sometimes I will pick up a local halloumi or labneh, but that’s the extent of it. I wandered over to the section where the local cheeses were displayed. There were two cheeses there which caught my eye immediately, possibly because they were the first ones visible. One was called ‘Bulgary Cheese’ and the other ‘Chtoora Bulgari Cheese’.

 

I asked the obvious question to the lady behind the counter, “Are these from Bulgaria?” “No madam, local,” she replied. I didn’t quite believe her, but went with it anyway. I tasted both. The Bulgary Cheese was dripping with brine, very salty and crumbly – very similar to feta (maybe it was feta by a different name). The Chtoora Bulgari Cheese was firm and slightly sweet – a cross between halloumi and the cheese dumplings used in Ras Malai. Instead of choosing just one or the other, I decided to buy 150g (5oz) of each and combine them in a salad. ‘Bulgar Wheat and Herb Salad with Two Cheeses’ is what I came up with.

 

P.S. Anyone who has any knowledge of local Middle Eastern cheese, please point me in the right direction!

 

 

BULGAR WHEAT AND HERB SALAD with TWO CHEESES

(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

5 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pinch of salt (to taste)

 

Salad Ingredients:

120g / 4 oz dried bulgar wheat (it will become 240g / 8 oz cooked bulgar)

600ml / 2.5 cups water (to boil the bulgar)

100g / 4 oz / 6 cups baby spinach or rocket (arugula) leaves, roughly chopped

2 cups of any combination of finely chopped fresh herbs (dill, coriander, parsley, mint – depending on what you have)

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

250g / 9 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered

150g / 5 oz salty Bulgary Cheese (or feta), crumbled

150g / 5 oz firm unsalty Chtoora Bulgari Cheese (or halloumi), diced

 

Directions:

  1. Start by cooking your bulgar wheat (follow the instructions on the packaging). Rinse the dried bulgar wheat in 3 changes of water and drain it. Put it into a small saucepan and add 600ml (2.5 cups) cool water. Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat on high to bring it to the boil. As soon as the water starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cook the bulgar for 12-15 minutes until cooked through (it should still have some bite to it). You may need to drain the excess water. Spread the cooked bulgar on a plate to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Prepare your dressing by combining 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 5 Tbsp fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt in  jar or bowl. Shake/whisk and set aside.
  3. Wash 100g of baby spinach or rocket (arugula). Dry the leaves in a tea towel and roughly chop them up. Set aside.
  4. Take any combination of fresh herbs (dill, coriander, parsley, mint). Wash, dry and finely chop them. Set aside.
  5. Get 3 spring onions and remove the outer leaves. Wash them and finely slice them. Set aside.
  6.  Wash 250g cherry tomatoes and cut them into quarters. Set aside.
  7. Get your two types of cheese. Crumble the one which is like feta and dice the one which is like halloumi. Set aside (refrigerate if not using immediately).
  8. Once your bulgar is room temperature, put it into a large bowl and pour the dressing on top. Toss well.
  9. Add the leaves, herbs and spring onions. Toss until evenly combined.
  10. Add the cherry tomatoes and two cheeses. Carefully fold them in.
  11. Serve immediately or refrigerate and eat within 48 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jun 272014
 

Puy Lentil, Green Pea and Mint Salad

 

 

For the past few months, I have increasingly been replacing meat protein with vegetarian protein in my meals. I am not on the verge of becoming a vegetarian, but my preference is for organic or free-range meat and that gets expensive to eat every day. In addition, studies show that most people eat too much meat and would benefit from including other forms of protein in their diet.

 

Beans are inexpensive and are the obvious choice when it comes to veggie protein. However, they take a bit of planning if you are making them from scratch because you need to soak them for 8-24 hours before boiling them. This doesn’t always work for me because I often only decide in the afternoon what we will be having for dinner that evening. On those days, my go-to vegetarian protein is Puy lentils.

 

Puy lentils don’t require pre-soaking, they only take 15-20 minutes to cook, and they have a delicious bite to them. For a step-by-step guide, see my post ‘How To Cook Puy Lentils’.

 

Here’s a recipe I made recently for ‘Puy Lentil, Green Pea and Mint Salad’. I love mint and peas together, and adding Puy lentils bulks the dish up to make an interesting side dish or a simple filling meal.

 

 

 

PUY LENTIL, GREEN PEA AND MINT SALAD

(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

Ingredients:

400g / 14 oz frozen green peas

150g / 5 oz dried puy lentils

1 bay leaf

1 tsp salt + 1 tsp salt

8 radishes, trimmed and sliced

3 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

200g / 7 oz feta cheese, diced or crumbled

1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions:

  1. Rinse 150g of dried Puy lentils to remove any debris. Put the lentils into a small pot of cold water so that they are covered by about 3 inches of water. Bring the water up to the boil. As soon as it starts boiling, reduce the heat to a good simmer. Add 1tsp of salt and a bay leaf into the water if you want a hint of added flavor (optional). Simmer for 15-20 minutes. The Puy lentils should still have some bite to them. Drain and spread on a platter to cool.
  2. In another pot, bring some water to the boil and add 400g frozen green peas plus 1tsp salt . Simmer for 4 minutes until cooked through. Drain and spread on a platter to cool.
  3. Wash and trim 8 radishes. Slice them thinly.
  4. Wash and dry some mint leaves. Chop them very finely. You should have about 3 Tbsp worth of chopped mint leaves.
  5. Take 200g of feta cheese and dice or crumble it.
  6. As soon as the Puy lentils and green peas are room temperature, get a salad bowl and toss all the ingredients together: Puy lentils, green peas, radishes, mint leaves, feta and 1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
  7. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 48 hours. If refrigerating, allow the salad to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

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Apr 172014
 


Puy Lentil and Spicy Roasted Carrot Salad

 

 

A few months ago, I read about a new company called GoldieBlox which makes construction toys specifically for girls. Their aim is to get girls interested in building and creating in order to inspire a future generation of female engineers. Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was to run out and buy it for my daughter. A few phone calls to various toy stores around the city made it clear to me that GoldieBlox engineering toys for girls were not yet available in Dubai. Not a problem. My daughter loves Lego, especially Lego Friends, and spends a lot of time building things with her Lego blocks, so the building/spatial orientation side of her brain was definitely being exercised.

 

Yesterday, I found myself being dragged into a small cluttered non-descript toystore by my daughter. We went in with the express understanding that we are just looking and will not buy anything. This toy store had some very random things in it, a lot of which I had never seen in other stores around Dubai.

 

One of the toys which caught my eye was a construction set by a company called EI Tech which consisted of metal nuts, bolts, various shapes and real tools (note: I am somewhat cautious of metal toys because of the risk of lead or other strange metals being used, but this toy was made in Germany so I knew it had to comply by certain regulations). I had a good look at it, and somewhere in my mind I said, ‘Hmm, that looks like a good toy to get for a boy.’ As soon as I said it, another part of my brain said, ‘What did you just say? Just because it’s in a blue box and has real metal pieces rather than plastic pink pieces does not mean that it is meant for boys and not for girls.’ I immediately picked up one of the sets (the propeller aircraft construction set) and bought it for my daughter, who was happy but confused as to why I had suddenly changed my mind about us not buying anything in the shop.

 

I felt somewhat relieved to have caught myself gender-stereotyping toys and correcting myself. But then we got home, and I told my daughter, ‘OK, now you can make this with your Dad when he comes home.’ Mistake. Why should she make this with her Dad? When I bring home a jewellery-making kit for her, she and I get stuck into it – I don’t usually suggest that she wait until her Dad comes home. I realized that I sub-consciously still felt that the toy seemed stereotypically boyish and that her Dad would do a better job than me. Again, I corrected myself and said, ‘Actually, let’s you and I make it together.’

 

So we sat and built it together. And it was lots of fun. And it wasn’t that difficult. And it wasn’t pink. And we did a great job!

 

Here’s a picture of the finished propeller aircraft.

 

Propeller aircraft

 

 

When we were done, my daughter said ‘I think I want to be an engineer when I grow up,’ before correcting herself and saying, ‘Actually, I forgot I want to be a vet.’ Still, it opened her eyes to different possibilities.

 

We had a nice lunch afterwards of leftover grilled chicken and veggies. Although too spicy for my daughter, I happily dug into a Puy Lentil and Spicy Roasted Carrot Salad I had made the day before. Here’s the recipe:

 

 

PUY LENTILS AND SPICY ROASTED CARROT SALAD

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

300g / 10 oz carrots, washed and peeled

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp honey

1 tsp water

1 tsp ground coriander powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin powder

1/4 – 1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/4 tsp salt

 

250g / 9 oz  dried Puy Lentils

2 tsp salt

1 dried bay leaf

 

1 cup Arugula / Rucola / Rocket leaves, washed and drained

1 cup cilantro / coriander leaves, washed and roughly chopped

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

150g / 5 oz feta cheese, crumbled or diced

 

Directions:

  1. Carrots: Preheat the oven to 200C/400F (fan-assisted). Wash, dry, trim and peel your carrots. Quarter lengthwise and then cut into 3-inch / 7 cm batons. In an oven-proof dish, combine 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp honey, 1 tsp water, 1 tsp ground coriander powder, 1/2 tsp ground cumin powder, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red chilli powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Toss the carrot batons in the mixture and place in the oven. Roast for 10 minutes, toss, and then roast for a further 10 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool. The carrots should be quite spicy, but remember that their flavor will mellow as they cool down.
  2. Puy lentils: Bring small or medium-sized pot of water to the boil. Once boiling, add 2 tsp salt, 1 dried bay leaf and 250g dried Puy lentils. Simmer partially covered for 20 minutes. Drain and spread on a platter to cool to room temperature. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
  3. Arugula: Wash and drain 1 cup of arugula leaves. If they are very large, roughly chop them. If they are small, leave them whole. Set aside.
  4. Cilantro: Wash and drain 1 cup of cilantro / coriander leaves. Roughly chop. Set aside.
  5. Spring onions: Remove the outer layer of  each of your 3 spring onions. Wash and dry them, and then slice them finely into discs. Set aside.
  6. Feta: Drain if necessary, and crumble or dice your feta cheese. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  7. Once the Puy lentils and carrots have become room temperature, toss them together in a large salad bowl with all the rest of the prepared salad ingredients (arugula, cilantro, spring onion and feta cheese).
  8. Add the dressing ingredients directly into the salad (4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt). Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  9. Refrigerate and serve within 48 hours.

 

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Mar 152014
 

Spring Greens and Fig Couscous Salad

 

 

I need to find a wedding gift. Actually, I need to find two.

 

With weddings, there are two distinct philosophies where wedding gifts are concerned: To gift-list or not to gift-list, that is the question.

 

I am firmly on the side of putting together a gift list. A big part of the reason is because people will be spending a lot of money anyway and isn’t it better to get things you actually want and need? I managed to get lots of gifts which would have taken me years to afford (plus you can choose the colors you want – volcanic orange-red Creuset for me all the way!). It also makes it easier for the person who is buying the gift. You know the bride and groom will love it because they chose it, plus you don’t have the stress of actually going shopping, carrying the gift home, wrapping it, and then suffering from buyer’s remorse which makes you spend hours Googling the gift you bought.

 

I know the Non-Gift-Listers find gift-lists tacky because you can see the price of each gift plus it is a little less personal than having someone go out and choose something for you. But I am just haunted by memories of my aunts who got married in the ’80s (when nobody made gift-lists) and received gifts such as a Renaissance-inspired statuette with a clock embedded in its abdomen, useless crystal bowls which were politely put into storage (until someone finally donated them to charity), and picture frame after picture frame after picture frame…

 

The two weddings I am buying for fall into separate gift-list camps. My cousin is getting married in London this weekend and she didn’t put together a gift list, so I am trying to figure out what to get for her. My sister also got married, but it was last year in August. She had put together an online gift list, but I didn’t manage to buy anything off of it because I got too busy with the preparations and when I finally sat down to buy something after the wedding was over, the list had been closed. Luckily we’re all close enough that a delayed wedding gift is not going to raise any eyebrows, so I’m going to take my time to find a gift which they will love and more importantly use almost every day.

 

Actually, waiting to buy a wedding gift is not such a bad idea. When you first get married and move into your new home it takes time to figure out how you want to decorate your house, what sorts of things you like using in the kitchen, and what your lifestyle will be like. I have loved cooking since I was young so for me it was a no-brainer that almost everything on my list would be kitchen-related. My sister, who was never a fan of cooking (possibly because my mother or I would always cook so she never had to), has found that after marriage she actually enjoys cooking and finally has a full appreciation of why a Creuset pot is so amazing to cook in and the importance of very good chopping knives. Time will tell if my cousin will start enjoying cooking as much as my sister now does. For now I’m watching and waiting, but I have given myself a deadline that the gift needs to be bought within one year of the wedding date.

 

With a spring wedding in the air, I decided to make Spring Greens and Fig Couscous Salad. It is packed with nice tender green vegetables like peas, asparagus, mache lettuce and mint. Couscous is probably the easiest grain to make, you simply steam it for a few minutes in seasoned water to plump it up. And then I threw in some pumpkin seeds and dried figs for variety.

 

 

SPRING GREENS AND FIG COUSCOUS SALAD

(Serves 6 as a side dish)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

a pinch of salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

250g / 9 oz / 1&3/4 cups dried couscous (wholewheat)

Half a stock cube (I use Kallo’s Organic Vegetable stock cubes)

320mL freshly boiled water

1/2 tsp salt

200g fresh peas, if you are lucky enough to get very tender peas then leave them raw otherwise simmer for 3 minutes in salted water until just tender

1 bunch thin asparagus, if it is very tender then leave them raw otherwise simmer them for a minute and a half in salted water

1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped (finely or roughly chopped, depending on your preference)

1 cup mache leaves/lamb’s lettuce (or any other spring lettuce)

100g / 4 oz / 1 cup / 8 pieces dried figs, chopped into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

2 Tbsp very finely diced red onion (or spring onion)

 

Directions:

  1. Couscous: Measure out 250g couscous and pour it into a saucepan which has a tight lid. To prepare your stock, put 1/2 a stock cube and 1/2 tsp salt into a measuring jug. Pour 320mL of freshly boiled water into the measuring jug and stir well until the stock cube has dissolved. Pour the stock onto the couscous in the saucepan, stir and cover with the lid. Steam for 6 minutes. Then uncover the couscous, fluff it with a fork and spread it on a platter to cool.
  2. Peas & Asparagus: Cut the asparagus spears into 2-inch pieces. If you are lucky enough to get very tender peas and asparagus then leave them raw. Otherwise, bring some water to the boil in a saucepan. Add a little salt to the boiling water, and simmer the peas  for 3 minutes until tender and the asparagus for 1-2 minutes until just tender. Drain and set aside to allow to cool.
  3. Mint leaves: Separate the mint leaves from their stalk. You need about a cup of loosely packed mint leaves. Wash and dry the mint, and then chop it finely or roughly (according to preference). Set aside
  4. Lettuce leaves: If you are using mache leaves, separate the leaves from the stems. Discard the stems, and wash and dry the mache leaves. If you are using another type of lettuce leaf, you may not need to remove the stem but you may need to chop the leaves if they are large. Set aside.
  5. Dried figs & Pumpkin seeds: Take 8 dried figs and chop them into bite-size pieces. Measure out half a cup of pumpkin seeds. Set aside.
  6. Red onions: Finely chop a little bit of red onion until you have 2 Tbsp.
  7. Dressing: Once the couscous is cool, add 4 Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 4 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Toss well. The couscous should not need extra salt because we added it with the stock.
  8. Add the rest of the ingredients to the dressed couscous and toss well (peas, asparagus, mint leaves, lettuce leaves, figs, pumpkin seeds and red onion).
  9. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you want a more pronounced dressing flavor, you may want to add a little more lemon juice or even a splash of vinegar.
  10. The salad can be served straightaway at room temperature, or can be refrigerated and served within the next 48 hours.

 

 

 

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Nov 222013
 

 

Quinoa, Chickpea and Almond Salad with Orange-Cumin Vinaigrette

 

 

My recipe for Quinoa, Chickpea and Almond Salad pulls together many of my favorite warm Middle-Eastern flavors such as cumin, cinnamon and orange. A lovely salad for the mild winters in Dubai.

 

However, mild winters are not what I grew up. Growing up on the US East coast with its four distinct seasons, one thing was certain – my childhood winters were never mild! One of my favorite winter memories was the surprise of getting snow days off school. These invariably started the night before with earnest childhood prayers for so much snowfall that school would be forced to close the next day. In those days (before email and text messaging), the only way to relay the message was for class parents to call each other early in the morning before anyone would have set off for school. When I heard the phone ring, I knew what that meant! We would jump out of our pajamas, straight into snow clothes and out in the snow making snowmen. What could be better? Bliss for the kids, probably mixed emotions for the parents.

 

Now as a parent myself living in Dubai, I can see that while the kids here have many advantages, one of them is not the surprise of snowy days which shut down school. However, recently, they got something pretty close.

 

At the beginning of this week, we started hearing reports that a big thunder storm was set to hit the United Arab Emirates. There were even rumors (probably unfounded) that the military was on stand-by to deal with the chaotic aftermath. So we waited. And waited. But nothing much happened. Then on Thursday morning around 10am, parents were suddenly informed that the government had ordered all schools to be closed for the day due to the expected storm. This led to a mix of reactions on social media – teens tweeting about how thrilled they were to be off school and some parents grumbling about whether this was a teeny bit of an over-reaction on the part of the government. Especially as the sky looked quite blue and clear.

 

Now, I have been living in Dubai for 5 years, and I can say pretty confidently that it rains here maybe 2-3 times a year. It usually doesn’t last very long and is not all that heavy. But because the drainage system on the streets is not equipped to deal with rain (this is a desert, after all), the whole city can get surprisingly flooded by a small shower of rain which in other countries would barely warrant an umbrella. I can only imagine what a proper thunder storm might do to the roads – turn them into veritable rivers.

 

Everyone waited for the storm that day. I went into mini-anxiety mode, probably from my upbringing in the US where snow days were often accompanied by images on television of people stock-piling canned food from supermarkets. I got out my stash of candles and did a quick run to our local supermarket (I bought everything I needed, except I forgot the milk). By the end of the day, the worst we got was slightly grayish skies and some drizzle. Social media started buzzing with vindicated parents who felt that the whole drama was over-done. Perhaps. But weather is notoriously unpredictable. Instead of joining the voices of people complaining about the government over-reacting, I was actually pleased that they had the foresight to try and keep the roads clear in case the thunder storm hit. I’m sure all parents would much rather have an unexpected afternoon with their child safely at home than be stuck on a flooded road for hours.

 

As for the kids, I’m glad they got to experience something similar to a surprise snow day off school. Although, I guess it’s not quite the same. After all, you can’t make snowmen out of raindrops…

 

 

P.S. In case you were wondering, the thunder storm did arrive, but it was in the middle of the night.

 

 

 

QUINOA, CHICKPEA and ALMOND SALAD with ORANGE-CUMIN VINAIGRETTE

(Serves 4-6)

 

Dressing Ingredients:

6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp orange juice (freshly squeeze, or a good quality brand)

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1/8-1/4 tsp red chilli powder (to taste)

1/4 tsp sea salt

 

Salad Ingredients:

1 cup dried quinoa (or 3 cups cooked quinoa, ready to eat)

1 tin chickpeas (approximately 400g tin, or 240g drained)

2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves

1 cup of cilantro / coriander leaves (washed, dried and roughly chopped)

1/2 cup sliced almonds (preferably with skin)

10 prunes (or dried apricots), chopped into bite-size pieces

1 large zucchini / courgette

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt + 1 tsp sea salt

1 dried bay leaf

 

Directions:

  1. Zucchini: Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Wash and dry your zucchini. Cut it lengthwise into quarters, and then slice it horizontally so that you end up with many small triangles of zucchini. Place the zucchini in an oven dish, drizzle 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp sea salt on top of the zucchini. Toss to cover the zucchini in the olive oil and salt. Place in a hot oven. Roast for 15 minutes, toss, and roast for another 10-15 minutes until nicely cooked. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  2. Quinoa: If you do not have 3 cups of cooked ready-to-eat quinoa, you can make it in the following way. Take 1 cup of dried quinoa and place it in a colander. You need to wash the quinoa, and it has a tendency to float, so the easiest way to wash it is by filling a large bowl with water, and placing the colander (with the quinoa in the colander) into the bowl of water. Rinse the quinoa in the colander with your hand, and then lift the colander. Discard the water. Rinse 2 more times. Put the drained quinoa into a small saucepan. Boil about 2 cups of water in your kettle. When the water has come to the boil, measure out 1&1/2 cups boiled water and pour it into the saucepan with the quinoa. Add 1 tsp of sea salt and 2 dried bay leaf to water and quinoa. Cover the saucepan and allow to come to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, and allow the quinoa to simmer for 15 minutes (covered). Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit (covered) for 5 minutes. Fluff it with a fork and spread it on a platter to cool.
  3. Dressing: Make the salad dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients together and mixing well (I recommend shaking them up in a clean jar with a lid). Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Chickpeas: Drain and rinse 1 tin of chickpeas. Set aside.
  5. Spinach: Wash and dry 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves. If they are quite small, leave them whole. Otherwise roughly chop them. Set aside.
  6. Cilantro: Wash, dry and roughly chop 1 cup of cilantro / coriander leaves. Set aside.
  7. Prunes: Chop 10 prunes into bite-size pieces. Alternatively, you can use dried apricots. Set aside.
  8. Almonds: Measure out 1/2 a cup of sliced almonds. Set aside.
  9. When the quinoa has cooled down to room temperature, put it in a large bowl and add all the dressing. Toss well.
  10. Add the cooled zucchini, chickpeas, baby spinach, cilantro, prunes and almonds. Fold until well mixed.
  11. Serve straight away, or refrigerate for up to 48 hours.

 

 

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May 032013
 

Camargue Red Rice and Asparagus Salad with Spicy Plum Sauce

 

 

I originally made this grain salad to mark Chinese New Year, but it can be enjoyed any time of the year. I used Camargue red rice (red being an auspicious color in Chinese culture) and included a few of my favorite Oriental ingredients: asparagus, plum sauce, sesame oil and chilli.

 

 

Camargue Red Rice is a short-grained rice cultivated in southern France. Once cooked, it is sticky and slightly chewy with a distinct nutty flavor. In this recipe it can be replaced with brown rice or wild rice which may be easier to find. White rice won’t work because it’s flavor is too delicate for the Spicy Plum Sauce Dressing.

 

 

For the best flavor serve this salad at room temperature – make sure you remove it from the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

CAMARGUE RED RICE AND ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH SPICY PLUM SAUCE

(Serves 6 as a side dish)

 

 

Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp Chinese Plum Sauce

1 plump garlic clove

Generous pinch of sea salt

Half tsp red chilli/cayenne powder

1 Tbsp of a mild flavored oil, such as walnut oil

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

 

 

Salad Ingredients:

8oz (250g) uncooked Camargue red rice/brown rice/wild rice [8oz (250g) of uncooked rice should make around 21oz (600g) of cooked rice]

15oz (450g) asparagus

Good handful of cilantro/coriander leaves, finely chopped

3 plump scallions/spring onions, finely sliced into rounds

1 tsp sesame oil

Salt

 

 

Directions:

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Prepare your asparagus by discarding the lower third of the stalk. Cut the rest of the asparagus into 2-3inch pieces. Place in an oven-proof dish, toss with 1 tsp of sesame oil and a pinch of salt, and place in the middle of the oven to roast for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove it from the oven and allow to cool.
  2. Boil the rice in a large pot of well-salted water. Camargue red rice takes between 30-35 minutes to cook – check the instructions on your package. When cooked, drain and set on a plate to cool.
  3. To prepare the Spicy Plum Sauce dressing, take a plump garlic clove and either grate it using a fine grater OR mash it up with a generous pinch of sea salt using a pestle and mortar. In a screw-top jar, put the garlic and all the other dressing ingredients and shake well. Taste and adjust, if necessary. It has to be quite spicy otherwise the taste will be covered by the strong flavor of the rice.
  4. When the rice and asparagus are at room temperature, combine them together in a large salad bowl along with the cilantro/coriander leaves and scallions/spring onions.
  5. Add the dressing and toss until evenly mixed.
  6. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Best served at room temperature, so remove from the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.
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May 032013
 

Puy Lentil Firecracker Salad

 

 

In many countries, it is a tradition to serve legumes (ie. lentiles or pulses) on New Year’s Day. Legumes are symbolic of monetary good fortune because their small round shape resembles coins which swell when cooked.

 

This crunchy lentil salad earns the name ‘Firecracker’ because it uses lots of spicy ingredients. You can adjust the spiciness by using more or less chillies, but I think 2 red chillies allows the salad to bite you back just hard enough. You can always douse it down with some plain yogurt if you can’t take the heat.

 

 

 

FIRECRACKER PUY LENTIL FIRECRACKER SALAD

(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

 

Dressing Ingredients:

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (optional)

1 plump garlic, peeled and grated

1 generous pinch of sea salt

 

 

Salad Ingredients:

250g dried Puy lentils (or 500g cooked Puy lentils)

1 dried bay leaf

1 tsp salt

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

8 radishes, finely diced

2 spicy fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced

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

3 Tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves

 

 

Directions:

  1. Puy Lentils: Bring a pot of water to the boil (I find that boiling the water in the kettle first and then pouring it into a pot saves time). Rinse the Puy lentils in cool water and then add them to the pot of boiling water. Add the dried bay leaf and 1 tsp salt. Allow to boil for 15-20 minutes. Drain and allow the lentils to cool quickly by spreading them on a flat plate.
  2. Dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients at the bottom of the salad bowl you will be tossing your salad in (this salad will not get wilted by sitting in the dressing).
  3. Chop the red bell pepper, radishes, deseeded red chillies, scallions/spring onions, and coriander leaves. You want everything chopped finely so that each mouthful has a little bit of everything.
  4. In your salad bowl, add all the chopped vegetables on top of the dressing and mix well. Once the Puy lentils are room temperature, add them to the rest of the salad. Combine well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

 

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May 032013
 

 

Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Salad

 

My recipe ‘Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Salad’ was winner of the Beat Diabetes Healthy 3-Course Meal Challenge. 

 


Quinoa seems like a very exotic ingredient to many people, but if you can cook rice then you can cook quinoa.

 

Quinoa boiled in plain water can be quite bland, which makes it a good vehicle for other flavors. However, by toasting first and then boiling it in vegetable stock, you can really give your quinoa a flavor-boost. To learn more about quinoa and why you should eat it, have a look at ‘Quinoa: 5 Great Reasons Why You Should Be Eating It’.

 

 

 

QUINOA AND ROASTED VEGETABLE SALAD

(Serves 4)

 

 

Dressing Ingredients:

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

 

 

Salad Ingredients:

1 cup (200 ml) dried quinoa (or 3 cups cooked quinoa)

Half a vegetable stock cube (I recommend Kallo Organic Stock Cubes)

1 & 1/2 cups (300ml) boiling water

500g zucchini / courgette

400g bell peppers (mixed colors)

4 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

 

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
  2. Chop the mixed bell peppers and zucchini/courgette into bite-size pieces and place them in a roasting dish. Drizzle 4 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 tsp coarse salt over the vegetables. Mix quickly and roast in the oven for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Once cooked, allow to cool
  3. Measure out 1 cup of quinoa and rinse it well. Quinoa can be difficult to rinse because a lot of it floats to the top, so my favorite way of rinsing it is by putting the quinoa in a fine mesh colander and placing the colander in a larger bowl. Place the bowl with the colander in it into the sink and run water over it. This allows you to rinse the quinoa and then raise the colander up out of the bowl to easily drain it.
  4. Put the drained quinoa into an empty dry frying pan on medium heat and toast it gently until it looks slightly brown and nutty. It can take between 5 and 10 minutes. When it is toasted, remove from the heat.
  5. In a kettle, bring a little more than 1 & 1/2 cups (300 ml) of water to the boil. When the water has boiled, measure out 1 & 1/2 cups (3oo ml) and dissolve half a vegetable stock cube in it (or the recommended amount on the packaging). Pour the stock into a saucepan and set bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer.
  6. Add the toasted quinoa to the stock in the saucepan. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes (or according to packaging). Remove from the heat and allow to steam (covered) for 5 minutes. The stock should be fully absorbed, but if not drain the remaining stock. Spread the quinoa on a plate and allow to cool.
  7. When the quinoa and vegetables are cool, combine them in a bowl and drizzle 2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 2 Tbsp of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
  8. Toss everything together and serve immediately or refrigerate for upto 2 days.

 

 

 

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May 032013
 

Quinoa, Corn and Bean Salad

 


Quinoa, Corn and Bean Salad is a nice side dish to serve as part of a Mexican meal. It has got a nice mixture of textures – chewy quinoa, smooth beans and crunchy corn. It can be prepared in advance and refrigerated upto 24 hours before serving.

 

To learn more about Quinoa, have a look at ‘Quinoa: 5 Great Reasons Why You Should Be Eating It’.

 

 

 

QUINOA, CORN AND BEAN SALAD

(Serves 4-6)

 

 

Salad Ingredients:

1 cup dried quinoa (3 cups cooked quinoa)

1 & 1/2 cups boiling water

2 cups Frozen Corn, defrosted (or boiled and cooled)

1 can of Red Kidney Beans (drained weight 80z / 240g)

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

3 Tbsp cilantro / coriander leaves, chopped

 

Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tbsp Vinegar (Apple Cider or White Wine Vinegar)

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed Lime (optional)

2 Garlic cloves, finely grated or very finely chopped

pinch of Sea Salt (to taste)

 

Directions:

  1. Measure out 1 cup of dried quinoa and rinse it well. Quinoa can be difficult to rinse because a lot of it floats to the top, so my favorite way of rinsing it is by putting the quinoa in a fine mesh colander and placing the colander in a larger bowl. Place the bowl with the colander in it into the sink and run water over it. This allows you to rinse the quinoa and then raise the colander up out of the bowl to easily drain it. Rinse it well in 2-3 changes of water and set aside.
  2. Boil about 2 cups of water in a kettle. When the water has boiled, measure out 1 & 1/2 cups, and pour it into a saucepan. Bring the water up to the boil on the stove.
  3. Add the drained quinoa to the saucepan. Allow it to simmer (covered) for 15 minutes, followed by 5 minutes off the heat (covered), and then fluff it with a fork.
  4. Spread the quinoa on a plate to cool.
  5. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the Dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shaking well. Set aside while you make the salad.
  6. Defrost 2 cups of frozen corn kernels by placing them in a colander over a bowl at room temperature for about an hour. Alternatively, you can boil some water in the kettle, pour it into a medium-sized bowl, and place the frozen corn kernels into the boiled water for about 5 minutes until they are soft all the way through.
  7. Drain and rinse the red kidney beans.
  8. Chop the cilantro / coriander leaves and scallions / spring onions.
  9. Toss all the salad ingredients together once everything is at room temperature. Pour the dressing over the quinoa salad and toss again to distribute evenly.
  10. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

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May 032013
 

Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad with Cumin-Lime Dressing

 


The more I learn about the ancient South American grain Quinoa, the more I am trying to find ways to include it in my diet.

 

Quinoa is increasing in popularity due to its excellent nutritional qualities. It is gluten-free and one of the only vegetarian complete proteins out there. A complete protein is a food which contains all 9 of the essential amino acids which our body cannot create itself and needs to get from food. Amino acids are used by the body for virtually every bodily task. Animal protein is a complete protein but most vegetarian proteins are incomplete – except for quinoa.

 

Quinoa is largely grown in Peru, which is what inspired me to combine it with traditional Peruvian ingredients – sweet potatoes, beans (lima or black beans) and cumin are used frequently in Peruvian dishes. Quinoa is inexpensive, easy to store, and as simple to prepare as rice. It has a mild flavor that adapts well to many dishes.

 

To learn more about Quinoa, have a look at ‘Quinoa: 5 Great Reasons Why You Should Be Eating It’.

 

 

 

QUINOA AND SWEET POTATO SALAD WITH CUMIN-LIME DRESSING

(Serves 6 as a side salad)

 

 

Dressing Ingredients:

1 Tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin

Generous pinch of sea salt

 

 

Salad Ingredients:

100g (3/4 cup) dried lima (butter) beans or black beans (or 200g cooked)

1 cup / 200 ml dried quinoa (or 3 cups cooked)

1&1/2 cups boiling water

300-350g sweet potato

1 fresh jalapeno chilli pepper, deseeded and finely chopped

 

 

Directions:

  1. Sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 2-inch pieces. Place in an oven-proof dish, toss with some olive oil and a touch of sea salt, and roast in the oven for 20 minutes (stirring half way through). Check that they are cooked through, and then allow to cool.
  2. Beans: Soak 100g of dried beans in water overnight. I find that soaking them for a few hours in freshly boiled water just before cooking does as good a job as an overnight soak. Boil the beans in a pot of simmering water for 20-45 minutes. Allow to cool.
  3. Quinoa: Measure out 1 cup of quinoa and rinse it well. Quinoa can be difficult to rinse because a lot of it floats to the top, so my favorite way of rinsing it is by putting the quinoa in a fine mesh colander and placing the colander in a larger bowl. Place the bowl with the colander in it into the sink and run water over it. This allows you to rinse the quinoa and then raise the colander up out of the bowl to easily drain it. Rinse the quinoa well in 2-3 changes of water and drain. Prepare the quinoa according to the instructions on the packaging. I put 1 cup of quinoa and 1&1/2 cups kettle-boiled water into a pot and allow it to simmer (covered) for 15 minutes, followed by 5 minutes off the heat (covered), and then fluff it with a fork. Allow it to cool by spreading on a plate.
  4. Jalapeno: Deseed and chop 1 jalapeno chilli pepper.
  5. Dressing: Prepare the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients together in a jar and shaking well.
  6. Once all the ingredients are cool, combine the beans, quinoa, sweet potato, jalapeno, and dressing in a salad bowl and toss well.
  7. Refrigerate and serve within 24 hours.
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