healthy 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.





(Serves 4)




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)




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


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Jun 172016

Grilled Aubergine Salad with Spice Maple Dressing


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


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


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





(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)



  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 082015

Oriental Ginger Coleslaw


My mother once told me a story about ginger.


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


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

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


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


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


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


Oriental Ginger Coleslaw





(Serves 4 as a side salad)



Dressing Ingredients:

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

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2 tsp sugar (preferably brown sugar)

1/2  – 1 tsp coarse sea salt


Salad Ingredients:

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

200g / 7 oz carrots, peeled and grated

100g / 3.5 oz radishes, grated

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

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

3 Tbsp crushed peanuts (or more to taste)

2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)




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



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


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Apr 222015
Simplest Italian Tomato Salad

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


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


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


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


Simplest Italian Tomato Salad



(Serves 4)




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



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


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


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Apr 142015

Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing


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


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


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


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


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


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


Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing



(Serves 4)


Dressing Ingredients:

1 shallot, very finely diced (approximately 2 Tbsp)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

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


Salad Ingredients:

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

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

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

4 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 Tbsp chopped pecans/walnuts



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


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


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Mar 182015


Spinach, Feta and Walnut Salad


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


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


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


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


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


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


Spinach, Feta and Walnut Salad




(Serves 4-6 as an appetizer)



Dressing Ingredients: (makes 1/2 cup)

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

6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Generous pinch of sea salt



Salad Ingredients:

12 cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half

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

4 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, washed and roughly chopped

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

4 Tbsp walnuts, roughly chopped




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


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


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Feb 122015


Leafy Green Salad with Garlic-Parmesan Croutons


Most people associate Valentine’s Day with romantic foods like chocolates, strawberries and oysters, but I think that dark green leafy vegetables should be up there on the list too. Dark green leaves are great for the heart, which is an excellent reason to eat them on Valentine’s Day! If you don’t want to mix your own leaves, you can buy pre-mixed bags of leaves which have 4-6 varieties in them.


To make an easy and delicious Valentine’s Salad, try tossing mixed leaves in balsamic vinaigrette and topping them with some delicious home-baked garlic-parmesan croutons. (To learn how to bake croutons, see my Cooking Tutorial: How To Bake Croutons.)


Home-made croutons are so much tastier and healthier than store-bought ones. They are also very easy to make and you can prepare them in large batches and store them (tightly sealed) in your refrigerator to throw onto salads for the whole week!


Some people like to fry their croutons in butter, but I prefer baking them in the oven with extra virgin olive oil. I have read several recipes which suggest using bread which is a few days old but, since I usually don’t plan things in advance, I often use fresh same-day bread and they turn out just fine. You simply need to bake them for a little longer to get them crispy.


At their simplest, croutons can be made with only bread and olive oil and still turn out wonderfully tasty, but adding some garlic and parmesan makes everything more delicious.


The croutons can simply be cut into chunky cubes, but for Valentine’s Day you can make them extra special by using a cookie cutter to cut out heart-shaped croutons. What a great (and healthy) way to say, “I love you!”



Write your comment below: Have you ever cooked something healthy for your other half on Valentine’s Day? Or maybe it was your other half who cooked something special and healthy for you? Tell us what it was!






(Serves 4 as a starter)

(If making for 2, halve the recipe for the salad and dressing but keep the crouton quantity the same)



Crouton Ingredients: (can be made a day in advance)

6 slices from a loaf of good quality white bread

3 garlic cloves, grated

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Generous pinch of salt

Fresh ground pepper (to taste)

3 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan



Dressing Ingredients:

6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Generous pinch of salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste



Salad Ingredients:

6-8 cups of mixed dark green lettuce leaves (you can get good packs of mixed lettuce leaves from most supermarkets)

1 cucumber, sliced

12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half





  1. Croutons: Preheat the oven to 375F/ 190C. Cut your bread slices into chunky cubes or use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Spread evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  2. In a bowl, combine the grated garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and then drizzle over the bread. Toss the bread around to coat it on both sides and then re-arrange it again in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top of the croutons and bake for 10-20 minutes (less time if the bread is dry and more time if it is fresh). Check every 5 minutes to make sure they aren’t getting burnt. Toss the croutons once, when they seem about halfway done.
  4. Allow the croutons to cool to room temperature. Use immediately or seal well and store them in the refrigerator.
  5. Dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients together in a screw-top jar or a bowl. Mix well and put aside until you are ready to serve the salad.
  6. Salad: Wash the salad leaves, cucumber and tomatoes and then dry. Slice the cucumber and cut the tomatoes. Roughly chop the dark green leaves, if necessary. Toss the leaves with the dressing just prior to serving. Scatter the cucumber and tomato on top of the salad and arrange the croutons on top.
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Nov 142014


Citrus Salad with Shrikhand



My recipe ‘Citrus Salad with Shrikhand’ was featured in The Guardian (UK) and was winner of the Beat Diabetes Healthy 3-Course Meal Challenge. 



Wintertime is prime citrus season and you can find a great variety of citrus fruits in the market these days. I usually stick to clementines, my all-time favorite, but I wanted to incorporate other citrus fruits into my diet as well. This salad forced me out of my comfort-zone to try pomelo (for the first time), grapefruit (after a long time), and navel oranges (I forgot how good they could be!).


My recipe for Citrus Salad with Shrikhand is a wonderful way to make a fruit salad which is more then simply tossed fruit. By slicing up the citrus fruit and laying it out flat, you get to see the beautiful array of colors which each fruit brings. My method for slicing citrus fruit is very quick and easy. Simply slice off the top and bottom. Leaving the rest of the peel on, slice the fruit across horizontally into 1/2 inch (1 cm) slices. To remove the peel and pith from each slice, lie the fruit slices flat on a chopping board and use a sharp knife to cut around the fruit in straight lines (see photo above), so that the slices are hexagons or octagons.


Serving the citrus fruit with Shrikhand, an Indian sweetened yogurt, gives this fruit salad an exotic twist. Serve for breakfast, brunch or dessert.


This looks like sunshine on a plate!





(Serves 4)




Any variety of citrus fruits (ie. 1 grapefruit, 1 pomelo, 2 navel oranges, 2 clementines, 4 slices of pineapple)

500ml Greek yogurt

4 Tbsp icing sugar

6 cardamom pods, seeds crushed with a mortar and pestle

2 tsp warm milk

1/2 tsp saffron strands

15-20 pistachios, crushed with a mortar and pestle





Prepare the Shrikhand (can be made upto 24 hours before serving):

  1. Warm 2 tsp of milk (I poured the milk into a ceramic egg-cup and microwaved it for 15 seconds) and add 1/2 tsp of saffron strands. Mix and let it sit and infuse for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Crush the pistachios with a mortar and pestle and set them aside.
  3. Crush the cardamom pod seeds with a mortar and pestle until very fine.
  4. In a bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, icing sugar, crushed cardamom seeds, and saffron milk. Stir until just evenly mixed. Refrigerate if not using immediately.


Prepare the Citrus Salad:

  1. If using clementines, peel and separate the segments.
  2. For most other citrus fruits, slice off the top and bottom. Leaving the rest of the peel on, slice the fruit across horizontally into 1/2 inch (1 cm) slices. To remove the peel and pith from each slice, lie the fruit slices flat on a chopping board and use a sharp knife to cut around the fruit in straight lines (see photo above), so that the slices are hexagons or octagons.
  3. Arrange the fruit on individual plates.
  4. Add a generous dollop of Shrikhand on top of the fruit and sprinkle with the crushed pistachios.


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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.





(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)



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



  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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Jun 232014

Greek Yogurt with Pomegranate and Blueberries



The summer holidays have started and I have a list of activities which I like to do with my little one now that we have more time on our hands. One of our regular activities is making ‘chapati cookies’. The whole idea came from a cookie-making experience gone wrong.


A few years ago, I stocked up on some pretty cool cookie cutters and whipped up a batch of cookie dough. I realised that this was not quite up my alley when the directions told me to:


– Divide the dough in half and then roll each half out between two sheets of parchment paper (ugh, is this step really necessary?)

– Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (ok, let me try and make some space in my full fridge!)

– Try and work quickly with the dough once it’s out of the fridge before it starts to warm up to room temperature (Really? Work quickly with a four-year old?)


I knew it wouldn’t work the moment I read that last bit, but I persevered because people make cookies with their kids all the time, don’t they? Needless to say, it was rather stressful trying to keep warm little curious sticky hands working fast. We had to refrigerate the dough every few minutes as the dough kept becoming ‘gloopy’ and the whole process just took so long!


Since then, we’ve made cakes and drop cookies which are great for making with kids. But I still have these fantastic cookie cutters and I’ve been desperate to use them.


Enter ‘chapati cookies’. Chapati is the staple flatbread which Indians and Pakistanis eat. Chapati is actually amazing for kids to work with. It is easy to whip up, is soft and malleable, and can sit at room temperature for the whole day if necessary without melting into a puddle of butter. It’s also very healthy (I use 2 cups finely-milled wholewheat chapati flour + 3/4 to 1 cup water + 2Tbsp olive oil).


Although chapatis are traditionally rolled out into circles, there’s nothing in the rules which says you can’t cut them into gingerbread men, hearts, or umbrellas (yes, we have an umbrella-shaped cookie cutter!). You don’t bake them, you dry-cook them on a cast-iron pan or tava. Dipped in a little honey, chapatis make a nutritious breakfast, snack or dessert and my daughter doesn’t even miss the cookies.


Another summertime dish which I love eating for breakfast, snack or dessert is Greek yogurt with pomegranate, blueberries and pumpkin seeds. You can go on about the health benefits in this heavenly combination of foods, but the fact is that I eat it this high-protein anti-oxidant laden dish for breakfast simply because it tastes sooo good.





(serve for breakfast, snack or dessert)



4 heaped Tbsp Greek yogurt per serving

1 Tbsp honey per serving

2 Tbsp pomegranate seeds (see below for directions on the easiest way to remove seeds from a whole pomegranate)

2 Tbsp blueberries

2 Tbsp any seeds or chopped nuts



  1. If you can’t find pomegranate seeds in the refrigerated section of your supermarket, you can buy a whole pomegranate and remove the seeds in the following way. Wash the pomegranate’s skin and then cut the pomegranate into quarters (wear an apron to avoid red stains on your clothing). Put a large bowl in your kitchen sink and fill it with water. Take a pomegranate quarter and hold it under water in the bowl. With your fingers, start pulling off the seeds. They should come off very easily under water and there won’t be any red squirts of juice. Because of their weight, the pomegranate seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl while the white pithe will float. Discard the skin and repeat this process with the rest of the pomegranate quarters. Remove any floating white pithe, drain the pomegranate seeds, and refrigerate for upto 3 days.
  2. Stir the Greek yogurt in its pot to loosen it. Spoon 4 Tbsp of Greek yogurt into each bowl.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp of honey into each bowl and mix well with the yogurt.
  4. Add 2 Tbsp of pomegranate seeds.
  5. Add 2 Tbsp of blueberries.
  6. Add 2 Tbsp of any type of seeds or chopped nuts.
  7. Serve immediately without mixing the toppings into the yogurt.






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Jun 122014

Tzatziki Potato Salad


My husband recently went on a business trip to Greece, and on his way out the door he asked me if there was anything I wanted him to get for me. ‘A summer house on an island’ was my immediate answer.  While I knew that the possibility of my wish being granted was rather remote (shall we say ‘nil’), I still thought I should get it out there and see what happens.


Needless to say, my husband did not return from his 3-day trip with a set of keys to my dream house, but he got me the next best thing. Three bottles of Cretan Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If I can’t own a piece of the land, then I am more than happy to eat something that grew from it.


I love Greek food, especially now that it’s getting warmer. Baked potatoes are starting to lose their charm in Dubai’s 44° Celsius (111° Fahrenheit) heat, so a nice cooling potato salad makes a welcome change. I whipped this one up recently as a side dish for dinner using Greek Tzatziki as the dressing for some lovely waxy baby potatoes. It tastes even better on the second day!




(Serves 6-8 as a side dish)



1 kg / 2 lb waxy baby potatoes

Half a large cucumber

3 spring onions / scallions

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and grated/minced

300 mL / 1 & 1/2 cups Greek yogurt

1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt



  1. To make the potatoes, bring a large pot of water to the boil.
  2. Prepare your potatoes by washing them to remove all traces of dirt, trimming any growths, and then cutting into quarters (should be bite-size pieces).
  3. Once the water has boiled, add 1-2 Tbsp of salt to the water and then the potatoes. Simmer for about 8 minutes until  the potatoes are tender and cooked but not falling apart. Drain and allow to cool.
  4. Take 3 spring onions / scallions, and remove the outer leaf of each one. Wash them well and then slice them finely into small (use about 3/4 of the length of the spring onion, discarding the top 1/4 green part). Set aside.
  5. Get 2 garlic cloves, peel them and grate or mince them. I use the fine side of my cheese-grater. Set aside.
  6. Take half a large cucumber and grate it on the coarse side of a cheese grater. Remove the liquid from the grated cucumber by placing it in a fine mesh colander and pressing out the liquid over a sink. Alternatively, you can just pick the grated cucumber in your hands and squeeze it over the sink to remove the liquid. Do not use a kitchen towel to try and squeeze out the liquid because it will beak and a lot of the cucumber will stick to it.
  7. In a bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, grated cucumber, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt, garlic and spring onions. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. It should be quite flavorful at this point because once you add the potatoes the flavor will get slightly covered. If the potatoes are not yet cool enough to add, refrigerate the dressing.
  8. Once the potatoes are room temperature, fold them into the dressing taking care not to break the potatoes.
  9. Refrigerate until ready to serve, upto 48 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before you plan on serving to remove the chill.


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May 212014

Green Bean and Toasted Almond Salad in Lemon Vinaigrette



Trying to coordinate dishes to be ready at the same time has always been one of the most stressful things about cooking (well, for me at least). When I’m cooking for my family, it doesn’t bother me so much. But when we have guests over, I really stress about it.


If I have the time, my favorite thing to make for guests is some kind of slow-cooked roast meat or chicken. It takes time to cook, but is well worth it. Aside from the time factor, slow-cooked roasts are actually ideal for entertaining – all the work goes in at the beginning and then you just leave it in the oven for a few hours, checking its progress every once in a while, leaving you time to get ready and look presentable.


The real headache is not the main course, but timing all the other dishes around it. My various mishaps have included: serving undercooked baked potatoes which needed more time to bake than I had expected (or maybe my roast cooked faster than I expected); buttered broccoli which came to the table cold because it had to wait while my roast took longer to cook than I expected; and a case of spilling half my rice directly into the sink while trying to drain it because there was just too much going on at the same time in my hot kitchen (luckily I bought extra bread!).


The strategy I’ve come up with to minimize my dinner party anxiety, is to serve my slow-roast with a variety of salads as the side dishes rather than hot side dishes. The beauty of this is that I can prepare everything in advance and simply keep it in the refrigerator until 15 minutes before I am ready to serve (15 minutes allows it to come to a comfortable temperature).


One of the salads which I recently made that goes really well with roasted meat or chicken is ‘Green Bean and Toasted Almond Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette’. It’s very easy to make (only 5 ingredients go into it) and brings a beautiful burst of evergreen to your table. Just make sure you dress it no more than 20 minutes before serving, otherwise the lemon vinaigrette starts to slightly discolor the green beans (as you can see from my photo above – my green beans had been sitting in the dressing for about 8 hours. I kept leftovers for an additional 24 hours and the color didn’t get any worse in that time).


Do you also get stressed about timing your dishes to be ready at the same time? Any tips you can share?





(Serves 8 as a side dish)



800 g / 1.8 lbs uncooked green beans

100 g / 4 oz / 1 cup whole almonds, with or without almond skin

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 tsp sea salt



  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
  2. Prepare your green beans by washing them and trimming off the two ends. Leave the green beans long.
  3. When your water has started boiling, add 1-2 Tbsp of salt to it. Drop in your green beans and simmer them for about 4 minutes until they are just tender but still have some bite.
  4. Drain the green beans and allow them to cool by spreading them on a platter. If you will not be serving straightaway, refrigerate.
  5. To toast your almonds, roughly chop them into halves and thirds. Put them in a frying pan on low-medium heat (I used a cast iron pan) and dry-toast them, shaking and moving them frequently to allow for even toasting. When they start to turn a medium-brown, remove them from the pan and allow them to cool on a plate.
  6. Prepare the lemon vinaigrette by combining 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon and 3/4 tsp sea salt in a jar. Whisk (or if the jar has a lid, shake it well). Set aside. It is very important that you dress the salad no more than 20 minutes before serving because the lemon may start to discolor the green beans.
  7. To serve the salad, toss your green beans in the lemon vinaigrette. If you have refrigerated your green beans, you should remove them from the refrigerator 15 minutes before you plan to dress them so that they come to room temperature. A large bowl will allow for good movement while tossing. Pour the green beans and any dressing which has fallen to the bottom of the bowl into your serving dish. Sprinkle the toasted almonds on top and serve straightaway.



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