salad

Mar 152017
 

Basil Pesto

 

 

Let’s just get one thing out of the way now. Fresh basil pesto will always be superior to the variety you buy in jars at the supermarket both in taste and in nutrients. The ingenious combination of six simple ingredients comes together to make a vibrant flavour that jarred pestos can only dream of having. And need I mention the intoxicating smell in your kitchen? Traditionally, pesto was made using a pestle and mortar but using a food processor works very well too. Making pesto at home is probably one of the easiest ways to get your kids to help out in the kitchen and contribute to a meal.

 

Basil Pesto is delicious tossed with freshly boiled pasta, spread in a sandwich, used as a dip for vegetables, or mixed into a salad dressing to add some vibrancy to it.

 

 

BASIL PESTO

(makes approximately 1 cup)

 

Ingredients:

100g fresh basil leaves (I usually get this from two standard sized basil plants in the supermarket)

1 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped (you can use 2 garlic cloves if your garlic is not very strong)

50g pine kernels

50g parmesan cheese, freshly grated (do not just throw a block of parmesan into your food processor as it is too hard for the blade to process well)

6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (start with 4 Tbsp and then add more as necessary)

1/4 – 1/2 tsp sea salt (or according to taste)

 

Directions:

  1. You will need a food processor to make this recipe. If you have the option, I recommend using a smaller bowl (I use the 1.2L mini bowl in my Magimix food processor).
  2. Pluck the basil leaves from the stalks (this is where little fingers come in handy!). Rinse the basil leaves and dry them on a tea towel.
  3. Grate your parmesan cheese and roughly chop your peeled garlic clove.
  4. In your food processor, add the chopped garlic and pine kernels. Pulse a few times to break them up.
  5. Add the basil leaves and pulse a few times.
  6. Add the parmesan cheese, olive oil and sea salt. Run the food processor for 10 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. This is when you might want to add a bit more olive oil to make the consistency smoother.
  7. Process until the pesto comes together evenly.
  8. Taste once more and add more salt if necessary.
  9. Serve straightaway or refrigerate for upto 5 days.

 

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Jan 152017
 

January Salads

 

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

 

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

 

 

Early harvest oils

 

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

 

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

 

Late harvest oils

 

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

 

Early harvest oils in salads

 

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

 

GREEK VILLAGE SALAD 

Greek Salad from Terra Creta 

 

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

 

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

 

Salad Ingredients:

3 medium organic tomatoes

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

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

1small thinly sliced red onion

10 Kalamata olives

1 tsp Cretan oregano

1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans or white cannellini beans

Pinch of dried red pepper flakes

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

Dressing Ingredients:

50ml Terra Creta early harvest extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

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

 

 

TOMATO, CHEESE AND MACKEREL SALAD

 

Tomato, Cheese and Mackerel Salad

 

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

 

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

 

Ingredients:

Mix of seasonal salad leaves

Tomato

Soft Goats Cheese

Cucumber

Fresh or tinned mackerel

Olives

Guindillas (Basque chilli peppers) in vinegar

Orodeal Premium olive oil

 

Directions:

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

 

 

Here are some more Early Harvest oils to look out for

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Dec 042016
 

Muhammara

 

 

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

 

 

MUHAMMARA

(makes 1 cup)

 

Ingredients:

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

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

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

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

1 tsp ground paprika

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

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

2 tsp pomegranate molasses

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions:

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

 

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Oct 112016
 

Beetroot Hummus

 

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

 

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

 

 

BEETROOT HUMMUS

(makes 500ml)

 

Ingredients:

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

240g cooked chickpeas (tinned or freshly boiled)

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)

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

1 plump garlic clove, cut into 6 pieces

1 tsp coarse sea salt

2 Tbsp cold water

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

Fresh herbs and toasted nuts, to garnish (optional)

 

Directions:

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

 

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Sep 252016
 

Roast Chicken, Beetroot and Fig Salad

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

ROAST CHICKEN, BEETROOT and FIG SALAD

(Makes 2 main course salads)

 

Ingredients:

1-2 cups roasted chicken, roughly chopped

3-4 heads of Baby Gem lettuce

2 medium-sized beetroots

4 small figs

4 Tbsp Pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds

4-5 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar

Sea salt (to taste)

 

Directions:

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

 

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May 182016
 

Kale and Spring Vegetable Salad

 

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

 

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

 

 

Kale and Spring Vegetable Salad

 

Dressing ingredients:

5 Tbsp EVOO

2½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Good pinch of sea salt

 

Salad ingredients:

1 bunch of kale (about 8 large leaves)

400g baby carrots

400g baby leeks

200g baby beetroot

Nuts (optional, for garnishing)

Extra virgin olive oil for roasting the vegetables

Sea salt for roasting the vegetables

 

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400C.
  2. Wash, peel and trim the carrots. If they are baby carrots, cut them in half lengthwise. If they are regular sized carrots, cut them into generous bite-size pieces.
  3. Remove the outside layer of the leeks and trim off the top and bottom. Wash well. If you are using baby leeks, leave them whole. If you are using regular sized leeks, cut them into large chunks.
  4. In a medium-sized baking dish, add the carrots and leeks and toss them with 2-3 Tbsp of EVOO and a generous pinch of sea salt. Roast them for around 30 minutes until nicely caramelised, tossing once halfway through cooking. When they are ready, remove them from the oven and allow to cool.
  5. To roast the beetroots, first wash the skin and cut off the leaves at the top. Wrap in two layers of aluminum foil and place on a baking tray. Roast them for around 1 hour (or until a skewer goes easily through the beetroot). When they are ready, open the foil and allow them to cool. Once cool, pinch off their skin with your fingers and cut into bite-sized cubes.
  6. While everything is roasting, you can prepare the kale by removing the leaves from the thick stalks down the center. Discard the stalks.
  7. Wash and dry the kale leaves, then roughly chop them.
  8. Place the chopped kale in a large bowl and massage it by squeezing it between your hands for 3 minutes (set the timer). This will make the kale softer and more tasty, and in my opinion is a necessary step for any raw kale salad.
  9. Toss the massaged kale with all the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  10. Add the carrots, leeks and beetroots and toss well.
  11. Scatter some nuts on top for garnish (they can be added at this point or just prior to serving).
  12. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
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May 012016
 

SS: May - Rhubarb and Strawberries

 

 

Rhubarb and strawberries come into season roughly around the same time, with rhubarb making its appearance first and strawberries following soon after. They can be eaten separately of course, but they also work wonderfully stewed together with some brown sugar as a topping for desserts. Have a look at my recently posted recipe ‘Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote (with a hint of rosewater)’.

 

Rhubarb is a vegetable which is in season from around April to July. Only the stalks of the rhubarb are edible, with the leaves being toxic due to high levels of oxalic acid (so make sure you always discard your rhubarb leaves). Rhubarb is quite tart and some people dip it into sugar before eating it raw. I prefer stewing it with a little brown sugar and some fruit to make a topping for yogurt and desserts. Rhubarb freezes well, so you can chop it up and freeze it for upto 6 months to use later in the year.

 

Strawberries follow quickly on the heels of rhubarb, and are in season from roughly May to July. Strawberries are part of the ‘Dirty Dozen List’ of fruits and vegetables which should always be bought organic as they retain a lot of pesticides on their skin even after washing. Colour is more important than size , so look for bright red strawberries strawberries and avoid ones which have a lot of white at the top as this indicates that they have been picked too early and may not be as tasty.

 

 

 

* The produce above is in season in May in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, May seasonal produce includes apples, kumquats and broccoli.

 

 

 

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Apr 272016
 

Salad Bowl: Quinoa & Prawn Salad

 

When I want to put together a well-balanced salad fast, I make myself a quick salad bowl using a mix of pre-cooked leftovers and raw ingredients which I usually have washed and ready to cut. Instead of following a recipe, I simply follow my instinct.

 

Organising the salad ingredients into segments in the bowl which I plan to eat from helps me to create a well-balanced salad and ensures that the portion size is correct so that there is no waste.

 

This is a salad bowl I made recently using leftover grilled prawns and quinoa plus freshly cut lettuce, avocado and tomatoes. I like placing a dollop of yogurt or some kind of dip in the center and scatter a few chopped nuts or seeds on top. Leftovers are often well-seasoned, so I don’t always add a dressing. If I do, it is usually a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt.

 

To learn more, have a look at my Tutorial: How to Use Leftovers to Make a Quick and Delicious Salad Bowl.

 

QUINOA AND PRAWN ‘SALAD BOWL’

 

All ingredients should be cut into bite-size pieces.

Quantities depend on what you have in the house.

Make ingredient substitutions as you see fit.

 

Ingredients:

2-3 cooked jumbo prawns per person

Cooked quinoa

Lettuce

Tomatoes

Avocado

Greek yogurt (or any other dip)

Chopped pistachio nuts (or any other nuts or seeds)

 

Directions:

  1. Cut your jumbo prawns into 3-4 pieces and place and place in 1/5 of your salad bowl.
  2. Fill the remaining 4/5 of your salad bowl with equal amounts of shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, cooked quinoa and diced avocado (see image above).
  3. Place a good dollop of yogurt or other dip in the center.
  4. Scatter some nuts or seeds on top of the yogurt.
  5. If desired, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt on top of your salad.
  6. Serve.
  7. To eat, mix all the ingredients together and start chomping!

 

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Apr 012016
 

Seasonal: April - Asparagus, Arugula and Grapefruit

 

April means that we’re well into Springtime. Here is what you should be snacking on this month:

 

Asparagus is in season from March until June, with April being it’s peak month. Raw asparagus has a taste similar to mangetout, and it can be eaten in many different ways. Thin and delicate spears can be eaten as is, while thick spears do well if you slice them thinly. You can dunk them in your favourite dip, throw them into a salad, or scatter them on top of virtually anything you’re eating. If you can’t quite get yourself to munch on raw asparagus, tossing them with olive oil and throwing them into a grill pan, panini press or oven to cook lightly will intensify their flavour to the more familiar asparagus taste that most of us are used to. Cooked asparagus can be kept in the refrigerator for upto three days.

 

Grapefruit is in season from winter until late Spring/early summer. Being rather bitter, grapefruit often gets neglected by some of us over the winter months because it has to compete with its sweeter counterparts like clementines, navel oranges and mandarins. However, by Spring a lot of the sweeter citrus fruits are past their best so grapefruit gets a chance to shine. Unless you are used to its bitterness, eating a grapefruit can be a difficult experience. Juicing it makes it easier, especially if you juice it with another sweeter fruit. Grapefruit works well in salad dressings too. I’ll be posting a recipe for Grapefruit Vinaigrette next week, so make sure you sign up for my ‘healthy reminder emails’ (in the right-hand column) or follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to see when I post the recipe!

 

Rucola (‘Rucola’ is the name in Italy, ‘Arugula’ is the name in the USA, and ‘Rocket’ is the name in the UK) is a spicy peppery leaf which thrives in Spring. If you like rucola’s spiciness, you can dress it simply with olive oil, vinegar and salt (shave some parmesan on that while you’re at it) for a simple side salad. However, if you find the zingy spiciness overwhelming, then mix it up with other leaves. It’s also a delicious addition to any sandwich or tossed into pasta. Throughout the month of April, have a stash of rucola (washed, dried and stored in a salad spinner) ready to use in the refrigerator.

 

Next week, I’m going to post the recipe for a salad using all of the ingredients above, so make sure you sign up for my ‘healthy reminder emails’ (in the right-hand column) or follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to see when I post the recipe!

 

Recipe: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette

 

The produce above is in season in April in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, April seasonal produce includes Granny Smith apples, Valencia oranges and pomegranates.

 

 

 

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Mar 212016
 

Tomato and Goats Cheese Salad with Pea Shoots

 

Multi-coloured tomatoes always inspire me to make a flat salad to show off the tomatoes’ different hues and shapes.

 

My recipe for ‘Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad with Pea Shoots’ is very simple, using only a few ingredients. As is the case with most simple things, quantities are not as important as quality of ingredients in this recipe.

 

 

TOMATO and GOAT CHEESE SALAD with PEA SHOOTS

 

Ingredients: (quantities should be according to taste)

2-3 handfuls of ripe tomatoes

A log of soft crumbly goat cheese

A scattering of pea shoots (or other microgreens)

A good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

A drizzle of balsamic vinegar

A pinch of sea salt

 

Directions:

  1. In a flat platter, crumble a log of soft crumbly goat cheese. The amount of goat cheese you use should depend on your preference for it.
  2. Wash and dry your tomatoes and cut them into bite-size pieces. Place them on top of the goat cheese.
  3. Wash and dry your pea shoots or other microgreens. Scatter them on top of the salad.
  4. At this point, you can refrigerate your salad (covered) for upto 24 hours until ready to serve.
  5. Before serving, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sea salt.

 

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Mar 012016
 

SS - March: Radishes, Baby Spinach, Endives

 

 

March is here so start looking out for delicious new Spring vegetables!

 

Radishes come into season in spring. They tend to become spicier as the temperature gets higher, so spring radishes are milder than summer radishes. Look for firm radishes with fresh green leaves, and avoid any radishes which feel soft or spongey. To store radishes, chop off the green stems and leaves at the top because they pull moisture from the radish. The leaves are edible raw or cooked so make sure you store the radishes and the separated leaves in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer.

 

Baby spinach is a cool weather vegetable which grows best in early Spring and in Autumn. Look for fresh dark green leaves which are not wilted. Baby spinach is extremely versatile and can be added into all sorts of food for a quick nutritional boost. It takes on other flavours well so it is wonderful in green smoothies (trust me on this – 80% spinach, 20% ripe fruit, plus some liquid and a touch of honey). A handful of baby spinach leaves in a salad or added into anything you are cooking is another easy way to incorporate this Spring vegetable into your diet. To make a delicious healthy spinach dip, see my recipe ‘Baby Spinach and Garlic Dip‘.

 

Endive season is September to May, with the peak of endive season around November. Spring is your last chance to eat these lovely bitter vegetables before they go out of season. Look for endives with fresh looking leaves which are not wilted and brown on the edges. Harvested endives tend to become more bitter with exposure to light, so you may want to store you endives wrapped in a paper towel in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer. They can be eaten raw or cooked. If you find endives too bitter, mixing them with other leaves helps to balance their flavour. They also sweeten when roasted in the oven with olive oil.

 

 

SS - March: Radishes, Baby Spinach, Endives

 

 

The produce above is in season in March in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, March seasonal produce includes figs, plums and kale.

 

 

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Feb 292016
 

Baby Spinach & Garlic Dip

 

 

Spinach is a cool weather crop which grows best in early Spring and in Autumn.

 

It’s a very versatile vegetable and takes on other flavours well. I use spinach in so many things from smoothies to salads to curries. I hadn’t really thought to use it as a dip until fairly recently when I started seeing so many beautiful fresh early Spring vegetables emerge in the market. Fresh vegetables are good, but fresh vegetables with a healthy dip are even better!

 

You can follow my recipe below for ‘Baby Spinach and Garlic Dip’, but the truth is that baby spinach is so versatile that you could easily blend it into any dip to boost its nutritional value and it would work well.

 

 

BABY SPINACH and GARLIC DIP

(makes about 2 cups)

 

 

Ingredients:

150g / 5 oz Fresh baby spinach (roughly equivalent to 4 big handfuls or 4 tightly packed cups)

1/2 cup Fresh chives, chopped

1 spring onion / scallion, roughly chopped (white and green part)

1 plump garlic clove (2 if you really love raw garlic), peeled and cut into 4 pieces

1/2 cup walnuts or cashew nuts

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream or Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (no seeds)

2 tsp sea salt

 

 

Directions:

  1. Wash and drain the baby spinach (no need to trim the stems as it will all go into a food processor).
  2. Put all the ingredients listed above into your food processor and pulse a few times until the spinach has been chopped. You may need to push down the spinach once or twice in the beginning.
  3. Once the mixture is roughly pulsed, run the food processor on ‘Auto’ (or whichever button you need to press for continued processing) for about 30 seconds.
  4. Remove the lid and taste. If required, adjust the seasoning. Keep in mind that the flavour from the raw garlic will become more pronounced in a few hours.
  5. Process the mixture in the machine for another 15 seconds or so.
  6. Taste again and make final adjustments, if necessary.
  7. Pour into a container and refrigerate until ready to eat.

 

 

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