How to Be a Salad Queen

Paul and I eat a lot of salad. He often has a chunk of steak sliced and tossed through whereas I have beans, chickpeas or sometimes squid or smoked salmon. If you have the basic ingredients at hand it takes literally 10 minutes to make a great salad.

The key to super success is having a balance of textures, flavours and colours as well as a finished dish that looks great.

Textures: soft baked kumara, avocado, hummus, crunchy seeds or nuts, crisp salad vegetables / sliced or grated raw vegetables / fruits, firm beans or other pulses, fruit such as nectarine, apple, feijoa, tamarillo, tomato, plum all give an interesting mouth feel to the salad.

Flavours: tart lemon juice, tangy feta or parmesan, sweet balsamic drizzle and fruits, salty tamari or soy sauce, creamy sweet dressing, fresh vegetables, spicy chilli sauce and ungent avocado or olive oils are some of the flavours to include – not all at once though.

Less is usually more when it comes to food combinations.

Think about what you like to eat and start there – if you’re new to making salads start by making them to please your own palate first and then you can refine your recipe until you get it just right.

This salad I made for lunch one day last week.

Serves 2

Ingredients

10 pieces of crumbed squid – baked in the oven until crispy and sliced thinly

1 large cup prepackaged coleslaw (grated carrot, red and green cabbage, parsley)

½ perfectly baked kumara, chopped roughly (recipe in an earlier post)

2 knobs blue cheese, crumbled

2 really big tablespoons hummus

Small handful of pumpkin seeds

Small red chilli sliced finely – optional if you like a bit of heat

Creamy Caesar or Ranch dressing

Tamari (you can use soy sauce) this takes the place of salt.

Fresh Cracked Pepper

Method

I always like to use nice bowls, you can see my favourite blue one in the picture. People eat with their eyes first. It doesn’t matter if you have mismatched bowls – there’s something quite nice about that too. If you can serve salad in a bowl slightly larger than you need so that there is more bowl showing (if that makes sense) it looks great. Any colour bowl will do.

First place your kumara in the bottom of each bowl, follow with the coleslaw and then the squid – so you have three layers. Just plonk them on top of each other – don’t worry about being too careful. Drizzle over your dressing and tamari – not too much you can always add more later – over dressed salad is a bit yuk. Using your fingers (or two forks) gently toss the ingredients together by scooping and lifting the kumara up from the bottom of the bowl to mix with the squid and slaw. Don’t try and get it perfectly mixed – just separate the layers really and distribute the dressing a wee bit. Next put a big dollop of hummus on one side of the salad, sprinkle the blue cheese and seeds over the top and finally add the sliced chilli pepper and cracked pepper . Serve and eat immediately.

Dates with Almond Butter

Dates have had a metamorphosis in recent years. Once an ingredient used in middle eastern and northern African cooking (absolutely amazing in lamb tagine) and something you put into scones, date loaf and sticky date pudding – dates are now widely celebrated as an alternative to sugar in healthy baking and raw movement. Their incredible sweetness and soft sticky texture makes them an easy replacement for processed sugar.

 

I saw these yesterday in a magazine and had to give them a go. I had an online presentation booked at 11.30am and finished making and taking photos of these just before it started. It took me less than five minutes to make four of them and less than five minutes to to scoff the lot! The salt adds a nice balance stopping them from being cloyingly sweet, giving them a salt caramel flavour.
Make these for when you feel like something sweet such as after a meal or to have with coffee – as an alternative to baking. Be aware dates are high in fructose so don’t eat too many if you’re being mindful of sugar intake.
Ingredients
Medjool or fresh dates
Almond Butter
Sea salt or himalayan salt
Method
Carefully slice down the middle of each date without cutting right through. Open to remove the stone. Take a small amount of almond butter on the edge of a teaspoon or knife and smear into the gap before pressing the two sides together. Sprinkle with a teensy bit of salt. Eat!
*Dates are a good source of  calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A and vitamin K.
*One tablespoon of almond butter contains as much protein as you get from the same quantity of meat. It is also an excellent source of fiber, which helps digestion and nourishes tissues. Just one teaspoon of almond butter contains more than 25% of your daily requirement of Vitamin E.

 

 

Chilli Lime Jam

Our garden is a perpetual experiment and this year I decided to grow chillies.

John at Tumbleweeds Garden Centre advised me to wait until the end of October but Tabasco went into the ground at the end of September and it was lovingly tended every day and kept under a cloche (an upturned 4 litre plastic bottle) to stay cosy for the first month or so.

Eight weeks later it started looking lively upon which Serrano, Jalapeño, Asian Fire and Thai Hot were dug in to keep it company.

This recipe uses a mixture of Asian Fire, Jalapeño and Serrano. I didn’t weigh them but there were 55 chillies harvested. Tabasco and Thai Hot are still getting there.

Viewing cooking as an ongoing experiment also, I have adapted this recipe from Annabel Langbein’s Chilli Jam. The fish sauce was omitted to make it relevant for vegans and vegetarians, sugar was decreased by a fair bit because I didn’t have enough in the cupboard, the amount of chillies and the amount of lime upped, fresh ginger decreased (on advice from friend Sonya Blennerhassett) and there are couple of other added ingredients as well.

As I was in the process of prepping the chillies a pair of sales people knocked on the front door. One was a friendly Indian guy who said that his mother always puts a few grinds of cracked black pepper in her Chilli jam to add texture and depth of flavour.

That’s in there too.

It tastes fresh hot and sweet and the lime really shines through. The consistency is chunky and sticky like home made marmalade without the big bits of peel.

This recipe yielded 4 x 400g jars plus 2 x 250g jars of jam.

Divide it by the relevant amount of chillies you have on hand.

Ingredients

55 medium – long chillies – ripe red or green or a mix of both. Stalks removed and chopped roughly.
3 large heads of garlic, cloves peeled and chopped roughly.
3 x 5cm pieces of ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
10 cups of raw sugar
2.5 cups water
2.5 cups rice vinegar
12 limes, zest and juice.
3 tsp sea salt
Few grinds of fresh black pepper.

You will need: hygienic gloves made of latex or silicon to wear while prepping chillies. This is a must.

Method

Place clean glass jars and lids into the oven on low to heat up and sterilise.

Place chillies, garlic and ginger into the food processor and blitz until mixture looks like a thick paste with little bits of chopped chilli visible.

Place this mixture and all other ingredients into a large saucepan and turn on to a medium heat stirring constantly until sugar dissolves.

Bring to the boil and lower heat to a simmer, stirring regularly to avoid it sticking on the bottom.

Cook in this way until the mixture has reduced by at least a third. This took nearly an hour of simmering for me – it may not take as long for you. Be really attentive so that it doesn’t catch on the bottom.

When it looks nearly done test consistency by putting a small teaspoonful onto a saucer and waiting for it to cool, taste to check if it needs more salt.

When the desired consistency has been reached turn off heat. Use a pyrex or heat proof jug to dip into the jam and pour into heated jars. Screw the lids on and leave to cool. Makes a nice gift and will keep for ages.

Black Rice Stir Fry with Tamari

Image

We had this last night and it took precisely 10 minutes from lighting the gas hob to plating up.  The rice was pre cooked – add another 20 minutes if you are starting with uncooked rice.

The main difference between Tamari and Soy Sauce is that Tamari contains little or no wheat – good news if you are GF – check the label before buying.  Tamari and Soy Sauce are both made from fermented soy beans, Japanese Tamari tends to be thicker richer and more salty.

 

Serves 2

Ingredients

1C cooked black rice (can sub brown rice if you like)

2C roughly chopped mushrooms.  I used field mushrooms you can use whatever is fresh

1C cherry tomatoes halved

1 large shallot, sliced finely

1.5C cauliflower cut into smallish florets

1Tbs oil for sautéeing  (olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil)

1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely sliced

Tamari and fresh cracked black pepper for seasoning

Method

Place a heavy based fry pan on to a medium heat and add oil.  Sauté shallot and cauliflower for three minutes stirring gently so that the shallot doesn’t brown.  Add mushrooms and rice and cook for a further two minutes stirring.  Add garlic and tomatoes and stir to combine gently. When mushrooms are looking ready (slightly wilted but not mushy) remove from heat and season liberally with the Tamari: stir through and taste after adding 1 tbs Tamari and then add more if you like (we had about 1.5tbs in ours).  Grind fresh cracked pepper over the top and serve immediately.

*This amount served myself as a main vegetarian meal and Paul as a side to his hunk of sirloin.

For the kids I sautéed the shallot, added the cauliflower and rice and then sliced up a rasher of bacon finely and stirred it all in until the bacon was cooked.

Recipe: Fresh Peach Chutney

Picking and eating peaches from the tree by our front door is a major family highlight every year.  Our old peach tree is famous among neighbours and friends for producing the most incredibly juicy fat mouthwateringly sweet orbs – and during the year there is much speculation about what next summer’s crop will be like.  This year peaches only cover one half of the tree, and one branch is so laden that we’ve had to tie a stake to it so it doesn’t crack under the weight of the ripening fruit.

peachy beauties
peachy beauties

I made peach chutney a couple of days ago.  A new recipe this year which is chunky spicy and sweet and will be fab on sandwiches, with a cheeseboard or antipasto platter.

Ingredients

2kg peaches, peeled

1 onion, diced finely

1 garlic clove, sliced finely

10cm ‘thumb’ of ginger, peeled and grated finely

1 cup of dates, chopped roughly

1 cup malt vinegar

half cup brown or raw sugar

4 tbs sweet chili sauce

1 heaped tsp ground cumin or cumin seeds

1 tsp ground turmeric

4 med sized clean glass jam jars with metal lids

Method

Turn oven on to a medium heat and place jars (without lids) inside to heat and sterilize.  Put lids in a bowl, boil the kettle and pour boiling water over the lids to sterilize also.

Cut peaches in half to remove stones and chop flesh roughly.  Place peach flesh and all other ingredients into a large saucepan and turn on to a medium heat.  As the chutney mixture begins to simmer stir frequently to avoid mixture sticking to the bottom.  Simmer / slow boil for 20 minutes or until nice and thick and then taste (allow it to cool on the spoon before tasting to avoid a burnt tongue!) Add more sugar or sweet chili sauce if you think it needs it and then stir to combine.  Turn off heat when desired consistency is achieved.

Turn oven off and remove jars placing them carefully on a wooden board (they are very hot).  Transfer chutney to a large jug and pour the hot mixture into each jar until approx 1cm from the top of the jar.  Using a tea towel to hold the jar full of hot chutney (and also the lid) screw lid on firmly.

Leave to cool before applying your hand written labels.  This chutney will keep for months and months – and it seems to improve over time like a fine wine!  When open keep in the fridge.