Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this salad, it really packs a punch and is fairly substantial due to the chickpeas which provides plenty of fibre and some protein. It is fresh, warm and a perfect dish for going from colder weather to warmer days.
I know that the weather is something that is beyond ones control but it is still intriguing to me how much it can impact on ones mood. I don’t know if it actually has been an unusually long Winter and cold Spring, or if it just feels that way, because we keep telling ourselves it has been… I mean I almost had a breakdown the other week when the “heatwave” didn’t turn up on said day.
To be honest, I don’t mind anytime of the year when the sun shines, but there hasn’t been much of that around lately. Though I finally got around to order some seeds for this year’s GIY project (why am I always so late with it??) and the beds are almost ready for some planting, it feels late as we are now into May. That’s life I suppose, nothing you can force and it is a great way to practice mindfulness, learning to release control over things we can’t control and instead paying attention to our reactions.
So as we are on the cusp of entering into a season full of lighter, more raw food based meals (at least this is what I am craving when the weather warms up) I thought this salad which is a kind of hybrid with some cooked foods and some raw, would be a nice one to share. I have made it several times and it is so delicious! Apart from the spices, you can probably buy these ingredients in your local corner shop. And even if you don’t have any green fingers at all, I bet you can keep some fresh mint alive. Seriously, it is impossible to kill!
Fennel Roasted Chickpea Salad with Orange & Mint
Serves 2 (double the quantities if you are feeding more people)
1 tin of chickpeas, rinsed & drained
4 small carrots, washed, peeled & chopped into rounds
1 orange, peeled & sliced lengthwise or into segments
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
Some olive oil to roast in
A few fresh mint leaves, chopped
For the dressing:
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled & chopped
2 tbsp good quality oil of choice – olive oil or walnut or pistachio or flax or hempseed oil will all work.
Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to season
Pre heat oven to 180°C. On a baking tray add the chickpeas and the carrots. Give the coriander seeds and the fennel seeds a bit of a pelting in a pester and mortar before sprinkling across your tray with the chickpeas and carrots.
Drizzle over some olive oils and a seasoning of sea salt and black pepper then with your hands gently toss everything so that the oil and spices cover the carrots and chickpeas.
Place the tray in the oven and roast for about 25 min until the chickpeas are a little bit dry and crispy.
To make the dressing; add all ingredient in your blender ( I use the small cup of my nutribullet) and blend for 20-30s. Taste and season to your own preferences.
Once the carrots and chickpeas are done, add them to two serving plates. Then add the fresh orange segments, pour over the dressing and scatter the chopped mint leaves.
*** This salad will keep another day in the fridge, but best to keep the chickpeas / carrot mix parted from the dressing and the orange / mint until served ***
In times of uncertainty, get creative…!
About 18 months ago I came across the work of a wise lady called Pema Chödron. She’s one of the more well known Buddhist teachers of the West. One of the books she’s written is called, “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”. It is a book centered around some of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, but I somehow feel that the deeper message that comes through, is one profound to humanity.
And though in a sense we always live in uncertain times, though currently I feel it is more intensely so…
This book starts with an opening quote from the famous American dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille, and I want share it with you all here as I think it is a beautiful reminder of life as well as a nice summary of the core message of the book;
“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”
And do you know what? Cooking, or let’s call it kitchen creativity, is a bit like that. If you don’t follow a recipe blindly, or even sometimes when you do, you can’t be guaranteed a particular outcome. The best way, is to stay present with the experience, taste as you go along, keep you eyes peeled for the consistency you’re looking for and so on. Because when you do, you have the chance to course correct, and still end up with something that’s edible or better. Perhaps even extra ordinary.
And for those times when you don’t, you usually learn something in the process too.
You might be wondering where I’m going with this conversation, especially since this post is really about a soup recipe. Well, last week, whilst I was struggling away with my head-cold (yes, not so smug now, thinking I got away with catching any of the winter bugs around…) I got a burst of creativity, as well as a strong desire to take a break from my computer for a day or two. So last Thursday I spent all day doing some of the things I like the most, creating new recipes and photographing the result. It is something that puts me in the FLOW. Especially when I can do it, with no restraints, without a need for any particular outcome and simply have the opportunity to be there, present to enjoy and engage in the process.
The outcome of this creative experience this time? Several new soup recipes! Over the coming weeks, I’m going to continue on with my Soup Series, that I started last year, and since we are slowly transitioning from Winter to Spring, and it’s still wet a and dreary, cold and dark, I would say that it is the perfect time to enjoy soup. It’s also a neat way to enjoy a variety of vegetables in this way, when we may have less cravings for raw salads.
So hold on, let’s get out the big saucepan and get ready for some soup cooking!
This recipe came together as an experiment inspired by hearing about a friend’s juice combination. Since I don’t own a juicer, I thought; “Hmm, I wonder if these veggies will work as well together in a soup?”.
I added a couple of spices, an onion and rather than putting the beetroot into the soup as my friend had done with her juice, I sliced it really thin and made little beet crisps for garnish.
This recipe lends itself to practicing some mindful creativity as you can adjust the amount of cardamom, coriander seeds and ginger to your own taste preferences. My first attempt was just a tad ginger heavy, but whatever way you go, this soup still has a very fresh taste. Almost Spring-like…
An Uplifting Carrot Soup
6-8 carrots, peeled & chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled & finely chopped (less if you want it less “hot”)
1 yellow onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1/2 – 1 tsp ground cardamom (If you use pods, 3-4 should be enough)
About 1 litre vegetable stock, or water + 1 low sodium non MSG stock cube.
Juice of one fresh lemon
Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to season
Heat a large saucepan. Once the pan is hot add a splash of olive oil and then add in your chopped onions. Turn down the heat enough to avoid burning the onions. Instead gently sweat them until soft and translucent.
Then add the chopped carrots, the fresh ginger, and the ground spices. Sweat the carrot for a few minutes on low heat. Then add in the stock.
Bring the soup to boil and then reduce to a lively simmer. Cook for a further 20 min or so, until the carrots are soft. Remove from stove top and allow to cool a little before you blend it.
I tend to use a stick blender directly into the pan. If you are using a stand-alone blender you want to be sure that the soup is well cooled, otherwise you may end up with non intentional orange splatters everywhere… Which is not what I meant by creative cooking!
Once the soup is blended smooth add in the lemon juice. Start with 1/2 a lemon and then taste and season. If you think it needs more lemon, add the other half.
Enjoy the soup with some toppings if you wish! Here is a great recipe if you want to test out making some beetroot crisps. Though if you choose to make that recipe with the intention of adding it to this soup I would keep the seasoning simple with just sea salt or none.
Let’s finish the year off with a bang! Following on from the last post about the FLOW, and the winter theme AND the soup theme, here is one filling spicy Dahl to keep you warm. Hopefully you’ve had enough of Christmas cake, minced pies, mulled wine, ham, turkey, nut roast and / or rice pudding at this stage. My body always calls me back to fresh, wholesome food if I stray to far. Whether it is by choice or because my healthy food intake has been due to limited option, which can easily happens when we either travel, eat out or are away from home for any other reason.
It’s like when you’ve lived on mostly fresh unprocessed foods for a long time your body is so use to it and you will notice how different you feel when you don’t. These days I don’t tend to stress too much about if I have to eat something, I’d rather not because I have no other option. I either try to plan to eat well as much as I can before or after, or make the best choice I can. Stressing about the food itself can bring its own problems as the body cannot distinguish what is registered as stress by the hypothalamus. The physiological response is the same. So I try to be gentle with myself instead.
Thing is though, my tastebuds have become rather snobbish (!) And I no longer enjoy eating certain things, especially if any negative physical reactions may follow and I don’t even get to have a fully satisfactory eating experience to make it worth my while! Have you noticed anything similar? I remember a client of mine who used to have a diet high in sugar, especially a lot of soft drinks, telling me that once she cut them out and reduced sugar elsewhere she started to taste food so much better. This is really interesting and may be due to a number of reasons. One for starters may because sugar is such a dominating flavour and we have many taste receptors for sugar on our tongue. So if we eat a lot of sugar on a regular basis our tastebuds kind of become “flattened”. Same goes for if you cut down or even out refined sugar for a few weeks. All of a sudden everything is so much more sweet tasting. Less becomes more.
Even when I didn’t eat a predominately wholefoods diet, red lentils was always part of it. I think it’s because I grew up with a mum who was a vegetarian so I was introduced to them at an early age. I know not everybody tolerate legumes and lentil well, but if you do, keeping red lentils as a cupboard staple in your house is seriously handy as it means you can whip something nourishing and filling in a short space of time. This favourite ingredient of mine has featured in two soups here already. Like this Swedish Lentil Soup. And this Classic Lentil Soup (which I often make when I’m seriously stuck for time and / or ingredients!)
Though not technically a soup, I’ve decided to still include this Dahl in my soup series. Sure why not? It fits with the winter and the orange theme at least 😉
One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2015 was to cook more from the cookbooks I already have. And I already have a lot of them… So even though I have my eyes set on a few which are coming out next year, I still need to get back to using some of the ones already gracing my shelves. This Winter Spiced Dahl is an inspiration from the beautiful cookbook A Modern Way to Cook, by Anna Jones. It’s a great vegetarian cookbook which will also work well for those who do eat meat but are looking for tasty ways to increase their vegetable intake. What I really love about this book is not only that the recipe are varied but also that Anna has included some really great charts on how to make up your own combinations with vegetables, nuts, grain, pulses and spices. I LOVE that way of cooking and sometimes when you’re not feeling all that kind of imaginative a chart like that is just what you need. Or when you have a fairly well stocked pantry but are left with some random fresh ingredients and you don’t know how to make them match… Kind of like a wardrobe malfunction. Then it’s so handy to have someone with way more insight than you suggesting some great pairings.
I’ve pretty much stuck to Anna’s recipe except for the addition of red lentils and the substitute of butternut squash for carrots, so it’s a full on orange theme going on here. Perfect for FLOW 🙂 This Dahl also contain a plethora of warming spices, perfect for this time of the year. I particularly like the addition of cardamom, which I love in almost anything. Sweet or savory or in tea. It’s almost borderline obsession. Hmm, maybe my body is trying to tell me something? Anyway, here is the recipe.
Wishing you a Beautiful and Loving New Year. Let’s start 2016 with a beautiful winter warmer!
Winter Spiced Lentil Dahl
4 large carrots, washed, peeled & finely chopped
1 red onion or one leek, peeled (wash the leek) & finely chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled & finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed & finely chopped
1/4 cup dried red lentil, well rinsed
1 small or 1/2 large sweet potato, washed, peeled & chopped into cubes
2 star anise
6 cardamom pods, shell discarded & seeds ground – Or use 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp coriander seeds, finely ground
1 tsp turmeric
Sea salt & Black pepper to season
500 ml vegetable stock + more if too thick
Start with adding a bit of olive oil to a warm saucepan (heating the pan first prevents the oil from getting too hot and going rancid) Add the chopped onion / leek, garlic and ginger and saute for a few minutes and till soft and transparent. Then add in the spices (except the star anise) and continue to stir for a few minutes over low heat until fragrant.
Add in the carrots, sweet potato and lentils and coat in the spice-onion mix. Add in the vegetable stock and the star anise. Bring to a boil and thereafter reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 35-40 min until lentils are falling apart and the carrot and sweet potato is soft. Add more stock if necessary, but remember this is a Dahl so you want it to be thick.
Once the all the vegetables and lentil are cooked through remove from the heat and when the Dahl has cooled a little give it a whizz with your hand blender. Feel free to leave it a little chunky if you wish and prefer that type texture.
Serve with cooked rice, a few fresh coriander leaves and sprinkle some seeds on top. I’ve used black sesame seeds here.
Recipe inspired by Anna Jones’ book A Modern Way to Cook.
What is your favourite way to enjoy red lentils? Please share below 🙂
Before the summer is well and truly over, I would like to share this colourful raw salad with you. I’d love if I could literally share it with you, but if not I’ll give you the recipe at least, so you can easily throw it together at home! Beetroot and carrots are in prime season and if you are one of those GIY people who I admire, chances are you can pull most of these ingredients straight from the ground of your back yard!
This simple salad came together as an experiment a few years ago when I was cooking with a couple of friends and we decided to try making a chocolate beetroot cake for the first time. The cake came out well. (I used someone else’s recipe which made a successful outcome more likely) We were left with lots of shredded beetroot and had to come up with another plan to use it. After a few poor years I have adopted the basic mantra of “waste not -want not” and now hate food waste. So what can you do with some raw shredded beetroot? Well give it some raw shredded carrot as a companion, make a simple dressing of a few base ingredients. Then proceed to pull a few leaves of mint from your pot and voilá, a super food salad is born!
Cooking with in season ingredients ensures you’ll get maximum nutrition for your money as well as the freshest ones too. Naturally cooking in season makes it easier to buy local because this is what your small organic farmer is pulling out of the ground right now. Or it is what you can find in your own vegetable garden / allotment.
Cooking and eating this way may take some getting use to, as you might have to step out of your current comfort zone. Perhaps you need to try some new ingredients and learn some more recipes. Another thing I have found over the past year or so is that I’m so much more aware of what is in season and that my body seem to crave different types of food at different types of the year. Anyone else also experiencing that? This summer, with this lovely warm weather we’ve had, has seen me eating lots of raw foods. Probably more than I normally would. It seems to be reflected here on the blog too, judging from the posts of the past few months…
So before it’s time to wrap up for the coming months I would like to give you just another raw food recipe.
When we think about superfoods we often think of exotic, but now readily available foods like chia seeds, goji berries and raw cacao. Fact is, it cannot be overemphasized how much of a superfood beetroot is. I wrote about it here and here. Carrots are famous for their high content of betacarotene, a precursore to vitamin A, a vitamin really important for good eye health. As well as betacarotene, carrots are a good source of lutein and lycopene. Both good cancer fighting properties. In nutritional therapy we look at food not just as basic fuel but also as medicine. So here you have a seriously health promoting simple raw summer / autumn salad. No excuses needed.
The fact that both vegetables are served raw makes for maximum nutritional value. Just make sure your veggies are as fresh as possible. Most people don’t eat enough raw vegetables. Green smoothies or vegetable juices makes it easier to increase intake of raw foods, but sometimes you want something with a bit of a crunch and that’s when this salad deserves a prime place on the menu. It will work really well with meat too if that’s what takes your fancy. Personally I love it with white fish.
P.S I have taste tested this one on lots of people, on some of my cooking demos and even the most avid beetroot fans have been converted 🙂 It seems like the ginger-lemon dressing somehow neutralises the earthiness of the beetroot, which many people so dislike.
Beetroot & Carrot Salad with a Ginger Dressing
Serves 2 generously
2 medium sized carrots, washed & peeled
1 large or 2 small beetroots, washed & peeled
3 tbsp good quality cold pressed olive oil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
zest of 1/2 organic lemon
1/2- 1 inch ginger, peeled and finely grated – adjust amount according to how much “kick” you want
A pinch of Himalayan pink salt – to season
A few fresh mint leaves, torn
Grate the carrot and beetroot finely. There are a few ways to do this. If you have a food processor and don’t mind a little extra washing, use it. I used my julienne slicer here. It is a really handy tool except for the fact that I almost always end up rubbing a poor unfortunate finger as well… If you can find a julienne peeler which looks almost like a normal peeler, then go for that one instead. Of course if you have impeccable knife skills, then go ahead and cut your own julienne sticks by all means. It’s just beyond the scope of my own skills.
In a small bowl mix together olive oil, lemon juice and ginger until smooth. Add a drop of water if you find it too thick. Season to taste with some pink salt. Place your finely grated carrot and beetroot in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing. Toss the whole thing gently with your hands. Add a few torn mint leaves to the mix.
This salad will work really well as a side to some grilled white fish or as part of a larger buffet. Or as a snack with a few toasted seeds on top. If you are a little odd like me!