Fig & Walnut Salad

Fig & Walnut Salad

 

I feel like I’m behind with writing blog posts… Again!

I had another post idea lined up but since it hasn’t been written up yet, I think it will have to wait until the New Year. Who wants to think about batch cooking and meal planning at the moment anyway, right?!

It can be a challenge to balance out all the heavy meat (if you eat meat) based dishes, together with all the lovely Christmas cakes, minced pies and chocolates we tend to feast on throughout the month of December. It may even feel like you “have to eat it all”, because these are seasonal foods meaning we won’t see them again for another year. A dreaded sense of scarcity sets in…

It is all too easy to fall into this scarcity trap.

I do that too sometimes when I find a food I really like and that I haven’t had for awhile.

There is a beauty to seasonality though and that is the fact that because some foods are in season at different times of the year, we get the opportunity to savour them at that time. However, given the current world we live in, if we truly want something very particular chances are we can get it, or make it ourselves.

Letting go of the feeling of “having to eat it all now before it is gone”, instead shifting it to a place of attunement and gratitude may help us savour these foods mindfully, instead of just wolfing them down not actually tasting them or enjoying them at all. Letting go of eating just for the sake of eating, can open up space to have a really satisfactory eating experience and usually when we have that we don’t tend to go looking for more.

radicchio

Anyway… My intention for this blog post was to give you some inspiration when it comes to adding some green stuff to the Christmas menu.

I’m sharing this Fig & Walnut Salad + I have linked to a few of my other winter favourites from the past as well as from my favourite bloggers around the world.

Whether you will be the brave one introducing a new dish on the 24th / 25th or if you decide to try some new plant based dishes between Christmas and New Year, just to lighten things up a bit, I do hope you decide to give some of these a go! Vegetables are here to be celebrated… Any time of year!

 

Fig & Walnut Salad with Goat’s Cheese

Serves 4

1 small head of radicchio, finely shredded

4-5 stems of kale (I used the purple variety here but green curly kale is fine)

4-6 fresh figs, depending on size

100g goat’s cheese (get a variety you like, or leave it out)

A handful of walnuts, roughly chopped

A handful of fresh blueberries

2 tbsp. olive oil

1-2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. clear runny honey

½ tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped

 

Remove the outside leaves of your radicchio and then cut into fine strips. Remove stems from the kale and chop finely.

Place the cut kale, drizzle over the olive oil and then gently massage it to soften the leaves. Add the shredded radicchio to the bowl.

Cut the pit off the fresh figs and then make two slits across the middle. Place a chunk of goats cheese in the middle of the fig then place under a hot grill for a few min until cheese is lightly golden.

Place some of the salad on each serving plate. Add a grilled fig each on top of the salad. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar and some runny honey over the fig and salad. Finish off by scatter some chopped walnuts, chopped rosemary and a few fresh blueberries over each plate.

Eat and enjoy!

** If you don’t want to include goat’s cheese, then cut the figs into smaller quarters instead**

straightforward nutrition

If you are looking for some more green inspiration for the Christmas table, or any other day for that matter, here are some of my favourites!

Past winter salads from my blog:

Kale Salad with Orange-Tahini Dressing

Black Quinoa Salad with Kale, Apples & Crunchy Hazelnuts (you can leave out the quinoa if you make it as a side)

A Festive Salad (with Brussels Sprouts)

Rainbow Slaw with Mustard Dressing

Red Cabbage Salad with Blueberries & Coconut

 

And here are some festive recipes from some of my favourite food bloggers that I’ve been following for a long time!

Like this Blood Orange & Kamut Salad from Cashew Kitchen

THIS recipe from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks changed my view on Brussels Sprouts forever. Super simple too!

An old recipe from Green Kitchen Stories with Saffron

And finally another recipe from GKS which is a little bit more like a main course.

Kale Salad with a Garlic-Tahini Dressing

Kale Salad with a Garlic-Tahini Dressing

 

So here we go with another kale salad recipe! Told you that I had an abundance…

I’ve also been thinking about my recipes and how I would like to try to give you some various alternatives, where ever and whenever it is possible.

We talk about Intuitive Eating, but what about intuitive cooking?

Not all dishes lend themselves to mix and matching, or making substitutes. If you are baking, it is probably best to follow the recipe closely if you are looking for a predictable outcome. Though if you have a strong desire to experiment and not feeling to concerned about the outcome, go for it and do try all kinds of weird and wonderful ingredients and combinations.

Just be clear that you may not end up with something edible… But sometimes it’s more about the process than the outcome right?

straightforward nutrition

When it comes to salads you are pretty safe experimenting away. Not too much can go haywire if you are using fresh, good quality ingredients to start with.

If you want to make a salad a decent meal, you have to (well you don’t have to, but I strongly recommend) that you follow the same plate concept as is recommended for balanced meals in general, if you want to make a salad that is a meal in itself and not just a simple side dish, that is.

The key, the secrete, whatever you want to call it, is to combine fat, protein with carbohydrates (which here will be mostly veg). If you leave out the fat and the protein from your salad and have just vegetables on their own, most likely you will end up not feeling full for very long, even though you may eat an actual large volume of food.

Each macro nutrient is digested differently, hence why this is.

From a mindful eating point of view, use your salad (or any meal for that matter) to explore how different foods effect your satiety and fullness. How long before you notice the need to eat again? There’s no right or wrong here, but it can be pretty useful information.

Anyway, let’s get to the recipe.

For potential substitutes for this particular salad:

Try different root veg like celeriac or maybe shredded purple cabbage.

Cannellini beans can be swapped for chickpeas or butter beans.

The walnuts can be swapped for toasted sunflower seeds or pecan nuts.

 

Kale Salad with Garlic-Tahini Dressing

Serves 4

6 large leaves of kale (any type of kale is fine), stems removed & finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely grated

¼ cup sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped

½ cup cooked cannellini beans – swap for chickpeas or other beans if you wish

a handful of fresh walnuts, roughly chopped

Tahini dressing

3 tbsp tahini

1 clove garlic, minced

Juice of ½ lemon

2-3 tbsp cold water to thin the dressing

Sea salt & Black pepper, to season

 

Start by making the dressing by placing the tahini, minced garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl. With a fork mix them all together until you have a thick paste. Then add a tbsp. of water one by one until you have your desired consistency. You want to end up with a creamy dressing so don’t go too heavy handed with the water. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Place the chopped kale in a large salad bowl, add the dressing and with your hands gently massage it in so that the leaves wilt / soften a little..

Add the shredded carrots, the sundried tomatoes and the beans. Toss together until everything is evenly coated with the dressing

Add the chopped walnuts for some extra crunch.

Serve as is, or with your choice of meat / fish / egg if that takes your fancy.

mindful cooking

Looking for more kale salad ideas? Well I have a few oldies from the archives!

Kale Salad with orange-tahini dressing

Black quinoa & Kale salad with apples & toasted hazelnuts

Cavolo Nero Salad with a Mexican twist

And there are some kale in this green soup too…

Cavolo Nero Salad with a Mexican Twist

Cavolo Nero Salad with a Mexican Twist

This weekend I finally feel like I’ve hit those Autumn vibes in my kitchen. After a massive haul of fresh groceries, since my fridge was literally empty on fresh food and 2 hours of cleaning out my pantries I think I feel ready to move into the last quarter of this year. And to get cosy with woolly jumpers, fires and some hot chocolate. It’s time to pull out the soup pot and get ready for stews and soups. But before we arrive there, I thought I’d share with you this spicy creation, kind of like a bridge connecting the late summer / early Autumn with the slow arrival of shorter colder days.

I mean, of course you can still have salads in the Autumn / Winter. It doesn’t have to be all about cooked comfort foods. What I’ve come to do is this; to stick with the seasonal greens for salads. In doing so it feels natural to have salads to ensure that you still get some greens into you. Which can easily become a bit more of a struggle come winter time.

cavolo nero

 

Cavolo Nero or sometimes called Black Kale or Dinosaur Kale (due to it’s appearance) is a variety of kale that’s also pretty easy to grow yourself. Last year I did so successfully and the plants kept on giving way into the late Autumn. I love how kale just keeps growing up and sprouting out new leaves for one to cut and enjoy. It’s such a generous plant!

However this year the lovely caterpillars got stuck into it early on and I got completely outnumbered… So this year I’d have had to go and buy some instead.

This type of kale has the same amazing benefits as your regular curly kale, which contains vitamin K and C (antioxidants) as well as being a great source of easily absorbed iron and calcium. It is also a great source of chlorophyll, which is essentially the compound which plants use to absorb the light from the sun and turn it into a source of energy via photosynthesis. This is how the plants store the sunlight and make it available for us humans, through when we are eating the plant itself.

Chlorophyll has great healing properties such as wound healing and support the body’s detoxification processes. It is possible to buy liquid chlorophyll that can be added to drinking water. It is not something I have ever tried myself though.

(Source: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/other/health-benefits-of-chlorophyll.html)

Another thing to note is that when cooking kale, don’t over do it or you’ll lose out on the vital nutrients. A good guideline is to just cook until the colour “pops” and you have a really bright green. That will take just minutes (if even) when steaming.

The other way to make sure you get the most out of this nutritional powerhouse is to massage it in an olive oil / citrus dressing. Most of the time I use lemon juice, but for this one I went with lime for a more Mexican inspired twist.

cavolo nero salad

 

This is a raw-cooked kind of salad with the spicy roasted chickpeas being served warm and the kale raw. You can slow roast the tomatoes too if you like for more warmth as well as a deeper tomato flavour. As soon as the weather gets cold I personally need to pair my cold food with something warm, even if it just a cup of tea!

If you eat meat, I think this salad combination will work well with chicken.

 

Cavolo Nero Salad with A Mexican Twist

Serves 2

6-7 leaves of cavolo nero

1 large avocado or 2 small ones

1 cherry tomatoes

juice + zest of 1 lime

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp good quality maple syrup

sea salt & black pepper to season

FOR THE ROASTED CHICKPEAS

1 tin of chickpeas in water, drained & rinsed or 1 1/2 cup cooked from dried

1/4 tsp chipotle or cayenne pepper

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp olive oil

a pinch of sea salt

 

Start by roasting the chickpeas; Preheat the oven to 175°C. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. In a small bowl mix the olive oil with the spices and a pinch of salt. Add the chickpeas to the oil-spice mix and toss until well coated.

Place the chickpeas on a lined baking tray and cook for 30 min, until crisp. (Whatever you don’t end up using, can be stored in an airtight container and enjoyed as a snack on their own.)

To make the salad; Cut the stems from the kale and then chop it into bits. Mix olive oil, lime juice, lime zest and maple syrup together in a small bowl. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Add the dressing to the chopped kale and gently ‘massage’ it into the leaves with your hands.

Cut the avocado in half and remove the stone. Scoop the flesh out and cut into cubes. Halve the tomatoes.

Place kale, avocado, tomatoes and roasted chickpeas into a bowl and serve.

cavolo nero salad

What is your favourite Autumn / Winter salad combination? Please share below 🙂

 

Black Quinoa Salad with Kale – Topped with Crunchy Apples & Toasted Hazelnuts

Black Quinoa Salad with Kale – Topped with Crunchy Apples & Toasted Hazelnuts

Time to get back to winter greens. No need to skimp on the raw stuff just because the weather has gotten a little cooler eh? This recipe is one I made for Chelsea – Aka The Naked Fig, back in the Spring as part of our guest blogging swap. As it turned out to be a big hit with her readers, I have decided to feature it here too. It feels like the perfect fit now when all the ingredients are back in season again.

There’s another couple of reasons as why I have decided to post this recipe now. One, as mentioned above – It’s seasonal. Two – I’m currently juggling lots of things (what’s new??) and a little stuck for time to shoot a new recipe… Three – This was one of the featured recipes for the cooking demos I did last weekend. The theme was local, seasonal and autumn /winter (Ok, so Quinoa isn’t exactly local… ). It looked like people enjoyed it! So I hope you will too. And if you were actually at one of the demos, then here’s the recipe.

Personally I love these kinds of salads as the are more of “assembling a meal” so saves on time spent cooking. If you have the quinoa already cooked you are saving even more time. This salad is almost nicer the day after. Perfect for a left-over lunch option. Win-win.

 

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Kale is the perfect winter green and I am delighted it is back in season again. They grow happily this time of the year. Over the past couple of years my cooking has evolved and become more and more adapted to the seasons. Perhaps it has become a little more adventurous too, yet at the same time the way I cook now is a lot cleaner and simpler.

You see, as your start introducing more vegetables and fresh food into your diet, your taste buds gradually change. As you start eating with more awareness and purpose, you’ll find yourself discover new tastes and flavours, and after awhile you will probably find that not just any old vegetable will do. They have to be fresh, colourful & vibrant too.

As we slowly transition from autumn into winter. From raw food to cooked food. From salads to soups and stews. It is nice to still keep some raw foods on the weekly menu. Raw food are food which has not been heated over 46 C. Some nutrients can easily be destroyed by cooking and beneficial enzymes are still retained when we eat foods in its natural state. Some people thrive well on a fully raw diet. Personally I find it hard to eat too much raw, cold food when the weather is cold but including a salad like this as a side to say a piece of pan fried fish or indeed adding the quinoa when still warm does the trick.

Apples are at peak season so you should easily be able to get some locally grown. Adding apples to a salad adds a sweet crunch and they work well with the pomegranates and hazelnuts. To me this is how you construct a “Super Salad”. Some greens, some cooked grains, some raw fruit or other veggies and some healthy fats to balance both flavours and blood sugar. You’ll get the fats here from both the olive oil in the dressing and from the nuts. Protein comes in form of the quinoa as well as the hazelnuts so by the time you have assembled the whole thing you will have a light, yet filling meal to satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters a like. I hope you will like it as much as the people who tried it at last weekend’s cooking demos did 🙂

 

Black Quinoa Salad with Kale, Apple, Hazelnuts & Pomegranate

Serves 2 hungry people

4 cups curly kale, washed, stems removed & finely chopped

1 cup black quinoa, rinsed – If you can’t find black quinoa, red or white will work fine too.

1 1/2 cups cold water

1 pomegranate, seeds removed

2 small apples, finely sliced – preferably organic. Use a crunchy sort which will give the bet texture and flavour.

½ cup raw hazelnuts

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

A pinch of sea salt, to season

Heat your oven to 200°C. To toast the hazelnuts, place them on a baking tray. Then toast in the oven for about 10 min. Keep an eye on them, they burn easily. Once you see the skin beginning to crack, remove from the oven. Allow to cool a little before giving them a gentle rub to remove the skins. Chop roughly and set aside.

To cook the quinoa; rinse it well to remove the bitter outer coating. Place it in a saucepan with the cold water and a tight fitting lid. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to very low and cook covered for 12 minutes, until the grain is tender. Turn off the heat, but leave the lid on for a further 10 minutes. Set aside to cool down

In a salad bowl, add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt. I love using Himalayan Pink Salt as it has great taste. Whisk until combined then add in your chopped kale. Massage the dressing in to the kale gently with your hands. Add in the cooked quinoa and pomegranate seeds. Mix until well combined. Add the sliced apples and hazelnuts, just before serving. Give the whole thing a gentle toss. Tuck in! It will taste even better the following day.

 

straightforward nutrition healthy every day

Straightforward NutritonStraightforward Nutrition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos of me cooking at Burren Food Fayre in Lisdoonvarna kindly taken by Finghin Kiernan.

Weekday Chickpea Super Salad

Weekday Chickpea Super Salad

What about a quick nourishing meal that doesn’t take time or effort to make? Or cost the earth? This dish is one of my all time favourites. If it wasn’t for the simple fact that my body seem to crave the odd bit of meat, I could easily and happily eat this kind of food everyday. One of the main challenges when you switch from a diet heavily influenced by convenience food to natural wholesome goodness, is that it actually has to be prepared and cooked… In the beginning this seems like such hard work.

You come home from work after a long day at work. Bloodsugar levels are at an all time low, your mood and energy levels likewise, and you are ready to eat anything that is remotely edible. Or if you’re like me, eat the head of someone else!

Being prepared is key. There is no getting away from this simple fact. You also need to arm yourself with some basic kitchen gadgets and cooking skills. But basic really is all you need. Think; a good sharp knife, a couple of good sauce pans, a frying pan and a hand blender. I’m a lazy cook. I always tell my clients this fact. If I can do it. You can too. Cook, well more like assembly, tasty nourishing meals.

I always loved vegetables and fruit. Due to my inherent sweet tooth, the fruit consumption can often surpass the veggie one though. So it can be tough to get all the recommended amount of portions in. The other day my friend told me that WHO is now recommending 17 (!) portions of vegetables incl. some fruit for our diets to be disease preventable. Wow. That’s a lot of eating… To get to that level, juicing will have to be part of it. Impossible otherwise I would think.

Spelt grains

 

Believe it or not, there was a time when I use to come home from work, open the fridge or the pantry and stare at all the lovely stuff, ravenous, just to state the fact that I had plenty of food. But it had to be cooked into something! These days through perseverance, I have learnt some simple ways around this frustrating situation. No, the answer it is not having a frozen pizza in the freezer. Even though it was one of mine in the past… It’s all about being prepared. And having a little knowledge. Batch cooking is key. For cheap, wholesome meals, legumes are your friend. Keep a few tins in your store cupboards at all times and you are ready to go in minutes. If you cook them from dry, you can cook larger batches and freeze some. The same with wholegrain rice or wholegrain spelt which I have used here. Your cooked grains and legumes will keep for a few days in the fridge too, so no panic if your freezer is very small, or non existent.

I prefer warm food when the weather is cold. So if I have a raw salad I need to combine it with something warm. Sometimes that could be roasted veg with some green leafy lettuce leaves. Or it could be a mixed salad with an omelette. Equally simple. If you have some pre-cooked grains in your fridge or freezer, coupled with some legumes all you need to do is to toss them in a hot pan with some of your favourite vegetables. Simple as, and you have a wholesome meal in minutes! If you make enough, you can even enjoy the leftovers for lunch the following day.

 

KaleChickpeas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whole grains are a great source of stress-busting B-Vitamins. When the grain is consumed whole and totally unrefined as with these spelt grains, they are actually fairly high in protein too. Sometimes even as high as 16%. Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant based protein too. The classic vegetarian way of combining grains with pulses, ensure that all 20 amino acids are covered. The few which are missing in the grain is in abundance in your pulses, so cleverly you will get a complete source of protein.

You can use any grains with any pulses really. Once you have upped your kitchen confidence, then stretch your imagination and use a different kind of grain with a different kind of bean or lentil. And then simply toss in any veg, which is lurking in your fridge! Heat in pan, season & tuck in!

 

Weekday Chickpea Salad

Serves 2

1 cup of chickpeas, cooked

1 cup of spelt grains, cooked

3 cups of kale, washed, chopped with stems removed

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small red chilli, chopped – remove seeds if you want it less hot or use a pinch of dry chilli flakes

7-8 cherry tomatoes, washed & halved – Optional but delicious  **I forgot to add mine this time when making it for the photographs!**

Olive oil

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to season

Parmesan, Pecorino or Machego, grated on top before serving

Heat your pan, then add the a good splash of olive oil. Quickly add your chopped garlic and chilli. Stir until soften but not burnt. Add in the kale and sauté until it start looking slightly wilted. Add your chickpeas and spelt grains. Keep stirring until heated through. 

Serve in two bowls with some grated cheese on top. If you intend to have some cold the following day, leave the cheese out and add just before eating. The cheese isn’t integral to the dish but do give a different flavour dimension. I don’t tend to feel well with dairy but can tolerate sheep’s cheese so hence the Pecorino or Manchego.

 

Chickpea saladChickpea Salad