I haven’t actually written or posted a recipe or blog post here since early March. It definitely wasn’t my intention to take a writing break, but like so many other times, life happens and it’s not always possible to fit everything in, even if there’s a desire to do it.
If I’m really honest though, I am not sure that the urge to sit down and write was there over these past few months. My life took some turbulent directions for awhile and I am still trying to adjust to a new rhythm. Transitions are not always easy, but they are necessary and most definitely a part of life. (Sure I even have a tattoo that says “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional…”)
During these past couple of months cooking took a complete backseat, well at least the consciously creative part of it. Instead, because of limited time, energy and funds it became about practicality, speed and ease. And a necessity to just eat food in enough quantities so that I could get on with the other parts of my life that needed tending to.
My overall creativity took a nosedive too, or rather, was put on hold. It is difficult to create from a place of survival…
My meals of choice over these couple of months have been bowls of bits and pieces put together. Minimal cooking and effort required. To make life even simpler I also visited the freezer section in my local Aldi and found some really neat frozen bean mixes that added some crunch and protein to my stir fries.
I keep reminding myself, as well as many of my clients, that neither cooking nor eating have to be complicated. The ever increasing information and an evolving science on nutrition can make this basic act of survival feel so complicated that it ends up feeling overwhelming. When it does, it is good to come back to basics.
This salad recipe is one of those simple throw together meals. It looks pretty perhaps, but truly it contains some readily available ingredients you can get in any supermarket. Sans the nasturtium flowers perhaps(!). Way back when I first started my blog, what I wished for was to make eating vegetables to be fun, exiting and accessible. Far, far from the boring, bland and punishing dieting type recipes and mentality. This Summer Salad recipe hits on those intentions pretty well, I think.
Before I share the recipe with you I also want to share with you two wonderful new cookbooks I bought this Spring which I am still slowly making my way through. Because I seldom cook from recipes, or at least following one to the letter, I’ve been looking for some new cookbooks that can teach me some new technique as well as inspire my kitchen creativity. In Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat and Lateral Cooking by Nikki Segnit, I’ve found exactly what I was looking for.
Both books are pretty extensive, but written in a very accessible style. Cooking is a tactile experience that actually lends itself pretty well to creative curiosity, providing we are not in a state of “hangry” or survival mode. If you are looking to ignite your kitchen creativity, I can highly recommend these two.
Now let’s get on with the salad recipe!
Summer Salad With a Mustard Vinaigrette
½ small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
2 – 3 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves, washed
1/3 cucumber, diced
½ avocado, stone removed & diced
A large handful fresh raspberries, washed
50g feta cheese
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
5 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste
Bring some lightly salted water to the boil, then add the broccoli florets and cook for 1-2 min until bright green. Remove from the stovetop, drain the hot water and give the cooked florets a quick rinse in cold water to let them cool down and remain somewhat crunchy.
To make the dressing; place all the ingredients except salt in a small glass jar and then give it a good shake until everything is evenly dispersed. Taste and add a little bit of salt and black pepper if you wish.
Place the mixed salad leaves on a large plate, add the cucumber, avocado, broccoli florets and raspberries. Crumble the feta over the salad and then scatter some pumpkin seeds. Decorate with some edible flowers, if you have some!
Pour over some dressing and serve immediately.
This salad is best eaten once plated up. The dressing will keep a few days, stored in the glass jar in the fridge.
It is hard to remember that it was just a mere four months ago that we had a foot of snow here, when we are currently enjoying days upon days of sunny weather and temperatures in the mid 20°Cs. To me, who quiet like the heat, this current spell feels like true soul nourishment. A way to fill up my cup after a long wet, cold Winter and Spring.
The weather and the seasons are such a great metaphor as well as reminder of the cyclical nature of life. That even in the darkest hour, we can trust that the light will eventually return.
Over the years the rhythm of my food choices has become fairly cyclical too. Warmer foods in colder weather and colder foods in warmer weather. Can you relate?
I think it’s something that has evolved over time for me, the more I’ve allowed myself to let my intuition guide my food choices, the more seasonal my food choices have become.
We can spend years of our lives fighting cravings and hunger signals, simply trying to ignore our bodies. We forget to listen. We don’t dare to trust. It can be a long arduous journey home.
This summer I am taking 12 weeks, diving deeper into understanding the many mechanisms that underlie our relationship with food, eating and our bodies. It seems to be a subject that is vast and complex, yet it could (should) be one of the simplest things in our lives. Feeding ourselves.
As much as I love creating new recipes, reading recipe books and photographing food, I equally enjoy working with clients and counselling people back to peace and freedom around food and eating. This kind of work is not linear, and more of a process than setting a goal to go after. It is intentional however. The intention being healing, freedom and peace.
I will continue to unpack my learnings, observations and insights in other blog post. Now let’s get back to the recipe!
This Green Goddess Salad, is one of those recipes that may look intimidating to some, with lots of ingredients. Though truly, it isn’t at all. I don’t tend to do anything too complicated anyway…
I prefer my salads this time of year to be mostly raw, crunchy, to contain something salty (ought to replace those lost electrolytes!) and ideally assembled in minutes.
We know from the science that eating a variety of foods, as well as plenty of colourful foods are beneficial to our health. So with that in mind I sometimes play a game of trying to see how many different types of food of the same colour I can fit in one dish. This Green Goddess Salad is one of those experiments.
Green Goddess Salad
1 medium size courgette
5 spears of fresh asparagus
1/2 cup of frozen peas, thawed or freshly podded ones if you can get some!
A handful of fresh mint leaves, torn
A handful of unsalted pistachios, shells removed and roughly chopped
50 g of feta cheese, crumbled (crumbly goats cheese will work too)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
Some black pepper, to season (I add some to all my meals)
Rinse and dry the courgette and the asparagus, then take out your vegetable peeler. To make thin ribbons simply shave the courgette and then do the same with the asparagus spears. When you get to the more watery core of the courgette, you can leave this out.
Defrost the peas by placing them in a bowl and then covering them with some boiling water from the kettle for a minute or so. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Place the courgette and asparagus ribbons together on a plate, or in a bowl. Add the peas, the torn fresh mint leaves and the chopped pistachios. Crumble some feta over and then finish up with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some balsamic vinegar and a little bit of ground black pepper (if you wish!)
Serve as is for a lighter summer meal, or as a side dish to a BBQ. Best eaten on the day it is made.
Ok, so straight up I am going to admit that when I made this Summer Salad first, I didn’t intend to make it as a potential blog recipe. I was just trying to come up with some new meal ideas, as I was working on improving the variety of foods that I am eating.
However, when I sat down to eat it, I loved this food combination so much that I decided to photograph the leftovers and then share the recipe with you all here! This Summer Salad works really well if you want to feed a crowd, as a mid week meal (having the grains pre-cooked and the veggies roasted in advanced) or as a side dish to a BBQ.
I hadn’t had whole spelt grains for some time, and had actually forgotten how much I enjoy them. Especially in dishes like this. You will find whole spelt grain or Farro, in most healthfood stores. I always thought that Farro was just a different name for Spelt, turns out they are actually two different types of wheat, though fairly similar in taste and texture. This article breaks it down nicely. If you can only get Farro, then that will work equally well as both grains are chewy in texture with a slightly nutty flavour. The best thing with these grains are that they freeze really well too, so you can cook a large batch and then freeze any extra to use in future meals.
I first came across spelt grains in a Swedish cookbook 6-7 years ago, at a friend’s place. I was so smitten with the simplicity of the recipes, as well as the beautiful pictures and I would consider it one of the books which changed my style of cooking and eating. And it introduced me to some new foods as well as ideas on how to make simple tasty colourful meals.
Of course every body is different and will respond differently to foods, and only you can know what foods works best with your own body as well as within your own lifestyle. Meals and dishes like this one, seems to work fairly well for me.
It always amazes me how some flavours and foods naturally marry together. Often you will find that those that do, tend to grow / be in season at the same time. It’s like Nature’s own natural rhythm comes through in flavours and combinations. It has also been said, that in order for a meal to be “complete”, it does not just have to contain the macro nutrients fat, carbohydrate and protein but should ideally cover all flavour profiles as well. Maybe this is why we sometimes want a bite of something sweet to just round out a meal that have been heavy on fat and protein?
In this Summer Salad, I feel I’ve got it covered with some sweetness from the carmelised onion, some saltiness from the feta which also contributes with an element of cold if the rest of the salad is served warm. You will get some nutty and chewy texture from the grain, some sharpness from the peppers and a freshness from the basil leaves.
I truly hope you will enjoy this Summer Salad as much as I do!
Summer Salad with Whole Spelt Grains & Slow Roasted Veg
150g whole spelt grains (dry weight)
75g feta cheese
250g peppers of various types & colour, chopped into large chunks
100g of cherry tomatoes
1 red onion, peeled & sliced
5 cloves of garlic
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to season
Heat oven to 150°C. Place the chucks of pepper, the cherry tomatoes, the sliced onion and the whole garlic cloves on to a baking tray. Season with some sea salt and black pepper and drizzle with some olive oil. Toss the veggies in the oil to make sure they are evenly coated. Then place the tray in the warm oven and slow roast for about 1h.
Stir the veggies once in awhile. What you want is a slight carmelisation of the onion and the peppers, but not burnt. The vegetables should be soft and fragrant. Once cooked set aside to cool down.
To cook the grains; Rinse the grains well first to remove any dust or impurities then drain well before adding to a saucepan. Cover the grains with plenty of water, bring to a lively boil and cook for about 45 min. The grains are ready when they are chewy but not hard. Drain and set aside.
This salad can be served warm or cold and both the spelt grain as well as the slow roasted veggies will keep for a few days in the fridge.
Assemble the salad by adding the slow roasted veggies to the cooked grains. Make sure you remove the skin from the roasted garlic cloves also. Add the crumbled feta and the basil leaves and then give the whole salad a gentle mix before serving.
And if you have spelt grains left over then try this salad
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 ***
Do you what is really challenging? Taking photos of red and dark coloured foods! I don’t know if it is just my camera that is struggling with the light / contrast or if there’s something else contributing, which I don’t know about… It just feels a little unfair as the pictures doesn’t truly do the dish justice.
This salad is kind of a classic pairing, beetroot and feta. I bet if you Goolgle it you’ll find hundreds of ideas for a salad like this. A very similar recipe to this one, was one of the first recipes that I added to my first website. But when I moved on to this website, I left it behind.
So here’s a new version!
Speaking of Googling recipes… Sometimes when I see a new ingredient that I would like to try make something with, this is exactly what I do. You usually get endless results which = endless ideas to try. Is this how you approach it too? Or are you more inclined to pull out a recipe book and decide that you are going to try a new recipe and then shop accordingly?
When I first decided to extend my recipe repertoire I went looking for cookbooks (back then I just had a few…), then I would pick a recipe that looked good, shop the ingredients and then get stuck in. At one stage I decided to learn one new one / week.
To be honest that is probably an enough amount to focus on, because it takes a bit of mental energy to learn a new recipe. It is so easy to try to do everything all at once, but that’s often what makes it so challenging to then make changes that stick.
Our lives are so full already, which is why it is so much easier to stick to what we already know. I think this is why we can get stuck in food ruts too. It’s safe, easy and convenient. Like I said, our lives are already full and learning new things requires mental energy. And when my life is way off, I don’t usually cook at all… But that’s an entirely different story… They don’t call it convenience food for nothing, do they?
Before I share this recipe with you, I want to invite you to think of some other beetroot combinations to test out.
One of my favourite books for getting creative when it comes to flavour pairings is The Flavour Thesaurus. It is a small book, well worth adding to your cookbook collection / kitchen. This book as helped me get a lot braver and creative when it comes to testing out new flavours and food combinations. As if this book was not enough, I recently invested in this book called Kitchen Creativity. So far I have only flickered through it, but I think it will be prove a worthwhile purchase 🙂
So if you want to change this salad up, consider pairing beetroot with either fresh orange + some fried halloumi, or some crisp thinly sliced apples + some goat’s cheese / blue cheese with walnuts.
If you cook the beetroot (leave skin on so they bleed less) you will end up with a different texture. A lot softer. Or you can use it grated, raw like I did in this salad.
Now let’s get to today’s recipe!
Cumin Roasted Beetroot & Puy Lentil Salad
2 large beetroots (or 4 small ones), peeled & cut into small quarters
2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
100g dried puy lentils (beluga lentils are fine too), rinsed
100g good quality feta cheese
2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
A handful of green salad leaves, washed & dried
Olive oil, for roasting
4 tbsp good quality olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp clear honey
sea salt & black pepper to season
Heat oven to 180°C. Place your quartered beetroot on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and then scatter the cumin seeds over. Season with sea salt and black pepper and then toss it all with your hands to that the beetroot are well coated in seasoning and oil.
Roast for about 35-40 min until soft.
To cook the lentils, rinse them well to remove any dust as well as pick through to make sure there’s no stones in there. Then place them in a large saucepan filled with cold water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 30-35 min until they are soft but still hold their shape. When they mush easily with a squeeze between your fingers, they are done. Drain, rinse and drain well.
You can serve this salad warm or cold. Since it is still cold here, at this time of the year I would personally prefer it warm. The warm lentils will make a nice contrast to the cold salty feta and the sweet and crunchy pomegranate seeds.
Mix the ingredients for the dressing together and season to taste. Add the dressing to the warm lentils.
On a plate add some salad leaves, the warm lentil and some roasted beetroot. Then scatter some crumbled feta and some pomegranate seeds. Tuck in!