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
This week’s recipe is inspiration taken from a meal I enjoyed at a friend’s house when I was in Sweden a few weeks ago.
I love when people cook for me, even though I love cooking and serving food for others too. The only downside is that many of my friends think I am a fussy eater, or strict with what I put into my mouth. To be honest, I’m neither. Though over the years my tastebuds have become a little fussier than what they used to be.
I love simple food made with really good quality ingredients. That’s pretty much it.
I also enjoy trying new foods and flavour combinations every once in a while. Actually… I probably (actually, not probably, I DO) spend a large chunk of my money on food. Like cool stuff, and rare things like romanesco, chicory lettuce and purple sweet potatoes… Or a better quality balsamic vinegar, that will make my simple salad dressings much more delicious!
The balsamic vinegar thing happened when one of my friends gave me a tasting tour of her selection, after I’d complained that I don’t really like vinegar that much. Admittedly after trying a few of the once she had to hand, I realised that what I don’t like so much is apple cider vinegar or plain normal white vinegar, but that I do like a good quality balsamic, it tastes totally different! Who knew?! So I went and bought myself one the other day. Just to set the record straight.
When I shot this recipe I used olive oil and pomegranate molasses + some lemon juice, however now armed with my new delicious balsamic purchase, I think using a good quality balsamic and equal quantities of olive oil will work perfectly here too. I found that the “proper” balsamic vinegar have a much rounder flavour and not that sharp “cut through” flavour like the cheaper stuff.
Pomegranate molasses have a tart flavour, and is not overly sweet.
With this salad I’ve gone for a combination of fruity, salty and tart. The fresh mint will give an additional freshness and you will experience a full range of textures too. From chewy to crunchy to soft.
Feel free to switch up the fruit or the grain if you can’t find any of the ingredients.
Black Rice & Stone Fruit Salad with Halloumi
½ cup black rice, rinsed
1 cup fresh water to cook rice in
1 block of halloumi, approx. 200g, thickly sliced and cut into smaller pieces
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
A handful of toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
2 fresh plums,de-stoned & cut into cubes
2-3 fresh apricots, de-stoned & cut into slivers
1 fresh nectarine or peach, de-stoned & cut into cubes
About 10 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
Start by roasting the hazelnuts at 150˚C for about 15 min, until the skin begins to crack. Once your hazelnuts are golden and fragrant, remove from oven to cool slightly before rubbing the skins off with a clean tea towel. Set aside.
Measure out your rice, rinse and place it in a sauce pan. Add water and follow the cooking instructions on the package.
Once the rice is cooked, set aside to cool.
To make the dressing mix the oil, with the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses in a small bowl, or to save on dishes do it directly in the bowl you intend to serve your salad in.
Once the rice have cooled, add it to your intended serving bowl and mix with the dressing.
Heat a frying pan with a tbsp. of butter or olive oil. Fry off the halloumi until golden on both sides.
Assemble your black rice salad, by adding the fruit and the warm halloumi to the dressed up rice. Add the chopped mint leaves and the chopped hazelnuts.
** If you are serving less than four people, feel free to halve the quantities. The salad will keep for about three days in the fridge. **
Let’s continue with the theme of sweetness. And summer.
After about 10 days spent with my family in Sweden, where it wasn’t up the usual July temperatures, I subsequently returned to an Ireland which kind of is.
So that inspired me to share this recipe I created a few years ago for a guest posting on someone else’s site, and since I’ve been a little short on time, plus the fact that there are some internal work currently being done to the house I live in (think dust, shambles and loud drilling noises) then coming up with something totally fresh and new felt too challenging.
Here we are with an oldie, but a goodie. Perfect for summer.
In these days of everyone going gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, vegan or paleo it can become a minefield to find something to eat, or serve, which is still tasty, nourishing and made from simple wholefood ingredients.
Personally I don’t believe that adhering to any of the dietary requirements above should mean restrictive and boring. (Nor does it mean that we should attach any other emotional connotations to it either, but that’s a different conversation.)
Rather the opposite in fact. If you have to adhere to any food restrictions for health reasons they can in fact serve as a gateway into a more simplistic, holistic and diverse way of eating.
The question I constantly ask myself is “When did it become so complicated to choose what to eat?”
In the end of the day no matter what latest nutritional trend you follow, doesn’t it just come down to the quality of the food in the end? How it has been grown and produced – with care. How it’s been prepared – with love. And how it’s being served and eaten- with joy!
I don’t follow any particular dietary trend and eat most things which will make me feel good and do something good for my health. And if you’re going to cut something out of your diet for good, cut out the guilt.
Michael Pollan, author of several books on food and the history of cooking, eating, agriculture etc. have the best advice I know, which is really straightforward.
Eat (REAL) food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.
You simply can’t go wrong with that…
Now let’s move on to the recipe.
This is a simple, yet decadent summer dessert which should please the majority of your guests regardless of what they call themselves. what they can or cannot eat.
Coconut Panacotta with Raw Raspberry Chia Jam
Serves 2-4 depending on the sizes of the serving glasses you use
1 can of coconut milk – Preferably organic and additive free
1 ½ tbsp. raw honey – use maple syrup if vegan
1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla powder
Zest of one organic lemon
2g agar-agar powder – available in healthfood shops
Raspberry Chia Jam:
125 g fresh raspberries, washed & drained
Juice of ½ lemon – optional. Lime would be lovely too
1 tbsp of chia seeds
Place coconut milk, vanilla bean paste, honey, lemon zest and agar-agar powder in a small sauce pan. Bring it to a boil while constantly stirring to make sure the honey dissolves and prevent the agar-agar flakes from sticking to the bottom. Once the coconut milk mix reaches boiling point boil for one min, then remove from to heat and allow to cool. Once the coconut milk has cooled to finger temperature pour it into small serving glasses and allow to set in the fridge.
To make the chia jam; place your berries in a food processor / blender. Squeeze the lemon juice straight into the bowl of your food processor / blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer the blended berries to a container. Add in the chia seeds and stir until well combined. Let the chia jam sit for an hour or two to allow the seeds to gel. Stir a few times.
Add the jam on top of your set coconut panacotta to be served straight out of the glasses it’s set in. Garnish with a sprig of mint or some shaved dark chocolate.
Note* I did not add any sweetener to the chia jam. You can of course do so if you want it less tart.