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.
Let’s continue the Summer Salad Series! I know we are already halfway through Aug but still… In a sense, as this salad contain several cooked elements it’s the perfect transition from summer to autumn. It’s still pretty fresh with an element of summer, containing juicy nectarines, yet it has that autumnal feel that root vegetables bring.
The combination of flavours may be stretching a little bit outside some people’s tastebuds comfort zone but hey, if you don’t challenge yourself every know and then how are you suppose to grow and evolve? One of the biggest challenges to many of my clients seem to be adding variety to their everyday diet. The majority of people I know, eat mostly the same thing, day in and day out. We get stuck in food ruts. It’s safe and it’s easy. Just like our daily life routines…
I was told once by a man that apparently in Japan most people eat 20-30 different types of foods, including spices every day! How’s that for variation? Now, I will admit that I haven’t verified his statement to see if it’s true or simply a myth, but whatever way, ask yourself “How many different foods and flavours are you eating every day?” By making this salad you will end up with nine (!) different components alone.
Sometimes when people are diagnosed with food intolerances it can turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it opens up the opportunity to try a whole new world of different foods and flavours simply because they have no other choice. Thing is with food intolerances that it’s important to eat as wide of variety of foods as possible (within the range of foods you can eat) to make sure you don’t develop further intolerances. Sometimes the reaction to certain foods is because the digestive system as a whole is compromised and the foods showing up are the ones the person eats the most of. This is not always the underlying reason, but it can be. So simply put; Eat a great variety of colourful foods. It will keep your body happy and your gut microbes happy too. And if you need a change in your life, starting with a few small changes to what’s on your plate can create ripple effect into the rest of your life 🙂
Let’s get going with the recipe! Beetroot is back in season and the peaches and nectarines are still around. I also used whole cooked oats in this salad to make it a complete meal on its own. Whole oats are delicious and very filling. Eating cooked grains like this is a great way to get your whole grains in. They are a good source of fibre keeping your bowel working as it should, plus fibre ads bulk and help us stay full for longer. Whole grains are also a great source of B-vitamins which are essential to a well functioning nervous system. It’s important to remember that B-vitamins are water soluble vitamins, which means our bodies don’t really store them. When we are stressed we have a higher requirement for B-vitamins so it is important to make sure you get plenty if you are having a hectic lifestyle (and who hasn’t).
If you can’t have oats then you can easily sub them for cooked quinoa instead. The fresh mint leaves add another interesting dimension to this cooked salad. Enjoy!
Cumin Roasted Beetroot Salad with Nectarines & Mint
2 cups whole oat kernels, washed and rinsed
3 large beetroot, peeled & chopped into large chunks
2 nectarines or peaches, washed & chopped into chunks
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
3 tbsp olive oil + some extra to coat the beetroot in
juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt & black pepper to season
Pre heat oven to 175°C. Place your peeled and chopped beetroot on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the ground cumin a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Toss the beetroot in the oil and seasoning to make sure they are evenly coated. Place the tray in the oven and roast for about 35 min or until the beetroot is nice and soft.
In the meantime, place your washed and rinsed oats in a saucepan and cover with water. You want to have about an inch of water covering your grains. Bring to boil and then reduce to a lively simmer for about 20 min. If it looks like your pan is getting to dry add some extra water. The oat grains are cooked when they become slightly transparent in right the way through.
Once the oats are cooked through, put them into a sieve and drain any excess water. While they cool, make the dressing by mixing olive oil and lemon juice together in a bowl. Season with a pinch of sea salt if you wish. Once the oats have cooled down somewhat, mix in the dressing.
Place your dressed oats, the roasted beetroot and the chopped nectarine in a large bowl. Scatter some fresh mint leaves over the top and enjoy.
This salad makes a nice lunch the following day as you can cook both beetroot and oats ahead of time and then just assembles with the fresh nectarine and mint before eating.
I know, I know it might not feel all that much like summer at the moment… It has been a temperamental one here this year, that’s for sure. But before the strawberry season is well and truly over, I thought I’d share this next salad recipe as part of my Summer Salad Series.
If you went ahead and bought some buckwheat to try out the raw buckwheat porridge, I’m giving you another opportunity to use them up here!
This recipe is an infusion of ideas from two of my favourite food bloggers and cookbook writers. I used the buckwheat tabbouleh recipe from Emma Galloway’s fab book and fused it with the idea of adding fresh strawberries from Sprouted Kitchen’s book which I bought some time ago.
If you pre-cook the buckwheat you can whip this salad up in no time. Of course if you are not a major fan of buckwheat you can substitute with another grain of choice. In traditional tabbouleh bulgur wheat is used. Bulgur is made cracked whole wheat and hence not gluten free.
Tabbouleh is such a great dish for increasing the intake of fresh herbs. The key to a good tabbouleh is to use plenty of fresh flavoursome herbs. Ideally you want to keep the ratio of herbs to grain 1:1. So basically you end up with a very green, herb-y salad.
Fresh herbs like coriander, parsley and mint offers an excellent way to naturally support digestion and elimination as they offer a good source of natural enzymes and are also very cleansing to the body.
If you don’t have strawberries to hand, you can simply leave them out. Or why not try replacing them with another type of berry? Perhaps red currants for a tangy experience or maybe blueberries to add another colour dimension!
I’ve used pomegranate molasses here, as to be true to Emma’s original dressing but you can swap it for maple syrup if you wish. It will make you dressing a little sweeter though.
Recipe inspired by My Darling Lemon Thyme & Sprouted Kitchen
Buckwheat Tabbouleh with Strawberries
1/2 cup raw hulled buckwheat groats
About 10 strawberries, washed, hulled & halved
A bunch of fresh coriander
A bunch of fresh parsley
A bunch of fresh mint – use less mint than the rest of the other herbs if you are using a particular strong variety
1/2 cucumber, washed & diced
10 yellow or red cherry tomatoes
3 spring onions, finely chopped
For the dressing:
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses ( or sub for maple syrup)
Sea salt & Black pepper, to season
Handful of pecan nuts, roughly chopped
Start by cooking the buckwheat groats. Bring 250 ml water with a pinch of salt to the boil. When the water is boiling add your rinsed buckwheat groats. Cover the saucepan with a lid, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 min until all the water is absorbed and the grains are cooked through. Set aside to cool completely.
Tip- The buckwheat groat will appear a little transparent once cooked through. They should still hold their shape though.
Finely chop the herbs and set aside.
Make the dressing by mixing all olive oil, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses in a small bowl. Taste and season accordingly.
Once the buckwheat is completely cold, mix in the dressing and then add the rest of the ingredients. Gently give the whole salad a toss. Scatter the chopped pecan nuts over and serve.
You can serve the salad as it is on it’s own or as a side to a summery garden party. (If the weather permits!)
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!
Holidays are over and it’s time to get back to normality… If you have kids I am guessing you are in the midst of preparing for the return to school. Even though it is years (many years in fact) since I went to school, this time of year always reminds me of just that. The sense of that first light chill in the air, the sweet smell of grain ready for harvest and just the beginning of a hint of red on the leaves. Then you know that change is in the air and that we are slowly moving towards darker times. Summer is drawing to a close… Both with a little sadness, yet with a light exciting anticipation of what may lay ahead.
I came back from my long awaited holidays earlier this week. And boy am I feeling the change in the air! When you live abroad, “going home” is almost a necessity. Kind of a given way to spend some of your hard earned time off. This is my 13th year abroad and every summer I return faithfully to my roots. Luckily I have a loving home to return to every year and since my beloved mother lives in one of the most beautiful places on earth it makes the endeavor an even sweeter one. About ten years ago she moved to the most southernly area of Sweden, Österlen. It is so close to the sea and one of those special places with special light.
This area of Sweden has been home to painters and artists for centuries. If you have ever visited, it is obvious why. You will find art galleries, vintage stores and artisan cafés dotted all over the place. This is not where I grew up though. My “real home” is smack bang in the middle of Skåne, with a slightly different landscape. Different but still beautiful. My dad and his family come from this particular countryside and my darling brother is set to carry on the tradition, having built his house here and having started his own family earlier this year.
This post is slightly different to my usual ones as I would like to share some pictures I took whilst I was home, in Sweden. I sincerely hope you won’t mind. If you have never visited this corner of the earth, hopefully a few images will inspire you to do so!
The little town of Kivik, located right on the coast is world famous for all things apple. You will find an almost unimaginable amount of rows up on rows of apple trees growing in the area. Imagine the beauty of Spring there! All those flowers…
Most of the coastline is scattered with small sandy beaches and the Baltic can be very warm with water temperatures reaching the mid 20s if the summer is a hot one. I manged just one dip while I was home but I doubt it was still mid 20s kinda warm. It didn’t really feel like it was! It truly is a summer paradise around here and judging from the amount of tourists still around, a lot of people seem to think so. The area is actually equally beautiful in the winter, but much much colder so hardly any visitors to be seen anywhere then. I’m sure the locals don’t mind the peace and quiet over the winter months, though. They must be worn out after the summer.
When I first moved overseas, there was a whole heap of foods and dishes I missed. Since then, my dietary habits have changed, a lot. Much for the better, I suppose. So now I miss cooking when I’m away instead. There are still a few foods which find their way back to Ireland every time though. Things like REAL traditional Swedish rye crispbread and “Kalles Kaviar”, a caviar in a tube. Might sound rather awful to some… But not if you are a true Swede 😉 Anyone with me? Have you tried it?
The recipe here is a delicious purple smoothie bowl made with blackcurrants foraged from my mother’s tiny little kitchen garden. I simply adore blackcurrants, so enjoyed the opportunity to pick them straight from the bush as oppose to a freezer bag for a change. Blackcurrants are a true super food which we, who live in the northerly latitudes can enjoy locally. It has as much vitamin C as goji berries so a perfect berry to store for the winter months to stave off any colds and flu bugs. When I was in my late teens and still lived in Sweden I had never even heard of a dairy free smoothie bowl, like this recipe. Fast forward ten years or so and they have become a weekly staple. How things change, hey?
Smoothie bowls are so handy when you are looking for something which resemble that bowl of yoghurt with cereal you used to eat before you had to clean up your act. When I finally realised that my body felt so much better without dairy and had to give up my beloved natural yoghurt, having my smoothie in a bowl at times has made me feel a little less deprived. Now I can top it with with crunchy seeds or homemade granola just like I used to when I was 12! The fact that this kind of breakfast bowl will give you less sugar and more nutrition than traditional ones, makes it even more worthwhile.
The idea of using coconut milk comes from a summer holiday spent in Barcelona a few years ago. ( I still went “home” though, just had to cut it a little shorter than normal, that year. ) If you have ever visited the amazing food market there with all the gorgeous fresh fruit smoothies, you’ll know what I’m on about… For a smoothie to be eaten out of a bowl, you need a slightly thicker consistency than normal so go easy on the liquid. Otherwise all your lovely toppings will sink like stones to the bottom. No hope of any pretty styling then 😉
Purple Smoothie Bowl
100 ml coconut milk – fresh or use a good quality full fat coconut milk with little or no additives, organic if possible
1/4 cup fresh or frozen blackcurrant
Rinse and drain the berries if using freshly picked ones. Place berries, coconut milk and banana in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately in a bowl and top with your favourite muesli, granola or toasted seeds. Add more berries if you so wish.
I like the rather tart taste of the berries so for me the banana is enough to sweeten. You can of course add a little honey or maple syrup if you find it too tart. However I would recommend not to, if you wish to keep your sugar intake low.
If you wish to try another smoothie with coconut milk, check out this recipe which I made for this site a little while back. A seriously refreshing summer drink. If you can get hold of some water melon and strawberries, it’s worth trying. Promise.
Well, are you ready for autumn now? I don’t know if I can truly say I am. It will be here whether we want it or not though, so we might just embrace it… But until it is inevitable, I for one will savour what’s left of the summer and the lovely memories of the past few weeks spent with old friends and family. Grounding and reconnecting with my roots. How about you?