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.
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.
Photos of me cooking at Burren Food Fayre in Lisdoonvarna kindly taken by Finghin Kiernan.
Before the winter bugs hit and before it’s too late to pick ripe elderberry off the trees, have a go at this simple recipe and make your own immune boosting remedy. This was the first time I’ve tried making elderberry syrup myself so I used another recipe as a base and then went on to improvise a little. The result is a fairly sweet, dark purple liquid which tastes almost like mulled wine. Perhaps one could pare it with some brandy for a double whammy? Let me know for sure if you go down that route!
Funny thing is, while it is a few Sundays since I was preparing this concoction, as I currently write this I am struck down with a cold. So I suppose this is my opportunity to put the syrup to the test… (Thank you Universe.) When you are used to having tons of energy all the time, any level of decline is rather frustrating as it kind of stops you in your tracks. Well at least it forces you to take the foot of the the throttle for a little while. There I was, just returning to the running group in town and back to a 2-day-week Pilates schedule (one of my favourite ways to exercise). Typical. I’m thinking the lads in the running club, who has not seen me for months, must think I am a bit soft if I don’t turn up again this week… Well I suppose I just have to remind myself that “what other people think of me is not my business”. Easier said that done though. But in the end of the day it is important to listen to our bodies as they always knows best. I’m not sick enough to feel the need to cut out my training altogether but I will bring it back a little, so I can recover faster.
September has been amazing here and extended summer by another month. Which in turn means, woolly hats, cosy fires and warming soups have been put on hold for little while. No complaints here. It has also meant that there has been a savage supply of blackberries this year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of them. We have been picking berries over the past few weeks and my freezer is full of the little black gems. They are sure to be featured here on a later stage. But for now I let some of the other beautiful black berries take center stage.
Have you ever thought about how amazingly wonderful it is that just as we move in to colder months, when colds and flues seem to more easily take hold, nature has provided us with a solution right here in front of us? Like elderberries.
They are jam packed with antiviral-busting nutrients! These tiny little gems are full of Vitamin A, B and C as well as the antioxidant proanthocyanidins, which gives the berries their dark purple colour. Vitamin C together with zinc has been shown in some studies to help shorten times it takes to recover from common colds so it is well worth eating foods that are high in Vitamin C on a regular basis. Vitamin C is also one of the water soluble vitamins, which means the body doesn’t tend to store it in any larger capacity so you will need to keep your stores replenished on an ongoing basis if you want to keep your deference high. Some limited studies have shown elderberries to be particularly efficient against the usual winter viruses. Some sources seems to point that the natural compounds in elderberries activates the immune system to respond better and stronger, helping the body to clear and recover from viruses / influenza much quicker. That it actually tastes nice is an added bonus.
If you go looking you will probably find a lot more than elderberry growing along the hedgerows. When I opened my eyes and became a lot more mindful about what was naturally growing around me, I found blackberries (of course), but also rosehips and a tree full of damsons (wild plums).
This recipe yields about 2 cups of syrup so if you want to keep a full supply for the entire winter you will probably need to double it. Picking the amount of berries needed shouldn’t prove too difficult, as long as the birds didn’t get there first!
* A word of warning – Raw elderberries are actually poisonous so please resist the temptation to taste test while you are picking them, or you might end up in A&E. Probably not what you had in mind for a Sunday afternoon…
Homemade Elderberry Syrup
Makes roughly 2 cups finished syrup.
2 cups freshly picked elderberries, stems removed
2 cup filtered water
1/2″ of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods
1/2 cup of raw honey, preferably local
When you pick the elderberries go for the darkest coloured ones, which still looks fresh and plump. To remove the stems gently separate the berries with a fork. I say gently here as if you are too keen, your berries will scatter everywhere! Discard any berries which are swiveled or not ripe. Give the rest a quick rinse.
Add berries and water to a large pot. Take all your spices and gather them up in a little cloth of muslin. Tie your parcel with a string and add it to your pot. Bring the whole thing to the boil and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer for about 20 min. Allow the mixture to cool a little before straining through a sieve lined with muslin. Use the back of a wooden spoon to press gently on the berries to release as much liquid as you can. Once you have gathered all the liquid, discard berries, muslin and spices. If you have a compost bin, by all means put it in there. By now your kitchen will probably smell like Christmas. How bad.
Add in your honey and stir until it has combined with your lovely purple liquid. Then carefully store in some sterilised jars in the fridge. Take a table spoon of liquid a few times over the course of a few days if you feel a cold or flu coming on and hopefully it will not amount to anything.
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?