This week I have the honour and pleasure of sharing a simple and delicious summer salad, created by Joanna Bourke, from The Chopping Board with us all.
I got to know Joanna through Instagram a few years back and really resonated with her no nonsense approach to food, as well as how we should eat and enjoy it. I particularly liked this blog post about the ebb and flow of life, and how letting our eating follow a similar rhythm is really nourishing.
I hope you will enjoy our conversation and learning a little bit more about Joanna and the great work she does!
I shared this purple smoothie over on Joanna’s blog.
Can you tell us something about yourself and your work?
My family have always enjoyed food and I’ve been cooking since I was young. My Dad had a fast-food business in Dublin and I worked there through my teens and college years. In 2014 I was working in Finance in San Francisco and started a blog of family recipes that I had in a notebook. In those days, my blog was called Some Like It Hot, after our takeaway! I loved sharing recipes and getting into food photography, and it was a great connection to home. Shortly after, I left my job in Finance and came home to Ireland to do the cookery course at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Since then I’ve been doing event and retreat catering in Ireland and abroad.
I’m curious about your journey to become an entrepreneur and a chef? Can you please tell us how you came to do the work you do now?
After cookery school, I took a career break and tried lots of different things to get a range of experience in the food industry, I worked with caterers and took on my own catering gigs , I got work experience in kitchens and did a month of private cooking in France. Getting blisters on my hand after a morning chopping veggies in a busy kitchen was a sign I wasn’t cut out to be a restaurant chef!
In the last year I’ve been cooking at yoga and women’s business retreats in Wicklow, Cotswolds, Provence and Normandy. I’ve been lucky to travel to new places, meet interesting people and cook in some beautiful kitchens. At retreats, people often gravitate to the kitchen for a glass of wine and a chat about what’s for dinner. It’s the heart of a house, and my favourite place to be. And of course, I love it when people really enjoy my cooking. I’m still blogging, but the blog is now called The Chopping Board – good things start at the chopping board!
How would you describe your food philosophy?
I wouldn’t call it a philosophy so much as an absolute enjoyment of everything food-related – I love cooking and eating out, looking at food on Instagram, and I’m usually thinking about my next meal.
At Ballymaloe we were completely spoiled with fresh vegetables and herbs picked from their farm every morning, the best organic and local meat produce, and fish caught locally in Ballycotton. Back in the real world, it’s a little harder (and expensive) to access this kind of produce. Farmer’s markets are great to get a sense of what’s in season and get the fresh vegetables growing in your area. Regardless of where you buy your food, a little bit of love and care in cooking can bring anything to life. Great basics for cooking – butter, olive oil, sea salt, spices and fresh herbs can really bring out flavour.
Generally I think a little of what you fancy does you good. I usually cook pretty good meals for myself, but when I don’t feel like it my favourite takeaway is a Base pizza with a Peroni.
Which 5 ingredients will one find in your pantry?
Oats to make granola and smoothies, honey also for granola and salad dressings, Heinz tomato ketchup, Bachelor baked beans. The spices I use the most would be cumin and paprika.
Do you have an all time favorite recipe you keep coming back to?
This last winter I was doing a lot of one-tray roasts where I would add whatever I had to a roasting tin, and add some olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Potatoes, onions or leeks, chorizo, carrots and peas all work really well together. Roast a a high heat for about 40 minutes, or until vegetables are golden and crisp.
Tell us something about the recipe you are sharing today! Why this particular recipe?
This pesto came about when I forgot to bring basil pesto to an event I was cooking at. I didn’t have any basil and parmesan with me, but I did have parsley and feta, hey ho. I then added pistachios for some crunch. I’ve added it to tomatoes here for a summer salad but it also works great with pasta.
Tomato Salad with Feta & Parsley
4 tomatoes, diced
30g flat leaf parsley (1 bag)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of half lemon
To make the pesto, add the parsley, feta, olive oil, lemon juice, pistachios to a blender and blend until smooth.
Taste, and add salt and pepper, although the feta will bring it’s own saltiness.
Mix with tomatoes and serve on it’s own, or with pasta or scrambled eggs.
Joanna Bourke is a Ballymaloe-trained cook, cooking wholesome, nourishing food at events and retreats in Ireland and abroad. www.thechoppingboard.ie
One of my missions with my work and this blog, is to show people how easy it can be to eat healthy, tasty, satisfying and nourishing meals! I think sometimes we hold on to these limiting beliefs that eating healthy is “difficult”, “boring”, “complicated” and “time consuming”, when it can be anything but! I even remember someone saying to me some years ago, when I was asked to do a cooking demo with healthy food; “Make sure that it tastes good and not like cardboard”.
Seriously?!! Besides some epic recipe-experiment-kitchen fails, (Yeah those do happen…) I don’t personally like eating anything that remotely resembles cardboard, so I am going to assume that you don’t either. And why should we?
If you’ve been following my blog for sometime, you may realise that the majority of the recipes featured here are not complicated and usually made with just a few ingredients. Though I like cooking more complicated stuff and following recipes from cookbooks, on occasion, it is not how I tend to eat in my everyday life.
I particularly like the process of baking as a way to de-stress, but during the week when life is busy, and cooking and sometimes even eating seems like an inconvenience, creating meals in 10-20 min is a blessing. These quick meals are what I call “assembly meals” and I’m going share with you some of my tips for how you can create your own.
My mantra when it comes to eating and buying food is “Choose the best quality you can find and afford”
And after just having finished the interesting book The Virtues of the Table – How to Eat & Think, by Julian Baggini, where he talks about SIVs – “Simple but Infinitely Variable” recipes I decided to create a little eBook to extend my formula to YOU, that I use to create my own salad bowls, aka “Rainbow Bowls”. You can get your copy at the end of the blog post. Because salads bowls are definitely in the SIV category!
So what’s the key to a great meal, or salad bowl, then? And how do we make it quick and simple, yet tasty and fulfilling?
Well here are my top three tips anyway:
1. Buy the best quality ingredients you can find and afford.
Of course, we are aiming for organic pesticide free foods as much as we can, but it is not always possible. Sometimes local can be just as good, especially if we actually know the person who grew it. Some local small scale farmers may be in organic conversion (It takes a couple of years to get certified if you start growing on land that has previously been used conventionally. It is also expensive to get certified so this may not be top priority for those who only want to sell their produce at local markets.)
2. Buy fresh food that is actually fresh!
How do you know that your food is fresh? Whilst we wait for the sci-fi scanners to tell us the exact nutritional value of each piece of fruit that and veg we have to use what’s already available to us, our eyes! And maybe other senses like touch and smell. Look at colour but most of all your vegetables should not be limp. If they are, they’ve been around awhile and started losing some of their water content and probably valuable nutrient content too.
3. Layer up your bowl with colour, texture and flavour + make sure that you cover all the macro nutrients.
Colour is kind of self explanatory, but what about texture? And what on earth do I mean by cover all the macros? I’ve heard so many times from people saying that “a salad won’t keep me going very long”. Usually this is because their definition of “salad” and my definition of salad is slightly different…
When I say make sure you cover all your macros, I mean that you need to make sure that you include some type of food from each of the three macro nutrient groups of fat, carbohydrates and protein. This way you know that you will be eating a balanced meal. And we are talking salads here as a main meal and not as a side, of course!
Oh and don’t forget to infuse your meal with loving intentions too. That will really elevate the experience to the next level!
To make this bowl construction easier, I’ve put together a handy guide for you to download, at the bottom of this post.
But now let’s get on with today’s recipe! Not a salad bowl, but definitely a 10 min satisfying lunch option!
There has been times when I’ve bought bread for the pure sole reason that I’ve happened to have a perfectly ripe avocado to hand… Don’t judge…!
That’s how much I really enjoy avocado on toast. I don’t tend to eat bread all that often, but when I do I adopt my no. 1 philosophy as mentioned above. You know, “best quality you can find and afford”. Because if you are going to have bread, you may as well let your tastebuds have a dance party too!
But if bread is not your thing you can enjoy this pesto as a the flavour part of your Rainbow Bowl. Smoother some pasta with it (gluten free or otherwise), add it to some finely sliced courgette ribbons or just as plain side with what ever you add to your bowl!
Makes 4 servings
1 cup fresh coriander leaves
100 ml good quality olive oil
15 cashew nuts
1 clove of garlic, peeled & smashed
Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to season
One match box size of hard cheese, like parmesan, pecorino, manchego – optional if not vegan
I tend to make my pesto in my Nutribullet but you can use a food processor too.
Add coriander leaves, cashew nuts, the smashed garlic (basically just smash it with the wide side of you knife blade, this promotes the healing properties of it), and cheese, (if using) to your food processor. Add the lemon juice and a pinch of seasoning.
Whilst blending add the oil through the open part of your processor lid. You can adjust amount of oil here this way. You are looking for a nice smooth consistency but not sloppy, so don’t go to heavy handed!
* If you are using your Nutribullet then add all ingredients together into the small container. Pulse the container several times until you have a nicely blended pesto with no lumps. You may have to open the container a few times and scrape down the sides. I also give it a good few shakes between the mini blends to ensure that it mixes and that I don’t burn out the motor of my precious machine!
To serve, simply cut a slice of bread (toast it if you wish), cut the avocado in half and then scoop it out and place on your toast. Mash the avocado with the back of a fork, add some pesto and maybe some sundried tomatoes, a bit of extra black pepper – EAT!
And if you want to get more ideas on how to get creative and create 10 minute meals, simply put your name in the box below!