My mackerel flipping skills need work, but otherwise this was the perfect lunch following a tough workout at CrossFit Cirencester: grilled mackerel with a salad of watercress, fennel, orange, spring onions and pomegranate, dressed with a little olive oil and salt (the salt pulls out the juices in the fruit so you don’t need vinegar). Extremely quick to make. Big props to Ben at New Wave Fish Shop who recommended this ingredient combination. I feel restored!
And since I’ve been talking macronutrients lately, this was about 400 calories, 22g fat, 19g carbs, 30g protein.
Last year while visiting Cornwall with my mother we had the fortune of staying at Lanyon, a perfect countryside hideaway comprising three cottages surrounded by fields and farmland (and also home to my good friend, Marie Leggo). The farmland is owned by the Leggos but leased to local farmers, and one of those farmers had chosen to fill his ample acreage with rows and rows of cauliflower. It just so happened that when Mom and I arrived at Lanyon last year, it was just after the cauliflower harvest, and Marie took us out to the fields to glean any cauliflower that was left behind.
The cauliflower gleaning was hugely exciting to Mom and I – not only are we both fascinated by “gleaning” (we bonded over the film The Gleaners and I, but we are also both cauliflower fanatics). And when we saw the bounty of cauliflower that remained in the field, we were over the moon in cauliflower bliss, but also shocked by how much perfectly good cauliflower gets left behind. We took as much as we could, resorting to some clever means to do so, but still, there was way more cauliflower than we could ever carry or consume.
As we walked back to the house, arms laden, we bantered about all of the possibilities and started scheming more creative uses for cauliflower. One of the things I’ve been toying with a lot lately is using cauliflower as a grain substitute. If you put cauliflower in a food processor and chop it super finely, cauliflower takes on the size and shape of grains and looks much like rice, couscous or bulgar wheat. And you can use it in similar ways, for example, cauliflower fried “rice” or cauliflower “couscous”. On that particular day at Lanyon I attempted a cauliflower “rice” pudding which was probably pushing the whole concept a little too far. However, stick with the savoury options and cauliflower grains, be they raw or cooked, are a pretty safe bet.
My favourite cauilflower-as-grain option is this cauliflower tabbouleh which is inherently raw, vegan and gluten-free. I like to serve this with falafel and hummus, or wrapped up in little gem lettuce leaves. You can adapt it as you see fit – add some roast or grilled veggies, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, mix in some chickpeas or add a drizzle of tahini sauce. And while it’s most satisfying when made with reject cauliflower you’ve gleaned yourself from a farm, it’s just as good with store-bought cauliflower which is one of the most readily available, nutritious and frugal vegetables out there.
Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh
1/2 cauliflower, stalk removed
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 big handful of parsley and mint, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1/2 cucumber, finely diced
1 tomato, finely diced
pinch of salt and pepper
Put the cauliflower florets into a food processor and blitz it until it reaches a couscous-like texture.
Combine cauliflower with the rest of the ingredients.
Season well, adding more lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
Here’s a little something I made up the other day for a quick lunch that was so good I had it again the next day. I say “quick”, because this “chaat masala salad” took advantage of a few leftovers, including cooked dal I’d stashed in the freezer, some chaat masala I made previously and tamarind chutney from Asma ‘s Darjeeling Express Supperclub. Were I to start from scratch, it would have taken lots longer, but all the more reason for keeping these Indo-staples readily available. Particularly the chaat masala, my new favourite salad condiment!
The whole idea was inspired by Urvashi Roe’s Gujerati Class at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School, where she showed us how to make Indian “street food”, including “chaat“, basically a mish-mash of random tasty ingredients – a total whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts situation.
Technically my chaat masala salad wasn’t a “chaat” at all, lacking the yummy fried dough bits that are typical of dishes of this kind. But never mind, it was delicious, and I got my crunch factor from toasted cashews!
Here’s how it came together:
Heat up about 1/2 a cup of cooked lentils (chickpeas would be good here, and/or boiled potato). While this is happening…
Combine together some finely chopped or grated vegetables. Good contenders include: cabbage (white and red), carrots, tomato, and cucumber.
Finely slice 1/2 shallot. Chop a small handful of coriander. Add this stuff to the vegetables. Toss the whole thing with a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt.
Now, put the dish together, starting with some lentils at the bottom of a bowl.
Top with some of the salad mixture.
Sprinkle with chaat masala.
Drizzle on some tamarind chutney.
Sprinkle on some grated or desiccated coconut.
Sprinkle on some toasted cashews.
Serve with any extra salad on the side. And keep the chaat masala, tamarind chutney and coconut handy in case you want to add more as you go.
Here is the recipe for chaat masala that I used. And here’s a recipe for tamarind chutney (though I’m hoping Asma will share hers one day!). Both are worth keeping around, along with cooked beans and lentils, for thrown-together random salads like this one.
I have become very akin to the elder plant (Sambucus nigra) in recent months. I’ve been fond of this plant ever since I learned you can gather the wild flowers to make elderflower champagne and elderflower cordial. But recent solstice and equinox activities have seen the elder plant evolve from a mere foraging opportunity to a symbol of the changing of the seasons, preservation and timelessness.
Summer elderflowers have recently given way to autumn elderberries, a bit more challenging than the elderflowers but so too is autumn. The temperature is falling and the days are getting shorter (and wetter). Where the elderflower called for bottled sunshine and refreshing elixirs, the elderberry seems more suitable for winter warmers to help us survive these dark dreary months.
It’s somewhat appropriate then that the elderberry has been used for centuries as a cold and flu remedy. Elderberries contain flavenoids, an antioxidant which can help prevent damage to cells. (UMD makes mention of a few scientific studies that back up the health benefits of elderberries.)
I’ve experimented with a few elderberry recipes. My challenge as ever is that I’m not a massive fan of sweet things, so recipes like elderberry syrup are a bit lost on me (thought I’m told it’s quite good). I made an elderberry cordial, spiced with cinnamon and cloves, which recent houseguests loved, particularly when consumed hot as a tea. Mom loved my plum and elderberry “equinox” jam, but I have a hunch she was biased (her former business name was “elderbury”). I didn’t have much luck with Pontack sauce (but then again I don’t eat meat). After a few trials, I was starting to wonder if elderberries were worth the effort.
Then I made elderberry “balsamic” vinegar and my whole elderberry world changed! Ok, that’s probably exaggerating, but this stuff is great. The recipe comes courtesy of eatweeds.co.uk and is so simple: soak elderberries in red wine vinegar for five days, then strain the liquid and boil it with some sugar. DONE. And it’s awesome.
The first elderberry vinegar revelation was a fresh fig pizza with caramelised onions made (during equinox, of course) with Emily and Robert. We added some of the vinegar to both the onions and the fig before assembling the pizza: caramelised onions, mozzarella cheese, figs, baked then topped with fresh shavings of Old Winchester. This was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had!
The second revelation is this simple elderberry vinaigrette. I was seeking something akin to raspberry vinaigrette, a dressing that would go well with salads, walnuts, fruit and maybe feta or gorgonzola if I’m feeling the dairy call. But I didn’t want to lose the elderberry flavour. Hence, this simple vinaigrette was born. It’s a basic combo of oil, elderberry vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper. And it’s delicious!
The elderberry vinaigrette is especially good with beetroot and spicy salad leaves like rocket / arugula. I think it will also be a fine match for fruit, too – I’m picturing a chopped salad with apple, celery and walnuts. Or in a true tribute to foraging, a salad of blackberries and chickweed tossed with elderberry vinaigrette and garnished with toasted hazelnuts.
There are still elderberries around and I highly suggest you take advantage of them to make something. If not elderberry vinegar, then elderberry syrup is a logical place to start because it’s just so versatile (Hunger Angler Gardener Cook has some good ideas for elderberry syrup, including ice cream and pannacotta!). Happy foraging!
We’re in the prime of British asparagus season, with May being Asparagus Month and a great time to explore this vegetable in all its many shapes and guises. Asparagus is, in general, a pretty awesome vegetable and happens to be extremely handy for people who do the intermittent fasting (aka 5:2 fast diet) thing. In fact, asparagus is good for anyone watching their calories – one medium spear of asparagus has just 3 calories but packs loads of flavour and can make traditional, boring “diet foods” into something quite interesting.
Case in point: salads. This is a favourite for many fasters and calorie counters because it allows one to have a big ol’ pile of food – quite nutritious food, at that – without necessarily having a big ol’ pile of calories along with it. But salads can be problematic: how many of us have eating a gargantuan salad only to find ourselves deeply unsatisfied at the end of it?
Let’s face it, there are many dimensions to food satisfaction: not only quantity, but flavour and texture, too. This is where asparagus can come to a salad’s rescue with its notable flavour and crisp bite (provided you don’t boil it to death). It also pairs extremely well with other fast-friendly foods like eggs and potatoes, plus fresh herbs like dill, tarragon and chives, which all together can make a salad so much more than a pile of leaves.
Dressing helps, too, but even a simple treatment of lemon juice and olive oil with salt and pepper can go along way (a little Parmesan helps, too, which is fairly low-calorie as far as cheeses go). But if you want to take it a little further, I can heartily recommend the tarragon vinaigrette recipe I’ve posted below, a little something I learned from The Vegetarian Cookery School that has proved infinitely versatile and especially stunning with potato, eggs and, yes, asparagus. All together it makes for an incredibly flavoursome fast day lunch or dinner dish – it clocks in at about 250 Calories, leaving you plenty of extra calories (250 if you’re a woman, 350 if you’re a man) for another asparagus session for later in the day.
Asparagus, Egg and Potato Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette
You can adapt this recipe to use whatever salad vegetables you have on hand; the dressing is marvellously versatile, but is especially good with potatoes and light cheeses like ricotta and fresh goats curd. Calories: ~250.
5 asparagus spears, blanched and slice into 3cm pieces
2 boiled new potatoes (~1/2 cup or 80g)
1 carrot, julienned
1 tomato, sliced into wedges
1 Tbsp tarragon vinaigrette (see below)
1 boiled egg
salt and pepper
lemon to serve
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
pinch salt & pepper
Make the tarragon vinaigrette by whisking together all of the ingredients in a bowl (this makes more than you’ll need so store the rest for future salads).
Combine the asparagus, potatoes, carrots, tomato and lettuce leaves in a bowl. Toss with ~1 Tbsp of tarragon vinaigrette, plus a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper.
Serve garnished with the boiled egg and a lemon wedge (in case it needs a little extra zing).
Once again, the elusive avocado threatened to defeat me today. Just one light squeeze and I could tell it was on the far side of ripe – and slicing the avocado open confirmed my suspicions. It was green, but starting to get those unpleasant stringy bits. I had no desire to eat the avocado as is, and yet, it didn’t seem totally useless. And besides, avocados are expensive. Waste not, right?
So I got this idea in my head to turn it into a salad dressing. I started with this cilantro avocado dressing on 101 Cookbooks, subbing lemon for lime, parsley for cilantro and tahini for yogurt. The result was pretty stellar, the perfect splooge for my baked falafel. I think I’ll try the rest with roasted pumpkin, or maybe these crispy cornmeal sweet potato fries.
I reckon this is a good starting point for all kinds of creamy vegan dressings. I’d like to try it with other fresh herbs – basil and chives come to mind. Some jalapeño wouldn’t go amiss, either.
Best of all, I have something I can do with my almost-off avocados. Which reminds me, Katy Salter wrote about her quest for the perfect avocado in the Guardian yesterday, which confirms some of my suspicions: The myth of the ripe and ready range.
I had a pretty stellar Thanksgiving this year. The party included two of my bestest friends of all time, Rachel and Dave, visiting for the occasion all the way from Austin, Texas (via a year-long stint in Berlin).
On the evening before our big day of nut roast and Prosecco, I decided a pre-Thanksgiving dinner detox was in order. So I went with the kind of food that I know I can make well, tastes a bit celebratory, but just happens to be healthy and vegan at the same time. The meal: my reliable red lentil dahl with panch phoran, Indian cabbage salad, basmati rice and flatbread masquerading as naan.
Of all the dishes, the cabbage salad was the biggest hit, a nice thing because I never know if my love of this salad has something to do with my own personal obsession with all things cabbage, or with the fact that the cabbage salad really is that good. Rachel seems to confirm my suspicion that this, indeed, is cabbage clad in awesomeness, so I’m posting the recipe here for her and for all cabbage lovers of the world. (Consequentially, I also made this salad for my friend, Claudia, last year – you can see it in the picture above, made all the more better by her rad vintage tableware – she also gave it the thumbs up.)
This salad is basically a winter riff on this cucumber and coconut salad and leaves a lot of room for improvisation (because I know how much Rachel loves improv). Any cabbage will do for this salad, though I am partial to the texture of Savoy. Chop it chunky or slice it fine. Skip the carrots if you don’t have them, or try adding other slaw-style goodness like bell peppers. Up the spices or the chilli if that’s your thing. Go nuts with the coriander.
I don’t usually follow a recipe when I make this, but I’ve attempted to write it up as such all the same. Do let me know if you try it and what you think!
I left out the asafoetida and curry leaves when I made this for Rachel and Dave but if you have them, use them. Feel free to chop the cabbage and carrots as finely or as not finely as you have the patience and inclination. My tendency is often to slice as finely as possible, but sometimes I like a chunky salad!
½ head of cabbage, finely sliced or chopped
2 carrots, shredded or sliced
a small bunch of fresh cilantro (i.e. coriander), finely chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ tsp asafoetida (optional)
~10 dried curry leaves (optional)
1 green chilli, finely sliced (be careful with these – they can be HOT!)
2Tbsp grated or dessicated coconut (or more to taste)
juice from half a lemon
Put the cabbage, carrots and coriander in a bowl and set aside.
Put the oil in a large frying pan with the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves. Turn the heat up to medium and wait for the seeds to start sizzling and smelling delicious.
When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the green chilli and fry for another few seconds, then pour the oil and seeds over the salad. (If you’re struggling to get all of the seeds out of the pan, put some of the salad in the pan and swirl it around, then scrape back into the bowl.)
Add the lemon juice, a pinch of salt and the coconut. Taste, adding more salt, lemon or coconut if desired.
This has been breakfast the last few days, a sort of glorified vegan version of the classic Waldorf salad, inspired by this season’s apple harvest and a few stalks of celery lurking in my fridge. You could bulk this out with added quinoa, bulgar wheat, maybe a few raisins, or even a blob of yogurt, but I found this wasn’t necessary. As is, this was my idea of perfect breakfast: delicious food that satisfies without over-filling. Major feel-good factor here.
Blackberries are back, baby. This time last year, when the blackberries were growing faster than I could eat them, I started thinking about vinaigrette – I used to really enjoy the Annie’s Naturals raspberry vinaigrette when I lived in the U.S., and wondered if I could make something similar with blackberries. Meanwhile, apple season was also in full swing, and I was having fun making my own cider vinegar following Carl Legge’s recipe. Could both of these forces somehow combine for the greater good?
Short answer: yes. Lynne Clark gave me this super recipe for blackberry vinegar that I’ve been using throughout the year. It’s a sweet and sour, thick-ish vinegar that works especially well with fruit, sweet root vegetables and goats cheese. I use it as I would balsamic – simply tossed into a salad with olive oil, salt and pepper, with perhaps a little extra blackberry vinegar drizzle at the end.
My favourite salad so far has been this beetroot and orzo salad with goats cheese and pine nuts consisting of: 1 beetroot, about 40g cooked orzo, 3g pine nuts, 20g goats cheese, a handful of spinach, 1 thinly sliced spring onion, salt, lots of pepper and a good drizzle of blackberry vinegar:
A similar approach works equally well with any combination of grain, fruit and nuts. I especially love strawberries, peaches and/or figs with toasted walnuts or cashews. Here’s one with strawberries, basmati rice and pistachios:
You could also make a vinaigrette with this – I’ve been meaning to adapt this raspberry vinaigrette recipe but so far havent been able to diverge from enjoying it in its pure form. Thanks to Lynne for sharing her vinegar mojo!
This isn’t so much a recipe but a concept: combining sweet and savoury flavours to make an awesome, satisfying salad. This salad also throws in some sour flavours too.
I had some cranberries in the freezer from last winter’s cranberry chutney. I also had a butternut squash I needed to use. It occurred to me that the two would be nice together, so I created this salad. I was right about the butternut / cranberry combo – it works, but does need a bit of added sweetness, which I achieved by adding some chopped dates to the mix. I love the texture of the bulgur wheat bits next to the soft butternut squash. This salad is good warm or cold, and makes a great packed lunch (or breakfast!). I highly recommend adding some toasted pistachios, almonds or sunflower seeds as a garnish.
A rough recipe is giving below - please forgive the estimates on ingredient quantities – part of this salad concept is its randomness – there are no strict rules to making this tasty.
Toss the butternut squash, cranberries, fennel and coriander seeds, crushed pepper, salt, pepper, brown sugar and olive oil in a roasting tin. Roast until the butternut squash is tender and starting to brown on the edges.
Put the contents of the roasting tin into a mixing bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit your tastes.