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Oh boy it’s been getting pretty hot here in London town. We’re almost hitting 30 degrees and that is pretty darn for HOT for England. All this humid weather means that the fresh water lido’s, that I love to swim in, are heating up nicely to a refreshing 21 degrees. I’ve also been doing a bit of sea swimming, which has been lovely.

When it comes to food and cooking though the hot weather really makes us a little sluggish and well hot, so the last thing we want to be doing is spending hours in a kitchen labouring over a stove.

 

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This recipe takes around 10-15 minutes to make from beginning to end. The combination of flavours and textures make it a joy to eat, and something a little different. It is simple and has few ingredients and requires no salt as that is provided by the tamari.

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If you want to make even more of a meal out of it you could add grilled tofu or some salmon or trout fillets. I added a sprinkling of chilli flakes, but it also works really well in it’s simplest form.

 

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If you can’t get hold of durum wheat you could use farro or another whole grain.

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Kale, Coconut and Durum Wheat Salad with a Sesame Oil Dressing

Inspired and adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Kale Salad in Super Natural Every Day

Serves 4

125g kale, chopped (stems removed)

100g unsweetened large coconut flakes

175g pure durum wheat  or farro

******

80ml  extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce

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chilli flakes, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade.

2. Chop the kale and place in a large bowl along with the coconut flakes

3. Mix the olive oil, sesame oil and tamari together in a small bowl.

4. Pour two-thirds of the oil mixture over the kale and coconut flakes and really mix in thoroughly so that all the leaves are completely coated in the oil.

5. Place in the oven for 10-12 or until the coconut flakes begin to bronze and the kale begins to darken slightly. Keep an eye on it as they can get burn easily and the kale crisp up too much.

6. Whilst the kale and coconut are in the oven place the durum wheat in a pan of cold water and gently simmer for around ten minutes, or according to instructions on the packet. Strain thoroughly.

7. Return all the ingredients to the bowl and mix again with the remainder of the oil mixture.

Serve immediately.

It works wonderfully well on it’s own or equally you could add some grilled salmon or trout or possibly some grilled tofu. Experiment and let me know what works for you.

Notes: I have also made this replacing the coconut flakes with powa flakes, sunflower seeds and 1 tsp of maple syrup to the dressing. Worked equally well. 

 

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Happy summer days.

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As those who have been sweetly following my blog for a while now will know, I adore healthy, appetising salads that combine and fuse together different meats, fish, vegetables, fruits and pulses. Whilst a simple green or rocket salad tastes sublime with a splash of lemon or a vinaigrette, I always like to prepare new flavour combinations that really lift a salad and take it to a new dimension. If you take a look under my recipe library above you will see a good variety of salads that I like preparing and eating. Purests may well say they are not salads as they are substantial meals unto themselves, but in my book they come under ‘salads that rock’, I hope you agree.

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At the moment, wonderful vibrant red chard is available so I bought a bunch hoping to do something creative with it. I adore the brightness of the stems – similar looking to rhubarb.  When it is young it is similar to spinach in that it can be digested raw or cooked. Rich in nutrients, it’s a winner in a salad from a health and looks perspective.

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When you make my Cajun rub, make sure you properly smother it over the chicken breasts. I find that making a few incisions into each breast helps release the flavours all through the chicken.

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I would be lying if I said that I have been eating quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and bulgar wheat for years, but the truth of the matter is that aside from health food stores, it wasn’t readily available. Today, however, it is accessable in most mainstream food stores, certainly in London. My packet looked like this. After rinsing it through with cold water it simply needs boiling for 12 minutes and viola it is ready to eat.

Have you got any great salad combinations that work well together? If so I would love to hear so leave a comment below so we can all share ideas.

Homemade Cajun Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Bulgar Wheat and Red Chard

Serves 4-6

to make the Cajun rub

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp rock salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 hot paprika

2 tsp of fresh thyme

1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg

2 tbsp olive oil

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500g chicken breasts (4 chicken breasts, skins removed)

120g red and white quinoa with bulgar wheat

1 litre fresh cold water

250g new potatoes

150g fresh red chard, chopped into fine short strips

2 handfuls of fresh seedless red grapes, halved

1/2 lemon juice

seasoning

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Start by making the Cajun rub. Combine all the ingredients, except the olive oil. Stir together and if you have a spice grinder give them a quick whizz in there so that they are perfectly blended together.

3. Lay your chicken breasts in an ovenproof dish and make a few incisions into the breasts so that you can push the rub into the incisions to give it that extra flavour. Place the Cajun rub all over the chicken breasts on both sides and then add the olive oil so that that the chicken is not dry.

4. Place in the oven for 25 minutes, turning the breasts once during cooking.

5. In a pan boil the 1 litre of water and when it is boiling add the red and white quinoa and bulgar wheat and leave to simmer for 12 minutes. Then drain and leave to one side.

6. Boil the new potatoes for up to 15 minutes in a separate saucepan with boiling water. Drain and leave to one side

7. Wash the red chard and pat dry. Finely slice the shard – as if you were making coleslaw. Wash the grapes and slice in half.

8. Finely slice the Cajun chicken, making sure not to get rid of the Cajun juices that will remain in the ovenproof dish.

9. In a mixing bowl add a little of the chicken, chard, quinoa and bulgar wheat, grapes and new potatoes. Give them a gentle mix with your hands before adding the same ingredients again in small portions so that they all mix well together. Add the lemon juice and the Cajun juices in the ovenproof dish. Season as necessary.  Transfer to a serving bowl/platter.

It can be eaten at room temperature or when the chicken, potatoes, quinoa and bulgar wheat is still warm.

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I am a big advocate of eating a few meals a week that are vegetarian. In the past I think the general public felt rather limited on what vegetarian meals to cook that were satisfyingly tasty. Times have changed however and today a whole universe into vegetarian cooking has developed and become mainstream. There are countless possibilities of what to cook and a wonderful array of cook books and blog posts giving us ideas of new food combinations to try out.

A fabulous success story in the blogging world is the vegetarian food blogger Heidi Swanson from San Francisco, who writes 101cookbooks.com and already has a few cookbooks to her name. I managed to pick up her latest book Super Natural Cooking in Vancouver last year when I was visiting my sister. Her photos always impress me and I like the way they have a matt finish in her book.  Understandably she cooks with a wide range of lentils, beans and grains and has some excellent ideas of pairing them with various vegetables and sauces.

This recipe is very seasonal and is perfect for Autumn time as it requires you buying squash. Heidi uses ‘delicata squash’  for it’s buttery flavour and wonderful green stripes, adding a vibrancy to the dish. Sadly I could not find any at Pimlico farmers market so bought a harlequin squash instead, which worked equally well. Basically any squash that you don’t have to peel (which is actually quite a large number) will work.

I also used roseval potatoes as I adore their red skin and yellow flesh, but any other small variety of potato will work – Heidi uses new!

Finally the only other change I made to Heidi’s original recipe is that I used more tofu as I wanted to use up a whole packet.

The dish is perfect for a weeknight meal as it is very easy to prepare and takes no time to  actually cook. I also love the fact that it requires no peeling of the squash – result !

Miso-Curry Harlequin Squash

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s book ‘Super Natural Every Day’

Serves 4

350g harlequin squash (or delicata or any that require no peeling)

60 ml extra virgin olive oil

70g sweet white miso paste (I buy mine from Sainsbury)

1 tbsp red Thai curry paste

349g firm tofu (or whole packet equivalent), cut into small cubes

4 medium Roseval potatoes, unpeeled and cut into chunks

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

45g chopped kale, tough stems removed

45g seeds (pine nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds), toasted

30g chopped coriander/cilantro

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.

2. Carefully cut the harlequin squash into 1cm thick half moons.

3. In a bowl whisk together the oil, red thai curry paste and sweet miso paste.

4. Gently fold the squash, potatoes and tofu into 80ml of the miso-curry paste using your hands, making sure that you do not break up the tofu. Spread out the ingredients onto a baking sheet and place in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Toss a couple of times during cooking once the ingredients begin to bronze.

5. With the remaining miso-curry paste whisk in the lemon juice and then stir in the kale (uncooked!).

6. In a heavy skillet gently toast the seeds and nuts over a medium heat until they have bronzed and become fragrant. This will only take a couple of minutes. Do not leave them as they will burn.

7. When the squash, potatoes and tofu are cooked, gently toss all the ingredients together including the nuts and seeds, coriander/cilantro and kale. Serve hot onto warm plates.

The potatoes, squash and tofu coated in the miso-curry paste

Ready to eat – once I’ve got the perfect shot!

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Caldo Verde

Caldo verde is otherwise known as Portuguese green soup, or broth, and whilst you can simply cook it as a soup, I tend to make more of a meal out of it and give it centre stage.  Its perfect for autumn or winter as it is satisfyingly hearty and filling. I deviate slightly from the traditional recipe of onion, garlic, cavolo nero/kale and potatoes by also adding 240g (basically one tin) of butter beans and spicy chorizo. It’s satistfyingly easy to make and guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. If you are passionate, as I am, about stews and soups then this one will really appeal to you. I particularly like to add spicy chorizo to give it that extra kick, but if you cannot find the spicy variety you can simply use normal chorizo and add a sprinkling of paprika on the top before serving.

Caldo Verde

Serves 6-8

400g of spicy chorizo, chopped into slices

700g potatoes, peeled and diced

2 onions, chopped

4 garlic, chopped

200g cavolo nero/kale/greens, thinly chopped

1-2 pints chicken stock (depending on how thick you want the soup)

240g butter beans

3 bay leaves

4 tbs olive oil

pepper and salt, to taste

paprika, pinch on each serving (optional)

1. Place the olive oil in a deep pan – I use my Le Creuset casserole pot – and when it is hot add the chopped onion, on a low heat for 5 minutes. Then add the chopped garlic and stir into the onions.

2.  When the onions have become translucent add the spicy chorizo, which will begin to create a lovely red hue to the onions as the spicy chorizo begins to mix with the onions. Stir for a couple of minutes.

3. Add the diced potato, butter beans (tinned variety) and bay leaves and thoroughly mix into the onion, garlic and chorizo. Add 1 pint of chicken stock and let the soup simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes, by which time the potatoes should be soft.

4. Add the finely chopped greens. I use cavolo nero, which is black kale, but any type of greens works equally well. You may find you need to add some more stock at this stage, depending on how soupy you like your soup.

5. Season with pepper and salt to taste.

Serve piping hot with crusty bread on the side.

Caldo Verde

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