I had a few girlfriends over for lunch this week and thought it might be helpful to give you the low down on some of the things I prepared which allowed me to have a stress free time. Planning ahead is absolutely essential. There is nothing worse than having to fret over food last minute when all you really want to be doing is catching up with everyone. I tend to opt for large healthy salads and then prepare a hot soup of some sorts to warm the belly and soul.
So first up was a mung bean, carrot and feta salad with cumin, caraway and fennel seeds. It requires some forward planning in that you need to soak the lentils overnight, but other than that it is very straightforward and ticks all the boxes for healthiness and importantly tastiness.
Then I prepared my Vietnamese inspired salmon, cucumber, red onion and grapefruit salad with a mirin lime dressing. I posted it on my blog about a year ago. Check out the recipe here.
Then I made one of my absolute favourite salads – a miso soy chicken with spinach, lentils, slow baked tomatoes, green (you can use puy, beluga whatever takes your fancy) lentils and pine nuts. Recipe here. I opted to make my own slow baked tomatoes – you can find a recipe for them at the bottom of the post if you click here. Very easy to prepare and taste so delicious.
To balance out the flavours, palate and colours I then prepared a Moroccan influenced salad of giant couscous, Moroccan spices, sultanas, pine nuts, fresh mint and pink lady apples. Recipe below.
Excuse the rather hazy shot of the final ‘salad’, but I opted for shredded duck with pomegranate, spring onions, mint and coriander with a raspberry vinegar dressing. I posted the recipe here on my blog a while ago.
The hot soup that I prepared I completely forgot to take a photo of – so I will do a separate blog post on that another time – but it was a red lentil (I am slightly obsessed by these delicious little beauties), coconut milk and smoked paprika with a chilli oil and fresh coriander sprinkled on top.
Needless to say I cooked far too much of everything so will be eating tasty leftovers for the next few days!
I’ll leave you with a pretty flower shot. I am so pleased that finally some of the wonderfully colourful and sweet smelling flowers are beginning to grace our florists.
Until next week folks…..
Moroccan Giant Couscous Salad
Inspired by a similar recipe from Red Magazine online
300g giant couscous
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 cumin powder
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic, finely grated/chopped
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
handful of fresh mint, chopped
zest of a lemon
1 red chilli, finely chopped (half if you prefer it less hot)
2 pink lady apples, diced and cored
1. Place the couscous in a pan and completely cover with boiling water. Simmer gently for 6-8 minutes so that the couscous is soft. Strain and run under the cold tap. Shake off the water as much as you can. Place to one side.
2. Using the same pan melt the butter and then add the sultanas so that they are completely coated in the melted butter. Now add the ground cinnamon, cumin and smoked paprika and simmer for one minute and then place to one side.
3. Dice and core the apple (if serving at a later stage hold off on cutting up the apple until almost ready to serve as it will begin to bronze), deseed the chilli and finely chop. Finely chop the shallots and grate the ginger and garlic cloves.
4. In a mixing bowl add the couscous, the sultanas with all the spices and butter juice and mix together. Now add the shallots, ginger and garlic and continue to fold into the couscous.
5. Scatter the apple on top along with the mint and lemon zest and serve.
Leftovers can easily be stored in the fridge for a couple of days.
Mung Bean, Carrot and Feta Salad with Cumin, Caraway and Fennel Seeds
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe in ‘The Guardian’
300g dried green mung beans
1 tbsp chilli oil (or olive if you prefer to have less of a kick)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
3 good sized carrots cut in to batons
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
150g feta, crumbled (not finely)
handful of freshly chopped coriander
1. Soak the dried mung beans overnight in water that completely covers them.
2. The following day, rinse them a couple of times in cold water and then place them in a pan and cover with boiling water. Simmer gently for 25-30 minutes to soften them but so they still retain a bit of a bite.
3. Drain and rinse through cold water and set to one side in a large bowl.
4. In a small pan add the chilli oil (or olive see above) and when hot add the seeds and allow them to start popping, which will take no longer than 30 seconds. Stir a couple of times and then transfer the seeds and oil into the large bowl with the drained mung beans.
5. Add the white wine vinegar, garlic, chilli flakes and stir in together.
6. In a separate large shallow pan lay the carrot batons and almost cover with cold water. Add one further spoonful of olive oil along with the sugar and salt. Simmer on a high heat for 7 minutes by which time the carrots will have soften and the water will have drastically reduced – drain any excess. The sugar will allow the carrots to slightly caramelise.
7. Add the carrots to the mung beans and stir in gently. Add more salt if necessary. Transfer to a serving platter and crumble with feta.
Again this stores well in the fridge for a couple of days.