Bang Bang Chicken Salad – the perfect family summer salad

If you are after an easy chicken salad that is adored by the whole family, takes minimum fuss to throw together and is packed on flavour and texture, then look no further. Chinese inspired ‘Bang Bang chicken’ has it all and is perfect when the weather is hot and you want something light. My whole family absolutely love it.

I am a huge fan of Pip & Nut peanut, almond and cashew butters – have you tried them? I found their ‘crunchy maple peanut butter’ worked so well with the recipe. (I am not paid to say this ;o) You can find them in most supermarkets now as well as health food shops such as Holland & Barrett.

Don’t stress if you can’t get hold of any – regular crunchy peanut butter will also work well.

The only ingredient that I can imagine may receive a ‘sigh’  or ‘where can I find them’ is Sichuan peppercorns. They are now super easy to find online and I have provided a link below. They are definitely one of my store cupboard favourites as the taste is just heavenly, to put it mildly. If you really can’t be bothered with tracking them down then just use regular black peppercorns this time.

 

 

Bang Bang Chicken

Part 1

450g skinless chicken breasts, chopped in two

500ml chicken stock (fresh or Knorr chicken stock pot works well)

2 star anise

1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns

1 tsp salt

25g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

 

*********

Part 2

1 large carrot, peeled and thickly grated

1 cucumber, sliced lengthways and then chopped into small bite size chunks

1 large handful of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks

2 limes

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Part 3

130g crunchy peanut butter – I think the best is ‘Pip & Nut and they do one which is ‘crunchy maple peanut butter’ which I like to use here

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tbsp maple syrup

 

Optional

1 fresh red chilli, finely diced

 

 

  1. Place all the ingredients in ‘part 1’ into a pan and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, so that the chicken is cooked.
  2. Slice and dice all the ingredients, apart from the lime, in ‘part 2’ and place in a large mixing bowl. Squeeze 1 lime onto the salad ingredients.
  3. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the pan and place to one side. Keep the cooking stock, but strain it and place in a small jug.
  4. Using a fork shred the chicken and then place into the large mixing bowl with the ingredients from ‘part 2’.
  5. Place all the ingredients in ‘part 3’ together and then add an additional 100ml of the cooking stock from the chicken. Gradually add to the the sauce so that it is less thick and more the consistency of cream.
  6. Add half the sauce to the mixing bowl and gently mix the ingredients together.
  7. Plate up and then add an extra spoonful of sauce over each serving as desired.
  8. Top with chilli, for those who like chilli, and place a lime quarter on each plate for added zing.

 

Freeze the rest of the stock for use another time as it tastes so good. 


Roasted Zaatar Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Quinoa Salad

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Whether you work in an office, from home, or not at all, having an enjoyable lunch gives the body both sustenance and also a boost to be productive for the rest of the day. Before the birth of my second daughter I worked for twelve years in the City (London’s financial district). Lunch times, whilst often eaten at my desk, were without doubt a highlight. Not that the work that I was doing was dull, far from it, but more that it was a nice interlude, even if it was for a very short period. Typically I would aim to seek out that latest lunch time hot spot, which seemed to sprout up in the city by the week, but occasionally I would bring in something from home. Curry’s were a no-no as the smell was too ‘in your face’ for an open plan office, so something a little more subtle needed to be created.

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Transporting food needs to be easy and fuss free. Whilst bowls of Vietnamese pho are wonderful, transporting liquid like that is certainly never going to fly if you travelling by London transport. Imaginative salads on the other hand do work well. Adding a dressing must be done when you are about to eat, otherwise everything gets a little limp and moist.

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This salad is versatile in that it can be transported for an office lunch at your desk or at home, eating on your own or in the company of a friend. I love everything about beetroot – from the vibrancy of the flesh, to the sweetness of the taste and the fact that they are fairly easy to source here in the UK. This salad requires very few ingredients – beetroot, zaatar, smooth lemony soft goats cheese, fresh mint, dry roasted pine nuts , preserved lemons and a little olive oil.

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For those who are unfamiliar with zaatar, it is the Arabic word for a wild thyme spice mix that is used in Levant cooking. Traditionally zaatar is made from a wild herb (with the same name), very similar to the thyme you find in the UK, that can be found in Lebanon.  However many of the zaatar blends that you can buy or make yourself are a mix of fresh oregano, marjoram and British thyme. My Lebanese friend has it for breakfast sprinkled on some pitta bread with some olive oil. It is very easy to get hold of either at specialist Middle Eastern shops or the large supermarkets here in the UK.

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The flavours and textures coming from all these ingredients complement each other well. Roasting beetroot takes a little time – just shy of an hour, but will last refrigerated for up to a week so you can make a batch and use them as required over the week.

Roasted Zaatar Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Quinoa Salad 

serves 2 portions

2 medium sized fresh beetroot

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2-3 tsp zaatar

120g quinoa

360ml cold water

40-60g soft goats cheese

handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped

20g pine nuts

2 slices of preserved lemons (or one small whole lemons)

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat an oven to 180 degrees fan.
  2. Remove the stems close to the base of the beetroot.
  3. Wash thoroughly and then rub the beetroot in the olive oil and cover with the half the quantity of zaatar above.
  4. Place in their own individual foil parcel and then roast in the oven for up to an hour. Check at intervals to see that they are softening. If they look a little dry add a tsp of water to the parcel.
  5. Place cold water into a pan with the quinoa and gently cook for 20 minutes, by which time the water will have been absorbed and the quinoa will be soft and ready to eat. Allow to cool.
  6. Heat a pan and when it is hot add the pine nuts and move around the pan for a couple of minutes, by which time they will have bronzed slightly. Place to one side.
  7. Once the beetroots have cooked allow to cool and then chop into rough cubes.
  8. Chop the preserved lemons into even smaller cubes than the beetroot.
  9. In a large mixing bowl, add the quinoa, pine nuts, fresh mint, beetroot cubes, lemon cubes and the remaining zaatar and mix gently.
  10. Finally break the goats cheese up with your hands and combine and then serve/store in a container to take to the office.

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Indian Inspired Cucumber, Apple and Red Onion Salad

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I’ve just returned from 10 glorious days in the Schwarzwald – or German Black Forest to you and me.

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Days were spent hiking through dense forests where gentle streams turned into ferocious waterfalls.

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 We climbed many a hill and marvelled at all the spruce and pine trees peppering the landscape. Dramatic scenery at every turn.

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Picnic lunch stops afforded us spectacular vistas, stretching for miles and the best thing was that we were completely alone – over the time we were there we passed only a couple of other walkers, one of which was a nun from the local nunnery. We live in such a frenetic, fast paced world that taking time out and spending time with nature away from the crowds is wonderfully cleansing for the mind and soul.

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Upon returning to our gasthof we would often treat ourselves to the local speciality…….Black Forest Gateaux,  because when in Rome…..

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After resting our weary limbs we prepared for serious dining in the evening. The food was exquisite, refined and yet hearty – the lemongrass creme brule and the wild garlic soup being highlights.

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Upon returning back in the UK however, I was ready to have a vegetarian spell. I began to crave green vegetables (I eat a lot of spinach) and fruit with a spice injection and simple Asian food. In fact the first thing I cooked for myself when we returned to Blighty was this.

With the bambinos having just returned to school and the sun giving us a lovely, welcome dose of vitamin c – check out the blossom and blue skies

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I wanted to eat a lovely salad that I was given recently when I was in Kerala. It’s lovely on it’s own or eaten to accompany all manner of Indian, meat, fish or veg curries – see my recipe library. The crunch from all the different textures and the flavours sing sweet notes as you dive into this salad. Give it a whirl and let me know if you agree.

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Indian Inspired Cucumber, Apple and Red Onion Salad

Serves 4 with another dish or 2 on it’s own

2 crunchy green apples, cored, skin removed, quartered and chopped into 3

1 cucumber, skin removed, halved and chopped into half moons

1 red onion, finely sliced

1 handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp agave nectar/honey

  1. Skin, slice and cut the ingredients as specified above and mix altogether along with the honey and salt. Simple and utterly delicious.

This salad would also be perfect with meat, fish or vegetables off the BBQ.

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Sweet Potato, Albacore Tuna, White Bean, Avocado and Rocket Salad

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Salads in winter are a revelation. Whilst I adore and encourage wonderful winter warming stews and curries, I also love to have light salads on occasion. I crave fresh spinach and rocket and am also rather partial to consuming an avocado. This salad I literally threw together one lunch time last week and had not planned to create a blog post around it – hence the one photo I took on my iPhone quickly before devouring  the meal.

This salad I literally used up things that needed eating in my fridge and the result was heavenly. It got a number of instagram likes so thought I would share it here too. It’s more a case of assembling than anything else, but I hope I can encourage you to try it. I often tend to roast extra sweet potatoes so that I can use the leftovers in a salad a day or two later – hence the ones I used here.

Sweet Potato, Albacore Tuna, White Bean, Avocado and Rocket Salad 

serves 2

2 roasted sweet potato, cut into bite sized pieces

1 avocado, cubed

4 tbsp white beans

1/2 jar of Albacore tuna in olive oil

2 large handfuls of fresh rocket

salt and pepper, to taste

*****

Lemon and Basil Oil Dressing

juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp basil infused olive oil

*****

  1. Assemble all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl, gently mix and then plate up.
  2. Scatter each salad with a little basil infused olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

Enjoy.


Cold Spiced Soba and Cucumber Noodles

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When it’s hot I like nothing more than a bowl of spiced cold noodles. If you have only ever eaten them hot before you are going to have to trust me when I say that cold noodles are seriously good. The whole meal takes 10 minutes max to prepare, which is even better when the sun is shining and you don’t really fancy spending too long over the stove.
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The crunch of the cucumber noodles and nuts (from the crunchy peanut butter) really compliment this dish. I decided to use dragons back chillies which you can purchase from World of Zing here. The chilli gave the dish a kick without being too overpowering. The spring onion and garlic also adds other wonderful flavours running through this dish. The star of the sauce in my mind is chinkiang vinegar, which is also known as Chinese black vinegar. I adore the stuff and if you love Chinese cooking it is an absolute must for your store cupboard. You can easily pick is up in any Asian food store.

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The sauce is salty, sour and sweet and mixed through the noodles it is absolutely heavenly. It’s a perfect meal to take to work as it is easily transportable and can be prepared the morning or night before and then stored in a fridge until lunch. Remember to take it out of the fridge around 30 minutes before eating so that it has reached room temperature.

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Serves 2 or (1 if you are feeling a little piggy)

85g soba noodles

1/2 cucumber, noodles if you have this or thinly chopped into sticks if not

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

1 dragons back chilli, halved or quartered

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp chinkiang vinegar

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp chilli oil

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp crunchy peanut butter

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp black sesame seeds

1 tsp salt – optional

1. Place the soba noodles in boiling water and boil for around 5 minutes or according to the packet. Drain and run under cold water so that the noodles are completely cold. Place to one side.

2. Mix the chinkiang vinegar, light soy sauce, chilli oil, sesame oil, chopped garlic*, sugar and crunchy peanut butter in a bowl and stir to form a dressing. Taste and add salt if required.

3. Prepare the cucumber noodles or chop the cucumber into thick sticks.

4. Heat a small pan and when it is hot add the dragons back chilli or other dried chilli so that it darkens slightly in colour. I keep all the seeds, but if you like it less hot you can reduce these. Then add 1/2 tsp of chilli oil and add the spring onions for a minute. Take off the heat.

5. In a mixing bowl add the cold soba noodles, the cucumber noodles, the dressing and the dried chilli and spring onions.  Gently fold in together and place in two bowls. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top.

* if you prefer to cook the garlic add it to the pan with the spring onions so that it softens slightly.

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Strawberry, Black Pepper and Spinach Salad with a Red Onion Balsamic Dressing

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I’ve been meaning to post this glorious recipe for ages. It is seriously good and takes no time to whip together. If the truth be told I’ve been eating it all summer, but each time I forget to photograph the food until it’s too late. Today I was ready with my camera to take a few snaps before gorging on this delicious lunch.

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It’s perfect if you want to impress friends as it’s probably a flavour combination they’ve not eaten before so it will take them by surprise…..in a good way.

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It would also work really well for BBQ gatherings or as a starter for a dinner with friends. The flavour combinations of freshly ground black pepper and strawberries is a surprising winner. The dish in itself is sweet, salty and full of umami – read my article here to learn more about umami.

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If you are not able to get hold of fresh spinach, rocket also works really well.

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I originally came across a similar recipe in fellow  food blogger Heidi Swanson’s book ‘Super Natural Everyday‘, which I adore to dip into from time to time.

 

Here is my version of the recipe. Let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below. I love to hear from my readers.

 

Strawberry, Black Pepper and Spinach Salad with a Red Onion Balsamic Dressing

Serves 4

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 small red onion or shallot, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

90g fresh spinach or rocket

300g fresh strawberries, hulled and finely sliced

30g slivered almonds, toasted

15g parmesan, shaved in curls

1. In a small bowl add the balsamic vinegar, red onion/shallot, salt and pepper. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before adding the oil and whisking gently together. Leave to one side.

2. Place the slivered almonds into a large frying pan to toast. They brown really quickly so do not leave the pan. Use a spatula to move the almonds around the heat to help them bronze evenly. This will not take more than a couple of minutes.

3. In a large bowl add the spinach or rocket, strawberries, slivered almonds and parmesan shavings. To make the curls I use a regular vegetable peeler.  Then add the dressing and gently toss so that the dressing is evenly distributed.

Serve immediately.

If you are preparing ahead of time do not add the dressing until your guests have arrived. The dressing can easily be made in advance.


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

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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. I am a huge fan of kale and eat it through out the year in many forms – have you tried homemade crispy kale yet? After cleaning the kale, dry it thoroughly, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and massage it into the kale leaves (remove any thick stalks). Pop in a low oven – around 160 degrees centigrade is perfect – for 9-10 minutes, by which time it will have completely crisped up. Sprinkle with some rock salk and serve. Delicious snack.

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Anyway there is a super interesting article all about the benefits of kale written by Dana Gill – editor-in-chief of Healthyline.com. You can read her article here.

Now back to the recipe for today, 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

******

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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Mung Bean, Date and Avocado Salad with a Soy Miso Dressing

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Long, lazy summer days await. Relaxing long lunches with friends in the sun/shade. You don’t want to be spending hours in the kitchen preparing food, so I hope that this summer salad ticks all the boxes. It’s easy of assemble, tasty and not at all complicated.

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Mung beans are a fabulous little pulse that are really versatile. As well as salads they work really well cooked with Indian spices and in dals. They do require soaking so you have to be a little prepared. I tend to soak overnight and then boil them for around 40 minutes, the following day.

I like the variety of colour and texture in this salad. From the crunchiness of the carrot, to the smoothness of the avocado, to the sweetness of the dates. The dressing brings it all together, giving it a slightly Asian twist.

 

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Mung Bean, Date and Avocado Salad with a Soy Miso Dressing

Serves 4-6

500g mung beans

1 carrot, chopped into small cubes

1/2 a red onion, finely chopped

150g cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 avocado, chopped into cubes

10 dates, chopped

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Soy Miso Dressing

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp sweet miso – I use this one

1 lime – juice only

1. Place the mung beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Leave overnight or for at least 5 hours

2. After the mung beans have soaked, strain the water and then place them in a pan and boil them in water for 40 minutes, by which time they will have softened.

3. Finely chop all the ingredients to make the salad and toss gently together in a large mixing bow along with the cook and strained mung beans. Note: it is advisable not to prepare the avocado until you are almost ready to eat as they will begin to discolour.

4. Mix all the ingredients of the dressing together and pour over the salad. Mix with some salad tongs and serve immediately.

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Moroccan Giant Couscous Salad and a Mung Bean, Carrot and Feta Salad

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

Serves 4-6

Inspired by a similar recipe from Red Magazine online

300g giant couscous

1 tbsp butter

50g sultanas

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.

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Mung Bean, Carrot and Feta Salad with Cumin, Caraway and Fennel Seeds

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe in ‘The Guardian’

Serves 4-6

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.

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Miso Chicken, Slow Baked Tomatoes and Fresh Spinach Salad

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Here in the UK we are enjoying a flashback to the summer of 1976, apparently. I was only one at the time so have no recollection of the ‘great summer’ but we are now into weeks, not days, of glorious warm sunshine with temperatures climbing up to 33 degrees in west London. When the weather is hot I love to get creative with my salads and try out different flavour and ingredient combinations. This one I created awhile ago when a friend, who has certain culinary likes and dislikes was coming over to supper. I started with the miso chicken and spinach and then built from there, digging out interesting ingredients from my fridge and pantry along the way. The overall mix of flavours works really well to the extent that I have now cooked this salad multiple times and thought you would appreciate having it too. It’s great for a picnic, lunch or supper, is hugely versatile and if you keep the chilli oil marinade to one side for guests to help themselves, then the whole family can enjoy the dish.

Miso Chicken Slow Baked Tomatoes and Fresh Spinach Salad

Serves 4-6

 For the Chicken Marinade

500g chicken breasts

3 garlic cloves, grated

1 inch ginger, peeled and grated

2 tbsp sweet white miso paste

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp light soy sauce

*******

parchment paper

3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

250g puy lentils

1 avocado, chopped

6 slow baked tomatoes marinated with chilli

chilli oil from the slow baked tomatoes (see above)

250g fresh spinach

1. First you need to flatten the chicken breasts as they will cook under the grill more evenly and quicker if they are thinner. Place a large strip of parchment paper underneath the chicken breasts and another similar sized piece on top. Then using a rolling pin gently hit the chicken pieces which will begin to flatten. Check to see how they are looking and if they need to be a little flatter continue to hit them with the rolling pin. If you overly bash them they will begin to break apart so flatten them to the extent that they still keep in tact.

2. Place the flattened chicken breasts into a freezer bag and then add the grated ginger, garlic, sweet white miso paste, soy sauce and sesame oil. Using your hands massage the ingredients thoroughly into the chicken pieces. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer if you can.

3. Heat up a small frying pan and when it is hot add the pine nuts being careful not to burn them as they toast quickly. Keep them moving around the pan and after a minute they should have toasted nicely.  Place to one side.

4. Heat your grill (you could also use a griddle pan or BBQ!) to 200 degrees centigrade and place the marinated chicken directly onto your oven rack. Place some baking parchment/foil underneath to catch all the bits than fall through the rack – these will also taste great in the salad.  The breasts will need around 6 minutes each side. If they look a little undercooked leave them for a minute or two more and vice versa.

5. In a large mixing bowl add the spinach, chopped/sliced avocado, puy lentils – for speed I often use the Merchant Gourmet brand – see here, pine nuts and slow baked tomatoes marinated in chilli. Whilst you can of course slow bake your own and marinate them in chilli oil (which I will get around to doing so at some point – will make a great blog post) I opt for the Sacla brand – see here. Chop the tomatoes up slightly and then gently mix all the above ingredients together.

6. Once the chicken has cooled slightly slice into stripes and mix gently into the salad along with the bits that had fallen through the rack. Add a little of the chilli oil from the slow baked tomatoes and place extra in a small pouring jug.

7. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and allow guests to serve themselves. I find it is best eaten at room temperature.

It is surprisingly filling and leftovers the next day taste equally good, so just refrigerate if you have some left over.

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