I’m so excited now that the weather is finally improving and we are beginning to see more sunshine. Add that to the long light evenings that we have at this time of year and I’m positively brimming with the joys of Spring! Some days have already been lovely and warm – fabulous opportunities to get outdoors. Which leads me neatly on to one of my favourite warmer month activities – eating outside.
There’s something so wonderfully compelling about al fresco dining, whether it’s a quick snack, lazy lunch or full on evening gathering with friends. Unfortunately, evening outside eating is still a rarity in the UK, even in the height of summer – or at least it is for me, I get cold too easily! I guess that’s why we find spending time further down in Europe so attractive. It’s certainly one of the influencing factors for our latest adventure – we’re buying a home from home in Portugal! More about that another time though.
It’s great to get invites round to friends for a BBQ or an impromptu dinner; eating whole-food and plant-based means I always offer to takes something with me, partly to take the pressure of the host who may not be used to cooking that way, and partly to make sure I get something to eat! Sometimes this can be a bit of a challenge though, especially if it’s a last-minute arrangement and the fridge is looking rather empty! That’s when you need a quick and easy fall-back dish to take; this wholegrain salad can be rustled up in a minute. Literally!
Since changing the way I eat, I spend little time in the supermarket aisles dominated by packets of processed foods. It actually makes shopping much quicker! There are however still a few items that I always make sure we have in the cupboard – sachets of pre-cooked wholegrain is one of them.
It’s not the cheapest way of buying whole-grains, but a fantastic time-saver and remarkably versatile. You still need to take care and check the ingredients label, as some brands add in a wide selection of flavourings and preservatives, as well as refined oils. Plus you need to make sure the word ‘wholegrain’ is on the packet otherwise you will be losing vital nutrients and fibre. Quinoa and wholegrain rice is my favourite combination; a tiny bit of olive oil helps it not to stick together in the pack, otherwise that’s all there is in the sachet. That means that the only other flavours are the ones I choose to add, ones that are natural and as whole as possible. They are a great quick option for people with food intolerances or sensitivities too, or for anyone who needs to look for gluten-free options.
I always have fresh herbs in my fridge – this is a great way to use up any bits and bobs left over from other recipes. My little herb garden out the back is also coming to life, giving me another source of flavour. This particular recipe asks for a combination of parsley, coriander and mint – that’s what I had in the fridge! But they are a naturally a great combo anyway (phew!). Add in some alfalfa or other sprouted seeds if you have them along with some toasted seeds like pumpkin and a good amount of seasoning and bam, there you have it – a simple yet super-tasty salad in the blink of an eye. Not only that, but it’s a great way to use up left-overs and reduce food waste (herbs are one of the most commonly thrown away foods). If you have a bit more time, soak some sultanas or raisins in hot water to plump them up before adding them in. Or chop up bits of cucumber or radish for an extra crunch. Let your imagination fly and see what combo you can come up with, and enjoy it with friends – or just yourself if you prefer!
Super quick quinoa and brown rice salad
1 sachet (250g) cooked quinoa and brown rice
3 tablespoons fresh herbs (parsley, coriander, mint etc) finely chopped
2 tablespoons sprouted seeds (alfalfa, broccoli seeds etc)
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon flaxseed oil (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir well then taste, add more seasoning or herbs as needed. Serve chilled.