If you’ve been feeling a big sluggish and weighed down by heavy seasonal treats and comfort food, then this delicious winter salad might just hit the spot for you. It’s easy to make and full of fresh, seasonal ingredients that will delight your tastebuds and give your body just what it needs on a dull, January day. Continue reading “Orange and pomegranate salad”
When I think of August, it brings to mind long, hot, sunny days (hopefully!), chilled glasses of Pimms and gorgeously ripe melons. The memories of sunny days and melon go back to my childhood (not so much the Pimms 🙂 ) when a slice of sweet melon was a delicious treat. Then as a teenager we holidayed in the Algarve and ate deliciously sweet, fragrant melon for breakfast every day. Wonderful memories.
Even though you’ll find melon in the supermarkets all year round, now really is the time to enjoy them at their best. The flavour is sublime (something that’s definitely missing in out of season fruit) and the nutrients hidden inside are perfect for supporting the body when you might be exposing it to a little bit too much sunshine.
All melons contain special phytonutrients, those tiny little natural chemicals that help keep our bodies working well. Cantaloupe melons, with their orange-coloured flesh and slightly green, textured outer skins are particularly good as they’re packed full of betacarotene, the plant precursor to vitamin A which is essential for skin, hair and eye health. There’s also a shedload of vitamin C, polyphenols plus potassium. This is essential for good cell function and can help keep your blood pressure within healthy limits. Vitamin C and phytonutrients have a strong antioxidant effect in the body, helping to reduce inflammation and keep damaging free radicals under control. This occurs everywhere, but particularly in your skin at this time of year.
“But what about the sugar?” I hear you cry. Yes, there are natural plant sugars in melon but it’s all tied up in the fibre plus the large water content. If you eat melon in chunks rather than add it to a smoothie (which by-passes the first stage of digestion, the chewing bit), the sugar is released slowly as the fibre is digested, giving a stable and sustained energy release that your body can handle.
The flavours in this salad complement each other rather wonderfully. The sweet crunch of the melon mixed with peppery salad leaves, minty freshness and sour lime juice create a taste sensation on your tongue that is light, refreshing and so thoroughly enjoyable that you will forget it’s also good for you too! Enjoy.
Melon, mint and lime salad
- 1/4 medium cantaloupe melon cut into small chunks
- 2 handfuls peppery salad leaves
- 8 cherry tomatoes halved
- 1/2 small ripe avocado cut into small chunks
- 1 handful fresh mint leaves roughly chopped
- 1 medium lime juice only
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 small red onion, sliced
- 1 tbsp balasmic vinegar
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or cold pressed flaxseed oil
- Grab two plates. Scatter the green leaves over each plate. Top with melon, red onion (if using), tomatoes and avocado.
- Scatter mint leaves over the top and season with salt and pepper. Finish with the lime juice. Garnish with balasamic vinegar and/or oil if using.
- Eat straight away.
The courgette glut continues! It’s amazing how quickly they grow, seemingly able to transform from fledgling to enormous beast over night! They taste so good, fresh and grown without chemicals. We’re not bored of them – yet!
I used to find courgettes very bitter, but the flavour now seems much calmer. They’re delicious raw and work really well in salads, either grated or cut into thin strips with a peeler. Serving thin strips makes a salad look a bit fancy ;).
This simple salad is almost an alternative coleslaw; the kohlrabi replaces green cabbage and the courgette is an added extra. What’s different is the dressing – it’s not a thick, creamy calorie-laden mayo but a fresh, zingy sauce that contains just four ingredients – lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. It brings the veggies to life using an oil-free dressing whilst letting them be the main attraction rather than masking them with strong flavours.
Kohlrabi is a funny looking vegetable. I first discovered them when I started having a weekly Riverford veg box delivered. It’s part of the cruciferous family so it’s packed full of healthful nutrients and phytonutrients, even though the flesh is a bit white and bland looking. The skin can be different colours – the one I had was purple on the outside – so it’s good to try and use some of that if possible, although sometimes it can be a bit tough and woody. If you’re lucky, some of the leaves will still be attached – these also contain wonderful phytonutrients as well as vitamin C, so lots of lovely anti-inflammatory nutrients there.
The kohlrabi bulb also contains vitamin C and lots of potassium, particularly good for helping to reduce blood pressure and looking after electrolyte balance right down to cellular level. Both vitamin C and potassium are easily lost once a food is cooked, so having it raw is a real nutrient bonus.
Amongst the various phytonutrients, kohlrabi is a good source of quercitin. This tiny compound is essential at cellular level and can help support a healthy blood pressure, reduce inflammation and help with allergies – particularly useful at this time of year if your hay fever is out of control.
If you can’t find kohlrabi, try using daikon radish or finely shredded green cabbage. The lemon juice in the dressing will help your body absorb many of the nutrients from the greens, especially iron. Adding in the carrots, courgette and red onion (if you can handle it!) makes this super simple salad a smorgasbord of vitality!
Over the summer I’ll keep adding super salads to the blog, along with other seasonal delights. What would you like to see coming up in the future?
Courgette, carrot and kohlrabi salad
- Food processor for grating - advisable!
- 2 medium carrots scrubbed and trimmed
- 1 medium courgette washed and trimmed
- 1/2 medium kohlrabi washed and trimmed
- 1/2 red onion finely sliced
- 2 tbsp fresh herbs finely chopped
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
for the dressing
- 1 lemon juice only
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard or mustard of choice
- salt and pepper
- Grate the vegetables in a food processor (ideally to save time) using a small grater disc. Transfer to a large bowl and mix well with your hands to muddle up the veggies.
- Add the red onion, seeds and fresh herbs
- Mix the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Toss to coat and serve.
One of the things discussed on my Eat Well Live Well course is how to successfully transition to eating a whole-food plant-based diet with minimal pain and maximum pleasure. Change can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be an austere process. One of the most frequent difficulties I hear is “but what do I eat for lunch?”.
If you’re used to making a cheese or ham salad sandwich, or going to your local sandwich shop or deli for chicken or tuna mayo baps, thinking of new and tasty fillings can seem a bit daunting. Of course there’s always hummus – and who doesn’t love hummus? – but not every day!
You could go for the vegan alternative and have fake meats or vegan cheese. But these ultra processed, factory-made products are often full of damaged fats, concentrated proteins and few nourishing nutrients. Maybe ok every now and then, but certainly not a staple and not if you are eating a whole-food plant-based diet to transform a health condition. For that, you need real food that’s had limited processing.
This chickpea sandwich spread is a mix between a tuna mayo alternative and the acidic sandwich spread filling I used to get as a child (did you ever have that? I’m not sure if I ever liked it, but I do have fond memories of it – weird!).
Chickpeas are an awesome source of plant-based protein, fibre, potassium, iron and magnesium (to name a few). They share the fabulousness of all pulses (this blog post tells you more). They also take on other flavours well so can be used for all sorts of recipes. Which is handy as they are also super cheap so good if you are feeding a family on a budget or relying on a student loan to keep you fed and watered.
This filling can be used for sandwiches, baps or wraps. If you are gluten free or avoid bread, then pop it on a baked potato or use as the star of a simple salad. Vary the fresh herbs to whatever you have to hand or the season. Parsley and chives work well as standard flavour. If you use coriander, swap the lemon for lime juice and add a little ginger for an Eastern flavour. Basil or oregano create a more Mediterranean vibe, so swap the spring onion for a little red onion if you have it. Or, if you can’t tolerate onion, just leave it out and try adding a few capers for a more sour taste.
As you can see, this base recipe is so flexible you can create a different combination for every day, or for the season. And as eating and socialising outside are going to be more popular if you want to meet up with friends (due to the pandemic), you might find this recipe features a lot over the next few month. Just adapt it to what you have available and what you like to eat. And enjoy!
Chickpea sandwich spread
- 4 heaped tbsp cooked chickpeas
- 1 lemon, juice only grated rind optional
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- water if needed
- 1 medium spring onion finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley and chives chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon capers, rinsed and chopped optional
- Place the chickpeas in a bowl with the lemon juice and Dijon. Mash with a fork, adding a little water if it's too dry. You want soft, mushed chickpeas with a little texture and a thick sauce.
- Stir in the spring onion, herbs and seasoning (plus capers if using). Mix together well and taste for flavour - add more seasoning, lemon or Dijon as required.
- Use to filling your bread of choice or as suggested above. Keeps in the fridge for 2 days.
As more is learnt about gut health and the microbiome (the mystical population of bacteria hiding out in your colon), the more scientists are beginning to understand just how important it is to human health. And it really is. So it’s a good idea to take steps to look after our friendly bacteria, as they will look after us in return. Continue reading “Simple sauerkraut”
One of the most common questions I get asked by people trying to move to a more whole-food plant-based diet is “What do I have for lunch?”. It’s particularly challenging for people who are avoiding gluten due to an intolerance or chronic health problem. It’s not so easy to rely on a sandwich or other bread option. Continue reading “Wholesome rice salad”
When people discover that I eat a whole-food plant-based diet, there are a number of questions that I can almost guarantee will get asked. If you too are on a plant-based journey you will be familiar with them! Continue reading “Quick chickpea salad”
I’m a big fan of carrots. And of rainbow eating. So you can imagine how excited I get when I find rainbow carrots! I’m like a kid in a sweet shop, much to the embarrassment of whoever I’m with. Sometimes hard to find in mainstream supermarkets (although I have noticed them appearing more, along with a premium price), they seem to be easier to find at farmers markets and farm shops. Or even better, try and grow your own – they’ll taste so good! Continue reading “Rainbow roasted carrot and thyme salad”
I’m not one for bragging, but I do know for sure that I make amazing roast potatoes. So for day 17 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, I’m giving you my top tips for getting perfectly crunchy crispy spuds without really making that much effort.
I honed my roast potato skills soon after I left home to do my nursing training. I always seemed to be on a diet – often that was Rosemary Conley’s Hip and Thigh Diet, a low fat programme. Looking back now, I realise that there was a lot missing from this way of eating, but then hind-sight is a wonderful thing. But it did introduce me to dry roast potatoes.
If you search how to cook roast potatoes, there are a multitude of opinions on what fat to use, and how much. Ranging from normal vegetable oil to expensive goose or duck fat, the aim of the fat is to create a crispy outside and a soft fluffy potato on the inside. Using large amounts of fat on a high oven heat means that large amounts of liquid fat gets absorbed into the potato, which then gets absorbed into you. This high heat can also damage fat structure, which is not good for your body.
I have been making roast potatoes without all this fat for so long that I find I don’t really enjoy them when we eat out purely because they often seem overcooked and all I can taste is the fat. Since I’ve been following a whole-food plant-based diet it seems even more of a problem as my taste-buds have completely changed. And for anyone who follows a special diet like the Overcoming MS programme, fat soaked potatoes are off the menu.
Rather than the fat being key, for me it’s the potato, and how it is prepared before it goes into the oven. Most recipes suggest par boiling potatoes, but often this isn’t enough. You want the surface structure to be breaking down properly before going in the oven – this is what goes all crunchy once roasted. And you don’t need lots of fat to do it.
So here are my top tips. If you don’t already roast your spuds this way, why not give it a go this Christmas? And don’t forget to let me know how you get on.
- Use floury potatoes not waxy. Maris Piper or King Edwards are the best. Also try to by organic or more naturally grown ones. They taste better too.
- Don’t make them too big or too small. And try to keep them a similar size. I find medium-sized chunks work best.
- Boil the potatoes so they are properly cooked. Keep an eye on them though as you don’t want them to fall apart into mush. Boiling time will depend on the type of potato and how many you have in the pan. Once they’re beginning to be flaking on the outside and you can easily pierce them with a knife, turn off the heat.
- Drain as soon as the heat if off. Give them a good shake to clear away excess water and break the surface a bit more. If they are still a little soggy, pop them back in the pan on a low heat for a minute to dry off.
- Make sure the oven is pre-heated at 200ºC. Fan ovens work best, but electric and gas still produce good potatoes. I can’t comment on an AGA.
- Use a good, non-stick baking tray with no scratches. You can pre-heat it if you like, but I tend to forget so it’s not necessary.
- Tip the potatoes onto the baking tray and give it another shake. You can add a little oil now if you like. I tend to use a few squirts of an olive oil spray just to mist the top.
- Pop the tray in the oven and let the potatoes roast for 15 minutes, then remove the tray and turn the spuds. You will see a lovely golden crust forming when you turn. Move them around the tray if you need to if the outside ones are cooking faster than the inside ones. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until they are all crispy and brown.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a hot dish. Serve straight away and enjoy that lovely crunch without the grease.
Parsnips are an essential part of our family Christmas dinner. They’re sweet and creamy and just utterly delicious simply boiled or roasted. But sometimes you might want something a little more fancy. So for day 13 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, here’s a warm roasted parsnip salad for you to try out.
Even though parsnips have this gentle natural sweetness, adding maple syrup intensifies the flavour even more. Combine that with the sulphur sharp red onion and rich savoury walnuts and you have a cacophony of textures and flavours that will delight your tastebuds.
Parsnips are particularly delicious at this time of year as the temperatures outside start to plummet. The frost converts some of the starches to natural sugars, making them sweeter and more appealing to the palate. And even though they are a white vegetable, these hardy roots are packed full of healthy fibre and provide a surprising amount of nutrients like vitamin C, potassium and folate. Add that with the other ingredients and you have a warm rainbow salad that is good for your body and your tastebuds.
So if you’re looking for something slightly different, why not give this a go? If you do, remember to let me know how you get on.
Roasted maple parsnip salad (serves 6)
- 500g parsnips peeled and cut into long chunks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 medium red onion
- 100g walnuts
- 1 bag mixed salad leaves of choice
- a couple of handfuls fresh parsley
- vegan parmesan or flaxseed oil (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Place the walnuts onto a small baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes until they release an aroma. Remove and leave to cool.
Place the parsnips in a bowl with the olive oil and maple syrup. Season with the salt. Tip out onto a baking tray and roast in the oven for 25 minutes, turning a couple of times, until soft and lightly roasted.
In the meantime, thinly slice the red onion and chop the parsley. Scatter the salad leaves over the bottom of a serving dish. Once the parsnips are ready, transfer to the serving dish, spreading them out equally over the salad leaves. Sprinkle the red onion, parsley and walnuts over the top. Add vegan parmesan or flaxseed oil if desired and serve immediately.