Monday, 30 May 2011

Quinoa, feta and seaweed salad

2 of my friends have recently discovered the delights of this wonderful nutty little grain. Quinoa truly is a super food. It is a great vegetable source of complete protein but is much easier to digest than meat and has a far lower fat content. It is really easy to cook and is amazingly versatile. Use it for a substantial salad, in bakes, as a simple alternative to rice and sprouted it can become a wonderful ingredient in raw muesli. I have to say that this salad recipe has got to be one of my favourite ways to eat it. Alan and Damian, this one’s for you!!

I like to make a big bowl of this to keep in the fridge for a few days. (You can half the ingredients if you think it will make too much)It makes a wonderfully filling lunch or supper served with a little grilled fish and a big leafy salad.

500g Quinoa

1 tsp. turmeric*

Enough veg stock to cover quinoa by about 2”

A good handful of dried seaweed (see note below)

1 red pepper (deseeded and diced)

1 green pepper (deseeded and diced)

1 small carrot, finely diced

1 red onion, finely diced

½ block of feta cheese, roughly cubed (about 100g)

1 small bunch coriander, chopped

A few mint leaves, finely chopped

For the dressing

4 Tbsps. olive oil

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp. cider / white wine vinegar

1 tsp. whole grain mustard

1 Tbsp. honey

½ tsp. dried chilli flakes (if using fresh chilli, chop finely and use amount according to taste)

Wash and rinse the quinoa well. Heat a large pot and dry fry the quinoa with the turmeric for 2 mins, stirring continuously.(I love to use turmeric* in as much cooking as possible as it has great anti-cancer properties and gives a wonderful golden yellow colour – indeed the ‘poor- man’s saffron’! However be careful as too much can be bitter). Pour over the stock (be careful as it will splutter!) If you haven’t soaked your seaweed add it in at this point. There is no need to add extra salt as the seaweed (and later the feta) has enough to flavour the quinoa. Bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat and cover pot with a tight fitting lid. Allow to cook undisturbed for 10 – 15 mins until the water has been absorbed. (There should be little dimples on the surface.) Carefully check to see if it is cooked – it should be soft but still have a small bite. If it is not fully cooked add a little more boiling water, cover and cook for another 5 mins.

Once fully cooked and all the water absorbed (If any water remains just drain it off in a large sieve).

Tip quinoa into a large bowl and while it is still hot add all the other ingredients.

Put all the dressing ingredients into a jar with a lid and give it a good old shake!

Pour the dressing into the bowl and toss everything together well. Allow to cool and let all the flavours mingle.

Serve with some extra chopped fresh coriander or parsley. YUM!!

Note: you can really use any seaweed you fancy for this salad. One of my favourites is kombu, I also love sea lettuce and if I’m stuck (like when I made this batch) I just rip up some sheets of dried nori (the stuff you make sushi from) and throw it in at the very end. You can either soak your seaweed before, drain then chop it up and add to the cooked quinoa or as I prefer add dried chopped seaweed to the quinoa as you are cooking it. That way you are getting all the flavour and not losing valuable trace minerals when you chuck out your soaking water!

P.S Really you can throw any combo of veg and herbs that takes your fancy into this salad. Just one word of advice…..Make it big – you will be back for more!!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Easy Peasy spinach pasta

Just as the name suggests, this recipe is a cinch! It’s really quick, easy and tasty. It is a good way to use fresh new baby spinach, but older stuff is fine too. It is gorgeously green and creamy. A perfect early summer supper dish. See note below for variations.

Serves 4

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 Tbsp. veg oil

250g spinach, washed, destalked and roughly shredded

400g crème fraiche / Greek yogurt / sour cream

1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg or ½ tsp. dried

Salt and pepper to taste

350g – 400g whole-wheat / spelt pasta

Grated parmesan or other hard cheese, grated and fresh parsley, chopped to garnish.


Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy based pan. Cook onion and garlic gently without browning for 5 mins. Add the spinach and cook until wilted 3 -4 mins).

Put crème fraiche / yogurt / cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper in with spinach mixture.

Cook gently, stirring occasionally until heated through. Make sure not to have the heat too high, if the sauce boils it will curdle.

Put into a blender and whizz until smooth. (If the sauce is too thick add a little water)

Drain the pasta and return to the pot, add in the spinach sauce and stir well to combine.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and chopped fresh parsley to serve.

Note: a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes (pre-soaked if not in oil) and some sliced black olives or sautéed mushrooms mixed into the sauce before serving, makes a tasty change. Use your imagination to throw in whatever you think will work!


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Carrot & cashew nut strudel

Perfect for a weekday meal or a picnic treat. This strudel is so quick and easy to make. You can make this with filo pastry if you prefer – lay out 4 – 6 sheets of pastry, brushing each one with olive oil. Layer up together then spread over carrot and nut mix and roll up as for puff pastry.

500g carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

220g cashew nuts (you could use other nuts or a mix if you fancy)

2 slices wholemeal bread

250g baby spinach, washed and roughly shredded

2 Tbsp fresh mixed herbs, chopped (or 2 tsp dried herbs)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp veg oil

1 packet puff pastry (jus- roll do a vegan one now)

©       Preheat oven to 200°C/gas mark 6

©       Blend onion, garlic and carrot in a food processor until quite fine (but still with a bit of texture – you don’t want a puree!) Empty into a large bowl.

©       Break up the bread and blitz to rough breadcrumbs in the processor. Add in the nuts and whizz again.

©       Add to carrot mixture with spinach, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix in oil and combine everything well.

©       Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to a large rectangle. Cut in half along the longer side. Grease 2 large baking trays.

©       Divide the carrot and nut mixture between the 2 pieces of pastry, spread to within ½” of the edges. Brush the pastry edges with water.

©       Carefully roll up each piece and press the seam gently to seal.

©       Place each roll on a tray, seam side down. Brush the tops with milk/ soya milk and sprinkle with a mixture of sesame and poppy seeds.

©       Make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts in the top of each roll. Bake for 20 – 30 mins until golden.

©        To serve cut into slices. Delicious served hot or cold with purple sprouting broccoli and baked potato or simply a big seasonal salad.