Archive for the ‘Salad’ Category

It was my dear friend Amanda’s birthday a couple of weeks back and as I’m a bit useless and hadn’t got around to sending her a pressie, I was more than happy to rise to the challenge of providing her with inspiration for the stacks of brown rice she apparently has in the pantry instead.

So here you go Mands, a scrummy Japanese inspired dish which goes really well with the slightly nutty and crunchy attributes of brown rice. And don’t be put off by the long recipe this is really quick and super simple. Happy Birthday!

Japanese Chicken and Brown Rice Salad – serves 2

– 300-400g skinless, boneless chicken – breasts or thigh (about 2 standard sized breasts)
– 250g brown rice
– 3-4 spring onions
– half a cucumber
– 1 pepper – any colour
– half an avocado
– sunflower oil
– salt and pepper
– sprinkling of sesame seeds (optional)

for the marinade
– 3 tablespoons soy sauce
– 3 tablespoons mirin (Japanese rice vinegar)

for the dressing
– 4 tablespoons mirin
– 2 tablespoons caster sugar
– 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
– extra soy sauce and mirin to taste

1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl.

2. Slice the chicken into strips about 1cm thickness and add to the marinade. Stir to ensure the chicken pieces are completely coated with the marinade and set aside while you prepare the rice.

3. Place the rice in a sieve and run under cold water for 30 seconds to rinse.

4. Place the rice in a saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes until the rice is just tender but still has a nice bite to it. Drain and leave to cool in the sieve to dry it out.

5. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and with a teaspoon, scoop out all the seeds. Dice up the cucumber and add to a big serving bowl.

5. Chop up the spring onion, pepper and avocado and add to the cucumber. At this point you can add any other favourite salad vegetables you have on hand. I added fresh broad beans which I placed in rapidly boiling, salted water for 2 minutes, drained and ran under cold water to refresh. I also added some Hijiki which is a Japanese sea vegetable high in fibre. It’s dried to begin with and quick and easy to prepare by following the packet instructions. It added a nice textural contract to the crunchy vegetables and rice.

6. Now get a fry pan on medium heat, add a touch of sunflower oil to the pan and add the chicken pieces. You don’t want to crowd the chicken so fry in batches if necessary. This stops the meat from stewing. Once the chicken has been added to the pan, sprinkle some sesame seeds over the pieces and drizzle any remaining marinade over the meat as well. Don’t move the chicken around as it will naturally detach from the pan once it’s nicely caramelised and ready to be turned. It will only take a few minutes. Turn and sprinkle with more sesame seeds. Once it’s cooked through (another few minutes), check that the juices run clear and then remove from the pan and set aside to rest and cool slightly before adding to the other salad ingredients.

7. To make the dressing, add the mirin and sugar to a small pot and gently warm until the sugar has dissolved. Add the sunflower oil and taste. If it’s a bit too sweet for your liking, add a tablespoon of soy sauce. Taste and add more soya sauce or more mirin as necessary.

8. Once the dressing tastes just right, place the rice in a small bowl and pour the dressing over it. Stir and then add the rice to the main serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

9. Cut up the chicken and add to the serving bowl and toss. Or leave if you like chunkier pieces and place portions of the rice and salad mix in serving bowls and place the chicken on top.

You can substitute the chicken for pork or salmon and the brown rice for white long grain rice.


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The wonderful selection of fruit and vege at our local farmers market gets me excited every week at the moment. I think this is partly because the summer produce season in England is so fleeting. Asparagus lasts all of about 4 weeks and delicious English strawberries even less. So we treasure the juicy tomatoes, the fat broad beans and the bright plump raspberries just that little bit more. In stark contrast, summers in New Zealand seem to last and last.

When I think of summer, it’s always of Northland circa 1988. The school holidays along with the heat and humidity seem endless, and we’re playing cricket or riding around on our BMXs with all the neighbourhood kids at our bach up north. The other thing that epitomises summer for me is corn. Mum and Dad used to grow corn in our backyard. Next to the tennis court. In the middle of town. Yep, slightly random I know. Of course, back then, to an eight year old, totally normal! And what’s not to love about an endless supply of fresh corn on the cob! We also had a Pawpaw tree outside the back door, so there you go.

So for me, fresh corn means long, hot summers. Corn bought with the husks still on, boiled in salty water and slathered with butter and more salt. Or drizzled with a mixture of olive oil and soya sauce before grilling on the BBQ, yum.













However, what I’ve been doing a lot lately, is simply cutting the fresh kernels off the cob, toasting them for a minute or two in a fry pan before adding them to salads.

Sweet corn, avocado and quinoa salad


When I can’t be bothered with the toasting bit, I just add them raw. A few days ago I came across this simple guacamole-style avocado dressing and all I could think about was how well it would go with corn, fritters to be exact! But instead of waiting for the weekend to make my favourite brunch meal, I made this quick salad instead and topped it with the avocado dressing.

The dressing is so creamy and delicious, you’ll keep having to remind yourself that this is healthy. Which is great because you will want to have seconds and this is one meal where you definitely can! Here’s the recipe:

Sweet corn salad with avocado dressing
Serves 2-4 as a light main meal, 6-8 as a side dish

Sweet corn and green bean salad with avocado dressing












2 ears sweet corn, husked
– 1 big handful salad leaves (rocket, watercress and lambs lettuce are good choices)
– 3 big handfuls green beans, ends trimmed
– 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
– 1 small bunch of chives, finely chopped
– 1 small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
– 1 handful of pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds or a mixture of both

Avocado Dressing
– 1 clove garlic, crushed
– 1/3 cup thick Greek yogurt
– juice of half a lemon
– 1 avocado
– sea salt to taste

1. Bring a small pot of salted water to the boil. Add the green beans for 1 minute, drain and refresh with cold water. Drain again and leave to cool completely.

2. Put a fry pan on medium to high heat and sprinkle in the pumpkin or sunflower seeds without any oil for a couple of minutes until they are nicely toasted. Keep them moving in the pan so they don’t catch.

3. Husk the corn and cut all the kernels off. Add to a large salad bowl along with all the other salad ingredients. Toss gently.

4. To make the avocado dressing, puree the garlic, avocado, yogurt and lemon juice together with a hand blender or mash with a fork thoroughly. Add a pinch of sea salt, taste and add more salt if necessary. Cover the dressing with cling film to stop the avocado from browning if you’re not planning to serve the salad immediately.

5. When you’re ready to serve, add the dressing to the salad and gently toss to coat everything evenly. Taste and season again if needed.

I added some warm, sliced grilled lamb and crumbled feta to turn this salad into a more substantial dinner. You could also add some nuts to the pan when you’re toasting the seeds, walnuts would be especially tasty. A sprinkle of cumin to the avocado dressing would be nice too. The ideas are endless!

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London is beautiful in spring time, everything seems fresh and new and there is a real sense of anticipation in the air that summer is just around the corner. The sublime smell of sun ripened tomatoes was almost overwhelming at our local market yesterday and how exciting to see the first bunches of English asparagus and bowls of big, juicy strawberries – surely this is earlier than normal?!


This is the time for the first of many BBQs, easy, throw together salads, fresh vegetables with just a hint of dressing and the return of Somerset cider and chilled rose. It feels good to finally close the door on winter.

Last night, to take to a friend’s BBQ, I added the beautiful market asparagus to Ottolenghi’s Quinoa Salad from his cook book Plenty which I’ve talked about before here and here. There are so many easy, versatile and delicious recipes in this cookbook and this Quinoa salad is no exception.    (more…)

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My friend H told me last week that one of the most annoying thing about trying out new recipes is that quite often she’s not sure what else she could do with the ingredients that will inevitably be left over, after having to buy a whole pumpkin for example but the recipe only calls for half. So I’m going to try from now on to keep this in mind and where I can (read ‘have time!’) I will suggest a couple of other easy things you can do to use up leftover ingredients. This I hope will make shopping easier and less wasteful and planning what to eat more enjoyable!

To get the ball rolling, I thought I’d add another courgette recipe to follow on from the Courgette Ribbons I posted previously. This recipe is a bit of a mash-up of two very tasty warm salads from Yotam Ottolengi’s latest cookbook Plenty (thank you Kirsty W – I use this all the time!).

 I’ve called it Warm Courgette & Couscous Salad and while it proved to be a very tasty and healthy option for dinner (especially with some grilled lamb, chicken or fish), it would also make a great lunch or side salad.

Warm Courgette & Couscous Salad
Warm Courgette Couscous Salad









Ingredients (for 2):
– sunflower oil (olive oil is fine but if you have a lighter tasting oil like vegetable or rapeseed that’s a better option)
– 1 medium courgette, sliced
– 1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar
– 1 cup frozen peas
– handful roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
– handful roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
– 30ml olive oil
– half a cup of couscous
– boiling water
– couple of handfuls of rocket or watercress leaves
– 1 tablespoon capers
– grated zest of half a lemon (keep the lemon in case the juice is required to balance the seasoning at the end)
– 100g feta cheese
– sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Heat a tablespoon of sunflower oil in a medium fry pan and fry the courgette slices for a couple of minutes until they’ve browned nicely then turn over and fry until golden brown on the other side (only turn once). Don’t crowd the pan as the courgettes will stew rather than fry, which you don’t want so do them in batches if need be. Remove from the pan and place in a bowl. Pour the vinegar over the courgettes and set aside.

Boil your jug for the couscous and the peas. Place the couscous in a heat proof bowl, pour the boiling water over until the couscous is just covered, give a quick stir with a fork then cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.

In another heat proof bowl, place the frozen peas and pour boiling water over these too until they’re covered. Leave to blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and refresh by running under cold water for 10 seconds. Set aside to dry.

In a blender or food processor, pulse the basil, parsley, salt and pepper and oil until you’ve got a smooth paste. Add more oil if necessary.

Once the couscous is ready, give it a good fluff up with a fork and place in a serving bowl big enough to hold all of the ingredients. Add the peas, courgettes and vinegar, the basil and parsley paste, capers, lemon zest, feta and rocket or watercress leaves. Mix everything together gently, taste and season with salt and pepper. Taste again and add a squeeze of lemon juice if you feel it needs a bit more acidity. Fresh, light and very healthy!

You can of course substitute the peas for broad beans or edamame (soya beans). The feta can be replaced by goats cheese for a milder taste or leave out altogether if you’d prefer.

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