Spring-time is well and truly here and as food magazines start to push their fanciest of salads for you to spend hours chopping and garnishing, we have a few low-maintenance ways of injecting big flavours into your food. As well as a recipe or two for you to bring to work or serve as an accompaniment to a main meal, we have our one piece of killer advice if you want to keep up with food trends of 2016…
Unrefined Sunflower Oil
Sounds new-age? ‘Unrefined’ already making you pat your wallet in fear? While this could be a scary prospect even for the most regular customers at Whole Foods, unrefined sunflower oil is a deliciously nutty ingredient for dressing your salad. Not to be confused with its refined brother that frequents the fast-food chains of the world, it is painfully healthy containing a mixture of poly- and mono-unsaturated fats high in omega-6. We first tried this when tasting Olia Hercules‘ Chilli and Garlic Cucumber salad in her debut cook book, Mamushka (worth buying for a number of reasons but this recipe is certainly one of them). Since then this oil has become a staple for us in a very simple dressing salad combination which anyone can try.
Simple salad and dressing:
3 parts unrefined sunflower oil
1 part balsamic vinegar
1 part soy sauce
A mixture of salad leaves (rocket, watercress and pea-shoots work well)
Pour the ingredients for the dressing into a jam jar or other sealable container. Shake the dressing mixture vigorously for a few moments until it is fully combined. Taste and season with black pepper if desired.
Wash the mixed salad leaves and toss till dry. Place the leaves into a large bowl and pour over the dressing. Toss thoroughly again to ensure that the dressing is mixed together with the leaves throughout. Serve immediately.
Hearty couscous salad:
Lumpy. Stodgy. Unsettlingly glutinous. Couscous can be done in all the wrong ways. If you’ve had a bad brush with it in the past though, it is time to forget it and embrace this recipe. Aromatic, herby and with a few pomegranate kernels sprinkled on top for pallet punching sharpness, our couscous will definitely get your lunchtime mojo going or compliment some lovely köfte (turkish meatballs) and Babaganoush (recipe below) for a Middle-East feast. It also contains celery leaves, a recognised ‘sirt’ food for those of you interested in losing a little weight. If this is the case you may want to replace the sunflower oil with olive oil, another recognised ‘sirt’ ingredient.
3 tbsp unrefined sunflower oil
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
190 g couscous
2 tsps cinnamon
a generous pinch of salt
1/2 medium sized red cabbage, chopped into strips 3cm x 0.5cm
6 sprigs of mint, roughly chopped
2 handfuls of celery leaves, roughly chopped
a handful of pomegranate kernels to serve (optional)
Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and sprinkle over the cinnamon and salt, making sure they are both evenly distributed throughout. Pour over boiling water, enough just to cover the couscous. Put this to one side and leave it to absorb. This should take about 20 – 25 minutes.
Chop and prepare all the ingredients for the salad and place in a large bowl in which you want to serve the couscous salad.
Once the couscous has absorbed the water, run your hands through it making sure that it is not too hot or that you will burn yourself. Using both hands, pick up small amounts of the couscous and rub between your fingers in a backwards and forwards motion letting them be ‘fluffed up’ and separated. Once they are thoroughly fluffed and cool enough, add them to the rest of the salad and mix together.
Combine the oil and molasses to make the dressing. Pour over the top of the combined couscous salad and stir to mix through. Scattering a handful of pomegranate kernels over the top serve straight away.
Smoky and sharp but mellow and light, some might not think of this as a salad and more of a dip, but it still makes a good accompaniment to a main meal or as an extra vegetable boost to bring into the office. Be warned – for this recipe you will require a gas cooker, or alternatively, you can use the flames of a barbecue if you feel in a more summery mood.
2 medium sized aubergine
Salt and pepper to season
a handful of chopped coriander
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Turn on one of the gas hobs and lie the aubergines in the flame, charring the skin. You will need to leave them to char gently but keep a watchful eye to make sure they do not become too burnt. Turn them periodically to make sure they are charred all over. 5 minutes of this should be sufficient but you can extend the charring time if you want an especially smokey dip.
Place the aubergines in a baking dish and put in the oven for 20 minutes. Check after 10 minutes as you may need to extend baking time depending on how big a baking dish you have used. When it is soft enough to pull apart with a pair of spoons, scoop out the insides leaving behind the charred skin and put into a food processor. Add the juice of half a lemon and a glug of olive oil, as well as salt and pepper to season the dip. Blend the aubergine thoroughly and taste to check seasoning. Add some chopped coriander and serve still warm or save for later in a sealable container, allowing it to cool before placing in the fridge.