Fennel, Zucchini and Walnut Salad

Over the past few months, we have been enjoying a lot of salads, which I have just thrown together with whatever we have in the fridge and they have been turning out brilliantly. This is one of the ones that I actually documented what I did and thought I would share it.

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As with most salads, this one is a great one to pair with any sort of barbecued meat, chicken or fish and a good one to take to friends place if you’re asked to bring a salad as it’s a little bit different.

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I have found that with the regular appearance of new and different salads on the dinner table over the Summer, the kids have taken more of a liking to salad, especially Claire. Previously she would have a sparrows helping of salad, now she will help herself to seconds and thirds. Whether this is an age thing or a product of repetitive exposure, I’m not sure, but we’ll go with it and keep having salads.

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I have written posts before on ways to spice up a salad, but the main things that make this salad are:

  1. It contains fruit for a bit of sweetness
  2. It contains nuts for some crunch and protein
  3. It includes some veggies, which are more regularly seen as cooked veggies and not in a salad – the broccoli
  4. It is topped with cheese for some protein and, let’s be honest, everyone loves cheese.

While these points are crucial for every salad, they do help to make it a ‘next level’ salad rather than a lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad, which does get a little bit boring.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a medium zucchini, finely sliced
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 baby fennel, finely sliced
  • 1 green apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 a small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 10 snow peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 sugar snap peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs goats cheese
  • 1-2 tbs fennel fronds

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a small tray with baking paper.
  2. Using a mandolin (if you have one), finely slice the zucchini into rounds and place into a small bowl. Add the white wine vinegar and toss to coat and set aside.
  3. Finely slice the fennel, using the mandolin and place into a large bowl. Change the mandolin setting to cut the apple into matchsticks and add to the fennel. If you don’t have a mandolin, using a knife will also work well for the zucchini, fennel and apple.
  4. Place broccoli florets, snow peas, sugar snap peas and beans into a medium sized bowl and blanch by covering with boiling water. Allow this to sit for 2-3 minutes and then drain the water and refresh under cold water. Add to the bowl with the fennel.
  5. Place the walnuts into the preheated oven and toast until golden brown. This will take 5-10 minutes but check after 5 minutes.
  6. While the walnuts are toasting, prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mixing/shaking well to combine.
  7. Add the zucchini to the remainder of the salad ingredients, discarding the white wine vinegar. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Place into serving bowl and top with toasted walnuts, goats cheese and fennel fronds. Edible flowers are a lovely finishing touch also.
  8. Serve and enjoy.

Mango, Asparagus and Avocado Salad

Now that Summer and Christmas are just around the corner, I thought that I would share the salad I made today when our friends came for a late dinner.

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This salad was very much made up on the spot with what I had in the fridge, but turned out to be the quintessential Spring/Summer Salad and makes use of two of my favourite ingredients, which pair together very well, mango and asparagus. Both mango and asparagus have very short seasons, which makes me very sad, but it has meant that we have been eating a lot of them lately to make the most of them while they are in season.

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I’ve posted about how to throw together a delicious salad before, but my key tips are:

  1. Start with a leaf – it could be lettuce, rocket, spinach or other.
  2. Add some veggies – this could be a roast vegetable or a blanched vegetable. In this case I have roasted some pumpkin and blanched some asparagus.
  3. Add some typical salad veggies – I have used cherry tomatoes.
  4. Add some fruit or something for a pop of sweetness – this is where the mango shines.
  5. Add some crunch – nuts or seeds work really well.
  6. Add some cheese and or dressing to bring it all together.

The key to a good salad is a balance of flavours, sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

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Using this above framework allowed me to throw this salad together at the last minute and from the recipe below you can see how it all came together.

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I hope this provides a delicious salad for your next gathering or family meal, or at least some inspiration for throwing together your own salad with what you have in the fridge.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 300g pumpkin, peeled and diced into 1-2cm chunks
  • 10 spears of asparagus, cut into thirds
  • 1/2 a lettuce (I used oakleaf lettuce), torn
  • 2 handfuls of rocket
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 an avocado, diced
  • 1/2 a large mango, diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped

Dressing:

  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a tray with baking paper.
  2. Place diced pumpkin into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Place onto prepared tray and bake for ~30 minutes or until pumpkin is golden brown. Once cooked, set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Place chopped asparagus into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 3-4 minutes then refresh under cold water. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients into a small jar or bowl and shake/stir well to combine. Set aside.
  5. Arrange the lettuce and rocket into the dish you are going to serve the salad in. Top with roast pumpkin, cherry tomatoes, avocado, mango and asparagus.
  6. Drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle the almonds. Lightly toss to allow the dressing to coat the salad and serve.

Easy Summer Salad

A salad with some BBQ’d meat is one of the quickest and easiest meals you can have.

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Yesterday, we had some great friends over for an easy BBQ dinner and I threw this salad together. A salad doesn’t need to follow a recipe, and can use literally whatever ingredients you have in the fridge. There are just a few key things that take a salad from good to amazing:

  1. A combination of cooked and raw vegetables. This gives the salad an extra dimension. Common veggies that I will include in a salad are roast pumpkin, blanched broccoli or beans and grilled zucchini.
  2. Some crunch, and I’m talking more than just the crunch of carrot or lettuce – some form of nut or seed, preferably toasted works really well.
  3. Fruit. Some people will disagree with putting fruit in a salad, but I love the sweet pops that you get in a salad that has fruit. Apple, pear, pomegranate, stone fruit and mango all work really well.
  4. A well balanced dressing. Think sweet, salt, acid. The dressing is what brings the whole salad together and while many people believe that salad dressings are unhealthy, that is often not the case, and when made from scratch they can be a great way to add some essential fats to the salad in the form of quality oils.
  5. Protein. This can be some form of cheese, legume, nut or seed, or if you’re looking for a more substantial salad, a meat, chicken or fish.

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Before making this salad, I knew I was going to use lettuce, some of the tomatoes from our garden, roast pumpkin and feta. As a started putting it together, all the other ingredients were just what was in the fridge, and in the end it came together to be quite the delicious salad.

When making your next salad, don’t over complicate it, use what you have on hand and follow my five tips above (or this recipe) and you’ll take your salads to the next level.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6 as a side

  • 250g pumpkin, cut into 2cm cubes, roasted
  • 1 tbs EVOO
  • 4 large handfuls of mixed lettuce leaves
  • 1 large handful of rocket leaves
  • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 12 green beans, blanched and cut in half
  • 1/2 an avocado, cut into cubes
  • 50g feta cheese
  • Seeds of 1/2 a pomegranate
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped

Dressing:

  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • Leaves of 2 thyme sprigs
  • Handful of basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the chopped pumpkin into a small bowl, add olive oil and mix to coat. Place onto the tray and cook for ~35 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool.
  2. Top and tail the beans and place into a small bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Run under cold water to refresh, cut beans in half.
  3. Make the dressing by placing all ingredients into a jar and shake well to combine. Set aside.
  4. Place lettuce leaves and rocket into a large bowl. Top with chopped tomato, pumpkin, beans, avocado. Just before serving, dress salad and gently toss to combine. Top with pomegranate seeds, crumbled feta and toasted almonds.
  5. Enjoy.

Tuna and Bean Nicoise Style Salad

First of all, apologies for my absence in posting new recipes, but the holiday season and lack of routine has left me trying recipes out of new cookbooks I have been given or making quick meals, therefore, not coming up with anything creative and worthy of posting, but I’m back and will be aiming to post new recipes a little more frequently, as well as hoping to make a start on my cookbook this year!

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Tuna and beans (from a tin) are 2 ingredients which are highly nutritious and can be used as a meal in themselves or added to other amazing ingredients to make something really special, such as this salad.

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My inspiration for this salad came from an Instagram post from one of my oldest friends and ex-housemate. She was given a whole heap of tomatoes from her neighbour on a 40 degree day and mixed them with beans, tuna and pickled onions and lunch was sorted! This set my tastebuds tingling, so I sought out what we had in the vegetable garden and added a few more ingredients to the base, along with a dressing and thus we have this salad. Perfect as a meal by itself or you can omit the tuna and serve as a salad at a BBQ.

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Tuna, or other oily fish (salmon, sardines, cod) should be eaten three times per week to get the required amount of essential fatty acids the body needs. As most people wouldn’t eat whole or filleted fish three times per week, tinned fish is not only convenient, it also makes reaching this target more achievable. Tinned tuna is great for a snack and also a great addition to a salad to make it into a meal. My favourite tinned tuna is Sirena tuna as it’s not as fishy or cat food like as some of the other brands. Essential fatty acids, or omega 3s are really important for brain and heart health and have also been shown to improve mental health when consumed regularly, as well as decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease.

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You can use any beans for this salad. Four bean mix, borlotti, chickpeas, butter beans, cannellini beans, red kidney beans, whichever you feel like using. The beans I used, on this particular occasion, were chosen by Mark and Claire (who loved the salad by the way). If you prefer to soak your own beans then feel free to do so. Beans are a great source of fibre and non-animal protein, making them a really good choice for vegetarians and vegans to help to get adequate protein in the diet. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you would obviously omit the tuna from this recipe and the feta.

Enjoy xx.

 

Ingredients:

Serves 5

  • 2 x 400g tins beans (I used butter beans and cannellini beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 cob of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g green beans, ends trimmed, blanched and cut into thirds
  • 1/2 lebanese cucumber, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 50g olives, roughly chopped
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2/3 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 an avocado, cubed
  • 50g feta, crumbled
  • 190g tin Sirena tuna, oil drained

Dressing:

  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp capers, chopped

Method:

  1. Slice the onion as thinly as you can (a mandolin works well here) and place into a small bowl along with the white wine vinegar. Mix well and set aside for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Place the rinsed beans in a large bowl, along with the corn kernels, tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, olives, spring onion and parsley. Mix well to combine.
  3. Prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients into a small bowl and stirring well to combine.
  4. Add the avocado and feta to the beans, pour the dressing over the top and gently toss to allow the dressing to spread through the salad.
  5. Place into a serving dish or onto plates and top with tuna.

Spring Pea and Broad Bean Salad

Now that spring is well and truly here, fresh salads are back on the menu. Our veggie garden is also ripe for the picking, with the main vegetables being broad beans and snow peas, so it made sense to make this super easy and delicious salad.

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If you haven’t tried broad beans before, I highly recommend trying them. They are great in a salad, with pasta or made into a dip. They do take a little bit of work to peel, but are worth it. If you grow broad beans at home and have a lot of them, you can shell them, blanch them and then freeze them for later.

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I have used Meredith dairy marinated goats feta for this salad, mainly because i love it, but you can use any goats cheese or feta you like. The combination of this cheese with the mint and lemon juice really compliments the beans and peas and lifts this salad.

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My kids love snow peas and normal peas, so adding broad beans and feta (another one of their favourites) meant this was a great one for them also.  Mark and Claire helped me to shell the broad beans as well, which they enjoyed and were much more proficient at than this time last year 🙂

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 2 cups shelled broad beans
  • 1 cup shelled peas or frozen peas
  •  2 cups snow peas
  • 5-6 spears of asparagus, cut into thirds (optional)
  • 1 baby gem lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 50g Meredith Dairy marinated goats feta or Danish feta
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. Place broad beans, snow peas, asparagus (if using) and peas into a bowl and blanch by covering with boiling water and allow them to sit for 2-3 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to refresh.
  2. Place into a large bowl and add lettuce, olive oil and lemon juice and toss to combine.
  3. Add feta and mint and carefully toss to combine.
  4. Serve with fish, meat or as a side to your favourite main.