Friday, January 23, 2015

Salad days

The new year is a great time to catch up on the healthy eating after the ever over indulgent Christmas period. Salads heavy with grains and sprouts seem to be my main go to when I feel I have delved too much into gluttony, filling, satisfying and healthy! My basic salad is pretty much the same and things get swapped in and out to customise as I feel like, poached chicken or paneer, rice; quinoa or wheat, you get the picture. At the base it’s usually vinaigrette, red onion, sprouts (home done puy and mung if I’ve thought ahead a couple of days), celery (always, I love it) leaves and all, parsley. And then it’s usually an addition of whatever I have handy in the fridge or garden, thyme flowers, shaved broccoli florets, radish, leftover roast chook.

There are things I tend to avoid in my grain salads mainly because they don’t last in the fridge and when I make a salad there’s always leftovers for lunch the next day. Green leaves, they don’t last in a dressing at all and quite frankly I usually have a metric ton of celery greens and parsley in there any way. Tomatoes, they turn to mush in the fridge and I’m not really a fan of them in any salad unless it’s a tomato based one. Eggs, unless it’s a perfectly soft boiled one sliced in half and placed on each serving.

Sprouts are a great way to get a bunch of flavour into a salad, and even better if you can prep them yourself. Get a jar and place in a third of a cup of seeds (mung, lentils, mustard), rinse with water and let soak for 4–8 hours. Drain and cover with a cloth or tea towel, keep out of direct sunlight. Rinse and drain daily. Sprouts should be good to eat in 2–3 days, once the sprout is the length of the seed.

Nuts and seeds are also add good texture and flavour, I’m a bit guilty of going crazy with pumpkin seeds, I can’t help myself. Try toasting some nuts and seeds in a dry pan with a bit of salt and chilli then giving it a bash in a mortar and pestle, or roughly blitz in blender. Adds a bit of crunch and spice scattered over the top.

Grains, the staple are so easy to cook once you have the hang of them, they all pretty much get cooked the same way just the timing is different. Bring 1 cup of grains and 3 cups of salted water up to the boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Rye and Wheat take about 30 minutes, Red and Black Rice about 18 minutes.

Dressings are pretty simple, a quick vinaigrette is my usually go to, 1 part acid, 2 parts oil, Dijon mustard and salt, pour all in a jar and shake. Cider vinegar is always on hand for this, but lemon juice, white wine vinegar are all good too. Tahini makes quite a nice eggless mayo, use the above quantity for the base dressing, perhaps a little less oil and add a little crushed garlic, add a good tablespoon of tahini and blitz with an immersion blender, goes well with some grilled paneer.