Warm early Spring quinoa salad

IMG_5722Spring keeps showing it’s tells – the flashes of colour from flowers, warm sun in sheltered spots, and yet, and yet – it’s still teasing us.

When it comes to eating healthful meals, I know I’m not quite ready for salad season to begin. I still need some bone-warming comfort foods to see me through the day.

The other day I happened upon winter purslane and wow! It’s a slightly strange beast, but utterly delicious. Kind of spinachy, yet not as tough. Kind of watercress-like but with a curious mild flavour. Watery, yet firm. Juicy.

I thought I’d investigate further and then create a recipe that’s quick, clean, lean, and packs a nutritional punch.

Winter Purslane, miners lettuce, or Claytonia Perfoliata (spring beauty, miner’s lettuce, winter purslane, or Indian lettuce; syn. Montia perfoliata) can be grown before the sun warms the soil – in fact, it can be grown all year round. Used raw in salads, (or it can be steamed – personally that seems like a waste to me, so delicious is it raw) it is rich in vitamin C, essential for growth and repair in your body.

To grow, you sew the seeds in August for harvest November to March, so it’s one I’ve noted for my winter sowing this year!

To eat, you could pair it with so much, it’s a truly versatile leaf. In this case, I wanted to create a comforting, quick-to-prepare quinoa ‘stew’ flavoured with garlic and the greener part of the leek. With jewel-like gratings of sweet potato to add depth, and pumpkin seeds to add a crunch and omega-3 boost, Here’s my recipe (pictured)

Warm early spring quinoa salad (serves 2)

Ingredients

Salad:
Large portion of winter purslane, washed carefully and dried

Dressing:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 dessert spoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard (I prefer french)

Quinoa:
2/3 mug quinoa
1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon (or cook with homemade vegetable stock if you have some)
Half sweet potato, grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
3″ green part of leek, finely chopped
Teaspoon coconut oil
Generous sprinkling pumpkin seeds

Method

Carefully wash the winter purslane, and divide between two bowls. Whisk up the dressing ingredients, and coat the purslane in it.

Rinse the quinoa, and then place in a pan with double the amount of water. Bring to the boil on a medium heat, then add the grated sweet potato simmer gently until the water has boiled away (about 10-15 mins).

While this is cooking, in a frying pan, gently fry the leek in some coconut oil, adding the garlic 5 minutes into cooking. You’re looking for the leek to be softened, rather than browned.

Once they’re both cooked, mix the quinoa and the garlic leeks together, and throw in a handful of pumpkin seeds.

Sit, savour the flavours and enjoy, knowing that warmer weather is on the way.

Goats cheese and fennel omelette

A fabulous quick lunch which will keep you full well into the afternoon.
Serves 1

Ingredients
1 desert spoon coconut oil
2 eggs, whisked (with a splash of milk and salt & pepper)
Small handful broccoli, cut into small (1-2 cm florets)
Small handful fresh fennel, sliced
1 spring onion, sliced
Sprig thyme
1/2 small round goats cheese
Portion baby spinach
Squeeze of lemon
Sprinkle of seed mix (for this recipe I use ‘Omega sprinkle’ from Holland & Barrett)

Whisk the eggs, splash of milk, and seasoning. Set to one side.

Heat half the oil in a pan on a medium heat until melted, then add the broccoli, fennel, and spring onion, and fry until softened, and just starting to brown. Remove from pan.

Add the remaining oil, keeping the pan on a medium heat.

Put the eggs in the pan, and cook for a minute, then add the cooked veg. Tear the goats cheese and distribute on the omlette, along with some thyme leaves. It should look a little like this:

Goatscheeseomlettecooking

When the egg is still a little runny, fold the omelette and cook for a few minutes longer.

Serve with the baby spinach, a squeeze of lemon, a handful of seeds, et voila! Bon apetit!

GoatsCheeseOmlette

Easy tomato salsa

iStock_000014598298_ExtraSmallInspired by yesterday’s spicy bean burger, I decided to make some salsa using a classic recipe I picked up when I lived in Mexico for a few months in the late 90’s.

Salsas are a great way to bring many meals to life with masses of flavour – sometimes they’re great in a pile on top of a dish, sometimes on the side, or even sprinkled all over so that you taste it with every delicious mouthful. There are a million different salsas made and eaten in Mexico – this just one, and a very satisfying and easy to make one it is, too!

You can make this as spicy or mild as you like by varying the amount of chilli.

Ingredients:
4 tomatoes, skinned if you have time and finely chopped
small-medium red onion, finely chopped
3 tbsps fresh, chopped coriander
Chilli, finely chopped (about 1/4-1/3 chilli)- I tend to use habanero or scotch bonnets in my kitchen – and if I don’t have any in the fridge “Lazy Chilli” does the job
Juice of 1/2 lime

Method:
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and put in the fridge for an hour or two.

Serve:
Bring to room temperature before serving, and eat as much as you like – whilst being high on flavour, this is an accompaniement which is very low on fat! Great with burgers, salads, fish, and meats.

Spicy mexican red kidney bean burgers

Spicy Mexican Bean Burgers

Today, I’ve been trying to figure out a simple bean burger recipe without breadcrumbs, which maintains a nice firm texture, and all the magnificent flavours mexican cooking brings.

The recipe which follows hits the mark, I reckon!

I like my burgers pretty spicy, so you may like to reduce the amount of chilli to give just a hint of spice. And don’t hold back with the herbs and seasoning – it’s what brings the magic to these tasty burgers.

Ingredients (makes 4 burgers):

1 medium onion
Generous handful coriander
1 clove garlic
2 tsp lazy chilli (or fresh chilli to taste)
1/2 lime
Salt & pepper to season

1 egg, beaten

100g oatmeal (plus extra to roll burger in)
1 tin red kidney beans, rinsed

Baby spinach / lettuce, 1/2 avocado, 1 sliced tomato, coriander to serve.

Method:
Preheat your grill to a medium heat, and grease the tray / foil you’ll cook on.

In a food processor, mix up the onion, coriander, garlic, chilli and lime to a paste. Mash the kidney beans roughly with a potato masher.

Mix the onion, garlic, chilli and lime paste into the beans, along with 1 egg and the oatmeal thoroughly. At this point, the mixture will seem pretty gloopy, but don’t worry, cooking it firms it up beautifully.

On a separate plate, sprinkle a generous handful of oatmeal, evenly. Carefully take a burger-sized portion of the mix, and shape it into a burger shape then put it onto the oatmeal. Shape the mix into a pattie, then very carefully, turn it over so the entire pattie is covered with oatmeal.

Drizzle a little olive oil over the burger, then transfer to the grill and cook on one side until the topping is golden brown, carefully turning to finish the other side. All in all, around 10-15 minutes under a medium heat grill.

Serve:
On a bed of baby spinach or crispy lettuce, with sliced avocado and tomato and some fresh coriander.

If you feel the need to splurge a little, melt some goats cheese on top, or add spoon of natural yoghurt.

Store the mix in the fridge, and you can use it the following day. A delicious, sustaining lunch or dinner!

Hearty clean minestrone soup

When the weather turns cold, sometimes there’s simply nothing better than a hearty soup to see you through the day. But rather than fill up with one containing pasta which may leave you feeling bloated, a couple of tweaks provides you with an equally delicious, clean version of it which you can turn to whenever you fancy a warm comforting meal!

Ingredients:

Dessert spoon coconut oil
1 medium red onion
1 clove garlic
1 medium carrot, diced in half cm-ish squares
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
4 skinned, chopped tomatoes (to skin, cover in boiling water until skin ‘cracks’ & feels loose, then peel) 1/2 tin cannelini beans
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 mug quinoa, rinsed
1.2L vegetable stock / bouillon

Salt & pepper to taste

Generous handful of spinach, finely chopped
1 level tbsp finely chopped fresh basil

Method: Soften the onions, garlic, carrot, pepper and celery, thyme and bay leaf. When the veg are tender, add the tomatoes, beans, rinsed quinoa and 1L stock and cook on a medium heat for around 15-20 mins (until the quinoa is tender, but not overdone). Add more stock if required.

When cooked, remove from the heat, and remove the bay leaf. To serve: Season with salt & pepper and stir in the spinach & fresh basil.

Add a few parmesan shavings if you fancy.