Honey-glazed carrot & roasted red onion salad

Admittedly, I’ve had a few weeks off from blogging. It’s been a busy old month, in every sense, but a good one at that. It’s always nice to catch up with old friends, venture out of the insanity of London, try new things and spend time setting Summer goals. And, along with the improving weather comes renewed energy and inspiration for this here blog.

Since the Bank Holiday festivities are in full swing and it’s the last day of National Vegetarian Week 2015, I figured a summery salad dish would be fitting for impromptu BBQ’s and friendly gatherings. We all love a bit of al fresco dining and this dish is perfect sharing food as an accompaniment to other side dishes and mains. Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ll devour this alone with some crusty bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar! I find this is best eaten whilst the roasted veggies are still warm and fragrant as a contrast to the cold spinach leaves and crumbly feta cheese. You could also add toasted pumpkin seeds or roasted cherry tomatoes for a slightly different variation on this salad.

Serves 2 – 4 | Prep: 10 mins  Cooking: 30-35 mins

For the roasted veg:

  • 4 medium carrots
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 tbsp good quality runny honey
  • 1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs (e.g thyme, rosemary, basil)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • 80g baby spinach leaves
  • 50g crumbly feta cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil

Step one: Pre-heat your oven at 175 degrees. Peel, half and then quarter the carrots. You should get 8 even sized pieces from each carrot. In a similar way, half and quarter the onion so you have small wedge shapes.

Step two: Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add the veg and coat evenly in olive oil, seasoning, cumin and mixed herbs. Bake for approx 25 mins.

Step three: At this stage, drizzle the honey over the veg and return to the oven for a final 10 mins. You want a deep brown caramelised colour on the carrots and onions. Take them out of the oven and set aside whilst you assemble the salad ingredients.

Step four: On a large serving plate or mixing bowl, add the spinach leaves, crumbled feta and warm veg (plus any sweet honey juices!). Dress the salad with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh lemon juice before serving.

*This will keep for two days in the fridge, but is best eaten on the same day it’s made.

 

Soy and ginger pak choi, broccoli & portobello mushroom

I’m a huge fan of Asian dishes (Thai and Chinese) especially because of their speed, versatility & vibrant flavours. I’ll whip up a stir fry when I want quick, clean, no fuss and honest food. There’s no endless dirty pots and pans to contend with either. I came up with this delicious recipe that happens to be vegan, too. It’s light & full of green goodness!

Along with the mushroom, broccoli & pak choi base (you can find this in larger supermarkets or a local fruit & veg market), I add courgettes and spinach along with a delicious mix of fiery red chilli, garlic, lime and muscovado sugar to balance out the hot, sour and salty flavours. There’s a few other additions but this really is a simple and satisfying meal alone or as a side dish. Grab your wok and you’re ready to go!

Serves 2-4 | Prep: 5 mins Cooking: 8-10 mins

For the stir fry:

  • 1 bulb pak choi
  • 10 – 12 small broccoli florets
  • 2 large portobello  mushrooms
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 handful baby spinach
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of scotch bonnet red chilli
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 lime
  • Ground nut or vegetable oil
  • Sea salt & black pepper

Step one: On a medium heat, warm up a wok with enough oil to cover the base.

Step two: Wash and prep your vegetables. Cut the courgette into half-moon shapes, slice the onion and mushrooms, separate the broccoli florets and pak choi leaves, thinly slice the garlic, ginger and chilli.

Step three: The wok should now be hot. Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli for one minute before adding the remaining veg. Keep the pan moving constantly for 5 mins to spread the heat and cook them evenly.

Step four: Season with salt and pepper, then add the thyme, soy sauce, a squeeze of lime, sugar, sweet chilli sauce and spinach leaves. Add a splash of water if needed to create a little steam. Cook for another two minutes before turning off the heat. Best served hot, with steamed basmati rice, noodles or as an accompanying side dish.

Chunky authentic guacamole

No Mexican fare is complete without this delicious side. It has to be one of my favourite things to eat at any time of day, whether it’s partnered with spicy fajitas, piled onto melting cheese nachos or simply spread on thickly sliced toast – a personal favourite. Made right, this is comfort food at it’s best and it’s super healthy. Avocados do have one of the highest fat and calorie contents a fruit can have, but it’s all good healthy fats to make you glow. Your hair, skin and nails will thank you for this one.

The first trick to making a decent guacamole is using ripe avocados. It sounds obvious enough, but people often get this part wrong. You’ll know they’re ripe if they give a little when squeezed. If it’s under-ripe, it’ll be firm and quite unappealing, almost bitter to eat. I always get my avocados fresh from a market stall because they usually have better quality, size and price over regular supermarkets. One of my favourite local fruit and veg markets is Kingston’s Ancient Market in the suburbs of London – a quaint historical location, friendly traders and great value – I’ll do a post on my favourite London markets soon.

In true form, this recipe uses all the classic flavours that go into a tasty homemade guac and there’s the second trick – salt for balance, crushed garlic for a kick, diced tomatoes for freshness, chilli for heat, spring onions for texture, lime juice to cut through the rich buttery avocado and good quality olive oil to bring everything together. That’s it! It’s such a simple recipe but will bring your meals to life with vibrant green colour, fresh flavours and a beautifully creamy texture. Try it with my American sweet potato pancakes – it’s a dreamy combo. If you’re not keen on avocados, you’ll be hooked once you’ve made this guacamole.

Serves 2-4 | Prep: 10 mins

For the guacamole: 

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 beef tomato
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes or 1/2 a fresh chilli
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Olive oil

Step one: Run a sharp knife along the middle of the avocado, around the entire fruit til it meets the start point. Twist in opposite directions with your hands and it should come apart, stone intact. Use a sharp knife to tap and remove the stone. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl and mash gently. Tricky part, done!

Step two: Chop and remove the flesh of the tomato then dice into small chunks. I ended up using half of the tomato because they’re quite big and juicy, but you could add more if you wish. Chop the spring onion and crush the garlic cloves. Add all three ingredients to the avocado.

Step three: Season to taste with salt, pepper, chilli, a good squeeze of lime juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Mix everything together, but not too much as you want some texture remaining.

Step four: Garnish with a few spring onions and chilli flakes, then devour.