You can make some incredibly delicious and filling super salads by experimenting with different grains, seeds and pulses. Green spelt, quinoa and buckwheat are some of my favourites.
They give salads some punch and the textures they create are wonderful. My pastry chef Mandy is a big fan of healthy grains and has introduced me to some great new ingredients. You can find most of them in health food shops such as Whole Foods in Glasgow and Earthy or Real Foods in Edinburgh, but don’t be put off by preconceptions of their ‘healthy’ reputation. These grains are far from bland, and if you pair them with the right things you can rustle up some really tasty, fresh salads for your barbecues or summer suppers.
These salad recipes are also perfect for using up any leftovers – we could all do with adding a little more bite to our midweek lunches and these grains are ideal. They will fill you up but won’t leave you feeling lethargic, and can give you the energy you need to keep going for the rest of the day. Their health benefits will last even longer.
What’s more, these salads can be created quickly and cheaply, and they work as a wonderful base for many great summer combinations. You can add different complimentary fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, or even make up a batch as a base to make a few different dishes so your guests can choose their favourite. The more colourful the better. One of my favourite combinations is hazelnuts and French beans – an absolutely wonderful marriage of flavours.
Spelt is a fantastic ingredient, and green spelt, which is the unripened variety, is particularly good in salads. It’s an ancient form of wheat and has a delicious nutty flavour. It’s high in protein, easily digestible and, though related to the ordinary variety, it can be eaten by many people with wheat intolerances.
What I love about spelt is its texture – I’ve really been inspired by it lately. It’s a good lunchtime substitute for pasta or rice and makes salads really filling, tasty and healthy.
Another hero ingredient for your summer salads is quinoa. I’m a recent convert to quinoa. I think some people are less inclined to cook with it simply because they don’t know how to pronounce it but I highly recommend you overcome any fears and try it.
Quinoa is known as a superfood because it contains so many essential nutrients, vitamins and amino acids, and is said to be effective in preventing diseases such as diabetes and breast cancer. It’s also rich in complete protein and so is incredibly good for you – it’s perfect for vegetarian and vegan diets. It is a seed not a grain, and is gluten-free so it’s a pretty safe option if you’re entertaining or hosting a barbecue as it suits most diet types.
The taste of quinoa is mild and the texture firm and slightly chewy. It’s really simple to cook and can be prepared in a similar way to rice. I recommend you rinse or soak it before cooking to get rid of the bitter coating. When cooked, the grains become translucent, light and fluffy and the flavour sweetens. When it comes to cooking it, though, remember that a little goes a long way as it fattens up quite a lot – the grains almost quadruple in size.
Buckwheat is another good choice. It was traditionally used to make blinis – the small pancakes often eaten with caviar. It’s also an ingredient found in some Italian cooking, used to make some pastas and gnocchi. Buckwheat is rich in iron, zinc and selenium, which makes it a great addition to any barbecue. It’s also incredibly rich in antioxidants and, despite its name, is not actually related to wheat so, again, is perfect for any gluten-intolerant guests.
No barbecue or summer feast would be complete without coleslaw – it’s a true classic. I like to give it my own twist, preparing it without any mayonnaise to allow the ingredients to really shine on their own, adding chilli, lime and coriander for that extra kick. The addition of these ingredients makes it ideal for serving with barbecued meats, especially pork, as the herbs and spices really cut through and stand up to the meat, without overpowering it.
This summer, there’s no excuse for not spicing up your salads, whether you’re enjoying them at barbecues and picnics or for lunches at home or at work. When dining with friends or family, place them in big bowls on the table and let everyone help themselves. Nothing could be easier, tastier or healthier.
Spelt Summer Salad
150g green spelt
1 carrot, cut into thin strips
2 sticks celery, cut into strips
handful of pine nuts
squeeze of lime
dash of olive oil
Wash the spelt well before cooking. Cover in cold water and salt before cooking for 30 to 35 minutes. You want to cook the spelt but make sure it’s still slightly al dente and has a lovely nutty texture.
Once the spelt has absorbed all the water, add the carrot, raisins, celery and pine nuts and mix thoroughly.
Add a squeeze of lime, a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Quinoa, Beans and Hazelnut Salad
handful of French beans (cooked)
1 shallot, cut into rings
50g toasted hazelnuts
handful of cherry tomatoes
dash of hazelnut oil
Wash the quinoa before covering it in cold water and salt. Cook for 15 minutes, and then pass it through a sieve to drain.
Add the French beans, chopped shallot, toasted hazelnuts and cherry tomatoes to the quinoa and toss everything together.
Add the hazelnut oil and mix through before serving.
Super-Simple Summer Coleslaw
half a white cabbage, chopped finely
3 carrots, cut into julienne strips
2 spring onions, sliced finely
1 chilli, chopped finely into rings
half a bunch of coriander, chopped
juice of one lime
Though it has no mayonnaise, this coleslaw is a great mix of fresh ingredients.
Mix together the chopped cabbage, carrots and spring onions. Then add the chopped chilli and chopped coriander and mix together.
Add the lime juice just before you serve it so the dish stays crunchy.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
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Wind direction: West
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