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Salads & Suppers, Sides

Soft Goat’s Cheese Salad with Cherries & Toasted Tamari Seeds

Have you a low tolerance to dairy?

You needn’t quarantine it from your diet entirely, or tell every waiter in Ireland about it. Give goat’s cheese a go.

The fat globules in goat’s milk appear to be smaller than cow’s milk, making it easier to digest. There’s also less lactose in goat’s milk – not that lactose is evil or problematic. Some of us simply don’t manufacture lactase, the digestive enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose in our system. This tends to be genetically determined.

 

goats cheese bee pollen 

 

Whether you suffer from dodgy digestion or not, Irish goat’s cheese is unreasonably delicious. Lidl do a good one, but we have a special squeal reserved for Bluebell Falls and Ardsallagh. It’s a stealthy vehicle for Green Leafy Veg, especially with toddlers, husbands and other contrarians.

Or sprinkle with bee pollen, to confuse them. Looks so pretty (see above).

Interestingly, goat’s milk contains more calcium than cow’s milk. Its pH level is more favourable than regular dairy too, which seems to excite ‘alkaline’ eaters such as Sienna Miller, Calgary Avensino and Robbie Williams. The Alkaline Diet is a scorching-hot trend among the gorgeous brigade in London and New York.

Interested? Check out The Honestly Healthy Cookbook penned by two savvy ladies, Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson. You’ll need to resuscitate that roll of litmus paper from biology class, a sense of adventure, and that day-glow exercise leotard!

 

 cherries

 

 

 

Soft Goat’s Cheese Salad with Cherries & Toasted Tamari Seeds

It will probably take more time to read this recipe, than to make it.

No need to toast the seeds in soya sauce unless you are a bona fide umami tart like me. Umami is that lip-smacking mushroomy hit that obsessionistas crave (you know who you are). Soya sauce has loads of it. As does coconut aminos.

Umami is often referred to as our fifth taste sense, alongside sweet, sour, salty and bitter. I’d argue we have a lot more than five taste senses – fear, pheromones, visa bills, CK One, and stink bombs. I can taste them all.

 

pumpkin seeds tamari roasted 

 

For the salad:

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

Good splash of tamari soya sauce or coconut aminos

Handful of greens like watercress, sunflower sprouts or Russian kale

1 cup cherries

Soft goat’s cheese for 2

 

For the maple dressing:

1 teaspoon of maple syrup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Good squeeze of lime or lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns, crushed and pummeled

 

There’s enough here for two. Start by pre-heating your oven to 180 C / 350 F. Spread the pumpkin seeds across a baking tray and roast in the oven for 6 minutes. You’ll hear them popping. Toss the seeds with tamari or coconut aminos, and return the tray to the oven for another minute. Remove from the oven and allow the seeds to cool. This can be difficult.

I find leaving the kitchen helpful, to avoid repeatedly scalding my tonsils.

To assemble the salad, carefully peel the Russian kale leaves from its tough stalk and tear into rough pieces. You could use any leaves you fancy, but red Russian kale are strong, barrel-chested chaps. Spicy too. I used sunflower sprouts and cress in the photo, because I scoffed the kale before remembering to photograph it.

Tumble the halved cherries onto the salad leaves.

To make the dressing, whisk the elements together with a fork and drizzle over the cherry leaves. Gently turn the leaves to coat everything.

Crown with a generous dollop of goat’s cheese and bless with loads of roasted seeds.

 

 

 

 

Lunchbox, Salads & Suppers, Sides

how to cook polenta

Once in a while we flirt with polenta, like Colin Farrell with Elizabeth Taylor. It’s not serious, but it loiters on our hit list.

 

polenta

 

Polenta has the creaminess of mashed potato, with a pinch of unfamiliar excitement. That might be the yeast flakes talking, giving flavour-bombs to everything it touches.

Potatoes will still beat polenta on the nutritional circuit, so we’ve added extra vitamins with the tomatoes, summer kale and garlic in this recipe. And if you really want to glow, let some avocado join the party.

Tomatoes are beefed up with lycopene. These carotenoids behave like boisterous antioxidants in the body. Think of an internal system of Pacman, and you’ve got the idea. We like antioxidants because they help to counteract mischief-making oxidants in our blood stream. These pesky oxidants, or ‘free radicals’ don’t do our skin any favours either. Want to know the best remedy for dull skin? More water and more sleep.

If you’re off dairy, some mushrooms pan-fried in a splash of tamari and olive oil will add some badass umami notes, to replace the Parmesan cheese. Think of umami as our plate’s BF.

 

100g polenta (ground maize)

500ml stock

Fistful of grated Parmesan, or 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes

Fistful of sundried tomatoes, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed (adults only)

Fistful of baby spinach, rocket or red summer kale

 

Start by downloading a good podcast to keep you company in the kitchen. You’ll be locked to the saucepan for 6 minutes. Bring your stock to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan. (I spotted handsome heavy-based saucepans on sale in TK Maxx this week).

Slowly pour your ground maize into the stock, whisking all the while. Turn down the heat to a gentle pitter-patter. As you stir the maize, it will become creamy and thick. Tumble in the remaining ingredients. If you are using yeast flakes in place of Parmesan, add a few drops of olive oil from the sundried tomatoes at this stage.

Keep stirring until the cheese has melted (if using) or the maize doesn’t stick to the side of the saucepan. Now you are ready to dish the hot polenta into individual bowls.

Serve alongside a simple bowl of olives or Sunday’s roast chicken. Also excellent with curries and stews. Leftovers can be scraped into a small shallow dish, pre-lined with cling film. As soon as the leftover polenta sets, you can cut up into squares and tuck them into lunchboxes or pockets.

Lunchbox, Sides, Treats & Snacks, Vegan &/or Raw

The Secret to Seriously Smooth Hummus

They’re not called Bloke Peas for a good reason. Chickpeas are puffed with feline-friendly compounds.

There’s magnesium, a mineral many of us crave once a month when we become a crazed version of a slightly-less-bonkers self. Magnesium has the magnificent ability to relieve cramps by helping our blood vessels relax. Good news for headaches and varicose veins too.

chickpeas soaked

Then there’s isoflavones, a plant-based phyto-oestrogen considered among some as ammunition in the fight against breast cancer. It looks like our body converts isoflavones into compounds that mimic some of the effects of oestrogen.

Why is this important?

ottolenghi hummus

 

The female reproductive system is influenced by oestrogen. Studies on the specific benefits of plant-based phyto-oestrogens have yielded mixed results, but they seem to have some correlation to reduced risk of hormonal cancers, and may even play a role in bone density.

Phyto-oestrogens have already been used to improve menopausal symptoms. Some women prefer to take phyto-oestrogens than opt for Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). I do like the idea of being prescribed hummus for hot flushes!

 

hummus susan jane white

If you haven’t cooked chickpeas from scratch, you are missing out on one of the creamiest beans on Earth. Tinned chickpeas are fine, but hardly make me breakdance. Try this hummus recipe, and make MC Hammer proud.

The Very Best Hummus Recipe

Yotam Ottolenghi is the High Priest of hummus. We have an alter in our fridge built for his recipe, and dip into it all week. Even fussy toddlers struggle to resist its charms.

 

1  & ¼ cup / 250g dried chickpeas

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

up to 1 cup / 240g tahini sesame paste

2-4 tablespoons lemon juice

2-4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

100ml ice cold water

 

Start the night before, by rinsing the chickpeas and soaking them in 2 cups of cold water.

The next day, drain the chickpeas. Tumble them into a medium saucepan, crank up the heat, and add the bicarbonate of soda. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly.

Add 1.5 litres of fresh water and bring to a rolling boil. Using a slotted spoon, skim off any foam that floats to the surface during the first few minutes. The chickpeas can cook anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on their size and type. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger. Almost, but not quite, mushy.

Drain the chickpeas and transfer to a food processor bowl. You could also use a hand-held blender. Whiz the chickpeas into a stiff paste with the tahini, lemon, garlic and sea salt. With the motor still running, drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix until you get a very smooth paste.

Chef recommends transferring the hummus to a cling-wrapped bowl and leaving it to rest for at least 30 minutes. But I found this step difficult. I think you will too.

Stamp your signature on it. We used blue cornflowers and chives in our photo today. Swirl some glossy olive oil on top, or sprinkle with pomegranate seeds? Perhaps date syrup and fresh coriander? Dried paprika and chilli flakes? Over to you …

 

ottolenghi hummus blender 2ottolenghi hummus blender 1