The salad agenda

So common at the dinner table. Usually executed poorly.

As a vegetarian, salads have become a huge component of my meal plan. Especially because I’m working and studying at the same time. I want to be able to taste the rainbow but feel full, satisfied and energised after my meal. A common misconception is that a salad is a three ingredient, lettuce, tomato and cucumber + ranch dressing combination.

It’s no wonder it’s hated so much as a meal. There’s no protein, carb and zestiness to that above combination. If I were given a plate of that, I’d throw it out of the window as well.

As an aspiring chef and a very picky eater, there’s three things I’ve concluded when it comes to ensuring I enjoy my meal. The first is obviously taste. The second is the vivacity of the meal. And the third is depth. There should be layers to my meal. Textures. Different sounds. Different areas of my tastebuds being used.

Another common misconception is that a salad needs greens to be healthy. Not true depending on what you’re adding. Sometimes I don’t want to eat spinach and kale. Sometimes I want a salad a little more on the adventurous side, while still remaining lean and clean.

After inspecting our pantry, fridge and freezer for ingredients, I decided to throw together my interpretation of a Mediterranean salad “bowl”. My favourite thing about this, is barring the fruit I added, all the ingredients are found in a fridge/freezer. They’re affordable and filling – perfect for a night where you want a lighter option but still want to cook. As it’s starting to cool down here in Sydney, there’s nothing better than a warming salad to keep you fuelled, full and satisfied.

In total, this dish took me 30 minutes to make – prep and cutting time inclusive. The ingredients are all interchangeable and this salad can be modified to your own taste and preference. It’s a vegan, low sodium salad that can work with essentially any vegetable and meat of your choosing.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of boiled chickpeas
  • 1 zucchini
  • Half of a yellow capsicum
  • 1 truss tomato (you can use whatever tomatoes you like)
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn kernals
  • 1 fresh fig
  • 1/3 a small pomegranate
  • juice and flesh of a quarter of an orange
  • lemon
  • black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • salt and dried red chilli as per preference
  • A generous handful of mint and fresh coriander, soaked and finely chopped.
  1. Dice your ingredients to your preference bite size and leave separated
  2. In a medium sized pan, heat a small amount of olive oil, and once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, tumeric and cumin seeds
  3. Sautee your onion with the spices on a medium heat until the onion starts to become translucent
  4. add in your tomatoes, peas and corn, and continue to combine for 2-3 minutes
  5. Add in your zucchini, capsicum, salt and chilli flakes and cover for 10 minutes.
  6. Once the vegetables are tender, toss in your boiled chickpeas and combine for another 2 minutes.
  7. Dice your fig and extract the pomegranate seeds.
  8. In your preferred utensil of choice, lay down the warm vegetables and chickpeas.
  9. Top with the fruit and herbs to garnish.
  10. Combine the pulp and juice of the orange, lime (depending on your acidic preference) and black pepper.
  11. Let the dressing sit for 5 minutes to allow the citrus and spice to infuse together
  12. Drizzle over your salad and enjoy!

My favourite thing about this dish is not only how easy is is to make and prepare, but how it satisfies my picky eating habits. There’s texture and oomph in every bite. The spiciness from the chilli and pepper is accentuated through the sharp kick from fresh coriander and mint. The combination of roasted vegetables and chickpeas provide a sense of homeliness and comfort. The juxtaposition of the sweet fig seeds crackling with every bite and the tangy juiciness of the pomegranate seeds provide the perfect amount of kick and moisture to the dish.

I’d say this is definitely another favourite salad. There are no pesky spinach leaves that are too big to fit into my mouth, but I’m still tasting the rainbow with every bite.

xx Simran

Inventive

Pumpkin and red onion soup served with a squash, sweet potato and cauliflower rice ratatouille and garlicky herbed croutons.

This isn’t a weeknight meal. But it is insanely satisfying. Perfect for a Friday night cooking session where you just want to destress and enjoy yourself. But I have armed myself with a great time saver: the pressure cooker. 

When I cook lentil curries and soups, most of the hard work is done in a pressure cooker. By adding my ingredients and spices and pressure cooking them, I have food ready in 15 minutes. It’s a lifesaver and potentially the best invention to grace the kitchen. 

I finished my mid semester exams yesterday, and am now officially on break for about two weeks. And what better way than to cook dinner for the family?

I took what I knew how to make and reinvented it a little. It was a little experimental, but in the end, the flavours combined wonderfully together, to create the perfect comfort meal that’s definitely well earned. All of these elements were made with a family of four in mind!

PUMPKIN AND ONION SOUP:

  • 3/4 of a whole butternut pumpkin
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 a teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Skin and chop the pumpkin into 2cm cubes
  2. Finely dice the onion and garlic
  3. The secret weapon: in a pressure cooker, heat a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. When hot, add the oregano, chilli, tumeric and cumin seeds.
  4. Sautee in the onion and garlic, and cook on a medium hear=t until the onion is translucent.
  5. Add in the pumpkin and bay leaves, and pour in a cup of water.
  6. Pressure cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, and then reduce to low pressure for 10 minutes.
  7. Wait until the pressure has fully been released
  8. Use a hand held grinder or transfer puree into a blender and blend until smooth
  9. Add black pepper, a generous squeeze of lemon and fresh coriander to serve.

You can also spoon on top fresh greek yoghurt. The creaminess of the yoghurt further enhances the caramel sweet undertones of the soup.

CAULIFLOWER RICE:

  • 1/2 a medium cauliflower
  • 2 onions
  • Tumeric
  • Coriander powder
  • Cumin seeds
  1. finely grate the cauliflower
  2. finely chop onions
  3. in a pan, add 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, and when hot, add in spices
  4. Sautee onions until translucent, and toss in cauliflower.
  5. Season with salt and chilli to your liking, and continuously stir for 10 minutes on medium heat.

RATATOUILLE:

The sauce:

  • 5 medium truss tomatoes
  • 2 red capsicums
  • 1 yellow capsicum
  • 1 large carrot
  • 200 grams of fresh baby spinach
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of coriander powder
  • Handful of fresh basil
  1. Roughly dice the vegetables
  2. In a pressure cooker, heat 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat
  3. Add in spices and garlic, sauteeing until the garlic releases a sweeter aroma
  4. add in all the vegetables and 1/4 a cup of water
  5. pressure cook on high for 5 minutes and low for 10 minutes.
  6. Once all the pressure has been released, grind or blend until smooth and set aside to cool.

RATATOUILLE 

  • 10 medium yellow squashes 
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes 
  • Cracked salt and pepper to season 
  • A handful of pumpkin seeds for added crunch 
  1. Preheat your oven to 200’C 
  2. Peel, wash and cut your sweet potatoes into thin rings 
  3. Semi boil the sweet potato rings to help them cook faster in the oven
  4. Remove the ends of each squash and cut into rings a similar thickness to the potato 
  5. Lightly grease a baking dish with extra Virgin olive oil and lay down one layer of sweet potato 
  6. Evenly spoon on the cooled pepper sauce 
  7. Evenly spoon on a layer of cauliflower rice 
  8. Layer on the remaining sweet potato 
  9. Add an even layer of sauce 
  10. Start laying out your squash rings 
  11. Add an even layer of sauce 
  12. Add the final layer of cauliflower rice 
  13. Layer on your squash rings on top in a fish scale pattern for even cooking 
  14. Brush lightly with olive oil and crack on Himalayan salt and ground chilli flakes 
  15. Add a generous sprinkle of pumpkin seeds if preferred 
  16. Bake for 40 minutes or until the edges of the squash start to blacken 


GARLICKY CROUTONS: 

  • 4 thick slices of wholemeal brown bread 
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • Salt, black pepper and oregano 
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely grated (my garlic is pretty strong so one clove was sufficient) 
  1. Cut your bread into 2cm chunks 
  2. In a small bowl, combine the oil and seasoning 
  3. Squeeze out the juice from the grated garlic and add to the seasoning mixture 
  4. Pour the mixture over the bread and combine with your hands 
  5. Leave aside for 30 minutes so the bread can absorb the flavours 
  6. Bake for 10 minutes at 200’C 

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Dinner was time consuming but so worth it. There’s nothing like blasting add Sheeran while you spend your evening cooking up a storm for your loved ones! 

xx Simran