Simple, punchy, herby summer salad dressing

Simple, healthy, delicious

Simple, healthy, delicious

I’ve never been a huge fan of salads (read: I’ve never been a huge fan of healthy salads). I love nothing more than a hearty chicken Caesar, laden with croutons, drowning in dressing, and collapsing under a pile of parmesan. But I needed something healthier than my indulgent salady treat ― and that meant finding a dressing that would jazz things up a bit.

I started to think about the flavour combinations that bring a smile to my face; then a food memory bubbled happily to the surface ― that bloody gorgeous herby oily dippy thing they serve with the luscious bread in Gaucho (and the main reason I keep going back there, despite the bread being free and the rest of the menu being far, far from it).

After a quick Google, I was sad to find that they don’t disclose the recipe, but as I’m usually good at retaining fairly accurate food memories, I picked out what I thought were the main flavours, added a few flourishes of my own, and came up with a killer salad dressing. It’s punchy, packs a kick, and transforms any plate of salad!

To recreate the magic, you’ll need:

  • One garlic glove, crushed
  • One red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • Coriander, mint, parsley, all finely chopped
  • A sprinkling of rock salt
  • Ground black pepper

This quantity makes enough for one plate of salad, so adjust accordingly if you’re feeding more than just yourself ― but don’t make batches in advance. You need to be incredibly careful when making your own flavoured oils because if the herbs (or whatever you add) start to go off, the results can be very dangerous (and can actually cause botchalism ― yikes). 

To make the dressing, simply mix the ingredients together then drizzle generously over your salad. I served this with a variety of lettuce leaves, avocado and shredded beetroot. Simple and delicious.

Love Emma xx

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Paleo: eating the no wheat, no grain, no dairy sort of way

paleoIf you’re a regular visitor to the blog, you probably know me best for all things fun, frivolous, and utterly indulgent ― from my Oreo cookie cupcakes, Reece’s peanut butter chocolate cake and zesty lemon curd muffins, to party sausage rolls, boozy shepherd’s pie and tasty chorizo tortilla pizzas.

Owing to a pretty speedy metabolism, I haven’t given much thought to my diet in recent years; but since discovering exercise through caveman training (a local class that combines power lifting, plyometrics, agility, speed, balance, and strong man training for a full body workout) I started to think of food as ‘fuel’, rather than an excuse for gluttony. This of course led to a pretty sharp assessment of what I excitedly shove into my cave hole each day (namely, you guessed it, cake ― with regular take outs thrown in for good measure).

Now, whilst this wasn’t making me fat, it also wasn’t making me feel good. I had little energy, got a lot of headaches and stomach aches, and often went to bed feeling uncomfortably full. So when I saw the paleo diet being championed on the caveman facebook page, I was intrigued.

I’ve never done too well with faddy diets, but after doing a bit of research (and finding out that friends of mine had tried it out and felt great as a result), I began to realise that ‘paleo’ (short for Paleolithic) isn’t so much a diet as a way of life. It’s about eating foods that can be picked or hunted in nature, and avoiding foods that can’t be eaten raw. In other words, eating the things that naturally, your body can handle, and avoiding the things that naturally, it can’t.

The basic principles include:

  • No dairy (cheese, milk, cream)
  • No grains (wheat, rice, pasta)
  • No legumes (soy, peanuts, beans, peas, chicken peas)
  • No processed foods
  • Avoiding sugar and refined oils

You can eat as much lean meat as you want, and should aim for a high intake of vegetables. You can technically eat as much fruit as you want too, but as it’s high in natural sugar I try to limit myself to two portions a day. You can also indulge in nuts (but no peanuts, because they’re not actually nuts ― who knew?); but again, keep the quantities down because the fat levels ― however good those fats may be ―are pretty darn high. For maximum effect, you should also up your water intake ― and get plenty of sleep.

So, I’ve swapped potatoes for sweet potatoes and butternut squash, peanut butter for almond butter, cooking oil for coconut oil, milk for coconut milk, flour for coconut flour (you can see a pattern emerging), soy sauce for tamari (a wheat free alterative), sugar for natural agave syrup, mochas for espressos, and stock cubes for homemade stock (most stock cubes contain wheat). And so far I’ve made some incredible tasty recipes!

My favourite being Thai red chicken and coconut milk broth:

Now this is what I call soup!

Now this is what I call soup!

Then there were the fajitas (made with homemade fajita spices, homemade oven roasted salad, and homemade guacamole), completed with gem lettuce leaves instead of tortillas:

I didn't even miss the sour cream

I didn’t even miss the sour cream

Chicken breast marinated in tamari, fresh lime juice, garlic, chilli and agave, with rosemary sweet potato straws and steamed red cabbage:

Heavenly straws!

Heavenly straws!

Rump steak stir fried in coconut oil with cashews, tenderstem broccoli, pak choi, asparagus, coriander, lime, spring onion, garlic, and chilli:

You can't beat a nice bit of rump

You can’t beat a nice bit of rump

Parma ham with toasted chilli and cinnamon walnuts, on top of a red cabbage, caper and olive salad:

Sweet toasty nuts make for a winning salad

Sweet toasty nuts make for a winning salad

Thai red chicken curry with broccoli, onion and asparagus, served with cauliflower faux rice (surprisingly delicious for someone who doesn’t like cauliflower):

So satisfying!

So satisfying!

A post-caveman bowl of chicken stir fried with veg and a teaspoon of almond butter:

Kick ass chicken and veg bowl

Kick ass chicken and veg bowl

And roasted butternut squash tossed in rose harissa, served with toasted pine nuts and a spinach, rocket, red pepper and spring onion salad:

A whole plate of goodness right there!

A whole plate of goodness right there!

I’ll be sharing all of these recipes in full in subsequent posts ― and they all come highly recommended! The Thai broth was actually the tastiest thing I’ve ever made, and I honestly haven’t felt hungry once because of all of the veg I’ve been ploughing through. I feel full, in a good ‘non bloated’ sort of way, and my body just feels ‘right’.

Admittedly, paleo is a little hard to keep up if you’re out at the weekend, but they say to try and stick to a diet 80% of the time, so I’m not going to beat myself up about the mash potato I ate in a nice country pub on Sunday after a freezing cold morning in Port Vale football stadium.

If you’ve tried paleo yourself, feel free to share your comments and recipe ideas. I’m still learning and will bring you plenty of updates (along with my usual naughty recipes ― I’m still a feeder!) I also post photos of my recipes on Instagram and Twitter (@emmaattenB).

Love Emma xx