by | May 4, 2014 · 10:49 pm

Salads have been noticeably absent from my blog and that’s because I only share recipes that are ‘Lil’ L approved’. Until recently, salad was definitely not on his love list. Last summer in Provence, I started to put tiny amounts of lettuce on his lunch plate and he would eat it… providing it was slathered in hummus or salad dressing. We slowly increased the portion size and, since Christmas, he’s actually been tucking in with enthusiasm. Finally, he’s feeling the love for salad leaves and he’s even enjoying taking them to school in his lunch box :)

Unlike Lil’ L, I’ve always been a fan of salad. As a kid, I would munch my way through my Dad’s homegrown salad patch – tomatoes, radishes, lettuces, beetroot, celery, cucumber – I loved it all! However, just like Lil’ L, I much prefer my salads well dressed. Tangy vinaigrettes or creamy mayonnaise can really help to bring a bowl of salad to life and definitely make it more appealing to kids!

When I was invited to take part in a Maison Maille Culinary Challenge, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to devise a new, family-approved salad recipe. We were invited to select two products from their range, and I opted for the Dijon Mustard Originale and Red Wine Vinegar with Dijon Blackcurrant Liqueur. Unfortunately, the vinegar never arrived, however it did provide the inspiration for my recipe. The competition closes tomorrow and the entries are going to be judged on their “creativity, originality, taste and visual appeal”.

While shop-bought salad dressings tend to be high in empty calories with little or no nutritional value, I try to make my home-made dressing the exact opposite. I love to pack them with nutrient-rich ingredients so I can drizzle on the dressing to my heart’s content, in full knowledge that it’s actually good for me and isn’t going to pile on the pounds. The dressing I’m sharing today is actually oil free. And check out that amazing colour!

I absolutely love the flavour of this dressing, and it’s been a huge hit with the rest of the family too (including Lil’ L!) It’s tangy, with a touch of sweetness and beautiful hint of blackcurrant. I’ve used real blackcurrants in the dressing which are loaded with antioxidants. To add a touch of creaminess, I blended in some hemp seeds, which also happen to be a great source of omega 3.

To complement this beautifully vibrant dressing, I’ve compiled a colourful, crunchy, protein-rich salad. I love the contrasting colours of the Ruby Gem lettuce. Like most lettuces, it’s packed with phytonutrients to keep us healthy.

Gem Lettuce 500

And surely nothing can beat red cabbage for vibrancy? As well as adding flavour, crunch and colour, red cabbage is packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C. Just one cup of shredded cabbage contains 85% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C!

Red Cabbage copy

And here’s another antioxidant-rich, immune-boosting, tasty addition to my salad bowl – red pepper. I opted to use a sweet romano pepper, but bell pepper would work fine too.

Sweet Romano Pepper copy

For protein, I added some edamame (soya) beans. I love their fresh flavour and colour. I tend to undercook mine slightly so they’re nice and firm for salads or snacks. Soya beans have great health benefits but have received some bad press lately. If you want to find out more, check out this report from Viva!

Edamame Soya Beans

For an extra boost of protein and slow release energy, I added some chickpeas. This time, I opted for maple soy roasted chickpeas, but my Dukkah spiced chickpeas would also work well in this salad. Chickpeas are a nutrient powerhouse packed with protein, dietary fibre, antioxidants, B vitamins and minerals including iron.

Roasted Chickpeas copy

While not featured in today’s pics, I also highly recommend adding avocado to this salad bowl. It adds another great dimension of flavour and texture, as well as heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. Lil’ L is a huge avocado fan and always loves to add a few slices to his salad plates.

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Purple Haze Salad with Blackcurrant, Hemp and Mustard Vinaigrette

The Dressing (oil free)
Serves 2-4
Hands-on time: less than 5 minutes

2 TBSP shelled hemp seeds
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp agave syrup (or other natural sweetener)
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
4 TBSP fresh or frozen blackcurrants
4 TBSP water
pinch of salt

Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whizz with a hand (immersion) blender until smooth. Taste test and add more mustard or sweetener, if desired. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to a week.

The Salad
Serves 2 (or 4 as a side salad)
Hands-on time: 10 minutes

60g / 2 oz / 1/3 cup frozen soya (edamame) beans
2 large handfuls of ruby gem (or romaine) lettuce, shredded
1 handful of red cabbage, thinly shredded
1 red romano (or bell) pepper, finely chopped
1 batch of roasted chickpeas (recipe below)
1 medium ripe avocado, sliced (optional, but highly recommended)

Boil the soya beans for 3 minutes, then run under the cold water tap and drain. How you arrange the salad is entirely your choice! You could keep all the ingredients separate or mix it all up. Either way, it will look beautiful ♥
Sprinkle with the roasted chickpeas and dressing just before serving.

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Soy Maple Roasted Chickpeas

Serves 2
Hands-on time: 5 minutes    Cooking time: 25-30 minutes

1 x 400g / 14 oz can chickpeas
2 tsp tamari sauce (or low-sodium soy sauce)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of salt

Get prepared:
Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F.
Line a large baking sheet with non stick baking paper.

Ready, set go!
Thoroughly drain the chickpeas and place in a bowl. Add the tamari, oil, syrup, oregano and salt. Stir to coat then tip onto the prepared baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Scrape any remaining marinade from the bowl and spread it onto the chickpeas. Roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring half way through the cooking time. After 25 minutes roasting time, I find that the chickpeas have a slightly softer, chewier texture (which I personally prefer), while after 30 minutes they become harder and crunchier.

Leave to cool then store in an airtight container in the fridge, where they will last up to five days. Over time, I find the chickpea texture changes and becomes chewier (it’s different but still very good!)

I often make a double batch and use them for snacks, salads and pasta dishes through the week

After snapping the photos, I couldn’t wait to tuck in!


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