superhealthy super-tasty mixed bean and pickle salad

This dish is the kind of salad you could serve to someone who hates salad, and be pretty sure they’ll still like it.  Unlike the standard leafy vegetables with cucumber, tomato, blah that salads can be, this is more filling, has a texture like “real” food, and is much more flavourful.  Its like a far more delicious cold version of refried beans, with a few of the same crunchy ingredients as guacamole (minus the avocado). You can serve it as a side dish, or alongside more standard salad options such as lettuce, spinach, cucumber and flaked tuna as we did here – because these finicky perishable ingredients are served separately it means your lovely bean salad can be stored for up to a week in the fridge – if it lasts that long!  It contains numerous super foods (beans being the top of the list), and is so healthy you could literally fill up on it at a relatively low caloric intake.  It is also so good that my other half forgot all about the tuna – one of his favourite foods, and polished off three servings of this salad instead 🙂

What makes this recipe so delicious is the flavour combination.  Slow cooked beans, crunchy red onion, diced cherry tomatoes and red peppers, chopped gherkins, capers, herbs and a special lemon and garlic dressing.  What makes the dressing unique is the amount of acidity in it – a regular dressing contains twice the amount of olive oil as vinegar or lemon juice, this dressing has the opposite – an increase in tasty sourness being necessary to balance the unflavoured beans and to prevent indigestion from the beans and onions.  Incidentally, when eating this (or any other dish containing pulses or onion) I recommend drinking orange or apple juice, or lemonade or soda with it as opposed to water, because any dilution of your stomach acids can leave you feeling rather bloated (sour drinks help reduce that).  If you really don’t like those options, its best not to drink anything for an hour or so after eating.

superhealthy-mixed-bean-pickle-salad

Ingredients – serves 4 (recipe can be halved)

  • 3 cups mixed, cooked beans (or the contents of 3 cans of beans of choice such as kidney beans, butter beans, chickpeas, mixed beans etc drained)
  • 1/2 red onion, diced finely
  • 1/2 punnet (about 150g) baby plum or cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 red pepper or pimento, diced
  • handful of baby gherkin pickles, diced
  • 2 tbsp capers, chopped
  • 4 sundried tomatoes or preserved slowbaked tomatoes (from a jar), finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp arabian dried thyme and sesame (or regular dried thyme)
  • 4 or 5 pieces of preserved artichoke (in oil- from a jar), diced
  • 4 tsp olive oil, or the oil from one of your jars such as sundried tomatoes
  • 6 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste (varies if using canned or home cooked beans)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  1. combine all of the beans and chopped pickles/ vegetables in a large salad bowl.
  2. in a cup or small bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients to make a dressing.  Mix well.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to ensure everything is coated.  Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary – The salad should be crunchy, flavourful and with a tart hit from the lemon and vinegar – if the bean/ tomato/ herb flavours seem too bland it is probably lacking salt.  Carefully add more a pinch at a time, stirring well and tasting between additions.
  4. Serve immediately if desired, or store in the fridge for the flavours to develop.  Can be made in advance and kept for up to a week.  This makes a lot 🙂  Enjoy!
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Arabian style stew with soy mince & peas

There isn’t really a name for this type of food in English.. at least not one I know of. In Arabic it’s called marag. It’s Indian counterpart would be the curry, but marag is only lightly seasoned and takes most of its flavour from the meat or vegetables used in it. It’s pretty much a staple in its variety of formats, usually being based on a tomato sauce containing minced meat, meatballs or chunks of meat on the bone. There are a few varieties based on spinach and one on a pomegranate/ walnut sauce instead, but tomato is by far the most common.  This recipe is an adaptation of margat bazalia, or pea stew.  The traditional spices used in this dish include fenugreek and dried lime powder which I’ve left out here – if you have them by all means use them, but you don’t lose much from the dish by using seasonings you might already have lying about.  Personally I prefer the way this dish  tastes using soy mince (unflavoured please) but if you like fry off some onion and minced meat with spices and use that instead. Serve with rice or flat bread for a delicious, healthy dinner.

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Ingredients – serves 4
1 cup dried soy mince, with 1 cup boiling water poured over it and left to soak for 5min
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas (not in the pod), or green beans
1 tsp salt or to taste
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp mild curry powder or garam masala
250ml passata
1tsp salt or to taste
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar for tartness, or to taste, or use powdered dried lime if you prefer

1. Add the passata and spices/ soy sauce to the mince and bring to a simmer in a large pot
2. Add the peas then simmer until cooked- a few minutes at most. Season with salt and vinegar, tasting to make sure a good balance of tartness & saltiness is obtained.
3. Serve with rice or flat bread. Enjoy!

Arabian style lentil soup

This amazing soup is filling, flavourful and best of all incredibly easy to make. I made this yesterday after a long day, all I had to do was throw everything into the pot then come back in half an hour to a hot, savoury and delicious soup 🙂 just thinking about it now is making me hungry again. Nobody would ever know it was so easy from the way it tastes 😉

I’ve used crispy onion pieces here, which are important for the flavour. If you want to avoid these or have an issue with the flour contained in them, substitute them at the very start for a small onion, finely diced then fried in a little oil until caramel coloured and starting to go crispy at the edges. Pour the rest of the ingredients over the onion then make the soup as below. This is the way my mum makes it, but I’m all for shortcuts when available 🙂

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Ingredients – serves 2-3
2/3 cup red lentils
1/3 cup (or 20g) broken up dry noodles of choice – vermicelli works well but you could even use instant noodles
About 1 1/2 litres of water
2 stock cubes, both chicken or one chicken one vegetable (or real chicken stock if you want to get fancy- unless you’re vegetarian the chicken flavour is important here so don’t sub it out)
4 tbsp crispy onion pieces, or one finely diced small onion, plus a little oil for frying

If using fresh onion, as we said earlier, fry until well browned before first step.

1. Pour all ingredients (except crispy onion pieces if using) into a pan large enough that the water doesn’t fill it above 2/3 full.
2.  Put on a medium low heat and leave to come to the boil. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the lentils are cooked and dissolving into a thick soup. Stir well.
3. Top with crispy onion pieces then serve 🙂