Warm Winter Salad – Poached Chicken, Roasted Pumpkin, Quinoa

Warm Winter Salad - Poached Chicken, Roasted Pumpkin, Quinoa, Blistered Green Beans, Fetta & Basii.

Warm Winter Salad with Poached Chicken, Roasted Pumpkin, Quinoa, Blistered Green Beans, Hazelnuts, Fetta & Basil.

A beautiful warming dish for winter – this is healthy comfort food, one of those meals where you can feel it doing you good.

I can’t tell you how good this is. Every mouthful.  All the flavours work so well together and I love the combination poached, roasted, sautéed ingredients and the different textures. Everything is served warm/hot except the cold creamy fetta, the crunchy nuts which were roasted earlier and the fresh basil on top.

This was made up on the spot and I was surprised how good it was.  I had considered some elaborate dressing, but all it wants is olive oil, salt and pepper. I’m not usually that much of a fan of quinoa to be honest, (I kind of roll my eyes at all the quinoa in cafes these days) but I just felt like I wanted to use it and it really is perfect for this.

Warm Winter Salad – Poached Chicken, Roasted Pumpkin, Quinoa, Blistered Green Beans, Hazelnuts, Fetta & Basil

Ingredients

For the poached chicken

  • 4-5 free range chicken breasts (or one per person)
  • a few black peppercorns
  • a couple of good pinches of salt
  • 3-4 smashed garlic cloves (skins and everything)
  • a couple of broken celery stalks
  • (if I’d had bayleaves, I would’ve used them too)

For the rest:

  • 1/2 small butternut pumpkin chopped into small chunks (or just cook more and have extra roasted pumpkin)
  • a couple of handfuls of green beans
  • 2 cups of quinoa
  • 3 cups of poaching liquid, or stock, or water (just use the poaching liquid)
  • a couple of handfuls of roasted hazelnuts and almonds
  • danish creamy fetta
  • some fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Method:

For the poached chicken:

  1. Lay the chicken breasts in one layer across the bottom of a wide pan, toss in some black peppercorns, a couple of good pinches of salt.
  2. Pour in enough water to cover the chicken, add celery, and onion. (and any other aromatics)
  3. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and leave in the pan for 20 minutes. (it’s fine if it stays longer – like if you need to pop out and collect your kids from school, or whatever you do).

For the rest:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  2. Spread the pumpkin evenly across an oven tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle of salt
  3. Bake the pumpkin for 20-30 mins until cooked and slightly browned. Set aside.
  4. Pour 2 cups of quinoa & 3 cups of poaching liquid into a saucepan
  5. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 mins.
  6. Turn off the heat and leave covered for 10 mins.
  7. In a wide pan with heat on high, add a splash of olive oil and swirl, add the green beans, put the lid on and let them sizzle for a few minutes.
  8. Toss the beans around a bit, then add a couple of spoons of that poaching liquid. (it will splatter)
  9. Stick the lid back on quick. Leave for a minute or two more, until cooked and a little blistered.

To assemble. (this should all be served hot)

  1. Take a chicken breast and cut into some nice thick slices.
  2. Spoon some quinoa into a wide bowl, scatter the pumpkin and beans, some crumbled fetta, some hazelnuts and some almonds, lay the sliced chicken breast over the top, then top with the basil and drizzle generously with some good olive oil, salt and cracked pepper.

Dahl with Fresh Spinach and Haloumi

Dahl with Fresh Spinach and Haloumi

 

Dahl has to be one of the great comfort foods.

Warm, soft & spicy. Extra comfort that lentils are really good for you and inexpensive. Bonus.

This dahl recipe is delicious, healthy, comforting and simple. Essentially you’re toasting spices, garlic & onion, adding lentils, tomato paste and water, leaving it to simmer, and walking away for a while. When you come back, you add some coconut milk.

And then, to make this extra special, I highly recommend the Dahl Tadka tempering approach: which is to fry up some chilli, garlic and spices in ghee/butter/oil at the end, and spoon the spice mix over your dahl. This takes 1 minute, and totally kicks the whole thing off to another level.

I make the dahl itself pretty mild, so the kids can eat it, which is why the above spice frying addition at the end is important for this recipe. Serve with  some baby spinach leaves, a pile of fresh coriander, some fried haloumi or paneer, a squeeze of lemon, and a spoonful of plain yogurt and make your Dahl come alive.

I love this. How do you like your dahl?

Red Lentil Dahl with brown rice.
Red Lentil Dahl with brown rice.

I like to make heaps of dahl and freeze some. How good to have amazing homemade dahl hiding in your freezer to surprise you when you can’t cope/be bothered? (*a note on freezing. Don’t put it in a bowl covered in gladwrap. It will look like sketchy leftovers that you won’t fancy eating. Put small, useable portions in resealable sandwich bags, but don’t just chuck it in the freezer so it comes out like a huge misshapen unidentifiable lump, lay the bag flat, on a plate or something until its frozen. Heaps more room in the freezer, and it defrosts quicker & more evenly too. And, I’m sure that on some aesthetic/psychological level it makes it a lot more appealing to grab out of the freezer and reheat. Packaging psychology and all that.

In this recipe I’ve used green/brown lentils, but you could also use red lentils which are also delicious, and cook quicker.

 

 

Dahl with Fresh Spinach and Fried Haloumi

  • 375 grams of green/brown lentils
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1tb olive oil
  • 1tsp ground tumeric
  • 2tsp of ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp chilli paste
  • 1tsp ginger paste
  • 1.5 litres of water
  • 1 sachet of tomato paste (50gm)
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 can of coconut milk

For the tempering/topping

  • 2 tbsp ghee, or else use 1 tbsp butter and 1tbsp of oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 spoon of chilli paste, or 1 or 2 fresh chopped chillis

For the Garnish

  • Slices of panner or haloumi cheese
  • A handful of fresh baby spinach leaves
  • A handful of fresh coriander
  • A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions for the Dahl

  1. Rinse & drain the lentils
  2. Blend the onions and garlic briefly, you want it a little bit chunky. (this just saves you chopping it all)
  3. Heat the oil and butter together in a medium hot pan
  4. Add the onion/garlic mixture and all the spices and fry for a few minutes. (How good’s the smell.)
  5. Add the tomato paste and stir through
  6. Add the lentils and stir through the paste for a minute
  7. Add the water, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to simmer gently with the lid on for a couple of hours, until the lentils are nice and soft.  Leave it even longer if you can. You can add more water if you need to.
  8. When you’re ready to eat, add coconut milk to the dahl and leave on low heat.
  9. Meanwhile, heat another fry pan on high, and add a spoonful of oil, when hot, add slices of paneer or haloumi cheese and fry until golden.
  10. In another small pan, heat the ghee/butter/ oil on high and add the garlic chilli and spices and fry for a minute or two.
  11. Serve the Dahl into bowls, and top with the haloumi,  fresh spinach, coriander, a squeeze of lemon, a spoonful of plain yogurt and drizzle the hot tempering mixture over the top.
  12. Serve with plain boiled white or brown rice or roti.

 

Spaghetti with Prawns, Feta, Baby Spinach, Anchovies, Chilli & Lemon.

Dad gave me a bag of cooked prawns left over from lunch yesterday. I peel the whole bag, rinse them and wrap them in paper towel.

Sometimes I don’t want to peel prawns – at lunch yesterday for example – when there’s a child who wants me to peg a cape on them, or a baby who needs a dummy replacement or a pat. My hands can’t do it. So I sat there, like a scruffy princess and Alvy peeled them for me. It’s ok because I reciprocated by grabbing some cold soba noodles and dressing them with sesame oil, tamari, lemon, salt, pepper, picking the avocado out of the salad and adding to the noodle pile with the prawns and giving that to him. Or maybe I ate it. Can’t remember.

But tonight with children sleeping I’m happy to peel with whole bag next to the sink.

Rummaging around to see what to make. There’s no fresh bread for a prawn sandwich. I’ve got a carrot, a leek, some spring onions, a bag of baby spinach. Maybe some fetta, and a couple of little tomatoes and a small bowl of toasted pinenuts. There’s probably some pasta and rice. Pasta wins.

It’s the make-it-up-as-you-go-along pasta. My absolute favourite.

Ingredients

  • Spaghetti or whatever pasta you have
  • Thinly sliced garlic (a few cloves)
  • Chopped spring onion (a few stalks)
  • Small jar of anchovies
  • Spoonful of Sambal Olek or chilli paste
  • Juice & rind of a small very juicy lemon
  • Handful of toasted pinenuts
  • Few handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • Handful of crumbled soft feta cheese
  • Olive oil

 

Method:

  1. Put your pasta into a big boiling salty pot. Drain when just cooked and splash with olive oil until everything else is ready.
  2. Put the garlic and white bits from the spring onion in a pan of olive oil and set the heat to medium. When they get all brown and crispy, fish them out and drain in a dish with a paper towel.
  3. Next, the anchovies go into the oil and get squished with the wooden spoon. (I’m stoked to use the little sharp pointy fork with the bone handle I got from Rozelle markets years ago. That’s its job – getting stuff from small long jars that a teaspoon won’t fit into. Like capers and anchovies. It’s also good at separating and rolling smoked salmon slices.)
  4. Add spoonful of sambal chilli paste and a stir. Add the lemon rind and juice. This should be a beautiful bubbling paste by now.
  5. Now the pasta gets added to the pan and tossed about in the hot anchovy mixture. It drinks up all the salty spicy stuff. All coated and lovely. (You could just eat this as is it. With Parmesan maybe.)
  6. Chuck in the prawns to warm through. Stir in baby spinach, crumbled feta, tomatoes, garlic and spring onion crunchies & toasted pine nuts.

It shouldn’t need salt, but it will love some black pepper. Tangy, spicy, salty, fishy, moody, sweet, fresh and wonderful.