Thursday, 22 April 2010

Eating the Rainbow

We're constantly being reminded that in order to imbibe all the necessary vitamins and minerals that we need to live a healthy life, we must eat the rainbow. We usually do but I have to say that over the last few holiday weeks the fruit bowl has needed filling much less often than usual and the metaphorical flour jars much more often!
So in an attempt to get us all back on track I tried to recreate one of my favourite salads. I first ate this at Giraffe in Spitalfields. I was staying in London because along with a group of other newly graduated Art students we'd taken our Degree Show to The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, which is an amazingly vibrant part of London, and next to Portobello Road one of my favourite places. Anyway, I met up with one of my sister for lunch and when I read 'Sunshine Salad' was on the menu I had to try it. It was full of roasted pumpkin and green leaves, I think seeds too and an awesome dressing but I can't remember what went into it.
In my version which I think is almost, if not, as delicious I began by washing and cubing a small butternut squash. I roasted this in olive oil along with three or four small potatoes, also cubed with the skin left on and lots of cloves of garlic, for about 30 to 40 minutes in a moderate oven. You can par-boil the potatoes first if you like because they may take a little longer than the squash to cook. Season with salt and lots of crushed black pepper.
I added the potatoes to make this a more substantial family meal but it's just as good without.

Meanwhile slice a red onion, bell pepper and cut cucumber and tomatoes into nice mouth-sized chunks. Wash and tear or cut lettuce or salad leaves. I used one smallish Romano lettuce for the three of us. 
Add a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.

Then dress the salad. I drizzled it with pumpkin seed oil and a little balsamic vinegar.

Pumpkin Seed oil is an amazing ingredient. It's dark brown and treacly in texture. It tastes nutty and smoky and is meant to be very good for you, reducing your cholesterol. It is also meant to be anti-depressant, anti-oxidant, to reduce blood pressure, help cure arthritis, prevent kidney stones and promote a healthy liver. I hope it does all that but I just think it tastes lovely.

My sister-in-law who lives in Bavaria first introduced me to it a few years ago and I've been hooked ever since. She buys it in Austria just over the border, where it's made. At Christmas she sent me a huge bottle to last me all year til I next see her.

It's not commonly sold in the supermarkets here but I'm sure you can find it in the odd little deli somewhere. And I've checked you can buy good Austrian Pumpkin Seed Oil on-line quite reasonably and a little goes a long way.

As you can see this isn't a dainty dish, just wholesome, rustic, healthy food. Just what I love.

And for Ahmad and Hannah who didn't want the pumpkin I cooked organic chicken breasts on a slotted grill rack over a deep baking tray at the same time I cooked the squash but removing it after 20 minutes or so.

Chicken breasts can be expensive especially organic ones, they can also be a little tough sometimes. You can usually avoid this by marinating them in yoghurt for a couple of calcium breaks down the meat proteins. It's also a really good vehicle to add flavour.I added salt, pepper a little crushed garlic and dried Herbs de Provence which is a mixture of Thyme, Marjoram, Rosemary, Oregano, Savory, Basil and Tarragon.
I also added chili pepper just to give a little warmth. I avoided using fresh ones as I didn't want to overpower the flavour of the chicken, just enhance it.

Once cooked the chicken will have tasty little charred bits of the marinade and tastes yummy...I pinched a bit!

Hannah wanted to make her own dressing and opted for sour cream and chives.

Ahmad decided on French Dressing, I always have a batch made up in the fridge. I use olive oil and Balsamic vinegar (not exactly French but my favourite vinegar because I find its got a much mellower sweeter flavour than lots of others) in equal quantities. A spoonful of grainy Dijon mustard and a spoonful of honey or a little brown sugar and a crushed garlic clove and crushed black pepper.

I think that just about covers the orange and yellow and I think the red onion could just about constitute being a kind of violet colour.

Just missing the red and purple and blue.
I thought a fruit salad might be able to deliver those for desert.

For which I'm sure no-one needs a recipe. Just wash and cut up lots of lovely fruit which is what I did. The pineapple didn't quite live up to it's description of being sweet and juicy and so the sweetness was soon added with a spoonful of Manuka Honey (which costs a bomb but I sware keeps me going all winter because of all its healthy antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properites) warmed in a little fresh juice

yummy Manuka honey

...warmed with juice in my little Turkish coffee pan I got in London... whoops just gone and deleted the image..can't put it back now...

well we've got the red

...and the purple

and lots more yellow but no blue.I'll just have to wait for the blueberries to grow.

...oh and the other half of the pineapple made a yummy pineapple upside-down pudding...well we've got to have SOME cake!


  1. I feel healthier already! We love pumpkin so we have many ways of serving it - soup, cake, roasted with potato, red onion, red capsicum, zuchinni and smoked paprika and of course risotto and pasta. I recently saw a lovely recipe for roasted pumpkin with hazelnuts, wilted spinach and a yoghurt drizzle dressing. I'll give it a go and post it if it's good.

  2. mmm.....this all sounds like my kind of food. I haven't heard of pumpkin cake before, but we have carrot or zuchinni cake in the UK. I presume that it's similar.

    I love pumpkin risotto but am ashamed to say that I've never made it. I usually cook rice the Persian way. It's very different from risotto, the rice is twice baked to make the grains separate and fluffy. Coincidentally Arborio rice was on sale this morning in my favourite food store and I bought some so I'm definitely going to have a go at making it sometime soon.

    The spinach and hazelnut recipe sounds delicious, I'll be looking out for it on your blog....

  3. Apart from good old pumpkin soup I've recently become a fan of pumpkin canneloni. Steamed then mashed pumpkin mixed with half ricotta and half silken tofu for some added protein makes a great filling for canneloni. In terms of dressing I would have gone for a good basil pesto. It works really really well with pumpkin, and a handful of walnuts. Yummo. My blender is sadly broken but when I replace it I'll post my recipe on my blog.