Herby lentil and tomato salad with griddled halloumi

Halloumi and Lentil Salad

When I think of lentils, hearty winter stews, indian dahl and my favourite vegan shepherds pie spring to mind. Salads are probably the last thing I would put lentils with but they go so well! I’m always trying to come up with new salad concoctions to keep things interesting and this one is easy to do, filling and really tasty.

I never used to cook with them as the idea of pre-soaking for hours on end was a no go. Sometimes you don’t always know what you are going to fancy the following day for dinner! So luckily you can buy them cooked, canned and ready to go, so all you need to do is gently heat for a few minutes or you can drain them and serve cold.

They are a great source of soluble-fibre, plant-based protein and iron, in fact per 100g, they contain more iron than steak! Lentils are really filling too so they go well in salads to keep you feeling full and satisfied.

You can opt out of the halloumi all together for a vegan option, replacing with tofu or another meat free alternative. Or use another type of cheese, goats cheese would work really well or paneer too.

Serves 2

  • 1 pack of Halloumi
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach/salad leaves of choice
  • 1 can of pre-cooked lentils
  • 2 cloves of garlic or 1 tsp of powdered
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes – not essential but goes really well
  • 1 large handful of baby plum or cherry tomatoes
  • juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon.
  • 2 tbsp of Balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dried or fresh parsley and thyme

Method

Cut the courgette in half length ways and then cut those halves into further strips. Drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper onto a chopping board and then rub the courgette slices in this so they are nicely coated and then put onto a griddle pan over a medium heat, turning after a few minutes to cook on the other side.

Whilst that’s cooking, pour the lentils and their water into a microwavable bowl and cook in the microwave according to their instructions. Once cooked add to a separate pan over a medium heat with olive oil and chopped garlic (you can use fresh or powdered) the dried herbs and the vinegar. After a few minutes add in the fresh and/or sun-dried tomatoes and season well.

Once the  courgette slices are done put them into the oven on low to keep warm whilst you cook the halloumi. Cut the halloumi into approximately 10 slices and then rub each slice in the olive oil from the courgettes and place into the griddle pan, turn after 3-4 minutes once they start to brown (the griddle pan is just to make it pretty so if you don’t have one just use a regular frying pan).

Whilst the halloumi is cooking, add the lemon juice and zest and plate up the salad leaves. You can add any of your favourite salad ingredients now such as cucumber, beetroot, radishes, spring onions etc or you can keep it simple.

When everything is done, divide the lentils between the two plates, then top with the courgette and finally the grilled halloumi.

If you don’t finish it all, it’s a great dish to have cold the next day for leftovers. On top of this salad I’ve also thrown in some crispy Cajun chickpeas as a little added extra, if you want to make them then just click here.

Super Easy Kiwi & Pineapple Smoothie

Some days are harder than others to get all 5 portions of your fruit and veg and I often find at the weekend when I’m not in as much of a routine food-wise, this is when I can miss out on those vital nutrients and minerals. Particularly this time of year when many of our everyday fruits aren’t in season, frozen fruit really comes in handy and it’s cheap and convenient for blending.

Smoothie

Smoothies are such an easy way to give your body a boost of goodness and it really doesn’t have to be boring or over complicated. There are so many different variations and different ways of building them up, if you prefer a thicker consistency add a banana /avocado or sometimes I add a teaspoon of chia seeds and leave for a few minutes to soak up. For greens I often add frozen spinach as the taste isn’t as potent as fresh but still gives you the nutrients and vibrant colour! If you wanted to make it more substantial, adding some oats into the blender will increase the fibre and provide slow release energy too, great for breakfast.

Some supermarkets provide a wider variety of frozen fruits than others, so if you really love a particular type of fruit, it may be worth buying extra to freeze when they’re on offer to save money. Try to freeze as soon as you buy or as soon as the fruit is ripe to ensure you keep as much freshness and nutritional value in as possible.  Chopping the fruit into small pieces and putting them into zip-lock freezer bags will also make it easier for you later on, if you wanted to add smaller amounts for a smoothie for 1 person or to use for other recipes.

Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Tesco & Morrison’s do some if not most of the below options:

Cherries                                  Black forest fruits

Blackberries                          Strawberry & Banana

Summer fruits                       Pineapple

Raspberries                            Mango

Rhubarb                                  Blueberries

If you are new to making smoothie’s, this is a nice and easy one to begin with,  it’s a mixture of fresh and frozen ingredients and its lovely and refreshing. Often shop bought smoothie’s contain banana to thicken them which some people aren’t fond of… so if you aren’t a banana fan this is for you!

Serves 2

  1. small handful x frozen spinach
  2. 1 x kiwi – flesh scooped out and cut into small chunks
  3. 1 cup x frozen pineapple
  4. The juice of 1 lime
  5. 2 cups of water

Use the same  cup to measure the water and the pineapple – these are only rough guidelines so if you want it to be thicker, add less water etc

  • First blend the frozen spinach, pineapple and water together.
  • Once smooth then add the kiwi flesh and blend again until this is fully combined.
  • Finally, add the lime juice, give it a final blend and away you go!

 

Creamy coconut and fennel curry

Its getting to that time of year again where everyone is coughing and sneezing and all you want to do is snuggle up and eat delicious comfort food…but who says it has to be unhealthy?

nanny's curry

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I love a one pot meal and this curry is very easy to make and you can put whatever you want in to bulk it out such as chickpeas, broad beans, peppers and frozen peas.

The main ingredient, Fennel,  is a funny little thing… I have never been a fan of aniseed or liquorish but when you gently cook it, the flavour changes completely and it’s so tasty, you just have to try it!

Fennel is full of Vitamin C which is great for boosting your immune system, especially if you are fighting off a cold! It’s also required for your body to produce the protein collagen, which is essential for cell growth and regeneration, keeping your bones and teeth strong and ensuring that your wounds will heal and blood will clot. It’s also  said to help reduce the risk of bowel and colon cancers due to it’s high fiber content that helps to remove any nasty toxins that could remain in your colon.

The other superfood in this dish is spinach! If you aren’t a huge fan then this curry is a good way of increasing your intake of vitamin K, and B vitamins such as folic acid without the strong flavour. Folic acid can’t be stored within the body so it must be consumed through every day diet and is especially important for pregnant women as it is required to develop a healthy baby and keep blood sugar levels stable.It helps keep your brain active and alert and the dark green colour means it contains a higher level of chlorophyll that’s anti-inflammatory and promotes good eyesight. Spinach can be used as a base for salads or lightly wilted into a warm dish just before serving as over cooking will reduce the amount of nutrients you absorb. However, I wouldn’t worry about that in this dish, as you are likely to eat a lot more spinach this way than you would in a salad!

Serves 2 main meals (with two lunch sized portions for left overs the next day!)

  • 2 Leeks finely sliced
  • 2 Onions finely sliced
  • 2 Fennel bulbs, feathery top removed and thinly sliced length ways
  • 1 courgette sliced into discs and then halved
  • 1 Pack of spinach – (If you don’t have fresh spinach in or don’t buy it very often, frozen spinach is just as good and is usually compacted into little blocks, so use 4-5)
  • 1 Tin of coconut milk
  • 1 Vegetable stock cube
  • 1 Can black-eyed beans drained (you could substitute any sort of legumes you have in such as butter beans/chickpeas)
  • Half a bunch of fresh coriander
  • 2 Limes
  1. Over a medium heat, gently sauté the leek, fennel, courgette and onion in a little olive oil until soft
  2. Add the coconut milk, black eyed beans and chopped coriander and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  3. Crumble in the stock cube
  4. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes – If using frozen spinach add the blocks in with the coconut milk but if you are using fresh, add once it’s simmered.
  5. Squeeze in the juice of 2 limes and serve with brown rice or quinoa

If you wanted to make this even more substantial, double up on fennel, coconut milk and vegetables. Quorn chicken pieces complement this dish really well too or you could try tofu if you want to keep it vegan 😉