Wholesome and Scrumptious Veggie Summer Salad

Every January, Joey and I give up something. It started as a detox plan 13 years ago, initially only with alcohol, and has slowly grown into an elaborate restart to the year. So on top of being dry every January, we also give up things that we feel may not serve us as well as they used to. Some things stick and become a life-long habit (like sugar), and others are temporary (like coffee). Some make us realize how precious our time spent together is (like TV) and others remind us to be present and empathetic (it’s not only tactile things that we give up!). So this Jan, we’ve added red and white meat to our list of omissions. We still eat fish and eggs but will forgo meat until Feb. That does put a bit of a strain on my cooking abilities so I am spending more time finding ideas than actually cooking! This veggie summer salad is a version of a lunch dish that I used to buy from a little healthfood take-away when we lived in Hong Kong.

This is an amazingly balanced and filling meal and the combinations of flavours are just stunning. The sesame seeds add a bit of crunch and the dressing has a lovely tanginess that balances the sweet veggies. You can of course also use it as a side dish with a braai 😉

Wholesome and Scrumptious Veggie Summer Salad (serves 6)

summer veggie salad

You will need:

  • 2 cups of cooked and cooled brown rice
  • 1 cup of cooked and cooled brown lentils*
  • Coconut or olive oil to fry
  • 1x Red Pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1x Yellow Pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1x Large Aubergine, cubed
  • 1x Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 1x tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 handful fresh Coriander (Cilantro), finely chopped.
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Juice and rind of 1 lemon
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • 1x cup double cream yoghurt

Use dried lentils, soaked overnight if you can. But if you don’t have time, then tinned lentils will work just as well!

Method:

Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes. Then add the rest of the veggies and fry until the aubergine is soft – but not squishy. This will take about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Mix the rice and lentils in a large bowl and mix in the cold veggies. Scoop it out into a large serving dish.

Toast the sesame seeds in a pan without and oil. Once they turn a lovely golden colour, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Sprinkle the salad with the sesame seeds and half of the lemon rind. Then squeeze over half a lemon and finish with the chopped coriander.

summer veggie salad

To make the dressing:

Put the yoghurt in a small bowl, squeeze the other half of the lemon over it and sprinkle with the rest of the lemon rind.

Serve each helping with a dollop of the dressing.

summer veggie salad

Enjoy!

 

 

Deeply Delicious and Utterly Easy Chocolate Almond Cake

A friend recently made this deliciously rich chocolate cake when we went over for dinner and a few rounds of Mexican Trains*. Come dessert time, I decided as soon as I bit into this chocolatey deliciousness that it had to be my next bake for the blog.  Even though I’ve got a good, flop-free chocolate sponge cake which I often make, the addition of almonds and coffee along with the decadent chocolate frosting puts this one in another league!

CHOCOLATE ALMOND CAKE

YOU WILL NEED:

Equipment: Mixer, spatula, food processor or equivalent to blitz the almonds, 25cm cake tin

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 225g dark chocolate
  • Small hot espresso or 4 tsp good instant coffee in 3 tbsp boiling water (I went for the instant option)
  • 200g butter
  • 80g flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp good quality cocoa
  • 5 eggs
  • 225g castor sugar
  • 125g whole almonds, blitzed in the food processor to make ground almonds

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 3 tbsp butter

Chocolate Almond Cake

METHOD:

Preheat your oven to 180ºC, Gas Mark 4.

Prepare your cake tin by generously spraying with Spray & Cook and lining the bottom with baking paper.

For The Chocolate cake:

CHOCOLATE ALMOND CAKE

  • Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or place a glass bowl over small saucepan of water).
  • Once it starts to melt, add the hot espresso.
  • Cut the butter into blocks and add to the chocolate coffee mixture. RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO STIR!
  • Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa together.
  • Separate the eggs, dropping whites only into the bowl of a standing mixer.
  • Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then quickly but gently fold in the sugar with a large metal spoon. *
  • Remove the chocolate from the heat and stir to dissolve the last of the butter.
  • Beat the egg yolks in a little bowl, and add to the chocolate butter mixture.
  • Gently fold this mixture into the sweet egg whites. You are folding to keep the air in the cake.
  • Finally, fold in the sifted flour and cocoa, followed by the ground almonds.
  • Once the flour mixture and almonds are just combined, plop the mixture into your cake tin, scraping everything from the bowl with your spatula.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, with no streaks of batter. A few moist crumbs are OK! **

 

Chocolate frosting:

CHOCOLATE ALMOND CAKE

  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and stir together to make smooth, melted chocolate. Pour over the completely cooled cake. ***

Cook’s notes:

* Mexican Trains is a double twelve or double fifteen Domino game that I can absolutely recommend – it’s great fun for the whole family!

** The reason for using a metal spoon is that the edge cuts through the mixture, so it doesn’t deflate.  If you fold ingredients in batches, using a cutting action and turning the mixture in on itself, rather than stirring, you avoid the risk of losing too much volume.

*** I found, when making this the first time in a smaller (23cm) tin, that my cake needed much longer to cook.  A larger tin, which allows the heat to penetrate the batter more, will bake in a shorter time.

**** The chocolate frosting is almost pure melted chocolate, so it does set quite firm and tends to crack a bit when cut.  If you’re OCD like me, and the cracking bothers you, I reckon a chocolate ganache will work really well with this recipe too.  An easy ganache I’ve made before uses 200g chocolate & 85ml cream: heat the cream until it’s about to boil, then add the chocolate.  Let it stand for 2 minutes, then stir until the chocolate has fully melted into the cream. Whisk until smooth and glossy. When you start to stir it, you think it won’t come together, but it will. Allow to cool to a pourable / spreadable consistency, then spread over your cooled cake!