WELL, here we all are, a new year stretching ahead of us.
I hope you all had a terrific Christmas and New Year break and that going back to work/school/college hasn’t been too traumatic.
I have to say I’m looking forward to a bit more of a routine for a while. My Christmas was a little hectic to say the least! I’m looking forward to getting back to normal and can’t wait to get back to my little kitchen at the café.
Now then, how many of you have made a New Year’s resolution about your diet? Show of hands? I see that’s quite a few of you. Well, I don’t hold with making resolutions for the sake of it as they’re so easily broken and it seems such an arbitrary thing to do, but it’s definitely a good time of the year to cut down on the excesses and occasionally avoid the stodgy comfort-y stuff, however harsh it may seem.
To be honest, after all the rich, luxurious things we’ve been eating over the holiday which, let’s admit it, is always carbs and fat, it’s nice to get a few fresh salad leaves, green veg and vitamin-rich meals on the menu for the start of the year.
Aside from the dietary aspects of cleaning up the diet, there’s a sort of detoxifying element to it too. I definitely feel better when I’ve had a few meals packed with crisp leaves or delicious, iron-rich veggies.
I’m happy to admit that it’s mainly psychosomatic, but I definitely feel ‘fresher’ when I’ve had a good helping of spinach or a few lightly-dressed salad leaves, especially nice bitter crisp ones like frisée or chicory.
Still got some sprouts left? Try them shredded raw into a pan of sizzling butter, tossed for a few minutes until hot, then dress simply with lemon juice and black pepper. It’s amazing with fish. Steamed broccoli, rich and bursting with goodness, tastes amazing drizzled with a little Chinese-style oyster sauce, perhaps tossed in with some fluffy boiled rice.
Or how about a lovely creamy risotto of prawns, with loads of shredded radicchio thrown in at the last minute? A vision in pink and purple and an amazing flavour combination of creamy, sweet and bitter – makes the palate sing with pleasure!
A few mucky beetroot? Washed and grated raw into a pan of butter they make an ideal base for a nice piece of fragrant roast salmon. A big bowl of ‘squeaky’ buttered leeks is pretty much a meal on its own, but with fish or bacon – just glorious.
There’s so much to try. Do yourself a favour, get down to the greengrocers and just stand there in front of the vast range of veggies. Let your mind wander. Think what you could do with a little starch and protein.
A potato here, a noodle there, a chicken thigh or a sliver of ham. Don’t get in there with a specific recipe in mind – it’s always annoying when the shop doesn’t have what you want. Just think along loose lines and let the vegetables suggest things to you.
This week, I thought I’d make a warm salad full of essential wintery leaves paired with a few tasty accompaniments.
Chunks of hot, crispy-roast chicken, some fresh juicy orange pieces, toasted walnuts, fragrant fennel and a light, yoghurt-based dressing all combine with tasty leaves to make a wonderfully enlivening dish, either as a lunch or light supper.
This salad isn’t all about the healthiness, though. It’s about balance. Hence the crispy, salty skin of the chicken is used and provides a lovely textural contrast.