Its summer time and the weather is holding up a lot better than previous years so hopefully we’ll continue to get plenty of opportunities to eat al fresco! At the moment, I love that so many foods are in season: summer fruit and vegetables include aubergine, broccoli, beans, courgettes, tomatoes, new potatoes, fennel, peaches and best of all seasonal berries (blueberries, cherries, strawberries, gooseberries and raspberries).
For me, however, summer is a time for salads. Salads are a great way to get more vegetables into our diets (and we must remind ourselves to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day). I recently sewed rocket seeds in a pot and the first shoots have appeared; I’m hoping to have a fresh supply for the rest of the summer. Rocket and other leaves such as chervil, sorrel, and spinach are easy to grow in pots, so no excuses for those of us with outdoor space confined to a balcony or small patio. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Rocket, chervil, chicory, dandelion are all bitter herbs and good to use at the start of a meal to stimulate the digestive juices. They are a good source of vitamins and minerals, especially B Vitamins and fibre.
Sticking with salads: in this month’s column, I’m giving the recipe for Mackerel Niçoise Salad. It’s incredible easy to make, good value and very nutritious. Mackerel is in season at present, it’s one of the few sustainable fish left, and it’s high in omega 3, an essential nutrient for our health. Essential fats reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, eczema, depression, fatigue among many other disorders and each year the list grows. Also, both eggs and fish are excellent sources of protein, making this salad a filling and delicious option for lunch or dinner.
(serves 2 as main, 4 as starter)
Preparation time 10 minutes
- 2 free range (preferably organic) eggs (€0.80)
- Large handful green beans (€0.70)
- 2 tbs low fat crème fraiche / natural probiotic yoghurt (€0.40)
- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil#
- 1 tbs lemon juice (€0.30)
- 1 – 3 tsp grated fresh horseradish root, depending on taste (use hot horseradish sauce if not available) (€0.40)
- Salt and pepper
- ½ bag rocket / watercress leaves (€1.20)
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced (€0.70)
- 1/3 – ¼ cucumber, peeled and sliced (€0.30)
- 3 – 4 spring onions, finely sliced (€0.30)
- 8 small new potatoes, boiled and sliced (€0.30)
- Small handful black olives (€0.60)
- 1 tsp capers (optional)
- 2 fillets smoked mackerel, skin removed (€1.80)
- Total cost < €8
- Cook the scrubbed potatoes in a large saucepan of simmering water for 15 minutes until tender , adding the beans for the last 2 minutes.
- Hard boil eggs for 8 minutes. When cooked run under cold water, peel and cut into 8.
- Place the mackerel, seasoned and lightly oiled on a foil -lined grill tray. Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side (you could do these on the barbecue too).
- To make the dressing, mix crème fraiche / yoghurt, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, horseradish and season
- Place rocket / watercress, tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions, potatoes, olives, capers and beans in a large serving bowl and toss.
- Discard the mackerel skins and remove the flesh from the bones in nice large flakes. Be careful to remove all of the bones.
- Add the mackerel to the salad and put the eggs here and there before drizzling the dressing on top and serve.
As with Heathers column, any queries or nutritional questions you might have, just write in and I’ll try and get back to you as soon as I can!