Spicy Beef Noodle Salad

This is a really easy and healthy salad which will make you forget you are actually eating something healthy. The important thing here is the sauce. I mean you could do without the beef (but who would want to?!?) and change up the vegetables but the sauce really just brings everything together. For this amazing sauce you will need:

  • Ginger (minced)
  • Lemongrass (minced)
  • Soy Sauce (half cup)
  • Fish Sauce (one big tablespoon)
  • Sriracha Chilli Sauce or chillies (as much as you like)
  • The juice of one lime (and more if needed)
  • Garlic (minced)
Mix all the ingredients together and keep tasting until it feels right – it should be salty and tangy. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour to infuse all the flavours…The best is to do a big batch and use it throughout the week in different salads, it will keep well for at least five days.
For this salad you will need:
  • Beef, seared and then sliced finely
  • Red Peppers, chopped.
  • Spring Onions, chopped.
  • Noodles, cooked according to instructions, chilled (I used thai bean vermicelli, but this would be nice with some thicker thai noodles).
  • Coriander, chopped finely.

To prepare it..well it’s a salad! So just mix everything up, add as much sauce and you want go eat this amazing tangy,spicy, fake salad.


Pork Loin Tacos with Black Beans and Leftovers Healthy Salad

I will start by saying that this recipe is AMAZING and that you need to go and do it now and that the photo really does not do it justice… Also I understand that for students pork loin comes a bit on the pricey side, but you can easily substitute it for pork shoulder or pork belly and just cook it slower. Anyway what’s important here is the marinade! Spicy, sweet, smoky and tangy all at the same time. For a medium size pork loin, you will need:

  • 3 chipotle chillies in adobo, with two teaspoons of adobo ‘sauce’ that comes with them. You can buy these at Whole Foods, Borough Market, Cool Chile and other shops/supermarkets that sell Mexican products. These chillies are incredible: not too spicy and very smoky. Once you try them you’ll want to put them in everything you cook… which I do!
  • 3 tablespoons of your favourite bbq sauce.
  • 1 tablespoon of ketchup.
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed.
  • enough salt to season your piece of meat (not much needed if you are using pork belly or shoulder)
  • half a lemon’s juice.

Put all of this in a ziplock bag, get your pork loin in there and chill in the fridge for a few hours. Now on to the black beans! You will need (for a generous serving):

  • 2 cups of uncooked black beans which you will soak overnight (or buy some canned black beans, but it’s definitely not as good. If you are using canned beans skip to step 2.).
  • 2 bacon rashers or pancetta, sliced finely (you can also use spanish spicy chorizo, tastes great!).
  • half an onion, finely chopped.
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced.
  • one chipotle chili (see here they are again!) finely chopped.
  • salt and pepper for seasoning.
  1. Start by cooking the soaked black beans in their soaking water (adding more if needed) on a medium heat until they are fully cooked. Take them from the stove and reserve (you can do this hours in advance and then start from step one just before you want to eat your beans).
  2. Now heat some oil in a heavy pan and fry the bacon for a few minutes until it starts to render fat. Add the onions and garlic and fry for a bit until they become soft. 
  3. Add the chilli and the beans and cook on a very slow heat, adding water if needed. The beans should be getting soft and soupy. 
  4. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. There you go, ready for your tacos!
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Now it’s time to go back to that amazing marinade:

  1. While the beans are simmering away take the pork loin from the bag and brown it on both sides, until it’s quite dark. Move it to an oven-proof dish, along with the marinade, cover it with foil and cook it for 30-35 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees. 
  2. After the pork has been cooked, leave it to rest on a cutting board and take out the marinade into a blender. Add some more lemon juice, some coriander and blend it into a sauce. 
  3. Slice the pork into thin slices and serve with the beans, coriander and your preferred salsa on corn tortillas (the best are from Cool Chile – no they don’t endorse me in any way… but if they want to, I’m more than happy with that!)
  4. Now eat those amazing tacos and curse the time when you didn’t know about chipotle chillies or this marinade!
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Now if you weren’t greedy enough last night and there are still some slices of pork loin around and some of that spicy sauce, it is a good idea to turn them into a salad. For that you will need: 
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  • A mix of cooked grains and pulses (I used quinoa, bulghur, red rice and Puy lentils).
  • Two handfuls of salad leaves per person.
  • A mix of crunchy vegetables (all I had were spring onions and celery…).
  • Some chopped herbs (here I used coriander).

Mix all the ingredients together, incorporate the spicy sauce so that it’s coating everything and add the cooked pork loin on top.


Healthy (Eggy) Breakfast Ideas Part 2;

Since our last post on healthy breakfast ideas was so popular (especially in Sweden for some reason) I decided to write a second post. Breakfast is definitely one of my most important meals: usually I have to either stock up for several hours in a library where it is forbidden to eat, or prepare for a five hour shift with no eating breaks. This means my breakfasts have to be good (how else am I gonna motivate myself to do either of those two things…) and filling… and they also have to comply with beach prep strategy (although I can be flexible on that… a lot of hollandaise would definitely make me forget this strategy). Here are some suggestions, all egg based:

Egg crepes with asparagus

This ‘recipe’ came from the idea of thin egg omelettes used in some Vietnamese recipes. I decided to adapt it and use it as breakfast pancakes or crepes. All you need is: eggs, a splash of milk, a handful of finely chopped parsley, some butter or olive oil to fry and cooked asparagus or your choice of cooked vegetables or meats. Start by whisking the eggs, the milk, and the parsley together. Heat up a frying pan with some olive oil or butter. When the pan is quite hot ladle a small amount of the mixture while rotating the pan (as if you were making crepes) to evenly and thinly spread out the mixture. Cook for a few seconds, add your vegetables and fold over. Serve two or three for a filling breakfast.

Crustless quiche with tuna and watercress

Unfortunately I have no photo for this dish but it’s really easy to make. For a big round oven dish (enough for 4 people) mix 6 eggs, a big splash of milk or creme fraiche, a tin of tuna in olive oil (drained), some watercress (or rocket), salt and pepper. Put in the oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes and voila – easy, effortless and healthy breakfast.

Huevos Rancheros

This is definitely one of my favourites! It’s a pretty flexible ‘recipe’, all you need really are tortillas (corn tortillas are the best), eggs and tomato salsa. I usually add whatever I have in the fridge: sharp cheddar, home-made refried beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, asparagus, etc… This is a really filling breakfast and a good way to use up your Mexican leftovers.

Chorizo tortilla

Despite the chorizo this dish remains healthy by using it sparingly, simply to flavour the tortilla. You will need:

  • 1/4 of a Spanish or Portuguese chorizo, chopped in small cubes.
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 large potato, preferably maris piper.
  • Half an onion, sliced finely.
  • Two handfuls of parsley, chopped.
  • Salt and Pepper.

This dish takes longer than the other ones and so might be better done in advance – as it can be eaten both hot or cold. Start by peeling and slicing your potato. Drop it in salted boiling water and cook for five minutes. While the potato is cooking fry chorizo in a little bit of olive oil to render the fat. After a few minutes add the onions and cook until soft. Reserve the onion and chorizo and keep the pan hot. Now mix the eggs together and incorporate the rest of the ingredients. In the same pan where you fried the onion and chorizo (on a medium-high heat) drop the mixture and cook, slowly, until the top of the tortilla is almost cooked. At this point you will need to get ready for some flipping skills: put a large plate on top of the frying pan, turn it around (dropping the tortilla in the plate) and return the tortilla to the pan to finish cooking the other side (2 minutes). Serve straight away or keep in the fridge to eat cold.

Soft-boiled eggs with asparagus soldiers

This is obviously very simple. All you need to do is to soft-boil your eggs (this hilarious website can help) and to cook the asparagus. I like to cook them in butter for 5 minutes until they are slightly burnt to get a nutty flavour. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy.

Obviously these are also great cures for Euro 2012-induced hangovers.


Melanzane a la Parmigiana

Melanzane a la Parmigiana or aubergine parmigiana for us non-italians is one of my favourite dishes. While it is made solely of vegetables and may seem fresh and healthy it is every bit as decadent as its sister meat lasagna. Typically you deep fry the sliced aubergine before layering it in a casserole dish with tomato sauce, grana padano, and mozarella. Some even add a tad of bechamel sauce to thicken up the layers. While I love almost everything which is deep fat fried (I lived in Belgium for almost ten years…) during the week I have no desire or patience to deep fry aubergines! So I looked online for different parmigiana recipes and came up with a combination of all of them which results in a healthier and easier to make parmigiana.

You will need:

  • 3-4 big purple aubergines, sliced.
  • 1 can of chopped marzano tomatoes (or the best quality chopped tomatoes/passata you can find – it really makes a difference and they are not that much more expensive).
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped.
  • Fresh basil
  • 2 mozzarella balls.
  • 200 grams of grana padano (similar to parmigiano but milder and cheaper), or a mix of grana padano and parmiggiano.

1. Start by slicing and washing the aubergines and sprinkle them heavily with salt. Put in a container and let it rest for a while to get rid of the bitterness. While they are resting start preparing the sauce.

2. Fry the onion and the garlic in olive oil until translucid. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook in a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer for half an hour. Finish the sauce by adding the basil and wizzing it in a mixer or smoothie machine. Now it’s time to start layering!

3. Start with a layer of tomato sauce, add a layer of aubergine, another layer of sauce, a layer of grana padano and a layer of mozzarella. Repeat in the same order until you have used up the ingredients. Make sure to add extra cheese on the last layer so it crisps up on top.

4. Cook at 180 degrees in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes. Let it rest for a bit before you cut into it.

Enjoy a healthy parmigiana which is as good as the time-consuming, deep fried version!


The Salted Cod Makes Sushi

If you know me, you’ll know that I have a love/addiction relationship with sushi. I am not really sure when this started, but for a few years now I have been completely in love with Japan’s most famous export. While there are many good places for sushi in London, Birmingham, where I lived for three years, was a bit of a no-sushi-land. Since I couldn’t really afford (or justify) coming to London every weekend to get my sushi fix, I had to learn how to make it at home.

It might seem complicated at first, impossible even (and you might end up eating sushi at 2AM when you started at 7PM like when I first made sushi), but with a little preparation making sushi at home is not that difficult and is definitely worth it. So prepare yourselves, and embrace the sushi chef in you*

What you will need, for two people :

For the rice (double the recipe if you want to stuff yourself with sushi like me):

  • 250 grams of sushi rice (you can find this in most supermarkets these days and in all Chinese supermarkets in Chinatown).
  • 340 ml of cold water
For the sushi vinegar (to be mixed after the rice is cooked):
  • 60 ml rice vinegar (again available at most supermarkets and at all Chinatown supermarkets).
  • 30 ml Sugar
  • 5 ml Salt
For the Tezu mixture (to be used on the rice bowl and to handle your sushi):
  • 250 ml of water
  • 30 ml of rice vinegar
  • 5 ml of salt
For the sushi:
  • Sheets of Nori (available at some supermarkets, the Japan Centre, and most supermarkets in Chinatown).
  • Sushi rolling mat (same as above).
  • Your choice of very fresh fish: I am using 200 grams of tuna and one small mackerel (the easiest one to cut and use is salmon). It is essential that the fish is fresh, otherwise you are going to get tasteless and weirdly textured sushi.
  • Your choice of vegetables/fruit: I am using avocados, but cucumber or mango are great too.
  • You choice of condiments: I am using sriracha chilli sauce and mayonnaise for the spicy tuna rolls and spring onions.
  • Wasabi (you’re not going to get the real thing outside of Japan so just buy any you can find).
  • Soy sauce
Ok. So you want to have everything ready by the time your rice is cooked. Start by washing the rice. To do this put the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Move the rice around with your hands. You will see that the water becomes cloudy. Drain and repeat until the water is clear. Cover the rice with cold water and rest for 20 minutes. The rice should look like this before you cook it:
While the rice is resting prepare the Tezu and the sushi vinegar. For the Tezu just mix all ingredients in a bowl and put aside. For the sushi vinegar mix all ingredients in a saucepan and heat them until the sugar is dissolved. Then transfer it to a bowl and set aside for it to cool down. Now it’s on to cooking the rice. Put the rice and the 340ml of water in a pan which has a tight lid. Bring it to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the water has evaporated. When the water has evaporated remove the pan from the heat and leave it to rest with the lid on for 10 minutes. While the rice is finishing cooking wet a wooden bowl with a bit of the Tezu. When the ten minutes have passed transfer the rice (carefully!) from the pan to the wooden bowl. Mix in the vinegar mixture little by little, until the rice cannot absorb any more liquid – you might not need the whole mixture. Now cover the rice with a tea towel and put it aside to cool down. The rice should look like this when cooked – sticky and fluffy:
While the rice is cooling down start preparing your fish. Start with the hardest ingredient to prepare so that everything keeps as fresh as possible. In this case I started with the mackerel which had to be filleted and de-boned. To do this (like for most fish) cut the fish just below the head and then slide the knife close to the spine to separate a clean filet. After this you will need to take the bones out (easy to do with tweezers) and to slide the filets off the skin (hold the filets from the tail/narrowest part of the fish and slide a sharp knife under it – it should slide down easily). If these instructions are not too clear you can find videos of this on youtube (which actually gave me the idea for our video demonstrations…), but the process goes more or less like this:      
Now to cut the fish for sashimi or nigiri. You want to use a very sharp knife and cut it against the grain of the fish.
The easiest fish to do this with the first time is salmon. All you have to do is take a corner and cut a slice diagonally against the grain. This ensures that the fish has a smooth texture, is more flavourful and is not chewy.
If you are preparing just nigiri, you can either use the same technique or you can finely chop the fish, depending on the kind of texture you are after. To make spicy tuna rolls (one of my favourites!) you will have to finely chop the tuna and mix it with some mayo and sriracha sauce. It should cover the fish completely but it should not be too gloopy – you want to taste the tuna.
Cut any other ingredients into slices so they can fit the sushi rolls. And now onto the rolling!
Start by preparing a clean surface and all your ingredients. You will also need you sushi rolling mat, and the nori sheets which you will have to cut to 3/4 of their size.
And now get ready for my incredible sushi making and Mr Salted Cod’s amazing filming skills! Here is a video tutorial of how to roll and cut  a sushi maki and how to prepare sushi nigiri.

I hope I have managed to turn everyone into sushi addicts by the end of this post! And please feel free to ask any questions – I am always happy to help a fellow sushi lover.

*I do not in any circumstance consider myself a sushi chef or a master in the art of sushi making..If you are either Japanese or a sushi chef please do not feel insulted by my attempts. It might not be the perfect recipe and might not follow every tradition you’re supposed to, but I really really like sushi and this is the way of making it at home.


Beetroot & liquorice salad

Nutty and sweet but very messy-looking salad.

Swedish weather at the moment (if you click twice on this picture you can even see the snowflakes in the air).

Being back in Sweden for a month with blizzards and temperatures reaching -5, making healthy salads to become beach fit has felt very far away. Instead I’ve been stuffing myself with hearty stews and kebabs (Malmö kebabs are legendary).

However, I found an interesting ingredient in my dad’s fridge: Sweet liquorice sirup. I have no idea what it is but think it’s meant to go on ice cream. However, I found out it also works as a great ingredient in salad dressings. With some inspiration from this dish, I decided to make a beetroot and liquorice salad, warm, weird and filling in the windy Swedish spring, but also very healthy.

Mixing beetroot with liquorice gives a very interesting flavour and it might not be to everyone’s liking, however it is definitely worth a try. I’ll be making this again.

You need:

  • 5 beetroots
  • The leaves of those beetroots, cleaned with the stems cut off
  • Some salad leaves – I used some crispy iceberg.
  • 2 eggs
  • Bulgur or cous cous
For the dressing:
  • 2 tsp liquorice sirup
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil (I prefer rapeseed oil for Swedish cooking. Olive oil doesn’t go well with this, as the flavour is too strong)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • some ground ginger
  • the zest of half a lemon

Start with chopping off the leaves and ends of the beetroots, quarter them and then put in plenty of unsalted water to boil for about 40 minutes.

In the meantime, make your dressing by mixing everything that goes in it. The liquorice sirup is very sticky and can be difficult to mix with the rest. I solved this by putting the container I was making the dressing in in a hot water bath. So if you use a jam jar, Jamie Oliver-style, for making your dressing, just lower the bottom end into the boiling beetroot water for 20 seconds and then give everything a good shake. Cook your bulgur in some salted water and drain. When the beetroots are coming close to being done, blanche the leaves in some salted water so they soften. Then mix the beetroots, salad leaves, beets leaves, bulgur and dress it whilst it’s still warm. Fry two eggs in a pan and place on top of the salad. Done!


Some nice and healthy (I know….) breakfast ideas

As most Portuguese girls when it reaches March/April I go into beach-prep mode. I know it all sounds very superficial and silly but if you’ve lived in a country where the sun shines 80% of the time and people start going to the beach as early as March you know there is some preparation ahead of that…haha. Whether you’re on beach-mode like me or are just looking for some alternatives to butter on toast (my most favourite breakfast) here are some slightly healthier breakfast ideas (no none of them include eating just carrots or juicing…):

Easiest breakfast ever! All you need to do is fry and egg or two (you could poach it to be even healthier but I love the combination of the salty fried egg and tomato), slice one big tomato and season with lots of salt and pepper. I sometimes add a piece of toast to this.

This breakfast asks for a bit more prep but is fairly easy too. You will need around 60 grams of smoked salmon (or two slices of ham), a whole avocado sliced, a poached egg and, again, lots of salt and pepper. If you’re a bit weird like me you can add a bit of tabasco or chilli sauce to the avocado…yum! This also works with a whole mango, sliced.

Home-made granola with Greek yoghurt. (Sorry no picture!)

While this might seem like a lot of effort you can make the granola ahead of time and it lasts for a really long time. For the homemade granola you will need:

  • 500 grams of rolled oats (you can buy big bags at big supermarkets).
  • A handful of dried nuts
  • 50 grams of butter (this might not seem very healthy but is much healthier than ready-made versions)
  • 3/4 tablespoons of honey
  • Some cinnamon (optional)

All you have to do is melt the butter and then mix it with everything. The mixture then goes in the oven at 180 degrees until it looks golden. Then all you have to do is wait for it to cool down and put it in a container. Serve it with Greek yoghurt, some honey and whatever fruit you have lying around.

Make sure you have some fatty meals the rest of the day to balance out all the healthiness…