March 19 - 25  2023: Issue 576


Autumn Salads

Although Autumn is when it gets cooler, the BOM has forecast a warmer than usual prelude to Winter and this makes it warm enough to enjoy a great salad.

If your household is like ours, where some eat meat and some are vegetarian, a good mix of dishes to suit all palates and keep all bodies healthy will be the aim of lunches and dinners together.  To make it a bit easier, and so as not to be cooking 2 to 3 different meals each day, these salads can be used as accompaniments to what the meat eaters are having. Most will enhance lamb, beef, chicken and fish.

These ideas are based on a few recipes and simply adjusted to suit our own taste and boosted with extras like fresh cooked chick peas, mushrooms, nuts and lentils to make them a meal in one dish for those who don’t get their protein from meat.

Traditional favourites such as Caesar Salad can have the bacon swapped out for the vegetarian version, now readily available. Using or making a good salad dressing will enhance all of these salads, so treat yourself to the best you can get that follows a traditional recipe rather than opting for the very similar versions of mayonnaise with ‘bits’ and flavourings added. 

A regular making of what we called a ‘Vegetable Bhaji’, which is similar to an onion bhaji, is a great accompaniment to these salads. Just choose lots of whatever seasonal vegetables are available chopped up and mixed in a dry mix base of besan (Chickpea) flour with some seasoning – cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper. These can also be served cold and will give you a great energy boost throughout the day.

Included are ingredients such as parsley, which is great for looking after your lungs during the season when you may experience cool mornings and hotter temperatures during the day or a mixture of both – and need to guard against those early colds that can happen as a result. Parsley works as a powerful natural diuretic and can help reduce bloating and blood pressure. Parsley is loaded with vitamin K, which has been linked to bone health. The vitamin supports bone growth and bone mineral density. One study on parsley has found that it helped protect against osteoporosis in rats – so grow some, include it in your salads and sauces, eat it fresh straight from the garden.

Fresh parsley is also a great breath freshener if you have been loading up on raw cloves of garlic and don’t want to be breathing fumes all over others. 

Green Bean and Goats Cheese Salad
250-300 grams fresh green beans – blanch slightly and chop into bite sized pieces
1 bunch of asparagus
2 x ripe avocado
½ bunch of parsley 
2 x tomatoes
75 grams of goats cheese

Cut all ingredients into bite-sized  pieces and toss together while the beans are just warm still. Toss in 1 cup of chick peas and toss. Serve with crusty bread. Other ingredients that suit each other in this salad are some fresh sliced pear or pancetta for those who like meat. For those who don't, toss in a cup of freshly cooked chick peas for a protein boost. Nuts such as almonds or pine nuts also work well in this recipe and will give those added vitamins, fats and protein boost.

Baked vegetables salad

Quarter seasonal Autumn vegetables such as zucchini, tomatoes, onions, capsicum and season with salt and pepper, douse with olive oil and bake for around an hour. Leaving the skins on will keep many of the vitamins that are in these in your food. Meanwhile, cook off 1 – 1 ½ cups of lentils of your choice until soft but not falling to bits. Toss lentils and veggies together with some fresh thyme, lemon juice and olive oil while vegetables are still warm. Serve hot or cold.

1/3 cup cracked wheat
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups chopped fresh parsley leaves 
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil

Soak the cracked wheat n the lemon juice and olive oil for around 20 minutes. Meanwhile, wash then finely chop the parsley, mint leaves and spring onions. Wash and dice the tomatoes. Toss fresh ingredients into cracked wheat and stir well until all leaves are coated and cracked wheat is throughout the mix. Serve. 

Vegetable Bhajis
500 grams of Besan Flour (chick pea flour – available in health food section of supermarkets or in good fruit ad veg. stores)
4 zucchini (grated)
1 large onion (sliced thin)
4 large mushrooms (sliced)
2 carrots (grated)
2 handfuls fresh green beans - chopped
3 spring onions – chopped
Salt and pepper to season Besan flour
Cold water to mix – or 2 x eggs plus water
Vegetable oil
Spices as below in Onion Bhaji alternative or omit if making for children

Put oven on to 180 degrees and two flat trays in at same time to heat up (this will keep bhajis hot while you cook others – it is also a way to shallow fry them and finish off cooking process in oven, minimising oil use). Place all your prepared vegetables in a bowl, add in the Besan flour and mix so all ingredients are coated. 

Add your wet ingredients – when adding the water you want to form a sticky fairly thick mixture otherwise you will have problems flipping the Bhaji. We only shallow fry these rather then deep frying so we get the taste of the vegetables and besan flour instead of the oil predominating. Heat a frying pan and place about 1cm of oil in. Dollop a tablespoon of mixture in and allow to flatten slightly; stir with spoon to flatten if required. Allow to brown and then flip. Once other side has browned, place on your heated tray in oven to finish cooking and begin next batch. Continue this process until all are cooked. Serve with a nice crisp green salad and fresh hot bread.

Onion Bhaji
100g (4oz) chickpea flour or gram flour
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
25g (1oz) fresh coriander, finely chopped
Cold water, to mix
Vegetable oil, for deep frying

Sift the flour, chilli, turmeric, cumin, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped coriander, onions and chillies and mix well. Preheat the frypan and add oil. Gradually add enough water to the flour mixture to form a thick batter, mixing very well so the onions are well coated. Very carefully drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Drain well on paper towels. Keep warm whilst you cook the remaining bhajis on your oven trays. Serve hot.

Tamarind Chutney
1/2 lb tamarind, seeded
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tablespoons roasted ground cumin seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black salt
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
Break the tamarind into small pieces and soak in boiling water for one hour. Mash it into a pulp and strain, pressing the tamarind into the strainer to remove all the pulp. Add sugar to the pulp. Mix well. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix and taste. Add more sugar, salt or pepper as needed. Chutney can be refrigerated for two to three months.
Serving suggestion: Tamarind chutney is delicious with samosas, pakoras, and bhajis.

Cucumber Raita
2 Lebanese cucumbers - peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups Greek yoghurt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Stir together the cucumber, yoghurt, lemon juice, mint, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.