kale & quinoa salad

kale, quinoa and salmon salad
kale, quinoa and salmon salad

Remember when you were growing up, and a salad was eternally comprised of a sad, round tomato, circles of cucumber and wads of damp iceberg lettuce, drowning in a sea of sharp, vinegary dressing? Oh, that salad. Sometimes it was accompanied by a ring of pungent onion, or a lonely olive that was also wondering why it was there. They weren’t particularly bad or good, they were just something that had to be heroically endured to get to the good stuff, like pizza and chicken and lasagne.

salmon on kale and quinoa salad
grilled salmon is a delicious indulgence

I’m not sure when it all started changing, but Australia probably owes a great debt to its multicultural history. Greek salad. Caesar salad. Someone heard a rumour of this amazing stuff called tabbouleh, others murmured words like panzanella and fattoush and niçoise.

And thus salads were set free, and we were all a lot happier for it.

kale and quinoa salad
Say yes to salads.

I love using kale as an alternative to salad leaves, because it feels so much more substantial than biting into lettuce (although don’t get me wrong, I also love lettuce). Quinoa is often a feature in my salads, not just because it’s excellent for my gluten-free friends, but also because it lends a brilliant texture, holds dressing well and gives the salad a certain heft.

And if you need something else to convince you, let me just say that the grilled salmon is a deliciously indulgent affair that means you’ll never have to dread eating a salad for dinner ever again. I promise.

Kale and quinoa salad with grilled salmon (serves 2)
For the salad:
1 x salmon fillet, grilled (try honey soy salmon)
100g kale
150g quinoa
5 baby radishes, sliced
100g plum of cherry tomatoes

For the dressing:
250g low-fat Greek yoghurt
Juice of a lemon
1 tbsp honey

Rinse the quinoa well and cook until just tender. This is quite often a much shorter cooking time than they suggest on the packet, so check it at 5 minutes.

Steam the kale (if your pot is big enough, you can steam it above the quinoa) and dry using a clean teacloth or a salad spinner.

Slice the radishes and tomatoes.

Combine all the salad ingredients and make the dressing by stirring the juice of a lemon into a cup of yoghurt, then sweetening with the honey.

honey soy salmon, kale & sweet potato mash

Salmon. It's nutritious and delicious!
Salmon. It’s nutritious and delicious!

I really ought to eat more fish.

I tell myself things like this on a regular basis. Fish is delicious – tender, light yet filling and full of delicate flavour – and it’s good for you, too; packed full of vitamins, protein and omega 3s, fish is rightfully known as brain food. It’s the heart-healthy meat that can be farmed sustainably and your body will love you for it.

But just between you and me, I may be a wee bit – scared – of cooking fish. I mean, it has this reputation, doesn’t it? It’s fiddly, it falls apart not just on your fork but also in the pan, or sticks with a stubbornness that only a determined spatula can overcome. It cooks unevenly. It can turn dry and tough. When you cook fish you’re taking the chance that it all may come to a ruinous, nightmarish mess resulting in pasta and sauce for dinner.

honey and soy salmon
honey and soy salmon, served with a gingery kale and sweet potato mash.

Worry not, friends. The dense, tender flesh of salmon stands up to flavours well, is significantly less likely to fall apart and is much more forgiving than your average fish when it comes to cooking times. Its high fatty acid content means it’s unlikely to dry out, and most importantly it makes for wonderful eating. If you’re at all wary about cooking fish, salmon’s where you start.

Honey and soy, two things I always have in the cupboard, make an excellent marinade for the salmon, highlighting its natural sweetness. To balance this, I’ve added ginger and garlic to the kale – yet another so-good-for-you-it’s-hard-to-believe ingredient. Kale is nutrient-rich, high in calcium, fibre and iron, not to mention vitamins C and K.

And please, let us not have me begin waxing lyrical about sweet potato again. Suffice it to say that a good bed of buttery sweet potato mash completes this delicious and nutritious feelgood trinity.

oh, that sweet potato.
oh, that sweet potato.

Make the most of the last rays of the summer sun – or indeed, welcome spring as they are back in Oz. Enjoy!

Honey soy salmon with ginger kale and sweet potato mash
For the salmon:
2 salmon fillets
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp light soy sauce
For the kale:
100g kale
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated OR garlic oil
For the sweet potato mash:
500g sweet potatoes
25g butter

Mix the honey and soy together and pour over the salmon fillets. You can do this the night before and store them in a ziplock bag, or marinate 30 minutes before you start.

Peel and wash the sweet potatoes, then cut into large chunks and boil in a pot until soft (this takes around 20 minutes depending on the size of your chunks). Drain and add the butter before mashing, then cover and set aside.

Heat oil in a pan and add the grated ginger and garlic. For low-FODMAPpers, leave out the garlic and use garlic oil.

Add the kale and fry gently until the leaves go glossy and dark green – this should only take about 2-3 minutes.

Heat oil in a pan (the same one, if you like!) and then add the salmon, skin-side down. Fry for 4 minutes, taking care the honey isn’t burning the skin. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes.

smoked salmon bagels

From fridge to plate in five minutes.
From fridge to plate in five minutes.

Some Sunday mornings you spring out of bed, ready to cook a full English and take on the world (or Oxford Circus) powered by the holy breakfast trinity of eggs, bacon and HP sauce.

Other Sunday mornings, no force, human or divine, could part you from your doona.

This is one of those mornings, and since I’m nursing a cold that, like a bad house guest, just won’t seem to pack up and leave, here is what I ate. Not because I think you need a recipe for something as simple as pouring milk over cereal, but because occasionally we all need a reminder of how deeply satisfying a smoked salmon bagel can be.

Smoked salmon bagels
1 wholemeal bagel (ok, I’ll concede to the sesame seeded kind too)
2 tbsp Philadelphia cream cheese
2 slices smoked salmon

You know what to do. Enjoy your Sunday morning!

salmon fishcakes

When was the last time you made fishcakes?
When was the last time you made fishcakes?

As it nears the end of January, the health kick you started at the beginning of the year starts to lose its sheen and you begin to wonder if you can actually go to jail for clobbering that pizza-munching individual over the head with a cucumber and nicking off with a slice of Meatlovers.

If I was on the jury, I just might acquit you.

Not many people have a vast repertoire of healthy meals they routinely prepare, but I don’t think that’s because we don’t know how to make them. I think it’s just because we often forget how many things we can cook. Sometimes all it takes is seeing someone else making a dish to make us remember that we already know how to make it, that we too can reach the heights of healthy culinary brilliance.

So here’s a little reminder from the tiny kitchen that fishcakes are easy, light, delicious and nutritious. I’ve made these without potato because this month I’m trying to go easy on the carbs, but the cauliflower mash I made last night has substituted nicely. They are a little difficult to flip in the pan because of it, but they taste absolutely scrummy.

Low-carb salmon fishcakes – makes 12
Half an onion, very finely chopped
415g salmon
1 egg
1 cup cauliflower mash
Handful grated cheddar
Salt and pepper

Incredibly, the majority of the work is done as soon as you’ve prepped the ingredients. Simply combine everything in a large bowl and work through to form a sticky, lumpy paste. If it’s too dry, add some milk or another egg. If it’s a little too wet, it should dry out a bit when you place it in the fridge.

Fishcake mixture.
Refrigerate the mixture to help it set.

You’ll need to refrigerate for at least half an hour, then take it out and form into patties. Fry in a little oil for about five minutes on the first side, and flip very carefully – they’ll be difficult to flip, but you can do it with two spatulas.

The smell of these frying is incredible.
These are a one-turn job. Make sure you don’t try to flip them too early!

Serve with lemon, a dab of mayonnaise and a large salad.