Tag Archives: healthy lunch

Red cabbage slaw with pear and fennel yogurt dressing

Who doesn’t love a good freshly made crunchy coleslaw? What’s great is its versatility to make it your own with different combinations of contrasting flavours, textures and colours. Any variety of cabbage works well as a base – kale, cavolo nero, hispi cabbage – then ‘build’ from there.

Fennel, pear and walnut are always going to go happily hand in hand so, for me, it’s a good place to start. I like the dramatic colour of red cabbage but make sure you slice it finely so it doesn’t dominate and become tricky to eat. Nobody wants to chomp on huge chunks of raw cabbage! The contrasting sharpness of the red onion against the sweet pear is welcome but I’ve pickled it in some lemon juice first, to subdue the rawness and astringency.

The yogurt dressing flavoured with fennel seeds keeps things nice and light. Remember to reserve the fennel fronds from the tops of the bulb to add for an extra hit of aniseed. The dressing is a million miles away from the artery-clogging and heavy mayonnaise supermarket coleslaws you can find. You may not need all the dressing so use as much as you like, so as not to drown it.

The coleslaw is sufficient and delicious enough to eat solo for a lunch, or it makes a great side dish to a buttery jacket potato or anything porky, particularly slices of succulent roast gammon or ham.

Serves 2

Fennel yogurt dressing
Heaped ½ tsp fennel seeds, toasted
75ml Greek yogurt
1 tbsp extra virgin
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp water
Pinch sea salt

Half red onion, thinly sliced
Quarter lemon, juice only
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Quarter red cabbage, shredded finely
1 large ripe conference pear, peeled, cored and sliced
Generous handful walnuts, toasted
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
Large handful of parsley, chopped

  1. Bash the fennel seeds to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar. Then add to a jam jar, along with the rest of the dressing ingredients, and shake vigorously.
  1. Slice the red onion on a mandolin or as fine as possible using a sharp knife. Put the red onion in a bowl and squeeze over the lemon with a pinch of salt. Set aside for five minutes.
  1. Slice the fennel on a mandolin and put in a serving bowl along with the red cabbage, pear, walnuts, seeds and parsley. 
  1. Add enough of the dressing to lightly coat the coleslaw, gently mix then serve.

Medjool date salad with orange, avocado & spiced almonds

 medjool date salad

After finding myself lucky enough to bring 12 boxes of Medjool dates home after a recent job I am determined to eat every last one of them. They have gone well past their ‘use by date’ but seem to be lasting quite nicely in the fridge. Known as the ‘king of dates’ they are large dried dates that have a honey-like sweetness, chewy succulence and are almost meaty in texture. Once you’ve tried Medjool no other dates will compare and are responsible for making sticky toffee pudding one of the most sumptuous and divine puddings around.

They have been around since 6000BC, which is incredible and makes them the oldest cultivated fruit in the world. For years only royalty and honoured guests indulged in the luxurious sweetness and complexity of flavour while the commoners, meanwhile, had to settle for a drier, harder and less sweet variety. Typical. Thankfully they are now readily available to everyone but they can be quite expensive in supermarkets so it’s worth seeking them out in local Middle Eastern shops, if you can.

I have been happily eating them as a snack, which is very indulgent, but I also love putting them in spice-rich tagines and rich sticky cakes. Today, though, after an artery-clogging weekend of Burn’s night food, I have decided to make a healthy salad for lunch, inspired by Moroccan flavours. This is quite a sweet salad as you’ve got natural sweetness from the orange and a touch of honey in the spiced almonds, but I just love all the different textures and flavours: soft chewy dates, moist refreshing orange, crunchy caramelised almonds, with creamy slices of avocado and tender mild bitter leaves of baby spinach. You could try it with strips of carrot as an alternative to the orange, which would not be quite as sweet. The spiced nuts recipe will make more than you need for the salad as it’s a bit tricky to downsize the recipe. They make a great snack washed down with beer though so sure they won’t go to waste.

Serves 2

Spiced nuts
1½ tsp rapeseed oil
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp allspice and ground corriander
1 tsp runny honey
½ tsp medium coarse sea salt
100g pack of blanched almonds

8 Medjool dates
1 orange
1 ripe Hass avocado
Large handful of baby spinach leaves

3 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 160C/300F/Gas 2. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the spices, salt and honey. Cook the spices for 30 seconds then add the almonds and stir to coat. Spread out on an oven tray lined with baking parchment and roast in oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and caramelized. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the dates in half lengthways. Peel the avocado, remove the stone, cut in half lengthways and then each half into slices. Prepare the orange by removing the skin with a sharp knife, cut into thin rounds and then into smaller segments.
  3. Combine the dressing ingredients some seasoning and whisk into an emulsion.
  4. Once the almonds have cooled arrange the baby spinach leaves, dates, orange segments and avocado onto a plate, then finish with a generous drizzle of dressing.