Warm new potato and mackerel salad recipe

I’ve featured mackerel a few times on this blog – only because I love it and because it’s such a nutritious source of food; packed with protein, vitamin D, selenium, niacin (vitamin B3) and vitamin B12.

This recipe provides good all-round combination of energy, texture and flavour. I love the warm and waxy new potatoes, the crunch of the gem lettuce, the slight acidity of the red onions and the saltiness of the smoked mackerel.

Bon Appetite!

Grilled mackerel, red onion and potato salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 200g new potatoes
  • 2 smoked mackerel fillets (about 200g weight; skinned and flaked)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 baby gem lettuce, chopped
  • a small handful of dill or chives, chopped

Directions

  • Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, mix the red onion with the lemon and add small a pinch of salt. This helps to tenderise the red onion.
  • Drain the potatoes, halve and set aside to cool down for a few minutes.
  • Add the smoked mackerel and gem lettuce to a serving bowl and toss gently together. Then add the new potatoes with the olive oil, red onion (including the lemon juice) and dill. 
  • Toss together to mix thoroughly.
  • Pile on two plates and serve warm.

Sri Lanka

Eggs, Dhal curry, string hoppers, pol sambal

Eggs, Dhal curry, string hoppers, pol sambal

“What’s the difference between Sri Lankan food and Indian food?”

This was possibly the most prevalent question from friends and family on return from my honeymoon in Sri Lanka last month.

It’s quite simple really: the fundamentals of Sri Lankan ingredients are rice, coconut and native tropical fruits and vegetables.

(If you ask a local, however, they will invariably state rather playfully that Sri Lankans subsist simply on “Rice and curry”).

The food itself is therefore not as eclectic as the typical Indian dish might be – no sign of any saag paneer, rogan josh or vindaloo but there were certainly many stunningly flavours, interesting textures and very heavy spices (most Sri Lankan food is unapologetically hot).

The information and images in this post provide a culinary snapshot of how myself and my loving new wife experienced this fascinating country.

The Curries, rice and other carbohydrates

(from left) bananas, pol sambal, dhal curry, coconut roti, rice hoppers, vegetable omelette

(from left) bananas, pol sambal, dhal curry, coconut roti, rice hoppers, vegetable omelette

The curries of Sri Lanka take the form of chicken, beef, fish or vegetable all served with boiled rice.

Rice flour in Sri Lanka is also shaped into rice flour pancakes (called ‘hoppers’) or rice noodles (‘string hoppers’).

Hoppers are a breakfast staple. These round bowl-shaped pancakes, cooked in a rounded pan (like a miniature wok), are best with an egg fried into the bottom. Made from fermented rice flour, they are used to pick up many of the same curries and accoutrements that rice would, especially the sweetened seeni sambals (sweet caramelised onion).

Bread was commonly served at breakfast. There’s a uniquely Sri Lankan version of roti, made with coconut flour, which forms a thick disk and can be found at breakfast and throughout the day.

Sides, snacks and ‘short eats’

(top left) dhal curry, (top right) grated coconut and carrots, (bottom right) curried aubergine, (bottom left) mallum

(top left) dhal curry, (top right) grated coconut and carrots, (bottom right) curried aubergine, (bottom left) mallum

Sri Lankan food is served with all sorts of condiments. Pol sambal (spicy, scraped coconut); mallum (a dish of shredded leaves: kale, mustard greens, cabbage with scraped coconut, lime juice, onion, chili, and Maldive fish) and lentil curry (‘Dhal’) were prevalent among these.

Some of our meals were served with ‘Gotu kola’ (pictured right), a small herb which has been used to treat many conditions for thousands of years in India, China, and Indonesia. It was used to heal wounds, improve mental clarity, and treat skin conditions such as leprosy and psoriasis.The herb itself had a strong taste, not unlike watercress – probably with similar quantities of iron, too.

Sri Lankan snacks are usually called “short eats” which consist mainly of samosas and vadai (deep fried chickpea patties) sold in newspaper cones on many of our public train journeys.

Hot, hot, hot!

As previously mentioned Sri Lankan food is known to be very spicy. If you are a foreigner it’s probably worth inquiring as to the level of heat in a dish before you order. Common spices used in Sri Lankan cooking are cumin, coriander, fenugreek, ginger, garlic, turmeric and cinnamon.

Interestingly, black pepper used to be the most powerful spice on the island until peppers arrived on a colonial trade ship.

Where to find Sri Lankan food

Now that I’ve gotten you all excited about Sri Lankan food, here’s the bad news: it isn’t that easy to find elsewhere!

After arriving back in the UK I searched the local libraries for cookery books on Sri Lanka with no joy. Restaurants are not exactly a dime a dozen either – certainly none that I know of in Edinburgh.

Even in Sri Lanka, the best way to eat good, authentic meals is to knock on the door of “rests” (the local version of a guesthouse) and ask them to cook you dinner later that night. Tourist hotels and guesthouses catering to Westerners tend to do watered-down versions of local food or pretty terrible attempts at Western food.

Wherever you find it, the key to enjoying Sri Lankan food is simple: don’t be afraid of strong flavours.

Summer canapes

A few months ago I published a blog on “entertaining a crowd” which focused on a variety of dips for canapes / appetisers. I’ve decided to revisit this subject – this time focusing on something a bit different.

What comes to mind when you think of “Canape” ?

For me, it brings to mind large prissy platters at fancy parties that quite simply overdo things – like thinly sliced carpaccio of beef with quail’s eggs or weird shot glasses filled with foam – who has the time for that?

Well, I like to keep things simple.

The Recipes

These recipes are great for appetisers, breakfast, brunch, lunch or just as a snack or appetizer. All you need is any type of crisp bread, flat bread (e.g. pitta), oatcake, sliced baguette, crackers or you could use a pizza base, sliced into bite-sized portions, toasted, fried or grilled until crispy and topped with the ingredients.

Once assembled all that’s required is a quick drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Flaked salmon crisp breads

I’ve used Peter’s Yard rye flour crisp breads for this recipe. Utterly delicious.

Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 200g hot smoked salmon, flaked
  • 4 – 6 Peter’s Yard crisp breads
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Arrange the crisp breads into “half moon” shapes and top with the salmon.
  • Drizzle over the lemon juice/zest, olive oil.
  • Serve on a plate in the sunshine!

“Tricolour crisp breads” of tomato, basil and mozzarella

You can grill these crisp breads for a couple of minutes to warm and soften tomatoes and mozzarella.

Tri colour crisp breads

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g mozzarella cheese, sliced into small chunks
  • a handful of fresh basil, torn
  • 4 – 6 crisp breads
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Brush the tops of each crisp bread with olive oil.
  • In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes, olive oil and mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper together until combined.
  • Drizzle each crisp bread with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Serve.

(For grilling)

  • Heat the grill to a medium-high heat and grill the crisp breads, on a heat-proof tray, for 2-3 minutes . Serve.

Crackers and Camembert

An old classic. Slightly less colourful than the previous recipes but just as appealing.

Crackers and Camembert

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 round of Camembert (you can also use Brie), sliced into chunks
  • 6-8 crackers
  • Butter, for spreading

Directions

  • Spread each cracker with butter and top with cheese.

Scrumptious summer salad recipes

I’ve included these recipes as a tribute to the bright and joyous colours of summer (UK not included). They’re rather eclectic but the flavours are definitely there. Hope you enjoy them.

Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash aerial Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens 2 Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash 2

Smoked mackerel, mozzarella and red pepper salad with wholegrain mustard root mash

They say never to pair fish with cheese but I think this recipe works wonders. The strong flavour of the mackerel is well matched with the creaminess and texture of the mozzarella. Finally, the oiled peppers and mustard mash give it some additional punch alongside the crunchy gem lettuce.

Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash 2

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 100g smoke mackerel, cooked
  • 100g reduced fat mozzarella cheese, torn into small chunks
  • 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper, in oil/char grilled (pre-packaged)
  • 1 baby gem lettuce
  • A handful of lambs lettuce

For the root vegetable – mustard mash

  • 500g mixed root vegetables: I used 1 small swede, 1 small celeriac and 2 carrots
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Directions

  • For the root vegetable mash, put the vegetables in a large pan of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes until tender. Drain well, then mash adding the butter and mustard.
  • Mix together until the butter has melted.
  • Add some salt and pepper then serve.
  • For the salad, arrange the mackerel, mozzarella, salad leaves and mixed peppers in a bowl and pour over the oil from the mixed peppers.
  • Mix together thoroughly before serving alongside the mash

Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens

This vegetarian recipe has great East Asian flavours and is seriously flavourful. The soba noodles offer a decent alternative to wheat pasta, if you are gluten-intolerant, and the dish itself offers a healthy balance of protein, carbs and very little fat.

Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens 2

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g soba noodles
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • A small cube of fresh ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 150g firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into small cubes
  • 4 Spring onions, sliced lengthways
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • (optional) a handful of leafy greens
  • (optional) 2 tbsp almond nut butter
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • In a large pot of boiling water, cook the soba noodles according to package instructions. Add the broccoli florets for the final 5 minutes of cooking. Cook until tender.
  • Drain the water then toss the noodles and broccoli with 2 tbsp of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together.
  • Next, in a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and honey; set aside.
  • Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large wok or frying pan over high heat. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown, stirring constantly, for about 3-4 minutes. Set the tofu aside in a small dish.
  • Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil over a medium heat, adding the garlic, ginger and spring onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute.
  • Add the soy sauce and honey to the pan and toss in the soba noodles, broccoli florets and tofu.
  • (optional) Finally, stir the almond-nut butter into the pan until well mixed.
  • Season to taste and then serve alongside the (optional) leafy greens.

Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw

This is a colourful and crunchy recipe which can be eaten as a main or side dish.

Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 small red cabbage, quartered, cored and shredded finely
  • 6 carrots, cut into thin strips (a decent food processor should have an attachment blade for this)

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil,
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice,
  • Salt and pepper,
  • 150g broad beans,
  • (optional) a handful of coriander,
  • (optional) a sprinkle of sesame seeds, or some other variety of Omega 3/Omega 6 rich seeds (linseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

Directions

  • Mix the sesame oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl to make a dressing and then set aside.
  • Boil a large saucepan of water, add the cabbage and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the broad beans and simmer for 1 minute more. Drain the vegetables, leave to cool, then toss with the grated carrot, dressing and (optional) coriander leaves and sesame seeds.

Smashing Pumpkins: 3 ways with pumpkin seeds

When I have an inevitable energy slump in the afternoon, usually around 3 o’clock, I always need to go foraging for food. For instance a slice of hot toast smothered with crunchy peanut butter with a few berries or a mashed banana on top. Oatcakes with roasted nuts are another option, or perhaps a chunky granola bar, encased in sugar syrup and smothered with seeds. Pumpkin seeds

I think you can see where I’m going with this… Pumpkin seeds also fall into this category.

As far as all-round health benefits are concerned they’re pretty hard to beat. Their nutrition is, shall we say, “brain boosting” – with zinc, magnesium and Omega-3 in abundance, all of which are beneficial when it comes to improving memory and critical thinking skills.

This is definitely a good choice for the afternoon cognitive deficit.

As well as for snacking pumpkin seeds are great for general cooking purposes; such as garnishing sweet and savoury bakes; blitzing into a pesto sauce for pasta or pureeing into a smooth and creamy seed butter or for toast.

For the recipes below I’ve opted for a selection of 3 of the best (and indeed simple) uses for pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin seed breadPumpkin seed bread

Seeded bread recipes often call for different seed varieties like linseed, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin. This loaf uses only the latter of the four – which I find the most flavoursome.

Ingredients

  • 20g fresh / 14g instant yeast
  • 500g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 5g salt
  • 10g unrefined sugar i.e. brown cane sugar or demerara
  • 50ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 275ml/9fl oz warm water
  • 150g pumpkin seeds

Directions

  • Heat a small pan to a medium-high heat and spread the pumpkin seeds out evenly. Toast for around 7-10 minutes, shaking the pan so they do not catch or burn. Remove from the heat and leave to cool
  • In a bowl mix together the yeast, flour, salt, sugar and oil until well combined. Add the warm water and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together as a soft dough.
  • Add the pumpkin seeds and knead gently for 5-8 minutes, or until the seeds are combined and the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place the dough into a large bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
  • Set aside in a warm place to prove for 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • When the dough has proved, transfer to the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread has risen and is golden-brown.

Porridge with pumpkin seeds and maple syrup blackberries

There are countless recipe variations around for porridge – what can you expect for something that’s Porridge with pumpkin seeds and blackberriesbeen around since 1000 BC..

This is my take on it.

Ingredients

  • 50-75g steel cut oats
  • 250ml water or milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • a generous drizzle of maple syrup

Directions

  • Put the oats in a saucepan with the water (or milk) and salt.
  • Slowly bring to the boil over a low-medium heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring from time to time and watching carefully that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Before serving, pour some boiling water into your serving bowl, leave for 10 seconds, then pour out. This warms the bowl in preparation for the porridge.
  • To serve: Pour into the warmed bowl, spoon the pumpkin seeds on top and drizzle with honey.

Spice-roasted pumpkin seeds with cumin, coriander and cardamom

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Ingredients

  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp each ground cumin, coriander, cardamom and salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add seeds, lower heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Drain well then transfer to a paper towel-lined tray and pat dry.
  • Meanwhile, mix the oil together in a bowl with the ground spices.
  • Transfer the seeds to a medium bowl, toss with the flavoured oil and spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
  • Roast the seeds, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until just crisp and golden brown, about 1 hour total. (They will become crispier as they cool.)
  • Set aside to let cool completely then shell or eat whole.

Related:

Peanut Butter and date flapjacks recipe

Homemade cashew, cocoa and date ‘Nakd’ bars

Nuts about Almonds!