Cucumber and Rice Noodle Salad

I don’t know about you, but when we’re all at home (and obviously thanks to Covid-19 that is ALL the time right now) I struggle with lunch ideas the most. The other meals and snacks I find I can think up ideas, be creative and non-repetitive, but for some reason lunches often stump me. I guess it’s just one meal too many each day.

However, as I now have plenty of time to get creative with the contents of my fridge and pantry I’m trying to have at least part of each lunch as an exciting, fresh, healthy new idea.

This rice noodle salad is loosely inspired by an Ottolenghi dish; it’s fresh, tasty, easy to make with mainly store cupboard ingredients. Perfect for these days when popping to the shops is a dim and distant memory.

Cucumber Rice Noodle Salad

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

100g rice noodles

1 tbsp olive oil

30ml vinegar

15g caster sugar

1/2 shallot, finely chopped

thumb size piece of ginger, julienned

3 mint leaves, finely shredded

1/4 red chilli, finely chopped

small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)

1/4 cucumber, sliced in half, seeds removed and cut into half moons

  1. Place the noodles in a bowl, pour over boiling water and leave to sit for about 15 minutes
  2. In another bowl combine the sugar, vinegar and shallot. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add the julienned ginger and finely sliced shallot to the vinegar mix and leave to infuse
  4. Drain the noodles once soft and mix with the olive oil so they don’t clump
  5. Add the chilli, cucumber and noodles to the vinegar mix, stir well and leave for 10 minutes for the flavours to mix
  6. Add the herbs and poppy seeds if using, toss and serve

Noodle Salad

Happy New Year! I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy 2019 ūüôā

To kickstart a fresh new start, here’s a delightfully tasty noodle salad which is perfect for a tasty lunch as it works equally at home or in a lunch box – even better it keeps for a good few days and so is perfect for making on a Sunday and tossing on a plate or in a Tupperware for the following fews days.

After ‘putting up with’ school lunches Little S has decided to try out packed lunches as we realised that although her school tries really hard and gives her a proper cooked safe lunch every day, she just wasn’t eating it as it often wasn’t to her taste. So we’re embarking on a packed lunch journey which will make life even busier but will also provide a new opportunity for creating interesting and tasty safe lunches. Expect lots of salads, snacks and lunchbox friendly baked goodies in the next few months!

Noodle Salad

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 4

175g spaghetti, cooked and refreshed in cold water

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 and 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 and 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chilli paste or fresh finely chopped chilli

Veg to taste: I used cucumber and carrot ribbons and sweetcorn as they’re little S favourites. But roasted aubergine cubes, peppers (roasted or raw), spring onions, coriander and baby corn all work well too.

  1. Mix together the oil, soy sauce, balsamic, sugar, salt and chilli.
  2. Add the cooked, cooled spaghetti and toss well.
  3. Add the veg just before serving and toss again.

Mediterranean Bean Salad

 

Yay for sunshine, yay for summer and yay for the great outdoors! June and July are peak picnic time of year for us, the diary is littered with sports days, festivals, outdoor theatre showings and general outdoorsy stuff. Let’s try and forget that the recent ‘heatwave’ has sadly ended and we seem to have entered a premature damp and drizzly Autumn. But to be honest, if you are British bad weather is far from unusual and we do all the same summery outdoorsy stuff, we just wear wellies and raincoats instead of shorts and flip-flops!

I do struggle with finding interesting, portable and friendly picnic foods that please the whole family. It’s not just the varied dietary requirements, but also a good dose of general fussiness. I seem to be on a constant mission to find family friendly packable lunches.

I’m a massive salad fan, I just love the freshness, colours and textures you find in salads. In fact I could eat salad almost every day. Now, I might love salads but my children are less keen. They have some favourites, but faced with a bowl of dressed lettuce or some unusual vegetables they do spectacularly badly! Not a helpful situation when planning multiple picnics. This Mediterranean bean salad though is hard to dislike. The beans, once marinaded are such a great carrier of flavour, and the Mediterranean embellishments are like jewels of flavour, although you may want to serve the olives on the side if you have some fussy palates around ūüėČ

Mediterranean Bean Salad

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

2 tins of beans, I used Cannellini beans

2 tbsp sherry or wine vinegar

1tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

a good grind of black pepper

4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 onion, sliced

handful of pitted black olives [optional]

small bunch of basil

  1. Drain the beans (reserving the water or ‘aquafaba’ to make meringues) and rinse
  2. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the beans and leave to marinate for half an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, place the onions in a colander and pour over a kettle of water. Place in a bowl and pour over a mixture of 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 tbsp water and a pink of sugar. Set aside to quickly pickle. If you use red onion you’ll get pretty pink onions after pickling.
  4. Add all the other ingredients to the marinated beans. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  5. Enjoy.

Bahn Mi Salad

 

vegan bahn mi salad bowl

I’ve had this idea of turning Classic Bahn Mi baguette filling flavours into a salad for quite a while, and now the weather has turned super hot¬†(albeit briefly!) it’s the perfect opportunity for exciting salad eating.

In my day job, I work in two different locations, so I spend rather too much time walking the streets of the City or sitting on London buses. It does give a lot of looking out the window and contemplating opportunities, and time to draw inspiration for my recipes. Just off one of my regular bus route there are two Bahn Mi shops within meters of each other (crazy, huh!), hence my thoughts turned to recreating the classic Vietnamese hot spicy, pickled, herby flavours of  a Bahn Mi baguette into a salad.

free-from vietnamese salad, no milk, no nuts, no eggs

In this salad bowl I have marinated noodles which are topped with Sriracha roasted beans, quick pickled red cabbage, cucumber and carrot ribbons, tomatoes and plenty of coriander. It makes for a delicious and very moreish bowlful. The noodles are best prepared in advance and cope very nicely with a couple of days in the fridge if need be. Same with the red cabbage. Just make sure you put all the topping on at the last minute to retain freshness and crunch.

Bahn Mi Salad

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free vietnamese noodle salad

serves at least 4 (multiple the veg for more people as there will be plenty of noodles and cabbage)

 For the quick pickled red cabbage:

1/4 red cabbage

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp vinegar

2 tbsp water

1/2 tbsp salt

  1. Massage the cabbage with the 1tsp sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. Set aside for at least half an hour. Pour away any juice which have seeped out.
  2. Combine the water, vinegar and rest of the salt. Pour over the cabbage. Cover and leave to pickle for at least half an hour.

For the Sriracha roasted beans:

1/2 tin white beans or chickpeas

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp olive oil

A few good squirts of Sriracha

  1. Toss the beans in the paprika,oil and chilli sauce and roast in a medium oven (180 degrees) for 15-20 minutes.

For the marinated noodles:

4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

5 tbsps soy sauce

3 tbsps balsamic vinegar

3 tbsps sugar

1 tsp salt

1 pack of wheat noodles (250g) or equal amount of spaghetti

6 spring onions, finely sliced

  1. Mix together the oil, balsamic, soy sauce, sugar and salt until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside
  2. Cook the noodles or spaghetti according to the pack instructions. Make sure they are slightly undercooked and then drain and run under cold water to halt the cooking process.
  3. Mix the noodles into the marinade. Add the spring onions and set aside. Marinate for as long as possible for really tasty noodles.

For the veg:

2 spring onions, sliced

1 carrot, shaved into ribbons

1/2 cucumber, shaved into ribbons

1/2 red pepper, finely sliced

Large handful cherry tomatoes, halved

Coriander

To assemble:

  1. In a bowl, cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of marinated noodles
  2. Top with strips of pickled cabbage, roasted Sriracha beans and veg
  3. Add carrot and cucumber ribbons around the edge
  4. Top with a scattering of coriander and a few squirts of Sriracha
  5. Eat straight away

vegetarian noodle salad, Bahn Mi style

Coronation Rice Salad

dairy-free, egg-free coronation rice salad

I don’t know about you, but for us June and early July heralds peak picnic and barbecue season. It’s a quick succession of one outdoor event after another, fingers crossed for good weather (always the bane of outdoor plans in England) for Sport’s day this¬†Friday which would be unusual for this summer!

So, I’m on a mission to perk up our picnics with some exciting additions, as I find picnics can be particularly challenging with a restricted diet. There’s none of that ‘oh I just pop into M&S¬†and get a whole picnic spread to take to sports day!’ it’s more a case of what can I cobble together at 7am with minimal fuss and which will happily sit around in a sweaty picnic basket until lunch time – quite a tall order there!

Salads are obviously a good way of pepping up your picnic, but clearly it has to be robust and not based on delicate and easily wiltable leaves. This rather moreish coronation rice salad is based upon one I learnt at Le Cordon Bleu but with all the excessive calories and cream transformed into a light but creamy spiced dairy-free rice salad. Call it a rice based riff on the classic and ever popular coronation chicken salad.

Feel free to add in suitable extras to make more of a meal of it – blanched almonds work really well if you can tolerate them, and I particularly like mini raw cauliflower florets for an added bit of interest. If you eat chicken, some freshly shredded roast chicken would work extremely well with the rice and curry flavours.

vegan curried rice salad

Coronation Rice Salad

(Dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

egg-free, dairy-free curried rice salad

serves 4

1/3 cup egg-free mayo such as Veganaise or mayola

1/4 cup mango chutney

1 tsp mild curry powder

squeeze of lemon juice

seasoning, to taste

1 cup cooked basmati rice

1/4 cup raisins

2 spring onions, finely sliced

1/2 cup frozen peas, cooked through and then cooled

1/4 cup blanched almonds [optional]

handful of parsley, finely chopped

  1. Mix together the mayo, mango chutney, curry powder and lemon juice. Taste and season as desired.
  2. Stir in the other ingredients and garnish with the parsley.
  3. Serve.

vegan coronation rice salad

 

Antipasti Jewelled Couscous

 

antipasti jewelled couscous

Fluffy couscous salad, studded with rich antipasti and pistachios (if you can tolerate them) is a wonderful, wonderful thing. But it seriously has to be fluffy, there is nothing more disappointing than stodgy, clergy, water laden couscous!

You may be wondering about the sudden introduction of nuts on my site – well Little S passed a supervised food challenge and we’ve been ordered to introduce these nuts into her diet – scary stuff when you’ve lived in a nut-free house for a few years. Well, to be fair it shouldn’t be that scary, as the challenge was to nuts she’s never been allergic to, but we avoided due to cross contamination and, to be honest, a bit of fear. So the ‘challenge’ was really just an exercise to give us confidence with a few nuts. All good, and an important step forward, but not without problems. Where on earth do you buy pistachios, cashews and almonds which are totally free-from peanuts and sesame seeds?? Any pointers gratefully received!

So, we’re proceeding with caution, adding a few nuts here and there whilst at home (and trying to persuade her to like them, which is a whole other story…..). Hence, the couscous with added pistachios!

Best eaten at room temperature, this couscous salad/side is a perfect picnic or barbecue dish, just right at this time of year.

Antipasti Jewelled Couscous

(dairy-free, egg-free, can be nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

vegan tomato and pepper couscous

makes one big bowlful, serves about 4

 1 cup couscous

1 cup water

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp salt

4 sundried tomato halves, roughly chopped

1/2 jar roasted pepper antipasti, roughly chopped

3 spring onions, sliced

Large handful pistachio nuts (if can tolerate them, otherwise omit or use sunflower seeds)

  1. Pour the couscous into a flat-ish bowl
  2. Place water, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  3. Once boiling, pour over the couscous. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.
  4. Fluff up the couscous with a fork and add the other ingredients.
  5. Serve

dairy-free couscous