Tag Archives: salad

Middle Eastern Pearl Barley Salad


It’s the hint of sweet spices, orange juice and currants that I love most in this Middle Eastern spiced pearl barley salad.  The flavours and the irresistible turmeric colouring infuse into the nutty pearl barley, making every mouthful layered with taste. A sprinkling of toasted almonds, garnished over the top, adds the perfect and necessary crunchy texture to this salad. So it’s no surprise when people ask me to ‘bring a salad’ this is often the one I resort to.


Let’s face it, dried grains, particularly pearl barley, are a very affordable way of feeding people. And unlike some of the other more robust pulses (chickpeas or black beans) pearl barley can be cooked straight from the packet, no pre soaking required. It makes it an excellent choice for those who forget to plan ahead – or for those who tend to leave cooking to the last minute.

This salad doubles as a side dish, and it works served either cold or served warm. Try it with these barbecued lamb skewers, or even this delicious Moroccan roasted chicken .

It combines effortlessly with an arrangement of other salads, like with this roasted cauliflower salad, or this Kale and pickled carrot slaw.

Because of the filling nature of grain salads there are often left overs (I’m not complaining). Put them to good use. I sometimes fry up any remaining pearl barley and eat it rolled in a wrap the next day with some tahini, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and green salad leaves.  It’s perfect lunch time fare.


Middle Eastern Pearl Barley Salad


1 cup pearl barley

1 brown onion, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 stick celery, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp all spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp cumin

1/3 cup dried currants

1 orange

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/3 cup toasted slithered almonds

Place the pearl barley in a pot, cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil and cook for 35 – 40 minutes or till pearl barley is just cooked through. Drain and rinse briefly under hot water, set aside.

Meanwhile, place the roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery in a food processor and blitz lightly to a small dice.

Warm 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add the vegetables, all the spices and a large pinch of salt, stir and cover with a lid, cook on a gentle heat for 5 minutes.

Zest half the orange, then juice the whole orange. Add the orange zest and juice to the saucepan along with the currants, cover with a lid again and cook a further five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for flavours to infuse for 10 minutes.

Place the spiced vegetables and currants in a medium bowl, add the cooked pearl barley and chopped parsley, stir well to combine. Check the seasoning, and drizzle with a little more extra virgin oil if needed.

Serve on a platter or in a large bowl and scatter with the toasted almonds.

Any left overs store in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Roasted Brussel Sprout And Chickpea Salad With Garlic Yoghurt



A dear friends Aunty who I lived with for six months in Brighton, the UK, (20 odd years ago now), would steam her brussels for hours on end.

On a Sunday morning (it was always a Sunday) she would begin the day by steaming the vegetables for the evening meal (gulp). The poor overcooked brussel sprouts would then sit all day on the stove top sweating in their pot till we all came home from the pub and she’d proceeded to heat them again before serving our Sunday roast with something I can only refer to as muck.

It was a crime against the vegetables and one that brussel sprouts never made a recovery from. That is till this year, when I pushed aside those horrid memories and took to roasting them.



Suddenly there was reason to love this misrepresented vegetable. To write a recipe for it. To post it here on this food blog.

I urge anyone who has a brussel sprout phobia to fight back. To say ‘No’ to hating brussel sprouts, and ‘Yes’ to roasting them.

This quick and easy way of preparing them with za’atar, garlic, chickpeas and extra virgin olive oil is so delicious, and so simple, that it is side dish you will be sure to fall back on time-and-time-again.

It’s a side dish to serve with a roast, or a good steak, or any number of other vegetable dishes like creamy potatoes and baked pumpkin.

And what I really love about this dish is the whole cloves of garlic, roasted with the sprouts then skinned and chopped and folded through Greek yoghurt with mint if you fancy, the taste is strong yet subtle, creamy and rounded.





Roasted brussel sprout and chickpea salad with garlic yoghurt 

600g brussel sprouts, washed and halved

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp za’atar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle at the end

4 cloves garlic, smashed but kept in their skin

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

1/2 cup Greek natural yoghurt

1 tbsp chopped mint

1tbsp lemon juice

Pre heat oven to 200C.

Cut the washed brussel sprouts in half and place in a large bowl. Add the drained chickpeas, za’atar, 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and sea salt and cracked pepper, toss till well coated.

Line a large tray with baking paper and spread the brussels over the tray. Roast for 30 minutes, or till roasted and caramalised looking.  Half way through cooking sprinkle the sprouts with 1 tbsp water to add moisture during the roasting process.

Set the sprouts aside and pick out the garlic, remove the skin and chop it to a fine paste, combine the garlic with the yoghurt, mint, lemon juice, 1 tbsp water, and season with sea salt and pepper.

Dollop the garlic yoghurt all over the brussel sprouts and serve warm.

Zucchini, Tuna And Borlotti Bean Salad With Chilli And Lemon


Not even I can deny the convenience of opening a can of pulses, rinsing them under water, and having them ready to use. It’s what I call fast food. The type we should all be eating.

Whether it’s Borlotti beans, cannellini beans or chickpeas (which by the way, the later two make a great substitute to the borlotti in this salad) the fast access to a pulse that would usually need to be soaked over night and cooked for 30 minutes or longer just can’t be denied.  So I’m happy to use this short cut when I need fast feeding.

This recipe proves that fast food can be healthy. The spirals of zucchini (which look like pasta in this shot) are my favourite element to the salad. I’m grateful for my spirelli cutter, which makes quick work (and beautiful spirals of zucchini). If you aren’t a convert yet, you can use a peeler, a mandolin, do the old fashioned way and use a knife, or – though it’s not as pretty – as a last resort, just grate the zucchini.


A large glug of extra virgin olive oil (don’t be shy here, it’s so good for you) is heated lightly for the garlic and chilli to gently cook in. In goes the zucchini, a quick swizzle in the pan before turning off the heat and adding the drained tuna, lemon zest (wax-free if you can), juice and rinsed borlotti beans.

If you’re in the middle of winter (like I am) you’d eat it warm, but if you’re beating the heat of summer, let it cool and eat it cold – either way, it’s just so good!

Each time I walk past my bowl of organic homegrown lemons, sitting by the window sill, I think of how lucky I am to have wax-free lemons picked from my own tree. I wonder why all store-bought lemons can’t be wax-free. Surely everyone deserves wax-free lemons. If you don’t have a lemon tree, find someone who does, or, buy organic wax-free lemons, you will benefit immensely.


I’ll never tire of the classic combination of garlic, chilli, lemon and tuna. I don’t think you will either. It’s so Italian. It’s so simplistic. It’s just right.

And really, any food this delicious that can be made in ten minutes deserves a little attention.

Zucchini, tuna and borlotii bean salad with chilli and lemon 

Serves 1


50ml extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced thinly

1/2 long red chilli, deseeded and sliced

2 small-medium zucchini

95g can tuna, drained (I use Sirena, Italian style)

3/4 cup borlotti beans, drained and rinsed

1 wax-free lemon

Sea salt 

Cracked black pepper

Scattering of picked parsley 

Prepare the zucchini into thin long strips by your preferred method of a spirelli cutter, mandolin, knife or grater.

Zest the lemon and juice half of it.

Warm the extra virgin olive oil in a medium fry pan, add the garlic and chilli, and cook gently for 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, sea salt and cracked pepper, cook gently for 1-2 minutes.

Turn off the heat, add the drained tuna, drained borlotti beans, lemon zest and juice, toss lightly to combine. Serve warm scattered with parsley and if so desired grilled bread.

Roasted Cauliflower and Za’atar Carrot Salad with Spiced Yoghurt


I don’t care that the weather is getting colder and that raw and crunchy foods are becoming less desirable. I still want to eat salad. I love salad. I’m on a roll with eating salads, and I want it to continue. It makes me feel so good!

So, cold raw salads need to be turned on their head. They need to become warm salads that offer comfort. It’s time to start cranking the oven. And one of the best vegetables to roast in that oven is cauliflower.

Once you’ve cut your cauliflower into slices, sprinkle it with za’atar, and drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil before it goes in the oven to roast.

The hint of sumac – a sour berry – in the za ‘atar gives a subtle sweet tang, off set by thyme and sesame seeds, which are also essential ingredients to a good za’atar spice mix. It’s so simple I could cry.


I’ve used one of those Spirelli vegetable cutters, the ones that curl and spiral vegetables into beautiful long strands, but don’t let this stop you if you don’t have one. Just cut the carrots into thin matchsticks instead.

Creamy dressings go well with roasted vegetables and a spiced yoghurt dressing couldn’t be easier. A few coriander seeds, a few cumin seeds roasted then pounded and sprinkled on the yoghurt; it’s top stuff!

This salad is for one. So boost up the amounts if you’re cooking for others. Not that cooking for others is always necessary; cook for your self this one time. Make this salad for one, and love it for all the right reasons.


Roasted cauliflower and za’atar carrot salad 


2 cups of sliced cauliflower florets

Extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tsp za’atar spice mix (look in Middle Eastern stores for an authentic one)

1 medium carrot

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

3-4 tbsp yoghurt

Handful wild rocket leaves

Sea salt

Pre heat oven to 200C

Slice the cauliflower into 2cm thick slices, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, za’atar and sea salt, rub lightly and roast for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the carrot and if using a spirelli cutter spiral the carrot into thick spirals, or use a knife to cut the carrots into thin matchsticks.

After the cauliflower has roasted for 25 minutes, add the carrot and mix lightly. Use a little more oil if the vegetables look dry and continue roasting for another 10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly before tossing through the salad.

Place coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a small, dry fry pan, toast till seeds start to pop. Ground lightly in a mortar and pestle.

Place the washed rocket in a bowl, scatter with roasted cauliflower and carrot, dollop over the yoghurt and sprinkle it with the coriander seed mix to suit your tastes.

Eat whilst still warm.

Quinoa tabbouleh with feta and pomegranate


This salad was inspired by my yoga teacher,  Linda Apps, who runs the Yoga Nook , a small yoga centre in Dulwich Hill, in the Inner West of Sydney. She follows my blog and every now and then, when not discussing yoga, we talk about food. She asked for a recipe that was yummy, and vegetarian, that she might share with the readers of her monthly newsletter. This salad immediately came to mind because it’s largely plant based and is healthy and delicious. Plus, i’ve been keen to write a recipe that uses pomegranate. Up until a few years ago, I was ignorant of it’s beauty.


Traditionally tabbouleh is made with cracked wheat also known as bulgur. For a more nutritious salad, I like using quinoa. Any of the coloured varieties can be adapted here – red, white, or black. This salad relies on fresh parsley and mint. If you can snip these straight from the garden or planter box you will be rewarded. If you must buy your parsley and mint, smell it first! When demand out grows my supply of fresh herbs I’ll only buy them when I can smell them. If they have no smell they get left on the shelf. Both parsley and mint act as a digestive aid and this is reason in itself to eat this salad.

Pomegranate truly is one of the prettiest fruits I know. The jewel shaped kernels burst in the mouth with a sweet yet slightly bitter flavour. And the bright red colour is not only attractive to the eye but makes such a decorative garnish. For us Southern hemisphere folk, pomegranate are in season from March to May. Northern hemisphere dwellers will have to keep this salad in mind for September through to February.

You only need a little extra virgin olive oil to dress the quinoa. You can also drizzle this salad with avocado or hazelnut oil.


A few other simple ideas include serving this salad with grilled salmon – a dear friend of my Mum’s served it this way – It’s a really nice combination and makes a fancy yet simple meal. When served with salmon I prefer to leave the feta out as I tend to stick to the rule of – don’t mix fish and cheese.

I also like to add sliced avocado and eat this salad with a piece of toasted rye bread, or sourdough to the side.

Quinoa tabbouleh – serves 2-3 or 4-6  as a side dish


1 cup organic quinoa – white, red or black

3/4 cup picked and washed parsley leaves

3/4 cup picked and washed mint leaves

1/2 a pomegranate, seeds removed

1/2 lemon, juiced

Extra virgin olive oil

50g feta, crumbled

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Cook quinoa in plenty of boiling water for about 15 minutes, Drain well and set aside to cool.

Once cool, place cooked quinoa in a medium bowl, add washed mint and parsley leaves, lemon juice, sea salt, cracked black pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Toss to combine and either place on a serving platter, or divide between bowls.

Cut the pomegranate in half and gently break the membrane around the pomegranate to release the seeds. Collect them in a small bowl. Sprinkle the salad with plenty of pomegranate seeds and crumble over some feta. If preparing this ahead of time, don’t dress with the lemon juice or extra virgin olive oil till ready to eat.

Pumpkin freekeh salad with basil and goats cheese



I’m not going to tell you about my landlord selling our house, or how we’ve spent copious amounts of time looking for a new home. I’m not going to tell you about all the packing and sorting and cleaning to be done. No I won’t tell you any of that. Instead, let me tell you about this delicious, wholesome salad with roasted pumpkin, goats cheese, fresh basil and freekah.




Freekeh, if you’re yet to be acquainted, is young green wheat that’s processed and dried by roasting over an open flame. It has a nutty, smoky flavour, with a firm (much firmer than pearl barley) chewy texture. It’s brilliant cooked and served cold in salads, as you might brown rice. It’s nutritious too and high in fibre. And for the sake of convenience, supermarkets are now stocking this delicious grain. You can also buy freekah cracked, which cooks much faster and doesn’t require soaking over night – not that I soaked the freekah for this salad (see recipe for fast track cooking) – there’s far too many boxes piling up to be that organised!




This is the gorgeous basil I have growing in my back garden, and the one I picked fresh for this salad. I can’t take credit for being the grower, that would be my green thumbed man, he’s very handy in the garden. I chopped the basil back two weeks ago and made fresh pesto to eat with linguini and already it’s screaming out to be used again. Now of course, not everyone will have access to basil from their own back yard, that’s fine. My tip is to smell the basil before you buy it. It should be pungent and have an almost over powering perfumed smell, if it smells of freshness and sweet summer then it’s good to buy.




The dressing for this salad uses roasted caraway and mustard seeds. Caraway seeds have a flavour similar to star anise and fennel and are often used to flavour rye bread. Roast and pound the seeds, in a mortar and pestle, together with vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper.

Now, the goats cheese crumbled over the top gives the creaminess this salad requires – the fresh basil – the lightly caramalised onion – its all top shelf. I love eating this salad with a good sourdough bread, or it’s also excellent served with a grilled steak or barbecued lamb cutlets.


Pumpkin, goats cheese salad with freekeh and basil


1 cup whole freekeh (soaking overnight cuts cooking time)

1 kg butternut pumpkin (skin on weight)

2 red onions, peeled and sliced into thin wedges

1/2 bunch thyme, chopped

1 cup picked basil leaves, washed

100g soft goats cheese

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

For the dressing

1 tbsp caraway seeds

1 tbsp mustard seeds

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

50 ml extra virgin olive oil


Soak freekeh in cold water over night. Cook in a medium pan with plenty of water for about 45 minutes. Or if you forget to soak freekeh, cook in plenty of water for 1 hour, turn off the heat and stand in the hot water for a further 30 minutes. Drain and rinse, set aside to cool.


Pre heat oven to 200C or 180C fan forced. Peel and cut pumpkin into 2cm dice, place in a baking tray with sliced red onion, chopped thyme, a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, mix together with your hands and roast in the  oven for 40-45 minutes, stir once during cooking. Set aside to cool to room temperature.


For the dressing, place caraway seeds and mustard seeds in a small fry pan, toast in a dry pan till seeds start to pop. Place in a mortar and pestle and pound to a rough powder, add vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a large crack of pepper, whisk to combine.


Pour the dressing over the cooked freekeh and toss to combine, add cooled roasted pumpkin, and picked basil, toss gently to combine. Place on a large platter and sprinkle with crumbled goats cheese. Eat with good sourdough.