29 May, 2010

Zucchini with Crispy Cheese Crumbs

My diet has become more and more vegetarian over the last year or so. I used to enjoy a big fat burger once in a while, but don't really have a chance to do so anymore, and I lost interest too, I guess. I kind of enjoy the occasional lamb dish, and I'd always go for seafood. But meatwise, we seldomly eat other stuff than chicken and I am getting sick and tired of that as well.
Instead, I'd rather experiment with preparing veggies  in a way that they would become a whole meal. Like these zucchinis. I used to not particularly like them, but oven-roasted with chili flakes and fresh thyme and sprinkled with Parmesan and roasted bread crumbs, it doesn't need much more flavor than that. Have these over some steamed rice, couscous or other grain and you surely have a wholesome and filling vegetarian meal. For the carnivores, these zucchinis will be perfect company for any grilled steak, roast chicken or fish.
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ZUCCHINI WITH CRISPY CHEESE CRUMBS

400g zucchini (courgettes), trimmed and cut into chunky batons
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
pinch of dried chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste

2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup dried or stale breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Serves 4 as a side dish
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Heat oven to 200C. Place courgettes on a baking sheet or roasting tin. Toss in one tablespoon of olive oil, thyme leaves, chili flakes and seasoning. Bake for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic breadcrumbs and Parmesan in a bowl. Sprinkle over the soft courgettes and  bake for another 10 minutes or until crisp. Serve immediately.
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27 May, 2010

Strawberry Lemon Buttermilk Cake

I love big decadent cakes, full of sugars, cream and butter. I start salivating when I see them through the windows of bakery shops. But as a general rule, I only indulge in them when it is one of our birthdays. Even my 2-year old daughter got a 2kg Snow White themed chocolate fudge cake...... so I could eat it. She never was particularly interested in cakes, and a 2kg one would just look like a big mountain to her. And in fact, I am very strict with the refined sugar intake of my children.

On the other hand, I like no-fuss desserts. Sweets that I can put together at home in twenty minutes, then put it in the oven and it's done. Sweets that can be eaten on the way to or in the park at the playground, sweets that can be wrapped and survive in a bag together with 27 carefully chosen toys my kids NEED TO take along. Another matter of fact, we don't have suitable crockery for those big cakes, for I would expect at least a silver spoon and some expensive porcelain plate with matching coffee cup and saucer.
So here we are, buttermilk cake fits the bill. Sprinkled with some seasonal fruit, it is just what suits our lifestyle and taste buds. The cake is superbly moist and spongy, the lemon gives the base some fruity zing and the strawberries on top add some seasonal berry fruit freshness to it.  The strawberries can be replaced by other berries or sour cherries when they are in season more towards summer. 

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STRAWBERRY LEMON BUTTERMILK CAKE


1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

75g butter 
2/3 cup agave syrup
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh strawberries, trimmed and quartered
1 tablespoon sugar

Serves 8
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Preheat oven to 200C. Grease a 9 inch tart tin.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix butter and agave with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest, vanilla extract and egg and mix until well combined. Now stir in the buttermilk. Add the flour mixture in several batches and stir until just combined.

Pour the batter into the cake tin, leveling the top. Scatter the strawberries evenly over the top and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean of the center of the cake. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
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25 May, 2010

Asparagus with Sauce Hollandaise and Serrano Ham

 
As far as I know, no other vegetable than white asparagus is only available at its harvest season in Germany. The season starts at beginning or mid April. And there is a  particular day when you'll have the last chance to buy it fresh and local. This year's cut off date is 24 June. As with white asparagus in the shops or on markets, I don't recall it ever being from somewhere else than Germany. Asparagus is being celebrated during those spring months. It's being side dished with bread crumbs in browned butter to almost everything.  Or eaten plain with Sauce Hollandaise and a few slices of ham.
In my early 20s, I used to work for a photographer's cooperative. Every year in May we all got together on a weekend, and prepared, cooked and ate asparagus with ham and Sauce Hollandaise until we dropped. I dedicate this post to OSTKREUZ, in memory of old times.
Now some of you might be aware that I am German, but have been living in Dubai for several years. Shall I tell you where I this white asparagus was from? It's an environmental disaster, but I couldn't help it: Peru.
With regards to veggies and fruit in season, we live in a sort of no-man's-land here in Dubai, as we are surrounded by desert, very little rain in winter and scorching heat with no rain in summer. Every now and then, I indulge in something imported from very far away......and enjoy every bite if it as I get melancholic about the foods that I grew up with back home.

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ASPARAGUS WITH SAUCE HOLLANDAISE AND SERRANO HAM

2 kg fresh white asparagus

Sauce Hollandaise (based on a recipe from Food Network)
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
salt and pepper to taste

12-16 slices of Serrano or Parma ham

Serves 4
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Peel the asparagus and cut off dry or wooden ends. Put into a pot with cold, slightly salted water and bring to boil. Cook for about 20 minutes or until asparagus is tender. Make sure not to overcook. Drain.
While the asparagus is cooking, make the Sauce Hollandaise.

Sauce Hollandaise
Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler,) the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.

Transfer asparagus to plates. Wrap 3-4 spears in a slice of Serrano or Parma ham. Drizzle Sauce Hollandaise over it. Serve with boiled new or oven roasted potatoes.
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23 May, 2010

Yogurt Dip with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Basil


I don't have the best childhood memories of crispbreads. I always found them too dusty, too crumbly to eat, too dry. Now 20 years later, I kind of crave them once or twice a year. I walk past them in the supermarket and get this sudden urge to buy them.
With summer approaching fast and the need to eat lighter foods, I had a craving a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, half the packet of crispbreads was still there when I came across this amazingly simple and tasty dip recipe a few days ago: Low fat yogurt with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil and a splash of olive oil was all it took. It hardly needs any extra seasoning. It is mixed together in no time and serves well as spread on crispbreads or dips for vegetables and crackers. The ideal thing for outdoor picnics, BBQs or a light snack.

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YOGURT DIP WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES AND BASIL
adapted from Probiotic and Prebiotic recipes for Health


1 cup low fat yogurt
4 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, packed in oil 
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2-4
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Drain and finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes.  Wash the basil leaves and chop. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Serve immediately or keep chilled.

Probiotic and Prebiotic Recipes for Health: 100 Recipes that Battle Colitis, Candidiasis, Food Allergies, and Other Digestive Disorders 
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20 May, 2010

Apple Oatmeal Cake

Do you also need certain foods ALWAYS in your house, otherwise you get upset and your whole day is spoiled? I've got two things: milk to put in my coffee in the morning, as I hate black coffee. And apples. I need them. At least one everyday. I have been addicted to them as long as I can remember. In fact,  most of the times, I even carry one in my handbag.

Now, I came across this Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cake on The English Kitchen blog the other day. The oatmeal in the cake got me going on this. As you might know, I always try and make food a little healthier or, at least, try and reduce the "bad" stuff as much as possible. So I didn't want chocolate chips and refined sugars in my oatmeal cake. I decided to make it a fruity oatmeal cake. First thing, or rather fruit, that came to my mind were of course apples. I tried and replace the sugar by a little agave and naturally sweet raisins. Initially I thought, the cake might need some frosting, but that wasn't necessary. The cake was gone in two days, which is a good sign, as it is only two of us eating it.

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APPLE OATMEAL CAKE


1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup (ca. 60g) butter
1/3 cup agave syrup 

1 large egg
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt

1 apple, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup raisins

Serves 8-10
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Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a wide loaf pan or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, pour boiling water over the quick cooking oats. Make sure you are using the exact measurements. Too much water may spoil the cake. Slice the butter and place on top of the oat water mixture. Let stand for about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the egg and agave syrup. Mix well. Pour over the oat mixture and stir until well combined and butter is fully melted. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Combine wet with dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the raisins and the apple slices.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan. Cut into squares to serve.
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17 May, 2010

Pasta Salad with Pesto and Tuna

I've been cooking quite a bit recently, trying out new recipes: especially cool drinks and salads as summer is approaching fast. And the irony is, I get hungry doing so. In fact, I sometimes forget eating while busy cooking. As fellow food bloggers might know, you can't just eat what you cook. Pictures need to be taken, food needs to be styled. I am telling you, you better not be hungry while doing so.
That's why salads like this one are not going to be one-hit wonders in my kitchen/on my lunch plate. You most probably have all ingredients at home and it takes literally no more than 10 minutes to have this delicious and nutritious salad on you plate.
The combination of pasta and pesto is no culinary secret. Adding some canned tuna gives it an extra twist. And I don't know about you, but I always feel like I should eat more seafood. The health benefits of tuna are widely known. Freshly made pesto has got all good ingredients too: nuts, olive oil, garlic and basil. And with regards to the pasta, go with whole wheat pasta or try some gluten-free ones. I used Kamut Quinoa pasta here, and found that a good alternative to regular pasta.
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PASTA SALAD WITH PESTO AND TUNA


2 cups of pasta (preferably small-shaped)
4-6 tablespoons pesto (see below for recipe)
1 small can of high-quality tuna, drained and flaked

Pesto
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup walnuts or pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2-3
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Pesto
Combine basil leaves, nuts, garlic and Parmesan cheese (if used) and blend in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste. Slowly blend in the olive oil (only taking a small amounts at a time) until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta according to instructions. Stir in the pesto while the pasta is still warm. When cooled mix in the tuna. Garnish with fresh herbs, like chives or parsley.
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15 May, 2010

Lemon Date Muffins


I love it when I can cook or bake and don't have to leave the house to buy ingredients. That was the case with these muffins: here in the Middle East dates are a staple in many households, and definitely in ours as my son loves to snack on them. They are a wonderful natural sweetener, full of natural fibres, and lots of vitamin B and iron.
Lemons I buy by the kilo these days, as you might have guessed by the amount of lemons being used in my recipes.  As summer is approaching fast here in Dubai with temperatures getting close to 40C, I am trying to get a Lemon Cooler right, but it's not quite yet the way I want it. Watch this space....
And with regards to the nuts, I think I have about 5 to 6 sorts in my kitchen cupboard, with almonds and walnuts also being bought by the kilo. My children love almonds. My son started eating handfuls of almonds when he was 20 months old. They are one of the very few things that my 2-year old daughter eats on a regular basis. I really believe that kids that age know intuitively what's good for them, provided that they haven't been fed junk from earliest age on. The walnuts go into my salads or in these muffins. The other nuts  have been bought for "special occasions". 
So what else to say about these muffins? They taste good too. That's what I can guarantee you.

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LEMON DATE MUFFINS


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons agave syrup
4 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup yogurt (low fat is fine)
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Yields 6
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Preheat oven to 180C. Line or grease muffin tins.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, combine egg, agave, yogurt, oil, and lemon juice and zest. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Keep a couple of tablespoon of chopped dates and walnuts aside. Stir the rest into the muffin batter. Fill the muffin moulds and use leftover dates and walnuts to garnish the tops. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
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13 May, 2010

Lemon Okras with Red Peppers and Cashews


This okra recipe has been sitting in my computer for the last two days, ready to post, with picture chosen and retouched, etc. Just the introductory notes were missing. It should be easy for a super dish like this, with superfoods okra and bell peppers being the main ingredients, topped up with some cashews for crunch. Okras are in fact a superfood, full of vitamin K, calcium, fiber, vitamin C, protein, folate, manganese and magnesium. The sliminess of the okra, that makes many people okra haters,  is being neutralized in the lemon sauce in this dish. Bell peppers are excellent sources of vitamin  A, B6 and C. Cashews are full of copper, magnesium and phosphorus and their fats are the really good unsaturated fats.
I should be sitting here bragging about it paragraph after paragraph. Instead, my creativity fails me as my body has been busy fighting some cold bug. And apart from what you have read above, nothing else comes to my mind. This okra dish should, in fact, be preventing us from getting sick by cold bugs. But even us healthy foodie mortals get hit every now and then in spite of all the superfoods. My legs feel like jelly and my had like a rock, far to heavy for the rest of my body to carry. My kids had no mercy with me today, as they have had colds themselves......
You know what I am having for dinner tonight? Take-away pizza..... in front of the TV.
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LEMON OKRAS WITH RED PEPPERS AND CASHEWS


2 cups okras, head removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and deveined, cut into strips
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour

zest of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup cashew nuts

Serves 2-4
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Heat the olive oil in a deep pan or wok over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the okras and fry for 3-4 minutes. Now stir in bell pepper slices. Cook for another 2 minutes or until just tender.

Heat the vegetable stock and whisk in the flour until all lumps have dissolved. Add the mixture to the okra pepper pan and let simmer until sauce becomes thick. Stir in lemon juice and zest and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

In a dry pan, toast the cashew nuts over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning them over once or twice in the course.

Stir in the cashews. Transfer to serving bowl. Serve with brown rice or noodles.
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10 May, 2010

Broccoli with Anchovies, Capers and Chili


I want to sing a hymn on broccoli today.  Or is it rather a hymn on my gorgeous kids? When I ask my son (4 years old) what he wants for lunch, he will probably say this: chicken (grilled that is), BROCCOLI, carrots, sweet potato (all steamed that is) and couscous. Wouldn't that make the heart of every mother on the planet jump with joy? And you know what, he finishes everything. I am so proud of him and the fact that he likes the healthy food I put in front of him.
Even my daughter (2 years old and a very picky eater) nibbled away her broccoli the other day and even asked for the broccoli on her brother's plate too. Unfortunately, just a flash in the pan. The next day, she ignored it.

I like any kind of veggies really. Once they are prepared the right way, I'll eat everything. Some of the magic keys (probably more for grown-up taste buds) seem to be chili, capers and anchovies. The blandest veggies they can spice up. They can make cauliflower tasty (check here) or spice up a simple and fast spaghetti dish (check here).
Now here is a recipe that makes broccoli the most delicious vegetable on the planet. Whatever is stated in the recipe I had over some brown rice for lunch yesterday. A brilliant combination, light yet filling and very tasty, especially with the garlicky -fried breadcrumbs on top. I am not sure if was just my imagination, but it really made me feel good and happy. Try it and let me know if it does the same to you.
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BROCCOLI WITH ANCHOVIES, CAPERS AND CHILI

2 cups of broccoli, cut into florets 
2 garlic cloves (divided)
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
2 anchovies, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped (one will be enough for the faint-hearted)
1 slide of whole meal toast, crust cut off and cut into bite size squares 

Serves 2-4
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Steam the broccoli for about 5 minutes, until just tender.  Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the anchovies, capers, chili and half the garlic. Cook on gentle heat for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
Heat another 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chunky breadcrumbs and rest of garlic and cook until crisp, crunchy and golden. Stir frequently. Drain on kitchen paper.  

Toss the broccoli with the flavored oil, tip into a dish then scatter breadcrumbs over. Serve as side dish or simply over brown or red rice for a light meal.






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08 May, 2010

Banana Date Loaf


About two years ago,  this banana date loaf kicked off my healthier eating lifestyle: with no or as little as possible refined sugars and flours. That has been my goal ever since. This sugar free cake convinced me that it is still possible to enjoy life and have perfectly sweet treats without stuffing myself with foods loaded with refined sugars. I virtually baked it every second or third day, as I satisfied my sweet cravings at any time of the day with it. It motivated me to search for other sweet AND healthier alternatives. I started enjoying cooking and baking healthily and I eventually started this blog in which I share my recipes with whoever is interested.

After reading the books of the German doctor Max Otto Bruker (I wrote a little about his studies in detail in my post of 3 GRAINS BREAKFAST WITH 3 FRESH FRUIT), I decided to roughly follow his diet recommendations: plenty of raw foods, no processed foods, no refined sugars and flours. His most famous quote is, roughly translated: "Never eat anything that is being advertised for."

Kicking of my chocolate addiction did not come with the package though. Until recently (let's say 6 months ago) I still had cravings quite often, especially in the evenings. It made me feel bad. By now, these cravings have been reduced to an acceptable amount. If they come, I am able to enjoy my pizza, piece of cake, chocolate bar or ice cream. I guess, a slow change is the way to go with any change of diet in order to establish it for the long term.

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BANANA DATE LOAF


1 cup dried dates, chopped
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

100g butter

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup nuts, roughly chopped

Yields one 9-inch loaf
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Preheat oven to 180C. Line Loaf tin with parchment paper or grease with cooking spray.

Put chopped dates, milk and soda in a pot and bring to over medium heat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour baking powder and salt. Mix well. Knead in the cubed butter pieces until the flour becomes crumbly.

Pour in the date milk mixture and mashed bananas. Mix until just combined. Stir in the chopped nuts. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for about 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Take out of the tin and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Gesund durch richtiges Essen.  Unsere Nahrung unser Schicksal
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06 May, 2010

Hazelnut Cookies


Less is more.  If I think about this saying, I realize that I feel the happiest and the most complete when I have little but well chosen things on my daily plate. This is not only meant literally. In my life it all boils down to not having to rush things through, but actually being able to enjoy or, sometimes even endure things, events, feelings without much distraction. That's my philosophical food for thought today.
Now back to food, the real thing: Less is more applies very well to these shortbread cookies. Traditionally, short breads were made by only four ingredients: butter, sugar, vanilla and flour. This is what I have been trying here, replacing the vanilla by freshly ground hazelnut and replacing the flours and sugars by slightly healthier versions. The simplicity of these cookies are just amazing. I must admit, I get carried away sometimes by all these ingredients and spices that can give an extra note to a food. These cookies are hazelnut all over and that's all they need.
Don't you wanna have that little bowl in the picture above on your desk, like I have now?

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HAZELNUT COOKIES


1/2 cup whole hazelnuts + more chopped hazelnuts for garnish
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
100g (3-4 oz) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup agave syrup

Yields ca. 20
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Toast 1/2 cup of hazelnuts in a dry pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Take off the heat. Rub off the peel of the hazelnuts with a kitchen towel. Not all peel will come off, but that's fine.

In a food processor,  blend toasted and peeled hazelnuts until it becomes a fine meal. Combine with flour and salt and blend again. Add the butter in small bite size pieces and process until the mixture becomes crumbly. Slowly add the agave. Mix until batter gets texture of a dough.

Form into a round log with about 2 inch diameter. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat oven to 180C. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unwrap the dough and cut slices off the log, each one about 1/2 inch thick. Place on baking sheet and garnish with chopped hazelnuts. Press the hazelnuts into the dough a little, so they will stick. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges begin turn golden brown. Let cool completely on wire rack. Keep in airtight container.
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04 May, 2010

Lentil Salad with Salsa Verde


I just go totally crazy about tasty foods that are healthy, or is it the healthy foods that are absolutely delicious?! Can't decide. This Lentil Salad seems to becoming my new favorite lunch in record times. It includes all the healthy foods: legumes, raw green leafy vegetables, nuts, and rich in vitamin C roasted veggies.
What's so tasty about it: I love the combination of the sweetish roasted bell peppers, combined with nutty lentils, some tart salsa verde and crunchy nuts on top.
It's good and filling enough to take as lunch box as it can be prepared in advance and keeps well overnight. It also goes well as a low-carb side dish with some roasted meat at dinner or at a BBQ. Bon Appetit!

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LENTIL SALAD WITH SALSA VERDE


1 cup brown lentils, uncooked
2 bell peppers
2 spring onions
3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons walnuts, chopped

Salsa Verde
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 tablespoon red balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2
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Cook the lentils in two cups of slightly salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Deseed and devein the bell peppers. Cut them into stripes. Toss in a few drops of olive oil until roughly coated and season with some salt. Place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until tender about 15 minutes. Turn them over halfway to provide even cooking. Set aside.
To make the salsa verde, whizz all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add a few tablespoons of the salsa verde to the lentils and toss. Add roasted peppers and thinly sliced spring onions. Sprinkle over the feta and chopped walnuts. Ready to eat!!
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