Chickpea, hot-smoked salmon and pomegranate salad

Chickpea, hot-smoked salmon and pomegranate salad

I found this great recipe for chickpea, hot-smoked salmon and pomegranate salad in the The Hairy Dieters Eat for Life. Like many of the Hairy Bikers‘ recipes it’s nice and simple. In fact, this is about as simple as cooking gets. And actually, it doesn’t involve any cooking unless you decide to cook your own chickpeas – which admittedly, will be even nicer.

Chickpea, hot-smoked salmon and pomegranate salad – Quick and easy lunchbox inspiration

If you do cook your own chickpeas, which admittedly will be even nicer, then you’ll need to plan ahead for the soaking and cooking, but otherwise this salad only takes about 10 minutes to throw together. If you’re taking every shortcut you can buy little tubs of pomegranate seeds at the supermarket so you don’t even have to deal with removing them from a real pomegranate. It’s lazy, but for me this recipe is all about convenience. It makes a great weekday lunchbox salad, and I’m never going to want to spend a lot of time on that!

Chickpea, hot-smoked salmon and pomegranate salad
Chickpea, hot-smoked salmon and pomegranate salad – great for your work lunchbox

A tasty and satisfying salad

Just because it’s quick and easy doesn’t mean this salad is boring. The base of the salad is chickpeas, which are a brilliant salad ingredient. If they’re not your thing then you could try haricots or butter beans, but I love the nuttiness you get with chickpeas. My other half is not a big fan of chickpeas, but that’s fine by me – I get to eat it all myself!

It’s got some lovely interesting flavours. I love hot-smoked salmon. It’s becoming more widely available (thank you Aldi!) and is so convenient and tasty to add to salads. Together with the chickpeas, the salmon makes this a really substantial and filling meal. The pomegranate seeds add a sweet, fresh crunch, which makes a lovely contrast.

 

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Low carb cottage pie with cauliflower and blue cheese topping

Low Carb Cottage Pie with Cauliflower and Blue Cheese Topping

I made this low carb cottage pie last week with great results. The potato-loving Mr KitchenBlurb made all sorts of skeptical noises, so I was nervous. But he agreed to try it. I almost made a pie where one half of the topping was potato and the other half used cauliflower, just in case. In the end I was brave and went the whole low carb hog, and I’m very glad I did.

My kitchen clearly disagrees, however – as you can see from the not-so-subliminal carb-laden “Bread” message lurking prominently in the photo above!

Low Carb Cottage Pie – how does that even work?

For this recipe I used my fairly standard cottage pie filling, but a radically different topping. Instead of mashed potato, you use pureed cauliflower. I took this (more or less) from a Tom Kerridge recipe for shepherd’s pie with a very similar topping. I’ve not tried the full Kerridge shepherd’s pie recipe yet – but it is on my list.

I found that the puree from one pretty large cauliflower made enough for 3-4 portions, depending how hungry you are. Lacking double cream, I substituted a spoonful or two of marscapone that needed using up. It seemed to work very well, and creme fraiche would do the job just as well. The blue cheese is enough to give a noticeable but not overpowering flavour, and combines really well with the cauliflower.

The overall effect is very creamy and feels quite indulgent. However, it also feels lighter and less stodgy than a potato topping. We both really enjoyed it and I’ll definitely make it again.

Cottage Pie Filling – always a bit improvised

I would always remain fairly relaxed about the exact ingredients and quantities for a cottage pie or shepherd’s pie filling. More often than not, I mince up leftover meat from our Sunday roast rather than buying uncooked mince. The amount I use is the amount I’ve got, and I adjust the vegetable and stock quantities accordingly.

A great dish to make in advance

I regularly make meals like cottage pie or shepherd’s pie in advance. The prepared pie can be popped in the fridge to be baked later. I also often make a large quantity and either freeze the extra filling, or even put together whole extra pies ready to defrost and go straight in the oven at a later date. This means you get several meals for the effort of preparing one – convenience food at its best.

Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake

Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake – it’s comfort food time!

Pasta bakes must be one of the ultimate comfort foods. I don’t make them too often because they tend to be a bit sinful – loaded with cheese and carbs – however, at least this dish is also packed with veggies and garlic, so the cheese doesn’t count, right? This courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake is very simple to make – you can get on with most of your preparation while the courgettes are cooking. It can be made in advance ready to just pop in the oven for 20 minutes when you need it.

For a vegetarian option, just leave out the pancetta (although as I’m not a vegetarian, I find it very difficult to omit any option involving bacon!)

Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake

This recipe is adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Hugh’s Three Good Things… on a plate, which has some really nice no-fuss ideas for simple dishes based around a few key ingredients.

Using a mandoline makes slicing courgettes super-speedy
Using a mandoline makes slicing courgettes super-speedy

Your first job is to slice the courgettes, either with a knife or a mandoline slicer. A knife will do the job, but this is one of those times when I’m really glad of a mandoline. It will speed through several courgettes in no time at all – but do watch your fingers!

Now gently fry the sliced courgettes in for up to 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are softened. After about half an hour they will have cooked down nicely into a meltingly soft, almost mushy texture.

While the courgettes are cooking, remember to keep stirring them while you prepare the other ingredients. Now is the time to chop the garlic, tear the mozzarella, grate your Parmesan, fry your pancetta (if using), and cook your pasta.

Softened courgettes and garlic with pancetta

Once the courgettes are nearly ready, add the garlic to soften for a minute or two, and then mix in the fried pancetta.

Next stir in your cooked pasta, torn mozzarella and double cream into the courgette, garlic and pancetta mixture. Transfer the mixture to a greased oven dish and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. It is now ready to bake in the oven, or pause at this stage to cook it later.

Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake ready to go in the oven
Add the grated Parmesan and your pasta bake is ready to go in the oven

When you’re ready, pop your pasta bake in the oven until it’s gorgeously golden brown on top. This will take about 20 minutes if you’re baking it straight away. If it’s been prepared in advance and just come out of the fridge, add another 5-10 minutes.

Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake
Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake

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