Friday, 7 October 2011

Two simple and zingy sides to transform a meal

This week’s post may seem like a bit of a cheat as neither dish involves any cooking, but these basic recipes completely transform a simple meal and give a dish a fresh, light and zingy taste.

The recipes - homemade guacamole and a chickpea salad - are easy to make in just a couple of minutes and because they use nutritious ingredients, they make perfect healthy lunches, snacks, or sides to an evening meal.

Guacamole is something I’ve always enjoyed as a dip with nachos or pitta breads, or dolloped on top of a bowl of either meat or veggie chilli. I love the creaminess of avocados and I know they are good for me so I put them in almost everything these days.

According to, avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fibre, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a "nutrient booster" by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha, beta-carotene and lutein in other foods eaten alongside the avocado.

You will need two large, ripe avocados to make a decent guacamole dip or to serve two or three people.
Top tip: when buying avocados, check that the little round tip of the fruit is still attached at the top, if it has fallen off then the avocado is likely to be bad inside.

Slice the avocados in half and remove the stone then scoop out the flesh using a spoon. Chop into small squares and put into a bowl.
Add one chopped or crushed garlic clove, half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (more if you like it hotter), a teaspoon of lemon juice, a tablespoon or two of olive oil and a dollop of soured cream.
Season and mash together with a fork for a chunky guacamole, or whiz in a food processor for a smooth version.

For the second recipe the ingredients are even more basic. I made this a couple of weeks ago when it was sunny and I wanted a salad for lunch, but fancied something more substantial than just leaves and raw veg.

I turned to one of my favourite blogs - - for inspiration. The writer of the blog, Molly Wizenberg, is a restaurant owner living in Seattle who started blogging in 2004, back when I was still at university and didn’t even know what a blog was.

One of her most popular recipes is a chickpea and parmesan salad. We always have chickpeas in the cupboard at home so I decided to give it a go.
As Paul was a vegan for ten years, he used chickpeas a lot in his cooking and now we put them in all sorts including tagines, goulashes and veggie chillis.

This salad is fresh, satisfying and delicious served with a green salad, chopped sundried tomatoes, fresh basil and toasted pine nuts which are just my additions, but the whole thing works really well together.

Chickpea salad

1 can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 dessert spoon of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Sprinkling of crushed sea salt and black pepper
Good handful of grated parmesan

Simply mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and adjust seasonings to suit your taste. Serve with a greean salad as above. This will save, covered in the fridge, for a couple of days.


2 large, ripe avocados
1 garlic clove, crushed or chopped
½ teaspoon of chilli flakes
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoon of olive oil
A dollop of soured cream
Salt and pepper

Slice the avocados in half and remove the stones using a knife. Be careful.
Scoop out the flesh using a spoon and chop into small squares, about 1cm x 1cm, then put into a mixing bowl.
Add the garlic, chilli flakes, lemon juice, olive oil and soured cream and mash together with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve as a dip, with warm bread or chilli con carne.   


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