Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Frenchman's Savoury Protein Salad for Blokes

I've been going through a strange and unusual healthy phase recently, so I decided that I would try eating salads for a change (just once a week - let's not get carried away).  This of course meant that I needed to work out how to make a salad that I would enjoy.

Fortunately, it didn't take much experimentation to come up with the Frenchman's Savoury Protein Salad For Blokes.  Okay okay, it's really just cos lettuce, quinoa and chicken, jumbled up with various condiments, seasonings and flavourings.  But it rocks!

Quinoa and chicken gives the salad a great protein boost, and the rest of the ingredients are really just for flavour and texture, or to help you feel better about eating a salad.

Main Ingredients

  • Shredded chicken.  Just buy a roast chicken from the supermarket and rip up enough meat into bite-size pieces).
  • Quinoa (thanks Kimmie H for introducing me to this great superfood).  Just cook it like rice (or follow the instructions on the packet if you didn't know what "cook it like rice" meant).  I find that white quinoa fluffs up a lot more, which means more volume to fill you up.  I like to add black quinoa for a textural counterpoint (they tend to be smaller and crunchier, even when cooked).  And of course, quinoa is super-rich in protein, has half the carbs of rice, and is gluten free!
  • Cos lettuce.  Break off a handful of leaves, give it a good wash, and tear it up into bite size pieces.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.  Drizzle this over the salad - as much or as little as you want.

Flavouring ingredients
(use some or all of these, depending on what you've got sitting in the pantry/fridge or can find on the supermarket shelves)

  • A stalk of spring onion.  Chop it up into little discs and chuck it in for a nice bit of flavour.
  • Red onions.  Slice it up into half-moons, separate the layers and sprinkle it through.
  • Ikan bilis.  This is a great little South-East Asian ingredient, basically crispy dried little anchovies and nuts.  Fantastic savoury flavour and crunchy textural counterpoint.
  • Vinegar.  Experiment with this!  Try apple cider, red wine, malt, balsamic, or even more than one kind together.  Adds a nice sharpness to the flavour and aroma.
  • Roasted pine nuts.  Just toss a handful of pine nuts into a dry pan on medium heat and regularly toss it, otherwise it burn up and become sad and bitter.
  • Sesame seeds.  Sesame seeds are a great addition to anything!
  • Sesame oil.  Imparts a delicious aroma to the salad.
  • Salt.  If you want to get fancy, try black lava sea salt, which will supposedly leach the toxins from that toxic nachos and beer meal you had yesterday.
  • Bonito flakes.  Yeah now I'm showing off, but if you can get your hands of these (from a Japanese grocery store, most likely), they are the bomb.
  • Japanese rice seasoning.  Contains sesame seeds, salt and bonito flakes, so it's a three in one flavour bomb.  However, I suspect that it also contains MSG, which is why it tastes soooo good.
  • Cherry tomatoes.  Halve them before you chuck them in, otherwise things could get slippery when you try to fork one.
  • Chia seeds.  Some superfood to make your super salad even more super.
  • Garlic.  Mmmm. 'nuff said.  If you're really lazy, you can buy pre-chopped garlic from the supermarket.  Just don't go overboard if you're heading out after your meal.
  • Chopped chilli.  Not for the faint of tongue.  But great for a zingy flavour hit.
  • Pamigiano Reggiano. Or any hard cheese, really - just grate it or (if you're lazy like me and don't want to wash up the grater) snip slivers off with a good pair of scissors.  I like parmesan because it provides a sharper, tangy flavour.
  • Or whatever the heck you can find lying around at home - chances are, it should work (fingers crossed).

So as you can see, it's quick and easy to prepare, and you will feel healthy and gourmet at the same time!

And if you wanted to be extra-blokey, make this meal before a work out, and eat it straight after for a protein hit to bulk up those guns when you're still feeling the deep burn ...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pony Express, West Perth - great coffee revisited

When I had to meet up with someone for a coffee in West Perth the other day, I immediately chose Pony Express, and was glad to have done so.

This time, the Slayer was operational, and I ordered a single origin espresso.  Their coffee roaster, Crema Gourmet Coffee Roasters, had left postcards on the tables expounding the virtues of this particular single origin from the family-owned Finca El Limonar estate in Guatemala's mountainous Huehuetenango region, which has been in operation since the middle of last century.

Check out the crema on this bad boy - occupying as much volume as the coffee itself, and every bit as delicious (or perhaps more so)!  Beautiful, rich, creamy, soft, fruity textures and flavours abound, with my favoured lemon-crisp citrusy finish at the end.

When I chatted to Emmanuele of Ristretto some time later about the monstrous head of crema I enjoyed, his view was that the volume of crema is a function of the freshness of the coffee beans, not the machine.  And he then proceeded to make me a cup of Guatemalan La Esperanza (this one was the 2012 Cup of Excellence #7), which he had freshly roasted himself the previous week at his Northbridge roastery (is that what it's called? I dunno - I just made it up).  And yes - massive head of crema all the way to the rim of the porcelain espresso cup, and tasting every bit as silky, fruity and citrusy as one would expect from a great coffee.  I even got hints of ginger with the first few sips!

That's what I love about coffee - you learn a new thing everytime you ask, and everyone has a different approach and philosophy, but all roads still lead to great coffee.