“Every salad you serve is a picture you have painted, a sculpture you have modeled, a drama you have created” (Carol Traux, The art of Salad Making). This morning at the Gym, all I kept thinking about, was this gorgeous colourful salad. Growing up, I was never fond of putting myself through a diet plan, where for the most of my living days, I would be dead starving myself. Well, atleast, where I was growing up, this was the concept. I had friends who would starve themselves, depriving themselves of a hearty meal come dinner time and most of the times completely skip it so much so that I thought maybe Mark Twain meant people like my friends when he said, “the only way to keep health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not”. To be honest, ofcourse they got slimmer but they went through a whole lot of torture just to loose weight and I hated it. No offence or disrespect to what Mark Twian said, I thought how could anyone live with turning away from what they love. It was an equation that was very confusing. Conversely, back then, I was on the other end of the road, where foodville was good will and you ate what you love. So, I was never a thin kid, I was always a chubby kid. Over the years, when I got to know better and had my exposure to the true healthy living of a concept, I realized just how wrong me and my friends were altogether. Starving was never the answer or solution just as eating what you want as much you want was. There has to be a place in between. Now, as I have developed my love of fitness, I know that to get fitter is not solely about losing weight but also, about getting stronger and for that I need to eat, the right way.
I still eat what I love as I simply cannot give up carbs, I just can’t, it’s just not me and I know I would be miserable without my rice and Naan. So, as I got into fitness, I started eating in a food frame where I made sure, I am not overeating but still enjoying what I love. So, for weekly, I need to to burn 3500 calories, which means I need to either in a 500 calories deficit every day or I burn those 500 calories by exercising and eating small portions of food. It was really hard at first but my body gradually started accepting it and in no time, I was eating my favourite foods and maintaining my fitness level altogether.
Salads, are just something I love either way, whether I am trying to get fitter or not, salads have always been my cherry on the top. For as long as I can remember I have had salad and yogurt with my meals. On my dinner table, I have to have a bowl of yogurt and a bowl of Salad, otherwise, I don’t enjoy what I eat. If I am having curries, roast, lentils and rice, biryani or any veggie meal, yogurt hugs it all for me. So, when I workout, I am thinking of what I will eat after because after all after so much pains and aches at the gym, you have to reward yourself in a way that is both fulfilling and doesn’t spoil your toils in the gym as John F. Kennedy said, “physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity”.
So, I am half way through Kayla Itsines BBG workout and I am thinking grilled chicken fillet with some minty and lemony couscous accompanied with some olives, some freshness of the cucumber and the tang of the cherry tomatoes and the earthyness of the leafy greens, perhaps baby spinach, arugula or watercress and ofcourse, needless to say, a home made Mustard and balsamic piquant dressing. Trust me when I say, I found it so hard to finish my daily circuit. I wanted to run home and have this straight away. Fianlly, when I had all sweated and toiled and pained myself, my walk home was so refreshing, thinking of the reward I am going to sow. This was truly amazing; as gorgeous as it looks it was twice as flavoursome.
Obviously, with salads, the best bit is, there is loads of room to experiment and just toss around. For now, let’s talk about this bowl of freshliness. The protein base is a chicken fillet that was marinated in a Sweet Thai chilli sauce, mustard and red chilli flakes and trust me that is all that is to it, the flavours once grilled become this caramelized charred goodness of piquancy with a little heat and a little sweetness. Then, I wanted it to be fulfilling so that I don’t feel hungry after a while again and start munching on decadent snacks; so I added couscous as the carbohydrate base. It was only a small proportion but loaded with zesty and minty bangs. The other thing that I added to make it like a complete meal in itself were the mixed nuts that included, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds etc. etc. but any nut of liking can be added to this. Like I said, use your imagination and go creatively crazy with your bowl. Although, the sweet pop of raisins and the crunch of the seeds elevates the pleasantness of the whole salad. So, don’t skip those two ingredients if possible. The rest is your typical Salad family, cucumber, tomatoes, leafy greens, avocado and olives.
Coming to the vinaigrette, it is a mix of balsamic vinegar, whole grain mustard, olive oil, honey, light mayo and salt and pepper. The balsamic vinegar has a very grape like scent and is extremely sour, but a good sour, the kind when you taste test it, you tend to do it more than a couple of times. This vinaigrette is absolute heaven of tang and sweetness. The whole grain pops in your mouth every now and then which is very pleasant.
- Okay, a couple of things with the dressing, I used a whole grain mustard but feel free to use Dijon mustard instead because it is a more smooth consistency and anyone whole is not a fan of grainy mustard can substitute. It will not compromise the flavour in any way.
- The nuts can be of your liking like pecans or walnuts or even almonds and pistachios as well as the seeds. Just look how gorgeous these mix nuts are — they look like jewels.
- The Sweet Thai Chili Sauce, if not available, use a chilli sauce and add honey to the marinade but please oh please! do not use garlic based sauce. It will over power the flavour and all you will feel like eating will be the garlic. So, don’t be tempted to use that.
So, as Yotam Ottolenghi states, “a well made salad must have a certain uniformity, it should make perfect sense for those ingredients to share a bowl” and I hope you enjoy this gorgeous Jewelled of a hearty Salad Buddha bowl as it will uplift your tastebuds as your appetite rejoices.
1. Chicken thigh fillet — 4
1. Mustard paste — 2 tbsp
2. Thai sweet chili sauce — 2 tbsp
3. Garlic and ginger paste –1 tsp
4. Salt — 1 tsp
5. Worcestershire sauce — 2 tsp
6. Red chili flakes — 1 tsp
1. Baby spinach — 1 cup
2. Rocket leaves — 1 cup
3. Lettuce romaine — 1 cup
4. Cucumber — ½ cup
5. Cherry tomatoes halved — 8-12
6. Olives — 8-12
7. Avocado — 1
8. Radish sliced — 6
9. Mixed nuts and seeds — ½ cup
1. Couscous — 1 cup
2. Salt — ½ tsp
3. Black pepper — ½ tsp
4. Dried mint — 2 tbsp
5. Lemon juice — 1 tsp
6. Boiling water — 1¼ cup
7. Olive oil — 2 tbsp
1. Balsamic vinegar — 4 tbsp
2. Light mayonnaise — 4 tbsp
3. Olive oil — 8 tbsp
4. Wholegrain mustard — 4 tbsp
5. Honey — 4 tbsp
6. Salt – a pinch
7. Black pepper — a pinch
1. Prepare the couscous
a. In a bowl, pour the couscous and add the boiling water until 2 inches above the couscous.
b. Add salt and black pepper and cover.
c. Let stand for 5-8 minutes. The couscous will fluff up and absorb all the water.
d. Mix the couscous and add the chopped mint and lemon juice.
e. Drizzle a little olive oil to give a little shine and mix.
2. Prepare the chicken
a. Coat the chicken fillet with all the ingredients listed under the marinade.
b. Leave for 10 minutes and grill on a grill pan on medium high heat for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through.
c. Once cooked, rest on a plate and cover it for 10 minutes to seal the juices in.
3. Prepare the salad platter
a. In a salad bowl, lay a bed of the greens.
b. Chop the cucumber, half the tomatoes and slice the radish.
c. Lay all on top of the greens.
d. Slice the avocado into slices and add to the salad.
e. Slice the rested chicken fillet and add to the salad platter.
f. Spread the nuts mix over the whole salad.
4. Prepare the vinaigrette
a. Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.
b. Serve with the salad for individual serves.