Not Your Average Tuna Salad

In the early days of summer, I haven’t got a lot of salad materials on hand, but the warm days call for cool dinners. This is a recipe I can whip up with cupboard and fridge staples, but adds a fresh, crunchy salad feel to a tuna pasta dish. I start out with veggie spiral pasta, tinned tuna and mayo, but this recipe might surprise with a sweet note of balsamic vinegar and the crunch of raw broccoli.

This is a super-fast midweek gem that satisfies a busy summer afternoon’s time constraints. With twenty minutes to boil the water and cook the pasta, you can prepare the tuna and broccoli in the meantime and throw it all into the fridge before football practice or a trip to the park. My kids surprised me by barely noticing the raw florets when they were first served this dish, and I think it adds lovely texture along with the numerous health benefits of eating raw. If you prefer to avoid mayo, feel free to use your favourite Italian dressing or even yogurt-based Caesar dressing for a tailored taste. Make it your own!

Not Your Average Tuna Salad Recipe.png

You’ll need:

  • 8oz/220g tinned tuna, drained
  • 12oz/340g veggie spiral pasta (or your favourite pasta for cold salad)
  • 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise (or more to your taste – I don’t like too much mayo)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (I use a garlic and herb mix with parsley)
  • ½ cup fresh broccoli florets (gently cut the fine top layer of a head of broccoli, keep the rest for soup)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar (finely grated more evenly distributes)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped gherkins or American style pickle relish (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pasta salad ingredients.jpg

The method:

Start a medium-sized pot for boiling water. No need for a giant pot – the pasta cooks as long as it’s covered. Add the dry pasta once you have a rolling boil and reduce the heat.

Drain your tuna well and scoop it into a large bowl that will accommodate the pasta as well.

Add the balsamic vinegar to the tuna and break it up very well before incorporating the mayonnaise.

Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper and mix well.

Slice the top layer of the broccoli to get just the tiniest bits for your salad and save the stalks for another recipe (soup is a favourite).

chopped brocolli.jpg

Drain your pasta once it’s al dente and rinse it with cold water to cool it quickly. Toss the pasta a fair bit to drain as much of the water from the spirals as possible.

Add the pasta to the tuna mixture and mix it well before adding the broccoli and shredded cheese. You can stir in your gherkins/relish at the end if you are adding that.

Give the salad a good toss to distribute the broccoli and cheese, but don’t overdo it or it might start to break down the pasta. Add more salt or pepper to taste before covering the bowl and putting it in the fridge until serving. It can be eaten straight away, but tastes refreshing for a hot summer dinner after about 30 minutes. Spice it up with some chili flake, or add more crunch with some bacon crumbles to make this an amazing party salad, too! Hope you like it … simple but surprising!

Spoonful of pasta salad

Advertisements

Midweek Moussaka recipe

Autumn is a great time to try harvest foods like aubergine and make casserole bakes that warm the house. Greek food is something I rarely make at home, preferring to indulge at a restaurant or friend’s home, but this moussaka recipe is hard to resist. Moussaka is a bit like Greek lasagne: usually layered, meaty and loaded with cheese. The béchamel sauce may be daunting, but I’ve made this recipe a mid-week version that will hopefully calm your aversion. Something magical happens in the oven when the sauce thickens and browns across the top – it’s absolutely worth a try.

My family enjoy this dinner so much. I don’t think there’s anything better than sweet and savoury to get kids interested. The meat is browned with cinnamon and balsamic vinegar, and the béchamel is creamy with milk and parmesan cheese. The aubergine, or eggplant, is lightly fried in olive oil, but I use cubes rather than taking the time to thinly slice for layering. The final product is worth every ounce of effort, and I guarantee this moussaka recipe takes less than most. Even if you think you don’t like aubergine, I think you’ll be surprised at how flavourful, hearty and delicate this dish really is.

Midweek Moussaka Recipe

You’ll need:

  • 2-3 aubergines/eggplants peeled and cubed
  • 2-4 TB olive oil
  • 1 lb minced beef (the leaner the better so you don’t have to drain)
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 8oz tin of tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups warm milk
  • ½ cup salted butter
  • 6 TB all-purpose flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese

The method:

To begin, peel the aubergines and cube them into 3 cm/1 inch cubes. Some say you should salt the aubergine to absorb water … I usually can’t be bothered, but give it a try if your eggplant seems particularly wet.

cooking-the-aubergines

In a large pan, warm a tablespoon or two of olive oil before adding about half of the aubergine cubes. Be sure to leave space between pieces and fry off in two or three batches. Allow the slightly golden-edged aubergine to rest on kitchen roll while you finish batches and the meat.

Once you’ve spent ten minutes or so lightly frying the cubes, you can reuse the pan for the beef.

Add the chopped onion, minced beef and dry spices to the pan with what remains of the oil and any aubergine bits.

Cooking mince for moussaka.jpg

Allow the meat to brown nicely before adding the tomato sauce and balsamic vinegar. Bring to the boil before reducing the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

While the meat simmers and reduces, it’s time for the béchamel sauce.

I begin with using a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl to warm the milk. Microwaving 3-5 minutes on high should do the trick, but you want to be sure the milk is nearly boiling.

In a non-stick pan, melt the butter and add the flour. I use gluten free, and may use a bit less than stated above, but the roux you create will be thick. Mix well with a rubber spatula until smooth.

Gradually add the hot milk, stirring quickly to smooth into the roux. This sounds intimidating, but it’s really going to come through for you.

Once the milk is fully incorporated into the butter and flour, allow it to lightly boil over a low heat and thicken slightly. Remove from the heat and mix in ½ cup of the parmesan.

Cooking bechamel and tomato sauce for moussaka.jpg

Now for the assembly: pour the partially-fried aubergine cubes into the bottom of a large baking dish. Sprinkle about ½ cup of the parmesan cheese over the top of the cubes.

Moussaka ready to bake.jpgPour the meat mixture over the aubergine and add another layer of parmesan sprinkle before pouring the beaten egg over the top.

Pour the slightly cooled béchamel sauce over the top and give it a little wiggle to settle the casserole before popping it in the oven.

Bake at 180C/350F for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is golden and solid. Allow the dish to cool before serving to preserve the layers, or dish up straight away if you’re not fussed about presentation.

Enjoy!

plated-moussaka

Sparkly Mummy

Low-cal chicken salad made in minutes

As I mentioned briefly in my post about losing the baby weight, I’m a devotee of the 5:2 or “Fast” diet. This means that 2 days a week, I only eat 500 calories all day (and then eat normally the rest of the week). I usually skip breakfast, then have a 200-cal lunch and a 300-cal dinner. You’d be surprised at how much food you can have for 300 calories!

My usually recipe guest poster, The Mum Recipes, is having a break this week. I wanted to share this super easy recipe I made the other day. I’m not normally the type to make up recipes, so I’m pretty proud of this!

The other night I wanted a quick, tasty, 300-calorie dinner for just me. I wanted to use leftovers from the roast chicken dinner we had the night before, and other random stuff I had lying around. I also wanted something with an exotic flavour. Here’s what I came up with…

You’ll need:

  • 1 skinless chicken breast. I used a leftover one from the roast chicken we had the night before. You could also use store-bought chicken pieces. If you want to cook it yourself, simmer in chicken stock from a stock cube for 8 minutes (make sure internal temp at least 70C), and then leave to rest while you assemble the rest of the salad.
  • a large handful of broccoli or other leftover green veg. I used broccoli from my roast dinner leftovers. You could use any green veg you have lying around, or just good old-fashioned lettuce.
  • 5 cherry tomatoes or half a normal tomato (if you’re watching calories, don’t overdo the tomatoes as they have a lot of natural sugar).
  • 1 spring onion or a sprinkling of normal onion (surprisingly, onions are high calorie – for veg – as well!)
  • About 2 inches of cucumber (get your mind out of the gutter)
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 TB lime juice (from a jar is good)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • A sprinkling of chilli sauce if you fancy it. My fave is Cholula, but Tabasco or any other would do.

The method:

Use your hands to pull the chicken breast into thin strips, then throw it in your salad bowl.

Add your green veg. It’s best to have smallish bite-sized pieces so you don’t have to make much effort once you’re eating. You can also use your hands to pull your broccoli into smaller bitesize pieces. Other green veg could be chopped.

Halve the cherry tomatoes (or dice your larger tomato) and throw that in. Dice up the spring onion – chuck it in. Dice your cucumber. I like to slice the rounds and then cut those into four to make little triangles.

In a little bowl, vigorously stir together your fish sauce, lime juice and sesame oil. Then pour it over your salad and toss it up.

Sprinkle your chilli sauce on top if you’re into that sort of thing. You can also add salt & pepper, but fish sauce is already salty, so taste it first.

Credit: The salad dressing is a simplified adaptation from the ‘Szechuan Chicken’ recipe in The Fast Diet Recipe book.

Mummy in a Tutu