Salmon, soup and salads. This week's A-Z food fact - we're up to S. It's just happens to be that it's all the things we find on our Summer menu's too.
Kicking off the S's we have the perfect addition to a Summer plate or BBQ. Salmon.
It's incredibly versatile - you can poach, grill, bake, fry, steam, keep plain, or add oodles of flavour.
It's an oily fish and of course, being fish, a great source of protein.
Protein is essential for your body in order to help your body thrive and to also avoid muscle loss.
Salmon contains Vitamin A which is beneficial for eye health, Vitamin D - which is an important immune-boosting nutrient as well as being important for bone and muscle health as it helps regulate the uptake of calcium and phosphate in the body.
Being an oily fish, it contains a very good level of omega-3 fatty acids. There are only two other foods that provide more of the beneficial omega-3s in a standard serving than salmon does; they are walnuts and flaxseeds.
So why is it so important for me to eat Omega-3s?
1. Cardiovascular benefits
Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been linked with decreased risks of many cardiovascular problems including heart attacks, blood pressure, strokes etc.
2. Improved mood and cognition
Salmon has an unusual profile of omega-3 fatty acids - consumption of this specific Omega-3 profile has been shown to be hugely beneficial for certain brain-related and thinking problems.
Consumption of it has also been linked to decreased risk of depression, hostility (in teenagers) and cognitive decline in the elderly.
3. Joint Health
Intake of a particular type of omega-3 and omega-3 containing fish (EPA) which is found in fish like salmon, has been shown to help prevent inflammation in the joints.
4. Eye Health
Omega-3 and omega-3 containing fish, such as salmon, have also be linked to a decreased risk of certain eye-relates issues: macular degeneration and chronic dry eye. Eating fish twice per week has been shown to significantly reduce this risk of macular degeneration. For the chronic dry eye, more omega-3 consumption has been shown to have effect with 2-4 servings being the minimum amount needed and 5-6 weekly servings being even more beneficial to reduce the risk.
How often then should I eat salmon each week?
Fish of course, is expensive - however if you can, it is ideal to eat oily fish with the omega-3 profile that salmon has, up to twice a week or more if preferable.
There is only one point to remember and that is that the following groups should not eat more than two portions of oily fish a week.
pregnant or breastfeeding women
women who plan to get pregnant either now or in the future
Why? Because oily fish can contain small amounts of pollutants which over time can build up in the body and potentially affect the future development of a baby when in the womb.
However - you can eat as many portions of white fish per week as you like.
How can I cook salmon?
Salmon is an incredibly versatile fish and can be cooked in nearly infinite ways.
Two of my favourite ways - are pan frying (with skin on to get the skin super crunchy) or cooking gently in a foil parcel with a little white wine, a bay leaf, a slice or two of lemon, olive oil and some black pepper.
However here are all the ways in which you can cook salmon:
Just be mindful that any dry heats e.g. grilling, roasting etc must be done with extra care to ensure not to burn the salmon as burning or over-cooking can damage nutrients which can create free-radicals which have the potential to be harmful for your health.
Food Hack: How to cook the perfect salmon
When cooking salmon it can easily become overdone and as a result dry. So always be sure to watch your cooking times to make sure you serve up something juicy rather than as a dry as a cardboard box.
If you're worried about drying the salmon out, it is always easier to cook using a wet heat to keep moisture in rather than a dry heat. A wet heat is something like poaching or steaming whereas a dry heat is roasting or grilling.
This is a fail safe and delicious way to cook salmon so tasty you'll want to go back for more.
Quick Eats: Teriyaki Salmon with veggies
This is a simple and delicious recipe to make an Asian inspired, quick, tasty salmon dish.
Salmon, veggies (you can always swap out the pak choi for things like broccoli, or even a tasty cabbage.) Anything green and crunchy.
Soup is one of the most versatile, comforting and filling meals. It's also often incredibly cheap to make and can be packed full of flavour.
Hot or cold - it can be perfect as a Summer or Winter dish.
Broth, consomme, puree, veloute, cream, bisque and chowder are all types of soup. Clear, thin, thick.
Around the world there are many soups from different places which are commonly seen on the menu:
Gazpacho for Spain, a delicious cold blended vegetable soup.
Laksa from Malaysia and Singapore, a spicy noodle soup.
Minestrone: the classic Italian thick soup with vegetables and sometimes pasta, rice or both.
Tortilla Soup - a soup from Mexico made with fried corn chips submerged in a broth of tomato, garlic, onion and more.
Pho: the famous, clear bone broth from Vietnam, laden with noodles, spices and thin slices of meat. Often topped with herbs and beansprouts and incredibly filling.
French onion soup: the delicious, rich, meat and onion based soup often served with a healthy dose of cheese melted on bread.
Chowder in the USA - a thick, rich, creamy soup often made with seafood. Often made like a soup it tends to be chunkier more like a stew.
Goulash: the famous national dish of Hungary; it's a warming, hearty, meaty soup packed with vegetables and flavoured with paprika and spices.
Ramen: Japanese in its origin. It's a noodle soup served in a clear broth.
A huge benefit to eating soup is that it's a great way to increase your vegetable intake too.
High vegetable intake is often associated with a reduced risk of weight gain and as a result reduced weight gain is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and also type 2 diabetes.
Another benefit for getting lots of vegetables in your diet is that they provide high levels of vitamins and minerals and fibre.
Eating soup is known to help reduce hunger and increase fullness. Sometimes this can be a placebo but other times it is as a result of soup being higher in fibre as fibre helps with keeping you fuller for longer.
Quick eats: Soup two ways.
Here I'm going to give you two soup ideas. One tomato based (because who doesn't like a tomato soup.) The second is going to be a pea based.
Tomato and feta soup:
I make this recipe up every time I cook it - as it's super easy to do and you can add and flavour as you see fit.
The basics you need are tinned tomatoes, feta cheese, dried herbs (or fresh if you have them), olive oil, salt & pepper and if you fancy it and can be bothered - a little onion and garlic.
You can get chopped tomatoes in most supermarkets already with chopped onion and garlic in which is genius. So I often buy those - but if you only have tinned plain tomatoes in your cupboard, use those.
Two x 400g tins will probably suffice - for 3 maybe 4 people. Depending if you serve it with bread on the side.
Onion (finely diced) - optional if you don't have it in your chopped tomatoes already
A pack of feta.
Dried /fresh herbs like basil or oregano, maybe a little thyme.
Pea, chili and pesto soup:
This is a really delicious soup. Simple and again a little bit of a throw it all in in varying quantities and see how it turns out.
Take a big sauce pan.
1 x medium onion - chopped and finely sweated (add this in to the pan on a low heat with a little oil and slowly softened).
Garlic (either 2 tsp ready pureed or 3 whole cloves crushed)
A tsp of pre-crushed chili
Cream (optional - to make this vegan you can always use a cream substitute like oatily cream.)
Once you have sweated the onion, add the garlic in to the pan and the chilli and cook slowly for a few minutes.
Add a litre of water and a stock cube (either chicken or vegetable). You can also 1litre of proper stock if you have it.
Add 500g of peas (garden peas or petit pois) to the pan. And slowly simmer away for 5ish minutes.
Add a dollop of green pesto in to the pan.
Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.
Once almost cool, add it in to a blender and puree until smooth then add back to the pan and heat until warm.
Taste and add extra pesto or chilli depending what you feel it needs for taste
Then finish with a splash of cream.
It can also be nice with a little cracked black pepper and some crumbled feta.
Salad is often scowled at - sometimes it conjures up images of wilted leaves slightly turning brown at the edges. Often iceberg or similar.
Sometimes it has that ready washed chlorinated taste when it is bought pre packed and quite frankly tastes like you're eating pool water. But there are infinite ways in which you can create the most deliciously tasty salads around.
Why is it beneficial to add salad in to my diet?
Now to an extent, it depends here on whether the salad is something that has been laden in mayonnaise like a heavy coleslaw or whether it's simply a green salad laden with goodness. So make sure if you do, you're not going for the creamy dressing laden and high-calorie add in mixes.
However, incorporating a salad in to your diet daily can be one of the simplest and most beneficial ways to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Why? Because it is a great way to load-up your diet with a few servings of veggies and or even fruits.
A few more compelling reasons if you're not already a convert:
1. Salads are a great way to get fibre in to your diet.
Fibre as I've spoken about in other posts before is an important dietary requirement for helping with things like lowering cholesterol and keeping our digestive system running like clockwork. It is also excellent and helping to give us that feeling of being fuller for longer, which often can contribute to weight loss.
The recommended intake of fibre is 30g per person per day - currently most people average around 20g so we have a long way to go. So make sure when you are thinking about what you are eating, you're consciously choosing high-fibre packed ingredients.
2. Gain the health benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables
We could all do with adding more fruit and vegetables in to our diet - and salads are a great way to do this. Especially if you use a base of dark green veggies/leaves like spinach, broccoli, kale, dark green lettuce. The lighter coloured lettuces like iceberg don't have a hugely beneficial nutritional profile to them. The nutritional profile of these beneficial ingredients are great when combined together for protecting heart health, bone health and most importantly supporting our immune system. There has also been for years a notable link between eating lots of fruit and veggies and a lower risk of many diseases, in particular, cancer.
When eating salads often you get the benefits of eating raw foods too. Some foods like radish, are at their most beneficial when they are eaten raw as cooking can lose some of the important vitamins and nutritional benefits.
3. Gain the benefits of eating smart fats
Incorporating smart fats in to the diet is an easy win when it comes to making a salad. Firstly, a smart fat is a good fat and some foods we eat need to be combined with fats in order for our bodies to absorb the protective health nutrients and gain the most benefit.
Not only do healthy fats help us gain the most nutritional value from some of our foods - but they also help provide nutrients which have benefits in their own right such as Vitamin E and Selenium which help to lower blood pressure and minimise the risk of heart disease.
Healthy fats include things like avocado, good quality olive oil (ideally extra-virgin), sunflower seeds, walnuts, olives etc. But remember the key with everything is to not go overboard. These are good for you in moderation.
How to make a tasty salad:
One of the key things is to get creative! It doesn't take much to create something super tasty. Think of it as a building block. You must always start with the foundations, then build out from there.
So to start, you always need a base. Leaves like romaine, little gem, spinach, butterhead lettuce are always a good start.
However you can always make a base from things like quinoa, orzo, wild and brown rice, lentils and legumes (e.g. chickpeas). Again the options here are relatively endless. This of course makes the end salad a little heavier but if you want a complete meal then they are great additions.
From there let the creativity begin. I always think salads are a great way to get lots of different colours in the to the mix.
Throw in tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, nuts & seeds (toasted are always a nice addition) and then things like radish to add colour, fruit (blueberries, sliced strawberries, nectarines, watermelon, apples), avocado, cheeses (feta and grilled halloumi are always good editions). Defrosted peas are a great addition to some salads too.
Then you can choose whether you want to add in meat or fish (or neither - in this case if you're not vegan, eggs are a great salad addition). But a salad really come become so much more than just a 'side'. It can really be the main event.
Quick Eats: Watermelon, feta and lime salad
I'm a huge fan of putting fruit in to salad. And in this one, the sweet juiciness of the watermelon pairs perfectly with the salty creaminess of the feta.
You then have additional layers of flavour from the herbs, onion, and optional spice from the jalapenos.
As with all of these recipes, when it comes to a salad, if there's something you don't like, just exclude it.
Fresh mint (and or basil if you like)
Red onion (or even a shallot)
For the method (which couldn't be easier) click here. But basically - its a dish that looks incredibly pretty and tastes yummy too. You can always serve it with some other additions like homemade hummus, or a green leafy salad too. I did it with a mackerel, green bean and red pepper vibe as shown in the picture.
Quick eats: Green salad with all the additions
This is a super nice way to get lots of veggies in to your salad. And you can literally add anything you fancy.
Start with chopping up or tearing some romaine lettuce leaves and if needs be, bulk it out with iceberg.
From there add in a handful of spinach leaves, and some rocket (again these combinations are completely optional to suit your taste)
Get half an avocado (I usually use half if I am making a salad for 2 people.)
Grate in a carrot
Slice and add some radishes and cucumber
Add a little red onion or even spring onions if you prefer.
Chop up some feta or grill some slices of halloumi and add in to the bowl.
Get some walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds - you can gently toast these if you like a slightly nuttier flavour.
Make a dressing - using some olive oil, fresh lemon and a bruised clove of garlic (basically crush the garlic a little by hitting it with the heal of your hand.) You want about 2:1 ratio of lemon to oil - but add or more or less to suit your taste. I often make it in a jam jar and then put the lid on an shake to mix. Make sure you add salt and pepper. Et - voila - totally delicious dressing. If it has gone very thick just add a splash of warm water then pour over your salad and toss.
Quick eats: Lentil, pea and feta salad
This is one of my all time favourites - it is a great addition to any meal and is a lovely side dish. It's tangy, hearty, flavourful and delicious.
It's originally a Rowse honey recipe so I've linked here to the recipe. But you can use any honey you have in your cupboard.