Pete Evans

Super salads

Super salads

The saying might be, ‘once bitten, twice shy’, but when it comes to constructing a big salad packed with nutrient-dense punch, it’s a case of the more bite, the better!

The saying might be, ‘once bitten, twice shy’, but when it comes to constructing a big salad packed with nutrient-dense punch, it’s a case of the more bite, the better!

I’ve found that by selecting ingredients not just for their taste and quality but also for the powerful processes they influence to keep our bodies healthy whatever the weather, it’s a simple way to reap the benefits of every season.

Experimenting with organic seasonal veges and herbs, nuts, seeds and fermented side dishes, I’ve tried and tested many ingredients and found that by incorporating a wide selection of bitter leafy greens into my super salads, I can create power-packed solutions for lunches on the run or which can be combined with a piece of 100% grass-fed organic meat or wild-caught seafood to create quick after-work meal or an easy Sunday lunch. Plus it’s a great way to jam-pack good veges into mine and my family’s diet.

By pairing bitter leafys – such as spinach and its even bigger nutritional powerhouse cousin, silverbeet – with a splash of good oil (see break-out box), seeds, nuts, mother nature’s medicines – herbs and spices – and fermented sauerkraut or kimchi, it will keep you feeling fuller for longer and aid in healthy digestion.

But the reason leafy greens are such real little beauties is because they are prepackaged whole food supplements that provide your body with well-balanced sources of important vitamins, such as vitamin K, A, C and hard-to-obtain minerals like calcium, potassium, manganese and magnesium.

Isn’t it amazing what chopping up a few greens and tossing them together with your other favourite stars of the salad bowl can do for the health of the body and the wellbeing of the mind!

At home, for me and my partner Nic and the girls, super salads are a much-loved staple. We often have a cooked organic roast chicken in the fridge so we can easily toss a quick creation together with our favourite greens, including kale, spinach, chard, mizuna, raddichio and sorrel. Over the past three years, we’ve also enjoyed growing our own herbs. It’s a satisfying way to stay connected with the earth, move in time with the rhythm of each season and leave a smaller footprint.

When it comes to making your salad, herbs and spices are the kingmakers and, as a chef, your best friend. Get to know tastes you love and remember, the fresher, the better.

I strongly encourage embracing the bitterness. Learn to love the sharp bite of dark greens and enjoy experimenting with a wide variety of flavours to find your own personal super salad stars. Don’t be shy – turn your favourite tunes up, get into the kitchen, prep well then be brave and bold with your ingredient choices.

I’ve passed on recipes for salads I love and ones that are popular with my family, friends and community. A particular winner for me at the moment is a lightly spiced raw carrot salad that I recently made for filming of The Paleo Way. It comes recommended after taste-testing by the discerning (and fussy) camera crew. With its base of grated carrots combined with olive oil, chilli, ginger, sumac, raw honey, almonds, coriander, mint, and apple cider vinegar, lemon and currents, it’s a tasty and healthy treat.

As always, with your nuts (if you remember and have time) don’t forget to activate them – ideally overnight – by soaking them in water. By doing this it deactivates the enzyme inhibitors so that you receive the full nutritional benefits of the nuts. If you don’t have time, just chuck ‘em in.

By topping a fresh salad with processed dressings, especially the low-fat labeled ones, it reverses almost all the benefits. As always, it’s best to learn to make a fast, easy dressing by drizzling on some good quality olive oil and a squeeze of lemon or enjoying the nutritious delicious delights of veges in the raw.

For some super salads though, a good quality homemade dressing can be the piece de resistence and, like herbs, can help transform the dish from so-so to sensational with just a quick drizzle. It’s vital to use the right oils, which is why I’ve given you a simple breakdown at the end of this article.

I like to use good quality olive oil as a base for my dressings and I slowly whisk it into to a base of raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice with some garlic, Himalayan salt and pepper. Yummo! There’s so many combinations, so many flavours, so many choices. Man, I love food.

One of the things Nic and I enjoy on a cold winter weekend afternoon is a warm salad paired with dressings made out of bone broth. Marrow is very good for you, especially for brain health. By boiling down an easy bone marrow reduction, which is done by combining the marrow with ladles of bone broth, it can create a really interesting topping for a warm salad of asaparagus, boiled eggs and toasted pine nuts for crunch.

The final star in my super salads is to include fermentation in the form of adding sauerkraut or Korean kimchi as a side dish. Fermented food is live and active and helps to pre-digest vital nutrients in your body. By including these in your diet every day, you’ll soon see what incredible nutritional value they have. I eat fermented pickles and sauces with my super salads for taste and the benefits for my body. Fermentation makes the nutrients from the rest of the ingredients even more powerfully absorbed by the body and helps to optimise your all important gut flora so it’s a win win all round. Because ultimately when you have are healthy on the inside, you look good, feel good and have the energy to live live positively, consciously and to the full!

Cook with love and laughter

Pete

By Pete Evans

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