Is this the best salad ever? Totes.
THE FAST DAY FRIDGE FORAGE SALAD
Serves 2 (plus leftovers)
306 calories (or therebouts)
This isn’t a recipe. It’s a guide. I made a salad for a fast day last week, posted a picture on Instagram (where I’m @ellypear and all my fast day meals are tagged #ellypearfastdays) and people went nuts for it.
So, here is what went in it and how I did it.
I was making dinner for me and my housemate Bev. We’d pooled our fridge leftovers and I prepped everything, laid it all out and we made our own salads. She’s not on the 5:2 so filled her bowl with joyous wild abandon. I, on the other hand, had to take a bit longer doing it carefully but it wasn’t hard. You just need to be organised.
I can’t give you a calorie count for this one. It entirely depends on what you put in your version, obviously. What I can tell you is what make good ingredients for a fast day salad and give you some tips and ideas on how to prepare those things. The salad in the picture came to 306 cals. Your version will be more, or less. If you hit exactly 306 too then maybe we both win some sort of prize?
INGREDIENTS (depends entirely on what’s in your fridge, but here’s what I used)
Small bunch coriander
2 eggs (I always use Clarence Court’s Burford Browns for their amazing neon orange yolks)
70g little gem lettuce
120g smoked trout
25g red cabbage
1 spring onion
10g red onion
15g China rose radish sprouts
20g mixed bean sprouts
40g Greek style yogurt
1 tsp Extra Virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp furikake (Japanese rice seasoning)
Freshly ground black pepper
METHOD / TIPS / GUIDANCE
• You want to get as many different textures and flavours into the salad as possible, so use a knife, a mandolin, a grater, a peeler – even your hands – to cut the ingredients up in as many ways as you can.
• High water content veg are the lowest in calories. Things like lettuce, fennel, courgette, asparagus etc are ridiculously low. Use these to compose the main bulk of your salad
• Get some protein in there. Boiled eggs, flaked smoked trout, chickpeas are all good.
• Some warm/hot elements are a nice touch. I made some cauliflower rice (with coriander) and some stir fried kale to add in.
• Think about garnishes – I’m a big fan of a good garnish, especially on fast days. They add flavour, texture and visual interest. Taking time to really present your food as well as possible makes fast days so much more satisfying.
• Once you’ve made your salad, gather up any prepared leftover leftovers (!) into a Tupperware and stick it in the fridge. You’ve got the basis of tomorrow’s packed lunch ready to go. I took the tub to work the next day and made a big salad at the café, tipping all the delicious extras on top.
Cauliflower rice with coriander
There are loads of ways of making cauliflower rice and I’ve tried most of them. I don’t have a microwave so this is a quick, easy method made on the hob. Cut the cauliflower into florets. Blitz the florets in a food processor until the size of breadcrumbs, using the pulse button. Tip into a dry, pre-heated non stick pan, season well and cook, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula until the cauliflower starts to catch and brown. Add two tablespoons of hot water and cover with foil. Turn the heat right down and allow to steam for 3-4 minutes, or until the water has evaporated. Turn the heat off and keep covered with the foil. When ready to serve, tip into a bowl and stir through a handful of finely chopped coriander. Parsley and mint also work well. Or all three.
I always use Clarence Court Burford Browns. They taste amazing and look unreal. They’re widely available and worth every penny. I like to cook my eggs medium, so the yolk makes a dressing for the salad. Make sure your egg is at room temperature before you cook it. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Lower your egg in gently. Cook for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and pour away the hot water, holding your egg back with a spoon, sit the (now dry) pan in the sink and turn the cold tap on, blasting the egg until it is totally cold. Roll the egg on the counter, pressing down gently, until the shell cracks all over. Peel very carefully. Set to one side. When you’ve finished putting together your salad, hold the egg over your bowl to catch any drips and use a very sharp knife to cut it in half, lengthways. Sit the egg halves on top of your salad.
Little gem lettuce
Cut the base off the lettuce and separate the leaves. Leave them whole. Wash in ice cold water (this will wake up even sad leaves) and lay curved side up on kitchen roll to drip dry.
It’s English asparagus season! Whoop! I was lucky enough to get my hands on a whole range of spear sizes from the Wye Valley, including the elusive jumbo spears. They don’t seem to be available for general purchase which is a real shame because I managed to slice a single fat spear on my mandolin into about 15 thin slices which looked mega. I wouldn’t try doing this with a regular spear (you’ll cut your fingerprints off!), so either keep the spear whole if you buy the extra fine ones or cut the regular spears lengthways into halves or quarters. Snap the spears near the base wherever they break naturally, trim them, wash them and eat raw or steam very briefly. Apparently this has been a particularly good year for delicious sweet asparagus crops, so wait until you see a British bunch then grab some!
Buy organic washed rocket and you can serve straight from the pack. Phew.
You don’t need a spiralizer. Just use a peeler to make ribbons of raw courgette. Wash the courgette then run the peeler down it lengthways, going over each section two or three times before rotating it and attacking a new section. Stop when you get to the seedy core. Do not thrown this away. Chop it up and chuck it in a soup or frittata or whatever is nearby. Courgette cake is really good. Tomorrow is not a fast day, remember!
My absolute favourite veg and it’s a miracle I’ve not mentioned it here yet. I’ve only been sick once this last winter and I’ve only gone a single week without eating kale. Both happened at the same time. Coincidence? I think not. Anyway. Try not to buy the ‘prepped’ bags of kale. They are not prepared well, generally, and usually contain lots of bits of tough stalk. It’s this that tends to put people off. Buy a bunch of kale. Take a big leaf in one hand, holding the main stalk and simply pull the curly leafy bits off, working your way up the stalk. You’ll end up with a pile of roughly torn kale and a bare, naked, tough stalk in your hand. Get rid of the stalk and wash the pile of leaves. Dry but not too well. Heat a tiny (measured!) bit of oil in a wok or large frying pan and chuck in the damp kale. Season well and stir continuously. When it’s wilted, turn off the heat and cover with some foil, like you did with the cauliflower rice. This fry/steam method keeps the calories down but results in a much nicer texture and flavour than simply steaming. The Maldon salt and black pepper are essential. Lemon zest, chilli flakes, cumin seeds are all nice optional extras.
I used smoked trout fillets from my fishmonger which come from the Severn and Wye Smokery but I know Marks and Spencer do a nice one too. It’s ready to serve straight from the packet so simply flake it up.
Use a mandolin or a big sharp knife to cut into fine shreds. Keep raw.
Use a sharp knife to cut thin slices. I always cut spring onion on the diagonal because I like how the oval slices look, but that’s a big, important, personal call you’re just going to have to make for yourself.
Remove any damaged outer layers and cut the bulb in half from top to bottom. Use the tip of a knife to cut a triangle out the base to remove the solid root area. Get hold of the top (green) section and use a mandolin or a sharp knife to shred very finely, starting at the root and stopping before you get to your fingers. Keep raw.
Big thick slices of red onion will ruin the entire salad. It’ll be totally overpowering and will make it look like a Pizza Hut salad bar salad. Cut very, very wafer thin slices and avoid both these pitfalls.
Alfalfa and China rose radish sprouts
If you can’t find these in the shops (where I live it’s hard to find a shop that doesn’t sell them), try growing your own. There’s guidance here. It’s so easy and so cheap and sprouted pulses are incredibly nutritious. Very much worth it.
A dollop of cold, creamy yogurt makes a fantastic addition to the otherwise crisp and clean flavours. Use any kind of plain yogurt but measure it carefully – this is one of the most calorific elements and if you just chuck a big spoonful on, you’re not doing fast days right. Be strict. Tomorrow you can bathe in the stuff if you want.
Extra virgin olive oil
Use a really top notch peppery oil and that tiny dribble (I used a very carefully measured half a teaspoon = 20 cals) will still be noticeable and worth it.
Vinegar is very low calorie so you can be much more generous with this. Balsamic vinegar is great. Sherry vinegar is even better.
This is a Japanese seasoning I found in the Chinese supermarket. They stock it in Wholefoods too and you can definitely buy it online. It’s basically a delicious savoury, nutty blend of salt, toasted black and white sesame seeds and toasted nori (seaweed). It’s a brilliant addition to my ever expanding ‘toppings, seasonings and garnishes’ cupboard. Great on eggs and noodles and avocado toast. If you can’t get it, some toasted sesame seeds will be a fine substitute.
MAKING THE SALAD
To make the salad, first empty your fridge out and decide what you’re going to use. Write down everything. Put back the stuff you’re not going to use. Use a calorie counting app like myfitnesspal to look everything up. This is the boring but very important bit. When you need to input weights, at this point you can guess roughly what you’ll be using for now. Now, prepare everything as directed, doing the hot stuff last. Lay it all out on the table or counter. Get a bowl and put it on the scales. Start assembling your salad, working down the list you’ve created in the app and adjusting the weights until they’re all in there accurately. For example, I guessed I’d be using about 100g of trout but when I started adding it to the bowl, 45g looked plenty so I adjusted the entry and it dropped down from 150 cals to 68 cals.
How you arrange the salad is up to you but I like to keep each main ingredient in its own little section of the bowl then finish it off with the garnishes and seasonings.
And that’s it.
Eat the salad.
Oh, and take a picture, post it on Instagram and tag it #ellypearfastdaysbyme. I’ll be reposting the best ones!