Up your cooking game by ditching perfection and going for flexibility.
Whether you’re a parent feeding an entire family or cooking just for yourself, after a long day of work, you probably just want to sit down to a delicious, fresh and fuss-free meal. One that didn’t take you hours to make! As a working mum of four, I can relate. One day, after leafing through my 300th cookbook, I realised I was hungry for more. I yearned for a collection of flexible food that satisfied the robust lifestyle I craved – one that would help feed my family achievable meals, our way. So, I set out to write that book! “FOOD YOU WANT For The Life You Crave” is filled with 100+ customisable recipes that you can transform into 1,000 different dishes. It’s also loaded with success strategies, flexible flips, and hacks to save you time (and keep you sane!).
Here’s a sneak peek just for you mamas!
Read more: Annabel Karmel’s Essential Guide To Weaning
There’s nothing ordinary about this stunning herb-specked, grain-free tabouli. Raw cauliflower and pine nuts take centre stage and combine to add an unexpected and essential nuttiness and colour that elevate this dish. This recipe takes just minutes to whip up and seconds to devour. It’s crunchy, fresh and the very definition of crave-able clean food that makes you want more. I really shouldn’t play favourites, but this salad may well be mine!
Steps: Chop, toss!
Tools: Food processor (optional)
½ head purple or white cauliflower, core removed
3 Persian cucumbers, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, pressed (optional)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped pine nuts, toasted
- In a food processor, chop the cauliflower into ¼ inch pieces. Do not over-process. Alternatively, chop it by hand.
- In a large bowl, stir together the cauliflower, cucumber, tomato, mint, parsley and red onion.
- Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic (if desired). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with pine nuts just before serving.
- Serve immediately, or it may be made an hour ahead. If making in advance, toss the pine nuts in right before serving so they stay crunchy.
- Because the raw ingredients are the centrepiece here, only make this recipe when you have access to the freshest herbs and cauliflower.
- Nuts are crucial. They add an essential flavour and crunch that is unexpected and should be included.
- Use any colour cauliflower you can find.
- Substitute another nut for the pine nuts. Toasted would be yummiest.
- Add chopped anything! Red bell peppers and olives are favourite flavour profiles.
When Hong Kong’s iconic Life Café closed several years ago, I knew I needed to get their famed Life Salad back in my life (and get it to you!). This salad ticked all the boxes of a covetable meal: satisfying, hearty, healthy, good-looking and totally addictive. I remembered that my friend Carlos, the head chef and recipe creator, had one day scribbled notes with the salad’s ingredients after I begged him to tell me how to make it. Miraculously, I dug up the crinkled handwritten list and used it as the basis for writing this recipe. Get ready for a new addiction, and go get a life…salad, that is.
Steps: Blend, assemble, serve!
2 cups assorted fresh green herb leaves (basil, parsley, oregano, thyme)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon tahini
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups mixed greens
1½ cups peeled, shredded carrots
1½ cups peeled, shredded beets
Alfalfa sprouts, for garnish
3 tablespoons chopped assorted nuts and seeds, for garnish
1½ cups hummus
Store-bought crackers, for serving
- To make the dressing: blend the herbs, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, tahini, garlic, mustard, and salt. Then continue blending, slowly drizzling in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified. If needed, add a touch of water to thin the dressing to your desired consistency, as it is quite thick.
- To assemble the salad: plate a handful of greens in individual bowls, or serve them all on a family-style platter. Drizzle some of the dressing on the greens. Mound carrots, beets, and alfalfa sprouts on top. Sprinkle with nuts, seeds, and nutritional yeast, and then drizzle more dressing on top. Scoop a large spoonful of hummus per person onto the salad (I like to use an ice cream scoop). Serve with crackers.
- The dressing keeps in the refrigerator, covered, for 2 days. The salad, once dressed, should be eaten immediately so the greens stay crisp.
- Use the dressing on anything!
- Vary your veggies. Eliminate the hummus if you want.
- Nutritional yeast gives this dressing a cheesy, rich flavour without the cheese. But, hey, substitute Parmesan if you prefer.
This satisfying comfort food is always a big hit. Glass or cellophane noodles, often made from mung bean or sweet potato starch, are a totally underused, lighter noodle alternative. You can usually find them in the Asian aisle of the grocery store, but don’t go on a wild-goose chase. If you can’t find them just use thin rice vermicelli noodles instead. This kid-friendly recipe is packed with hidden veggies that make it a winning family dish.
Steps: Soak, Fry, Soften, Serve!
Tools: Wok or large frying pan
250g ounce package glass (cellophane) noodles
5 tablespoons olive oil
6 shallots, sliced (about 1 cup)
4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 head green cabbage, shredded
4 carrots, julienned
2 cups sliced mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups diced choy sum or bok choy
1½ teaspoons tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1½ teaspoons chilli oil (or red pepper flakes, to taste)
A few small red chillies, thinly sliced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cilantro (coriander) leaves and thinly sliced green onion, to garnish
- Submerge the glass noodles in a bowl of warm water until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a wok over high heat. Cook the shallots, stirring frequently, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic. Lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes. Every few minutes, check on them and stir.
- Raise the heat to high, add the choy sum, and cook for a few more minutes to sweat the veggies. Stir in the drained noodles, and season with tamari, maple syrup and chilli oil (red chilli too, if desired). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat immediately.
- Serve the noodles garnished with cilantro and green onion.
- To avoid soggy noodles, always add them last, with the seasoning. Don’t oversoak them – they will soften a bit more when you add them to the pan.
- The noodles sometimes stick together. Grab your kitchen scissors and cut the noodles in half if they clump after cooking.
- Add cooked beef or chicken to the final cooked meal.
- At some stage, give yourself the freedom to eyeball and experiment – throw your veggies in without measuring. Add any leftover veggies you have in the fridge. Just make sure you cook them long enough to caramelise them and build flavour.
All images courtesy of Nealy Fischer, The Flexible Chef.