Hate salad? You'll love these
Eating seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day will help you live a longer life, research shows. We asked three chefs to inspire us with some fresh ideas for salads, writes Jeanette Wang
As if it wasn't challenging enough to get your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Recent research has found that boosting your intake to seven portions may be your best chance of staving off death from a number of health risks.
A study by University College London, published last month in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, also found that vegetables may pack more of a protective punch than fruit.
The researchers gathered data from more than 65,000 randomly selected adults in England aged 35 and above between 2001 and 2008, tracking recorded deaths from the sample for an average of 7½ years.
They found that compared to eating less than one portion of fruit or vegetables, the risk of death by any cause was reduced by 14 per cent by eating one to three portions, 29 per cent for three to five portions, 36 per cent for five to seven portions and 42 per cent for seven or more.
Salad contributed to a 13 per cent risk reduction per portion, and each portion of fresh fruit was linked with a smaller but still significant 4 per cent reduction.
We do know, however, that eating salad can be a real bore, so we asked three chefs to share an interesting salad recipe that would convert even the most ardent salad hater.
Diet is an integral part of the health and wellness programmes at Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary in Koh Samui, says co-founder Karina Stewart.
"Salads form just 10 per cent of our menu," she says. "We have soups, stewed dishes, pastas ... they're mainly vegetable-based, but they're very nourishing so our guests don't ever feel deprived. It's more about things that people have to avoid to keep their brain chemistry more balanced."
This includes reducing caffeine - this sets off the body's fight-or-flight response, Stewart says - and instead having calming beverages such as mulberry and rooibos tea, which have high mineral content, and calm the mind and aid sleep.
Sugar should also be cut from the diet as far as possible. "It has a big impact on depression," Stewart says. "There's absolutely no question that the mind functions so much better without it."
And a healthier mind means a more positive outlook on life. Emphasising this mind-body connection, the resort this month launched Embracing Change, the first of Kamalaya's wellness programmes to focus on exploring one's inner life and emotional disposition.
While talking to guests who had booked the resort's popular detox, yoga or optimal fitness programmes, Stewart realised that most guests had underlying emotional reasons for their retreats, such as dealing with a break-up, death of a loved one or job difficulties. This led to the development of Embracing Change.
Through working with mind-body specialists, guests learn how to work with one's inner resources to effect a change in emotion. "The programme is for anyone who would like to have increased self-knowledge in order to enjoy more out of life," says Stewart.
Working with a naturopath, guests have a customised diet plan during their stay. Stewart's in-house chefs ensure the resort's extensive menu is health focused, yet nourishing, tasty and satisfying (for recipes, see kamalaya.com/recipes
Here, a traditional Thai salad usually made with pork or prawns and eggs is given a healthier twist with flakes of black cod.
Wing beans are high in protein and calcium and are a great source of vitamins A and C, iron and enzymes, Stewart says. If you can't find them you can substitute with snap peas or green beans.
If you don't like cold salads...
Wing bean and black cod salad
60 grams sliced wing beans
100 grams black cod
8 grams lemon grass, finely sliced
15 grams shallots, sliced and oven roasted
5 grams mint leaves
5 grams coriander leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
15ml fish sauce
8 grams palm sugar
3 grams large red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
10 grams spring onion, chopped
20 grams tom yum paste
5ml lime juice
Steam the cod until cooked through. Cool, then break into flakes. Blanch the wing beans for 30 seconds before cooling in ice water. Place all ingredients into a bowl, reserving a small amount of coriander, mint and shallots for garnish. Mix well, taking care not to break up the fish. Garnish with coriander, mint and shallots.
Here's a convenient way to get your seven a day. Tom Burney, founder of Hong Kong Personal Chef hongkongpersonalchef.com last month launched a new healthy meals lunch package that delivers bespoke salads accompanied by freshly-squeezed juice and healthy snacks.
The package, which costs HK$1,000 for five days, begins with a culinary consultation with nutritional consultant Paula McQuillan, who will personalise the salads based on your dietary preferences and requirements. Each salad has lean protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and is drizzled with house-made dressing.
What if the customer wants a salad but dislikes leafy greens?
"Leafy greens usually make up the bulk of a salad. If you take them out, you're missing out on a huge chunk of the nutrients," says Manchester-native Burney, who launched his meal delivery company in September 2011. "You could still enjoy them by blending them into a sauce or juicing them into a drink."
The salad below, for example, is dressed with a pesto made with rocket and cashew nuts.
McQuillan offers more tips for getting over an aversion to leafy greens. Baby greens are usually more tender and milder in flavour than mature greens. The bitter taste of greens like kale can also be tamed using citrus juice. Or try shedding greens finely or breaking the leaves into small pieces and massaging to break up the fibrous components.
Remember also that apart from leafy greens, it's important to "eat the rainbow", McQuillan says. "That is, fruits and vegetables of every hue to benefit from an even wider range of nutrients that work in synergy to boost your health."
If you dislike leafy greens...
Prawn and avocado salad
16 tiger prawns, cooked in water with chilli flakes and lime leaves
60 grams sweet corn kernels (fresh or canned)
60 grams roasted red pepper (fresh or from a jar)
½ small head of broccoli, cooked and cut into small florets
50 grams grated beetroot
100 grams sliced red cabbage
½ head of fennel, finely sliced
1 avocado, tossed in a squeeze of lime juice
100 grams mixed quinoa, cooked
Some coriander and mint
A pinch of sesame seeds
For the dressing
30 grams rocket leaves
40 grams cashew nuts
30 grams cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
30 grams parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Sea salt and white pepper to taste
Blend all dressing ingredients together in a blender until a coarse, pesto-like consistency is achieved. More oil can be added to give a runnier dressing if desired. Mix salad ingredients together and dress with pesto.
Can a meat lover ever learn to love a salad? If Peter Find fixed you one, perhaps. "It takes a little bit of convincing," says the German executive chef of The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong in West Kowloon.
One solution is to put more lentils in the mix, as the versatile pulse tends to mimic meat in terms of form, structure and nutrients, such as protein and iron. It also packs calcium and fibre. "Lentils take longer to digest, so they fill you up," says Find.
A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal two weeks ago concurs: pulses such as lentils, chickpeas, peas or beans have a low glycaemic index (meaning that they break down slowly) and tend to reduce or displace animal protein as well as "bad" fats such as trans fat in a meal.
Analysing 26 randomised controlled trials that included more than 1,000 people, the researchers found that eating one serving of pulses a day - 130 grams - can lower "bad" cholesterol by 5 per cent. This translates to a 5 per cent to 6 per cent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Ritz-Carlton this month launched a new organic salad bar at its 102nd-floor The Lounge & Bar, which offers a spread of seasonal greens and other vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, dressings and healthy oils - plus a handful of meats and cheeses.
The buffet has more than 10 types of greens, most of which are personally sourced by Find from an organic farm in Wuyang county, Ruijin city in the mainland's Jiangxi province - about six hours by bus from Hong Kong.
There's a secret to pairing greens, he says. Mustard greens, for example, contrast well with beets or lentils. Red oak, which is slightly nutty, pairs well with sherry and red wine vinegar.
As for the dressing, Find says most ready-made ones are too creamy or too strong and overpower the salad's flavours. He advises to make your own: three parts of good olive oil with one part of vinegar, and topped off with some lemon oil.
To help fill you up further, the organic salad bar also offers a few types of German wellness breads, a soup and some dessert. The buffet costs HK$180 plus 10 per cent per guest and is available from noon to 2pm Monday to Thursday, and noon to 1.45pm on Fridays.
If you're a meat lover...
300 grams baby beets, boiled, peeled and quartered
100 grams lentils, boiled
50 grams cracked wheat, boiled
20 grams flax seeds
30 grams roasted hazelnuts
100 grams fennel, sliced
50 grams radish, sliced
250 grams heirloom tomatoes, quartered
80 grams red oak leaves
80 grams arugula (rocket)
80 grams baby spinach
80 grams mustard greens
A hint of lemon zest
For the dressing
10ml red wine vinegar
20ml apple balsamic
10ml pear balsamic
60ml extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt and pepper
Combine dressing ingredients. Mix the salad ingredients together, drizzle with dressing and grate some fresh lemon zest on top.