Citrus Salad

Happy 2023! Over much of December, I felt like I had lost my cooking mojo. As I mentioned on my Instragam a little while ago, I have been following an extra strict gluten contamination elimination diet for a few months now, following a diagnosis of refractory coeliac disease and due to ongoing issues with coeliac antibodies in my blood tests. The greater restrictiveness of my diet and the fact that I seem to be spending more time in the kitchen preparing food from scratch and often cooking two meals to ensure my kids’ needs are met alongside the requirements of my diet meant that I lost some of my enthusiasm for creating in the kitchen, and I felt unable to work on various recipes that were in progress as I was unable to taste the food I was trying to make on my current diet.

Christmas was a welcome break from all that. We spent it with family who were incredibly gracious and kind to me, making their house fully gluten free while we were staying with them to avoid any risk to me whilst generously supporting me in having to make my own food with my own utensils to reduce my risks further. As I have mentioned before, one of things I most miss about a GF diet is the lack of convenience, but our time away gave me the break from cooking for the family that convenience often offers, and I have returned home still following the diet but feeling full of new food ideas. I have also been learning a lot about anxiety…

There are a couple of verses in the Bible about worry that have been popping into my head and challenging me a great deal in the way I deal with my coeliac disease struggles. Philippians 4 verses 6 and 7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Until recently, I had tried to ignore the part that says not to be anxious about anything, excusing anxiety around my diagnosis of refractory coeliac disease and persistently high coeliac antibodies as acceptable. But I have found great peace, as those verses say I will, in giving up that anxiety to God and in learning to trust Him, who already knows what this year will hold for me. It is a process though – I keep taking back the anxiety and then having to let go again – I am a work in progress!

This salad recipe is actually based on an idea that I jotted down a couple of months ago, but didn’t have the energy to take any further until just before New Year’s Eve. I love the bitter taste of grapefruit as it is and that was the springboard for this recipe. If you like the sour bitterness of straight grapefruit (or maybe I am the only weird person who does!), use grapefruit for this salad. If you don’t like it and don’t feel that the honey in the dressing is enough to sweeten it to your liking, go for orange instead. Feel free to adjust or substitute the other ingredients according to your preferences. This salad is large serves about 8 as a side salad in a meal along with other accompaniments.

What you need:

A few large handfuls of mixed salad leaves (I like a mix of red and green loose-leafed lettuce, rocket, cos lettuce and a few leaves of bok choi for a range of flavours and textures)

Large handful of fresh mint leaves

Few sprigs of fresh parsley (I used curly leaf parsley but any will be fine)

1 cucumber

1 large avocado or 2 – 3 small avocadoes

2 grapefruit or 2 oranges

200 gram pack of feta cheese

¾ cup of raw cashew nuts, toasted

2 – 3 tablespoons of runny honey

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon of salt

Pepper (to taste)

1 -2 tablespoons of boiling water

What to do

1. Roughly chop the salad leaves and place in the bottom of a large salad bowl.

2. Finely chop the fresh mint and parsley and add to the bowl with the salad leaves.

3. Trim the ends off the cucumber, and then cut it lengthways into quarters. Cut each quarter into small slices about 0.5 cm in length. Add the cut cucumber to the bowl with the leaves and herbs.

4. Cut each avocado or avocadoes in half lengthways, remove the pips and skin and then cut into pieces about 2 cm on each side (this will vary depending on the size of the avocado and the way the pip shaped the flesh). Add the avocado to the bowl with the other ingredients.

5. Peel the grapefruit or oranges with deep cuts to below the pith over a chopping board, and then divide into segments by cutting the flesh out of each segment, leaving the tough outside of each segment separate. Add the flesh to the bowl with the other ingredients and tip any juice on the board into the bowl, being careful not to add any skin or the tough segment outsides to the bowl.

6. Cut the feta cheese into cubes that are about 1 – 1.5 cms long on each side, and then add the cubed feta to the bowl with the other ingredients.

7. Heat a saucepan over a medium heat until hot, and then toast the cashew nuts in the saucepan (dry fry them – don’t add any oil or water), tossing regularly, until they are browned all over. Add the toasted cashews to the salad bowl.

8. In a new small bowl, mix together the honey (adjust the quantity to your taste preferences), olive oil, salt, pepper and boiling water to create a dressing (the boiling water heats the honey and makes it easier to mix with the oil) and then pour the dressing over the other ingredients in the salad bowl.

9. Toss everything together until thoroughly mixed (the honey dressing should combine with the citrus juice already in the bowl to create the dressing for the salad) and then either serve immediately or store in the fridge to serve within a couple of hours.

10. Enjoy!

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