Last December, my mum had a bunch of her girlfriends over for their annual Chrissy lunch. Of all the memorably tasty dishes on offer (the leftovers overflowed our fridge for days – score!), one thing stood out in particular: a colourful little grain salad made by one of my mum’s friends. Upon tasting it, I was equal parts delighted and deflated; delighted because it set off a party of whiz-bang flavours and textures in my mouth, but deflated because it was packed with high FODMAP ingredients like freekeh (green wheat), lentils, red onion and dried fruits.
Typical me, always wanting what I can’t have…
As it turns out, the ‘Cypriot Grain Salad’ is a recipe by George Columbaris (of Masterchef fame), and is one of the most popular side dishes served at his modern Greek taverna, Hellenic Republic, in Brunswick, Melbourne. I’d love to be able to take full credit for this recipe, but that would be a jackass move. All I’ve done is add a few things here and there for flavour and tweaked it to suit my dietary needs. Besides, I’d rather not be on George’s bad side.
I couldn’t wait to taste this dish again, and so here it is: my low FODMAP version of Hellenic Republic’s ‘Cypriot Grain Salad’ in all its fluffy, crunchy, sweet and savoury glory. It’s perfect on its own or as a side salad to chicken or slow cooked lamb.
Hellenic Republic-Inspired Quinoa Salad with Cumin Yoghurt Dressing & Pomegranate
1.5 cups tri-coloured quinoa (available at most supermarkets)
3 cups low-sodium stock of choice
1 bunch coriander, washed and chopped
1/2 bunch continental (flat-leaf) parsley, washed and chopped
1 cup chopped spring onion, green part only (use 1/2 chopped red onion if you don’t have FM )
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/4 cup toasted pepitas
2 tbs toasted pine nuts
1/4 – 1/2 cup currants*
2 tbs dried cranberries*
Juice of 1 – 1.5 lemons (or to taste)
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 cup thick full fat Greek yoghurt
Seeds of 1 small pomegranate, or 1/2 large
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or 1.5 tsp cumin powder, carefully cooked in a dry fry-pan over medium-low heat until fragrant)
1 tbs pure maple syrup (use honey if you don’t have FM)
In a saucepan or pot, bring the quinoa and stock to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (depending on your cook top, this can take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes). Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
Combine the yoghurt, cumin and maple syrup/honey in a small serving bowl.
In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, coriander, parsley, onion, almonds, pine nuts, pepitas, currants, cranberries, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer salad to a serving dish and top with the yoghurt dressing and pomegranate seeds. I like to mix some of the yoghurt dressing through the salad, then add more on top, but that’s up to you 🙂
* Those of you with fructose malabsorption/IBS or on a low FODMAP diet should limit your intake of dried fruit (excess fructose). However, if you’re trying to reintroduce FODMAPs back into your diet, a small amount shouldn’t hurt as the overall FODMAP load of this recipe is quite low. As always, assess your own tolerance. Halve or quarter the quantities if you’re unsure, and leave out altogether if you know you react to any amount of dried fruit.
Lately I’ve been getting lots of requests to post more dinner-y recipes, and it made me realise that I never share my favourite dinner meals. Why not, you might ask? Why wouldn’t I share some of the recipes I eat most often? The answer is pathetic, really: I’ve either been eating the meal for so long that the prospect of writing about it bores me to tears, or it’s dark at dinner time in mid-year Australia and ain’t nobody got the skills to photograph food under artificial lighting. Or at least I don’t…
But it recently occurred to me that you guys couldn’t care less whether I post a recipe that I’ve been cooking for 2 years or 2 days. It’s going to be a new recipe for you regardless, right? Sometimes people just need REAL life food – hearty home style meals that can be whipped up for one, or for two, or for a whole family to enjoy.
You guys need dishes that are just as nutrish and delish as they are easy and cheap to make.
I’m also aware that my wonderful FM readers (love you) are desperately seeking fructose friendly and low FODMAP meals that don’t solely consist of steamed veg and a slab of meat. BOOO-RING. So from now on I plan to bombard you with options.
Here’s the first one: Turkey Spag Bowl.
It’s no secret that the ole spag bowl gets a bad nutritional rap.
Especially when served at restaurants, the classic Italian recipe is heavy on the not-so healthy stuff like beef mince (often very fatty), oil and/or butter, salt, cheese, refined carbs (from pasta), and sometimes even cream. And aside from the tomatoes, it’s very light on veggies.
What’s more, if you’ve got fructose malabsorption, it’s completely out of bounds because a) it’s full of onion and garlic and b) you can’t eat wheat, so there goes the pasta.
I know it’s a staple for millions of people around the world, but I’ve never actually been a huge fan of traditional spaghetti bolognese. Truth be told, I’ve always found it a little boring. The flavours and textures are just too same-same for me. But, like most normal people, my parents and siblings love their spag bowl. Unfortunately for them, Mum stopped cooking it –along with many other family favourites– for a while when I first developed FM.
Being the ever-accommodating and eager to please woman that she is, my fabulous mama came up with a spag bowl rendition that ticks all the boxes of Lincoln Dinner Criteria: it’s wholesome, nutritionally balanced, fructose free, FODMAP friendly, fills the boys up, and tastes GREAT! It has to be said that she’s becoming an expert at de-fructosing recipes, and her Turkey Spag Bowl is a testimony to this. On that note, I can’t wait to share her Sri Lankan Chicken Curry recipe with you soon!
No, this recipe doesn’t retain much of the traditional spaghetti bolognese’s integrity (hello turkey, veggies and brown rice spaghetti), and yes, a true Italian chef would probably spit it back out at me. But I don’t care. My aim in posting this recipe is to share with you a homestyle recipe that’s wholesome, hearty, cheap, easy, and fructose-friendly. Just please don’t serve it to Nonna.
Low FODMAP Turkey Spag Bowl
1kg turkey mince
2 carrots, diced
1 large eggplant, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 cup semi sun-dried tomatoes*, cut into halves or quarters
1 red capsicum, diced
1 green capsicum, diced
2 tins chopped tomatoes (no added sugar or preservatives)
3/4 cup salt reduced tomato paste* (see notes for fructose info.)
1.5 tbs dried oregano
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 large handful fresh basil, leaves torn
8 spring onions, chopped (green part only for low FODMAP)
Oil of choice (I use garlic-infused for flavour, but coconut is one of the more stable oils)
Himalayan sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
1 packet brown rice noodles for gluten free, or spelt spaghetti (optional – see notes)
To serve: fresh basil leaves, shaved parmesan (optional, omit for dairy free/paleo)
Heat a generous splash of garlic-infused olive oil (or other chosen oil) in a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat.
Sautee all the fresh veggies and sun-dried tomatoes, stirring for around 7 minutes or until the veggies have softened. Remove veggies from pot and transfer to a heat-safe bowl.
Heat another splash of oil and add the turkey mince to the pot. Cook the mince until browned (around 8 minutes) and use a wooden spoon to break it up.
Add the veggies to the pot along with the tomato paste, stock, basil and dried oregano. Season with Himalayan salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, for a minimum of 40 minutes. If I have time, I leave it for an hour or longer. The longer you leave it (within reason – you don’t to overcook the meat!), the richer and thicker it will get and the deeper the flavour will be.
Serve with one ladle’s worth of brown rice noodles or spelt spaghetti if using, and garnish with extra torn basil and shaved parmesan. For a paleo or lower carb version, use the bolognese to stuff into roasted eggplants (see recipe below).
You will notice this recipe uses quite a lot of tomato paste, which is where the dish gets a lot of its flavour. According to Dr. Sue Shepherd’s low FODMAP diet guidelines, people on a strict low FODMAP diet shouldn’t exceed 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste in one sitting because although fresh tomatoes are safe, paste is concentrated. I’ve never had an issue with tomato paste, but some people might. Use less if you’re unsure of your tolerance, and add more fresh and dried herbs for flavour.
Turkey Bolognese Stuffed Eggplants
4 large eggplants to serve 8 people, or 1/2 eggplant per person.
Turkey Bolognese recipe (above)
Fresh basil leaves, to serve
Shaved parmean, so serve (optional, omit for dairy free/paleo)
Oil of choice (I use coconut)
Himalayan sea salt
Preheat oven to 200’C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Use a fork to prick the eggplant/s several times. Place on prepared tray and lightly spray all over with oil. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until tender.
If you made the bolognese in advance, reheat however much of it you’re using (about 1-1.5 cups per person would be a suitable portion).
Cut the eggplant/s in half length-ways. Use a spoon to scoop out some of the flesh from each half, leaving a 1cm boarder. Chop the scooped out flesh. Sprinkle a little Himalayan sea salt over the eggplant halves.
Mix the chopped eggplant through the heated Turkey Bolognese. Spoon mixture into eggplant halves and sprinkle shaved parmesan over the top, if using. Return eggplants to the oven for 10 minutes, or until all heated through. Serve with fresh basil leaves, as pictured below.