Sometimes healthy summer meals are a good way to balance it all out. After not the best start to your year, full of anti-resolutions, one decides to accept that part of summer is not just looking flash in a bikini. Sometimes there’s picnics, crisps, beers, cheese and wine, and barbecue meats of all kinds, sometimes a charred vegetable or two lurking in the back. Recently as we spent a week at this beautiful beach in the Coromandel doing some team strategy. There was lots of time for cheese and wine, but I also had some time to think about how its important to feel good whilst still having fun. There is no stopping you from having those lavish summer treats, so long as you can have a balanced diet of protein, grains, with lots of veg and fruit for good measure. I believe very strongly that with the heat in these days and the sweat, its important to have sustenance starting right from the morning.

Matapaua Bay, Coromandel, NZ

Breakfast really is a blast

For a good start on healthy summer meals, what better way to start the day with a whole plate of fruit. Nectarines, pineapple, blueberries, kiwi, banana topped with some toasted almond flakes. If your like me and need just a little more, I think muesli with fruit and yoghurt, a delicious smoothie, or a porridge topped with berries and coconut, is the way to go. Oats are full of fibre and good for the heart, but buckwheat is the new thing. Containing even higher amounts of fibre and healthy minerals, it has a delicious nuttiness making it perfect for sweet or savoury dishes. Don’t be fooled by the word wheat, it is actually a flower and 100% gluten free!

Healthy Summer Buckwheat Porridge

Healthy Buckwheat Porridge

Combine 1/2 C rinsed buckwheat in pot with 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp vanilla essence, 1 tsp cinnamon powder, half a banana sliced, 1 handful of berries (I used 5 strawberries and 6 blueberries). Boil in pot for 8-10 minutes until buckwheat is soft, stirring just enough to stop the pan from sticking but not too much that it gets mushy. Top with yoghurt, coconut, pepitas and seeds, with a drizzle of honey or agave syrup.

The Great Carb Debate

I am so tired of people thinking that eliminating carbs is a good idea. You can limit stodgy, un-nutritious carbs such as white rice, bran, white bread and rice noodles if you want. They have a very high GI (Glyceamic Index) meaning that they make you feel full really fast, but the body also burns them quickly much like sugars, meaning that they don’t keep you full for very long. Heaps of vegetables (think roasting ones) have carbohydrates- things like kumara, carrot and pumpkin are better than potatoes. Ancient grains quinoa, buckwheat, millet, or less stodgy ones like black rice and polenta are your best sources of carbohydrates and fibre. Their low GI means that they break down slower in the body, keeping you full longer. They are also higher in soluble fibre, for health benefits see here: – but in a nutshell fibre aids digestion, lowers cholesterol and moderates sugar levels in the blood (preventing diabetes). There is some truth that fibre can actually assist in weight loss, quite the opposite of urban myths. AMAZING! I have been experimenting with many grains lately, for a lot of them pre-soaking is a must. Black rice is not quite super grain but a great alternative to white rice, with an intense nutty flavour, so good served in desserts with tropical fruits or as a warm salad. So, don’t be a hater. Embrace the high fibre carbs!

Lamb Rack with Black Rice, Tomatoe & Spinach

Lamb Rack with Black Rice, Cherry Tomatoe & Spinach Salad

Meat 
Lamb Rack 
Rosemary
1/2 C beef stock, with one OXO cube (usually enough for 500ml water)
Your choice of sauce – pomegranate molasses, plum sauce

 

We bought a lamb rack for three people (about three cutlets each is perfect). Season with olive oil, salt and a little rosemary. Preheat the oven on Fanbake to 180C, meanwhile pre-sear lamb rack on BBQ or hot skillet for about 3 minutes a side, using tongs to really get the short sides as well. Then wrap little bones in tinfoil so they don’t dry out. Arrange slices of two onions on the bottle of a tray, along with 1/2 C beef stock and a generous  drizzle of pomegranate or plum sauce. Place lamb rack carefully on top of the onions – careful not to cook it in the broth. Takes about 25 minutes in the oven and is perfect when meat feels like the inside of your hand – between your thumb and finger. The onions will be browned nicely and the sauce thickens naturally with the juices from the meat so that you can drizzle it over when plating up.

 

Salad
1 C black rice
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
Handful of chives or other favourite herb
About 1/4 cup of parmesan, grated
3 garlic cloves
Bag of Spinach
Butter

 

Boil your black rice as directed in salted water (will take much less time if pre-soaked from the night before). Timing wise, have your rice just on the boiler when the lamb goes in. While it is boiling have some cut herbs, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped garlic, and grated parmesan prepared. Once rice is soft and cooked to the texture of cooked white rice you are used to, drain and fluff with fork, then season to taste, put lid back on and set aside. At this stage you should (hopefully) be ready to the meat out at this stage to rest for about 10 minutes before cutting – and remember it will continue to cook so if it feels / looks a little rare when you take it out that is GOOD! While it is resting, put plates in the oven to warm. Grab another saucepan and heat your butter and garlic, quickly put spinach in, a splash of water, and toss until just wilted, then remove from heat.

 

Assembly: In rice pot, add parmesan, salt, pepper, chives, cherry tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and toss. Arrange in spoonfuls on hot plates, then layer with your garlicky spinach. Remove foil from little bones, and as they face upwards, cut lamb rack in-between bones to form individual cutlets. Lay on rice and spinach bed, bones facing up. Drizzle lamb with your stock- sauce mix straight from oven tray, and top with onions. Drizzle a nice olive oil around the sides for presentation.

 

Wine Pairing: Serve with a rich red wine – we picked Monasterio Tempranillo-Garnacha 2006, a very rich and rustic Spanish drop with the perfect balance of tannins and earthiness to pair well with the lamb. A Hawke’s Bay Syrah, little Chianti from Italy would also pair well.

 

This year is all about balance – stay tuned for more healthy summer meals as I look to lessen meat in my diet and up vegetable and alternative grains – in a quest to balance out all the cheese and wine, live longer, and have more energy for all life’s ups and downs :)