Juicy lunch salad with tuna or other toppings

Juicy lunch salad with tuna or other toppings

I love to eat a variation of this vitality-boosting salad for lunch most days.  For a packed lunch put all the veggies including the garlic in a large lunchbox, store the dressing in a glass jar separately and put the fish or other topping in a glass or non-toxic  container until ready to eat.  The great thing about this is that because it doesn’t overload you with carbs (bread, grains, potatoes etc) you don’t tend to get that after-lunch sleepiness.   For a change from tuna  try a couple of boiled eggs, a cup of cooked butterbeans or beans (mixed with pesto and garlic) or a serving (80-100g) of smoked salmon or leftover roast chicken.   Keep it interesting by changing around the types of leaves and the topping.

For 1:

80-100g (half a large tin) tuna in spring water (or brine if you can’t get in water)

1/2 a red/yellow pepper, de-seeded and sliced or cut in chunks
1 large vine tomato (cut in wedged)  or 8 cherry tomatoes (halved)
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
1/4 small cucumber or half a small courgette, sliced
A few black or green olives
2 large handfuls leaves (choose from baby spinach, lettuce, rocket, chicory, endive, watercress, landcress, pursalane, baby chard, flat leaved parsley leaves)
2 dessertspoons of home made extra virgin olive oil based dressing (see recipe on this blog)
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
Optional: half a cup of freshly grated raw beetroot or carrot
Optional: half a ripe avocado, cubed

1. In a large bowl mix all the salad ingredients with the dressing until everything is coated and glossy.
2. Pour out onto a plate, top with the tuna and enjoy.

Why this is great for you:
Did you know that eating lots of different plant foods every day is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.  My guideline to patients is to try for 25 different plant foods (fruit, veg and beans/pulses) in the week.  Each plant colour and type contains a different range of nutrients.  Purple fruit and veg for example, contain proanthocyanadins, while orange and red plant foods contain carotenoids and green ones contain lots of magnesium.  These are just some of the nutrients that help give you flawless (and young-looking) skin and hair, help repair and maintain your digestive system and keep you free of inflammatory conditions like eczema, asthma and digestive disorders like gastritis and colitis.  Different plant foods feed different good bacteria to help you stay at your peak fitness and wellbeing.  So its not just about eating large quantities of veg (half your plate at lunch and dinner) but large variety too.  How many colours of fruit and vegetables can YOU eat today?   

Black-eyed beans with sweet potato and coriander

Black-eyed beans with sweet potato and coriander

Bleck-eyed beans with sweet potato and coriander

This is real comfort food and a great crossover dish for feeding vegetarians and carnivores at the same dinner table.  It’s pretty rich in protein do if you are feeding a vegetarian its a good choice.  But you can also serve it as an accompaniment to roast or grilled meat or fish.  I love to eat it as a vegetarian dinner with just a simple green salad or some steamed green/runner beans drizzled with olive oil and paprika.  The recipe was I think from Cafe Paradiso but I changed the recipe a bit to use non-toxic oils.   Hope you enjoy it.   It also works great as a salad in a box to take to work or school.




For 6 as an accompaniment or 3 as a main course

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled
1 large bunch coriander, stalks and all, chopped
400g dried black-eyed beans (health stores/most supermarkets) soaked in boiling water for 45 minutes
2 cans of tinned black eyed beans, drained and rinsed
2  tbs extra virgin oive oil (1 dsp for cooking and 3 dsp for mixing in at the end)
2 large red onions, peeled and sliced or chopped
1½ heaped tsp cumin seeds (the Asia Market good for inexpensive spices)
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1½ tbs lime juice
¼ tsp Himalayan salt or Atlantic sea salt

1. If using dried beans (and not tinned) , drain the soaked beans and put them into a large pot, adding enough boiling water to cover the beans by a few centimetres, and bring to the boil.  Skim off any foam that comes to the surface and cook on a gentle boil for at least 45 mins.  Top up with more hot water if it reduces too much.  Test the beans to see if they’re cooked and continue until they’re done, when they should be drained, reserving the stock.  If using tinned beans, rinse and drain well.
2. Dice the sweet potatoes into ½”/1 cm cubes.  Then steam until the point of a knife goes in easily but they are not mushy.  Drain carefully and keep the liquid.
3. Place 1 dsp olive oil and 1 dsp water in a large heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onion and cumin and sweat (covered) on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for another 2 mins.  Add the lime juice, bring to the boil, then remove from the heat.  Gently mix in the sweet potato, beans, the rest of the olive oil (1½ tbs), coriander, ¼ teaspoon salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper and ideally leave sit for an hour before serving. This intensifies the flavours.

Why this is good for you:
Extra virgin olive oil, is good for heart health. It contains anti-inflammatory vitamin E, polyphenols and a whole host of other compounds shown to boost our health and vitality.  Coriander helps sooth your digestive system and also helps reduce numbers of “bad” bacteria in your digestive system.  Too many unhelpful types of bacteria in your gut can cause acne, digestive disorders and even anxiety states and low mood.  

Beans are a rich source of magnesium, deficiency of which is linked to stress, constipation, insomnia, anxiety and difficulties with skin health.  Refined foods (sugar/white grains), alcohol, stimulants and smoking rob you of magnesium.

Quick bean lunch tacos

Quick bean lunch tacos

I got this from a newspaper.  No idea who wrote the recipe but it’s delicious and so fast, and comforting.  It has become a favorite and we often eat it with quinoa and a steamed green veggie for a filling dinner.  I often don’t bother with the avocado and yoghurt and it’s still lovely.  Also nice as a bean salad served cold, I find.

Bean mixture:
1 large onion, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
A 400g can of any of these beans: black, black eyed, kidney or borlotti (or  mugful/200g dried beans: soak overnight in clean water, drain, cover with boiling water and boil hard till tender – this gives you a larger quantity of beans in the finished dish but it still works)
1 dsp tomato puree
2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika or smoked paprika

To serve:
Little gem lettuce leaves and the following which are optional:
A dollop of natural or Greek yoghurt (if you avoid dairy, use natural soya yoghurt)
Chopped avocado
Lime juice (or lemon juice)
A little Himalayan salt or Atlantic sea salt

  1. Steam-fry the onion in a dessertspoon of coconut oil and a spash of water.  This means covering the pan with a lid or plate, letting the onions steam until translucent and softened).
    Add the beans, tomato puree, garlic, cumin and smoked paprika.  Simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Spoon into little gem lettuce leaves along with a dollop of (dairy-free or dairy) yoghurt, some chopped avocado, and plenty of lime juice and a little Himalayan salt.

Alternative dinner idea:
Serve with quinoa and a steamed green e.g. broccoli, runner beans or peas.

Packed lunch idea
Bring the leftover bean filling, little gem lettuce leaves, a lime or lemon, and an avocado to work.  Reheat the filling (or not), chop or mash the avocado and mix with lemon or lime juice and a little salt.  Spoon the filling onto the lettuce leaves and enjoy the avocado mix on the side.

Why this is good for you
Onions and beans contain soluble fibre.  This feeds beneficial bacteria in your gut, which are responsible for 80% of detoxification.  And scientists used to think that your liver with it’s 5,000+ chemical reactions every day was the main organ of detox!  This detox is really important for your skin, your energy and hormone balance – in fact every aspect of your health.  Extra virgin olive oil, garlic and spices are anti-inflammatory and help suppress overgrowth of  “bad” bacteria in your gut.  This can have a dramatically improving effect on digestion and much more…

White bean, tapenade & aubergine salad

White bean, tapenade & aubergine salad

This is a lovely, earthy and filling summer main course, perfect with a large green salad and maybe something stodgey like a baked sweet potato or some squash wedges.  Best eaten warm or at room temperature, rather than straight from the fridge.

For 2:

400g cooked, drained white haricot, cannellini or butter beans – rinsed and drained from a tin, or home-cooked (200g raw weight will give you 400g after overnight soaking and cooking)
1 medium aubergine, cut in 1cm slices and grilled till golden (about 5 minutes each side, I find)
1 dsp chopped red onion (use
1 dsp black olive tapenade from a jar
Large pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tbsp chopped parsley, chives or basil (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

1. In a medium bowl mix the onion, tapenade, chopped herbs and cayenne with a small drizzle of olive oil.
2. Cut the aubergine into bite size pieces and add, with the white beans, to the tapenade mix.
3. Mix well and serve.

Tip: Buy parsley fresh, chop and store in a box or bag in the freezer.  That way it’s instantly available all the time.

Why this is good for you:
Olives and olive oil are rich in vitamin E which helps moisturise your skin from within and also aids weight management.  Yes, adding extra virgin olive oil to your diet has been proven to aid weight loss!  Red onion is rich in quercitin, which helps alleviate allergies.  White beans are rich in protein at around 8%, and soluble fibre, all of this keeps you fuller longer.  Soluble fibre also feeds beneficial bacteria which you need for your digestive wellness, mental health and perfect skin.  White haricot beans are a fantastic source of molybdenum, which can help support liver function.  Poor skin, low energy, or who has chemical sensitivities can be signs that your liver is under pressure, struggling to meet the detoxification demands of your everyday life and might need more nutrients.   Fresh or frozen parsley helps your kidneys to flush out toxins.  It’s also rich in iron.

Kid’s lunchbox ideas

As its almost the start of the school year I got thinking about kid’s lunchboxes and how to make them better to help learning, behaviour and mood.  Here’s my quick 5 point guide to breads & wraps, sandwich fillings and fork lunches, ready made lunches and sweet stuff.   Start with small changes so there’s less chance of lunchboxes coming home uneaten.   It helps if you are also making changes to breakfasts and family meals to better support health and vitality.  Research shows that when children get involved in the preparing of food, they eat it much more willingly.  So if there’s any chance you could involve your child in making, say a wholemeal pasta salad, or helping you mash a sandwich filling on a Sunday before the start of the school week, that could be a winner…

1. Switch to wholegrains
Making the change from white sliced pan to brown could be as simple as starting with a sandwich made with a slice of brown on the bottom, and a slice of white on the top layer.  Try a halved brown pita bread instead of white for a handy pocket into which to stuff fillings.  If you like to cook, get my basic sandwich wrap off this blog and make a few to store in the fridge or freezer.   Wholegrain crackers such as Nairn’s rough oatcakes or miniature oatcakes are a winner too, if your child prefers something dry.  And remember, any slightly unusual ingredients are to be found on the “larder and shopping” section of this blog.

2. Add high quality, protein-rich fillings for your wholemeal bread, wrap, pita or pasta/rice base
The following will support long-lasting energy and learning after lunch.

  • Mashed drained, tinned salmon mixed with a little chopped cucumber.  Salmon is full of brain-enhancing omega 3 oils to help learning and mood
  • Light Philadelphia, fresh ricotta (even sweeter and better for you), or cottage cheese blitzed in the food processor (to get rid of lumps) mixed with some finely chopped cucumber and sweet red peppers
  • Make a creamy tuna filling by mixing 1 dessertspoon of extra virgin olive oil with 3 spoons of natural yoghurt in a bowl to make a sauce.  Mix together a drained tin of tuna (tinned in brine or spring water rather than oil), some finely chopped cucumber and a de-seeded chopped tomato and maybe a little finely chopped red onion.  This well depend on what your child likes.  Add in enough of the sauce to bind it all together.  If your child can’t stand lumps, leave out the veggies and try them as maybe a few cucumber sticks or carrot sticks on the side.
  • Leftover cooked chicken or beef, shredded or sliced, with the same sauce/veggies as above  or mixed with red pesto, a little extra virgin olive oil, and the veggies.
  • You can also mix the tuna, cheese or chicken with leftover wholemeal pasta shapes and put into a box for an older child to eat with a fork.
  • On a Sunday or a day off, take 5 minutes with your kids to make my ultra easy chickpea salad or my super quick butter bean salad – stuff into a wrap or wholemeal pitta or add some cooked leftover brown rice, brown pasta, quinoa or millet for a fork lunch.  If your kids get involved, they are 100% more likely to eat the results!!  These lunches are incredibly good value and fantastic for learning and mood as beans and pulses are rich in magnesium.
  • Buy some wooden kebab sticks in the supermarket or Asian shop.  Cut up bite size pieces of cucumber, sweet red/yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, and bought-in felafels (chick pea patties from health stores or Halal shops) or pieces of cooked chicken.  Thread on the sticks.  If you end up with a bit more time, make up a spicy sauce from half a cup of natural yoghurt mixed with a little crushed garlic for older children to dip the kebabs into and put in a little plastic container in the lunchbox.

3. Even shop-bought lunches can be better quality
All the ideas below contain high quality protein for sustained energy and learning:

  • A whole tub of shop bought humous, a cellophane-wrapped pack of Nairn’s rough oatcakes, some vegetable sticks and a couple of mandarins, plums (for older children) or an apple.  Surprisingly, raw red peppers, carrots, cucumber, even celery are more appealing to kids than limp cooked veg! – start with one or two in the lunchbox, don’t comment if it comes back uneaten, just keep putting it in – this approach often yields results)
  • A tub of 3 bean salad from the supermarket deli counter or a bean-based salad from M&S, a piece of fresh fruit, plus and maybe a brown roll/bread for bigger appetites
  • For real emergencies, have a stash of John West Light Lunches in the cupboard for an older child with a bigger appetite.  These are next to the tinned fish in supermarkets. The best choice is the Mexican style tuna salad because it contains beans instead of white rice.   A piece of fresh fruit alongside makes an OK lunch thats very tasty.    These even come with a handy fork.

5. Something sweet
If your child is really not content with a piece of fruit as their something sweet, then some of the following are healthier alternatives to sweets and sugary snacks.  Bear in mind that for high quality sweet treats you need to spend either time or money.  Expensive ingredients cost more to manufacturers than cheap low quality ones.  In the next few weeks I will be putting up some recipes for flapjacks and bar..  Just enter your email in the side bar this blog to get notified when I post a new recipe.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Baby Organix biscuits and munch bars from supermarkets – these are sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar.
  • Nak’d Bars from health stores are fantastic quality
  • Fruitas bars from health shops are good too
  • Home-made flapjacks sweetened with raw cane molasses or xylitol instead of regular sugar and using wholemeal flour instead of white.  I will be posting some flapjack recipes in the coming weeks.
  • 1-2 dried no-soak dates from the supermarket
  •  1-2 unsulphured apricots from the health stores for a chewy burst of sweetness
  • A few sundried banana chips from health stores or Dublin Food Co-Op (see larder section of this blog for Coop details)
Basic sandwich wraps

Basic sandwich wraps

These are nutrient-packed versions of the sandwich wraps that are so fashionable now.  They are as simple as a normal pancake to make and are inspired by the delicious buckwheat galettes you get in traditional restaurants in Brittany.  This recipe comes from Ian Marber’s book, The Food Doctor everyday diet, which has lots of lovely recipes.  Make them in advance and store them in the fridge for a day or two, or freeze for up to a month.  When freezing, separate them with greaseproof or baking paper and store them in a self-seal bag to prevent drying out.   Like all other grains, buckwheat is much more digestible if you soak before using (ie. make the batter a few hours before you need it or the previous day and store it at room temperature for an extra light result).

Basic sandwich wrap

Makes 8 small wraps
See “larder & shopping” to source new-to-you ingredients

100g buckwheat flour
1 large egg, organic if possible
300ml liquid – use 150ml/ ¼ pint each water and milk (rice milk, cows milk, or soya milk or oat milk – NB oat milk may contain gluten) or use all water.  See larder for further info.
A little virgin macadamia oil, coconut oil or, if you can’t get these, some extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper
Baking/greaseproof paper (or tin foil) and (if you want to freeze the wraps) a self-seal bag

1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, then make a well in the middle and break in the egg and add a few grinds of black pepper.
3. Using a whisk, gradually add the liquid, whisking well, until the mix has the consistency of thin cream.  Depending on the size of the egg, you may need a little more or less fluid than the quantity specified.   Like all grain-based foods, the buckwheat flour becomes even more digestible if you leave the batter overnight to soak before cooking the wraps.
4. Heat a flat-based frying pan or griddle until hot, wiping a little oil over it with kitchen paper while it is still quite cool (macadamia oil, coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil are fine)
5. When hot, pour an eighth of the mixture into the centre of the pan, tilting the pan to spread the mixture.  We use a ladle for this as it’s easier to measure out an eighth rather than trying to estimate when in mid-pour.   Cook for a minute or two, until the pancake, begins to bubble around the edge.  Flip it over with a spatula and continue cooking for another minute or two.  Meanwhile, line a plate with greaseproof/baking paper/tinfoil
6. When the wrap is cooked, turn it on to the lined plate.  Put another piece of paper/foil on top and continue cooking wraps and piling them up, separated by pieces of paper or foil to stop them from sticking to each other.   When all the wraps are cooked and cooled, cover with either another plate and store in the fridge for up to 2 days or else place in a self-seal bag and freeze, to thaw and use as required.

Serving ideas:
Just spread a wrap with one of these combinations, roll up and wrap in a paper sandwich bag secured with an elastic band for a great packed lunch.  If you can, add some additional salad in a box on the side.

  • Plenty of humous, some de-seeded, chopped tomatoes and/or cucumber, and baby spinach/rocket/lettuce leaves
  • Lean chicken, chopped red onion and cucumber, and avocado mashed with lemon/lime juice and some black pepper
  • Ricotta or low-fat cottage cheese mashed with crushed garlic or chopped dill, black pepper, and strips of smoked salmon or mackerel
  • Grilled Toulouse sausage (Toulouse sausage is usually gluten- and nitrite-free but check with your butcher) or Taifun grill herb sausages (contain gluten) or thickly sliced grilled Taifun basil tofu (gluten-free) PLUS salad veggies (eg rocket, chopped peppers, cherry tomatoes) and a little home-made mayo, aioli, non-sugar tomato ketchup or extra virgin olive oil to moisten.
    Again, please see my larder section for all unusual ingredients.

Why this is good for you:
Buckwheat flour is a grain that is naturally gluten-free and is packed with nutrition.  It is a valuable source of rutin, a bioflavonoid with anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties.  Rutin, like many other bioflavonoids, helps support the integrity of your skin, making it stronger and less prone to allergic reactions.  Bioflavonoids help build collagen, which is also vital for bone strength.  So if you want strong healthy bones and wrinkle-free skin…Fresh raw vegetables are also a source of bioflavonoids.
As regards the fillings, protein (humous, ricotta, vegan sausage, basil tofu, Toulouse sausage, and smoked salmon) delays digestion, giving you a slow-burn, long-lasting energy for hours to follow.

Basic salad

Basic salad

This is a salad we eat most days for lunch with some protein like chicken, smoked fish, a bean/pulse salad or a couple of eggs.  The main thing about a salad is it needs to be almost completely raw, take up at least 50% of your plate and have lots of different colours to give you a range of nutrients. You’ll see some blanched frozen peas in the picture here, because I love them.  (Thaw frozen petit pois in sieve under hot tap, put in bowl, cover generously with boiling water, leave 1 min, strain, run under cool tap and add to salads).  If you’re packing this lunch to eat later, simply throw in handful frozen peas – will keep everything cool and take a couple hours to melt.

If you’re in a hurry you don’t have to have all the ingredients – mix and match.

For 1:
Leaves (choose one or 2, more if you want): 
A generous 2-hand handful torn up: choose from rocket, chicory, lettuce, endive, radicchio, organic baby spinach, nasturtium leaves, watercress, pea shoots etc.
Colours (choose 3 or 4, more if you want):
1 large tomato or handful cherry tomatoes , cut in bite size pieces
2 spring onions or 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 red/yellow pepper,  sliced
Cup of sliced cucumber, courgette, fennel or celery or a bit of everything
Grilled artichokes (drain off the low-grade oil before adding)
1 tbs olives
Healthy Fats:
Optional: 1/4-1/2 soft avocado, cubed (healthy fats aid weight management)
1-3 dsp extra virgin dressing https://www.annacollins.ie/mediterranean-salad-dressing/  OR https://www.annacollins.ie/asian-dressing/
Starch (not more than 1/4 of your meal though):
beetroot (cooked and sliced or raw and grated), small carrot, peeled and grated, thinly sliced raw butternut squash, some leftover cooked baby boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes or roasted squash
Gut-bacteria modifying boost:
1 clove raw garlic, crushed
Optional carbs (no more than 1/4 of the meal):
Grated carrots
Grated or chopped beetroot
Cold cooked potatoes (NOT for SC diet)

1. Throw everything in a big bowl, add 1-3 dsp extra virgin oil-based dressing and toss til coated.
2. Eat with a palm sized portion meat, fish, couple of eggs or a cup of cooked beans/pulses.

Why this  is good for you:
Fresh raw vegetables, especially when organic, are packed with vitamin C and biofoavonoids.  These strengthen skin and connective tissue, speed healing and help prevent digestive disorders.  You need vitamin C from raw foods, folate from dark green leafy veg (eg spinach, chard, broccoli), and bioflavonoids to help maintain digestive wellness.  Greens are also rich in magnesium, which helps you relax your mind and body and fight infections. 

Getting into the habit of eating a salad every lunchtime is one of the best things you can do for your health.  Veggies in your daily diet also give you a beautiful golden skin tone after 6-8 weeks, according to a study I quoted in one of my e-newsletters last year.  Spices and herbs in my special Mediterranean dressing lower numbers of “bad” bacteria in your gut and support growth of healthy bacteria that impact on everything – even weight management and mood.