On holiday? Dreaming of holiday? Chances are many summer holidays – whether dream or reality – involve a Mediterranean country, blue skies, the scent of lavender, a chilled glass of rose and a table under the trees laid with platters of grilled vegetables, freshly caught fish and, of course, a bottle of fruity olive oil. The Mediterranean Diet has long been touted as heart healthy (and the reason the French and Spanish smoke all the time but still manage to outlive us). It’s based on the traditional foods eaten by people living around the Med and includes olive oil, whole grains, fish, vegetables, fruit, pulses and nuts. Plus – so important – a little wine (preferably red). But recent research has emerged to show that it can also reduce the risk of cognitive decline – more on that here: http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/news-detail/10674/Research-links-Mediterranean-diet-to-lower-risk-of-cognitive-decline/) . Ahead of the G8 Dementia Summit last winter, leading doctors wrote to the government asking them to consider the benefits of – and fund research into – the Mediterranean diet as a way of reducing dementia risk. And in the last week or so, research from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Centre on Ageing revealed that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risks of strokes – so often the cause of vascular dementia http://www.eat2think.com/2013/08/mediterranean-diet-blocks-bad-genes.html#more
And even if you’d rather be enjoying a trashy novel on the beach than the latest articles on the fight against dementia, you’re bound to need to pack a picnic at some point this summer. I’m a bit over sandwiches to be honest: I don’t need that much bread in my life and maybe I’m just too busy being a ‘sandwich woman’ (juggling care for elderly parent and young children) to want to eat them… Either way, I’ve been trying to pack other options in the cool bag this summer. I was really proud of a riverside picnic I put together recently that included a jar of the Kale and Cocoa crunchy almond-ginger dipping sauce (recipe here), lots of crudities, raw brownies from the www.deliciouslyella.com website and the frittata below. The recipe can be packed with any vegetables your children will eat – mine like peppers and courgettes, not so keen on aubergines or mushrooms. Eggs are allowed weekly on the Med diet, and vegetables are unlimited; olive oil and nuts are key components too so this frittata with a walnut salsa ticks the boxes and packs well for a sandwich-free picnic.
Recipe – roast veg frittata with walnut salsa – serves 4
For the frittata:
1tsp butter or coconut oil
8 eggs, beaten
1tbs chopped herbs eg basil
150g roast vegetables ( I used a mix of aubergine cubes and baby peppers, Annabel used courgettes for the photos)
25g crumbled feta
Pepper and a little salt
Pre-heat the oven to 180C
Melt the butter or oil in the frying pan. Mix the Herbs into the eggs, and season. Pour in half the egg mix into the pan and cook over a gentle heat until it just starts to set. Sprinkle over the roast veg, then pour over the rest of the egg mix. Crumble feta over the top and put in the oven. Bake for 10mins or until just set. Leave to cook in the pan then tip out and cut into wedges. Pack into a plastic box to transport to your picnic and serve with a dollop of the salsa.
P.S. Use the smallest frying pan that will work – I used a 20cm one. You want the frittata to be thick. And make sure the pan is ovenproof!
For the walnut salsa:
50g walnuts, toasted
30g basil or rocket
1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1tbs red wine vinegar
4tbs olive oil
Blitz all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor (or chop finely by hand). Add oil slowly but don’t over-process as you want a bit of chunk.