Sunday, 17 April 2016

#CTGrowYourOwn Herb Cooking Challenge!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a company on behalf of Cotton Traders to see if I would like to take part in an exclusive
 blogger cooking challenge. I'm no whizz in the kitchen, and I'm not overly adventurous when it comes to cooking, however I'm always game for something new so of course I said yes!

The campaign was to promote cooking with your own home-grown herbs, and its mission is to show that you don't need a huge garden to grow herbs (in fact with most you just need your kitchen windowsill!).

The only rule was we were provided with a grow-your-own herb kit, and we had to make a recipe that included one of these herbs. The idea was to grow our own then cook with what we had created, however due to timing issues, this wasn't feasible, so whilst the little seedlings are sat on my kitchen windowsill eagerly waiting to grow, I had to cheat and rallied round Tesco's to pick up some fresh herbs instead.

The herb I decided to opt for was mint, and here's why:

I was sat in a Giraffe restaurant in an airport one spring morning, eagerly waiting to board my plane to Paris for some birthday antics, when I decided to order a mint lemonade with my fried breakfast. I'd never had mint in my drink before, but being the adventurous type, I like to give things a go. Oh. My. God. It was de-licious! The more I prodded the mint with my straw, the more flavour it released, and honestly, I couldn't get enough of it! Since then, whenever I see mint on a menu in a restaurant, I go for it! I've also been known to make the odd cocktail with mint in at home too. Yum!

First ever mint lemonade drink!
However! I've never really cooked with mint in food before. After looking at a few herbs hints & tips from both Cotton Traders and elsewhere, I discovered that mint apparently compliments chicken fairly well, as well as being used in lots of healthy salads. Light bulb moment - why not conjure up a healthy chicken salad? If you know me, you know I don't often do healthy, even when it comes to salads. My salads usually consist of tuna & mayonnaise pasta, slabs of cheese, boiled egg, cous cous, tomatoes, and a few leaves thrown in there to kid people into making me look like I'm trying to be healthy. However I've wanted to try and switch up my salads for SO long, and maybe lean more towards the healthier side, but have never really had the imagination to do so.

After a lot of research and adapting, I finally came up with quite an adventurous but healthy salad (for me!) and do you know what? I bloody loved it!

Ingredients:

1 small red cabbage
1 red onion
1 handful of croutons
1 handful cashew nuts
1 handful sesame seeds
Drizzle of toasted sesame seed oil
Rocket and spinach leaves
1 Chicken fillet
1 handful of fresh mint leaves
1 red pepper
1 small can mandarin segments

 


Recipe:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and cook the chicken for around 25-30 minutes, or until the juice runs clear.
In the meantime, dice up the cabbage, cut the red pepper into thick chunks, and cut the onion into rings.

 
 



Wash the rocket and spinach and make a 'bed' on the plate.
Place prepared cabbage, pepper and onion on top, spreading evenly.
Evenly sprinkle over cashews.
Once chicken is cooked, cut into strips and place on top of bed of salad.
Place 4 mandarin segments either side of chicken.
Drizzle sesame oil over and sprinkle with handful of sesame seeds.
Top with fresh mint leaves and enjoy!

 



This made a really tasty and flavoursome light salad that includes some really healthy nutrients. I was amazed at how many different flavours my palette was experiencing! The fresh mint complimented everything perfectly and the sesame oil seemed to bring everything together. I'd usually turn my nose up at fruit being included in my salad but the sweetness of the mandarin really worked with the other foods, and balanced other flavours out.

To wash it down, I decided to make my own blueberry and mint lemonade.

Ingredients:

Lemonade
Handful fresh blueberries
Handful fresh mint leaves

Recipe:

Pop a few blueberries in your favourite glass, along with a few mint leaves. Give these a bit of a pummel to release the flavour.
Pour in cold lemonade.
Top with more mint leaves and stir.
(Tip: Its handy to drink this with a straw as you can use this as a mixing/pummelling tool to release more flavours as you go along).






I love how you can control how minty (or non minty!) you make this drink, depending on preference. I like mine to have a strong mint kick to it, I find it really refreshing and tasty.

I think both the salad and drink combined would make a perfect light and refreshing meal on a summers evening. I can't wait to be more adventurous with my salads this year and see what other recipes I can conjure up!
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