After a long dark winter, I find myself craving light, colourful and vibrant dishes to replace the savoury sustaining ones I have been eating for months. It is not real salad time yet of course, but something fresh and energising like this, with wonderful contrasts of texture and flavour, rich and creamy, sharp and crunchy, hot and sweet, is truly welcome. I have to admit the avocado fan is decidedly ‘nouvelle cuisine’, but it does look pretty! If, however, you cannot bear to be associated with this kind of presentation, simply peel and stone the avocado, dice it and mix it with the other ingredients.
Smoked paprika can be found in most large supermarkets and health shops, or a perfectly balanced, organic is version is available from Steenbergs of Yorkshire.
PINEAPPLE AND AVOCADO SALAD
20 g hulled pumpkin seeds
1 tsp + 2 tbsp olive oil
225 g peeled, diced fresh pineapple, net weight
25 g red onions, peeled and finely sliced
1 lime, juiced
1 red or green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
2 small ripe avocadoes
10 g basil, shredded
1/2 tsp smoked paprika, or to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 180oC/350oF/gas 4/fan oven 160oC. Place the pumpkin seeds in a small baking dish and stir in 1 tsp of olive oil and 1/4 tsp of salt. Roast for about 7 minutes, until the seeds are slightly swollen and barely starting to brown. Cool.
In a small bowl, mix the remaining olive oil, pineapple, onions, lime juice and chillies, and season with salt and pepper.
Halve and stone the avocadoes, and peel off the skin with a sharp knife. Lay the halves on a chopping board hollow side down and slice through them 4 or 5 times at an angle, leaving them attached at the narrow end. With the palm of your hand, flatten each half gently so that the slices fan out.
Slide a spatula under the fans and place them on four plates.
Spoon the pineapple mixture over them, and sprinkle with basil and the roasted pumpkin seeds. Dust lightly with chilli powder.
Serve immediately before the avocado loses its colour.
Now let's look at the nutritional advantages of this salad. Avocadoes: one of the most nutrient-rich and versatile fruits that can be eaten daily to enhance health – regulates blood pressure, contains more potassium than a banana, loaded with heart-healthy, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, can lower cholesterol and trigyceride levels, helps promote weight loss and moisturises skin. Pineapple: full of enzymes, particularly bromelain, which help digestion and may aid weight loss, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune-boosting, and packed with Vitamin C, beta-carotene and B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, potassium. Chillies: vitamins A, B6, C and K1, the antioxidant capsanthin, lutein for good eyesight, capsaicin for pain relief and possible weight loss. Basil: vitamins A, C and K, magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium. Pumpkin seeds: full of healthy fats including the very valuable Omega-EFAs, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, Vitamin E, and very importantly, tryptophan to aid regenerative sleep. Red onions: a natural antibiotic, packed with polyphenols, flavonoids and sulphur compounds which may aid in cancer prevention and increase bone density, blood sugar balancing, and may even increase fertility. What a star!