I think it's a lot easier to eat a healthier diet in the summer because the season is packed with amazing fruits and vegetables that are just bursting with flavour.  

When the sun is shining, lighter meals just seem far more appealing and the truth is you don’t need to starve yourself on a wacky fad diet if you want to look better in your shorts or swimsuit this summer either. The secret is to choose healthy foods and take in fewer calories than you burn and it's easier to make better food choices in summertime as heavy, high-calorie dishes are just too much to bear when the sun rises early and goes to bed late.

I’m obsessed with Mediterranean cookery and I try to incorporate a healthy balance and harmony into my recipes. The Mediterranean diet generally encapsulates most of the criteria
for good nutrition anyway, but if you simply follow a few basic rules you can’t go too far wrong. My five Commandments for good, wholesome food are as follows.

1.    Buy seasonal fresh food, organic where possible.
2.    Eat a varied diet but always incorporate fresh vegetable & fruits.
3.    Avoid junk food
4.    Avoid too much processed food and additives.
5.    Remember that cooking is an act of love. Learn to enjoy the pleasures of the kitchen.

Another good idea is to work some super grains into your diet and they can be the perfect ingredients in summer salads. Grains and cereals, such as quinoa, couscous and bulgur can provide small hits of protein and other minerals. Quinoa may not be a household name just yet, but it is set for a starry future - as far as grains go. The Incas have known it all along, for thousands of years regarding it as the 'mother grain' as they grew it high up in the Andes.
Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is a complete protein - containing all eight of the essential amino acids. It has been recognised by the United Nations as a supercrop for its health benefits: packed with dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is also gluten-free and easy to digest. The facts suggest it is close to a perfect ingredient as you can get.

Quinoa is very easy to prepare and its fluffy texture and slightly nutty flavour make it an excellent alternative to white rice or couscous. When cooked, its grains quadruple in size and become almost translucent. It can be prepared much like rice. It should usually be rinsed or soaked before use to remove its bitter coating, so check packet instructions. Bring two cups of water to the boil to one cup of grain, cover, simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ should have a slight bite to it (al dente).

I also love couscous and it has become a popular alternative to rice and pasta these days. It has a light fluffy texture which is a little bland in flavour but which readily soaks up the flavours of other ingredients.
Couscous originates from North Africa and works brilliantly well so all Middle Eastern flavours. Most supermarkets sell precooked couscous - where you only have to add boiling water or stock to create light fluffy grains making it very quick and convenient.

Harrisa Chicken

with roasted pepper, tomato & couscous salad

Ingredients                        serves 4

2 large chicken breasts cut into 4 pieces
1tbsp harrisa

Couscous salad 
160g            couscous
160ml            chicken stock
            A large pinch of saffron           
1            large red pepper
12            red cherry tomatoes
8            yellow cherry tomatoes cut in half
50g            chopped shallots
2tbsn.            Olive oil
1tbsn balsamic vinegar
1tbsn.            Fresh coriander, chopped
1tbsn.            Fresh mint, chopped
1tspn.              Ground cumin

Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF, gas mark 6).
Brush the peppers with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and arrange them in a shallow roasting tin. Roast for about 35 minutes or until the pepper skins are evenly darkened, turning them 3 or 4 times. Place in a bowl and cover well with cling-film. The steam will help to remove the skin from the peppers. When cold enough to handle, cut the peppers in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Peel the skin away from the flesh and cut into wide strips.

Place the red cherry tomatoes in a small baking tin. Drizzle over the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with salt & pepper. Roast for 8-10 minutes.

Bring the chicken stock and saffron to the boil and remove from the heat. Add the couscous and cover. Leave to cook and swell for 2-3 minutes.
Using a fork, fluff the couscous grains to separate them. Add the roasted peppers, yellow tomatoes, chopped shallots and the herbs & spices. Season to taste and mix gently.
Coat the chicken pieces with the harissa. Heat a griddle or frying pan. Cook the chicken for 3-4 mins each side until lightly charred and cooked through.

Divide the salad between 4 plates, top with the harissa chicken, roasted tomatoes and garnish with fresh mint & coriander leaves. Serve with natural yoghurt.

Tomato, quinoa & pomegranate salad with creamy goat cheese 
and goji berry dressing

Prep time: 20 mins
No cooking time.

Ingredients                        serves 6

450g cherry tomatoes (a mixture of colours also looks really nice)
2 small shallots, sliced very finely lengthways
150g cooked quinoa
4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 fresh mint leaves

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them into a bowl. Add the finely sliced shallots, quinoa, the white balsamic vinegar, pomegranate molasses, honey and olive oil. Season and mix well. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and garnish with fresh mint. Serve immediately with creamy goats cheese & goji berry dressing.

Creamy goat cheese and goji berry dressing


180g fresh goat cheese
150g goji berries
100ml natural yogurt
1tbsp Sherry Viniegra
3tbsp olive oil

Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Season to taste.