I’ve been pondering the word simplicity a lot lately. Simplicity in the sense of simplifying life. De-cluttering. Getting rid of un-useful things and not buying new un-necessary stuff. Being content with what I have instead of making mental lists of things I convince myself I really need. Thinking more quality than quantity. As a big collector of things (convinced they might come in handy at some point in my life), this doesn’t come naturally to me at all. But somehow the past couple of weeks, I have started to ask myself more often ‘Do I really need this in my life?’ and act accordingly on it. It has freed up quite some space in my room and even more importantly in my head, helping me to concentrate on what matters most. I might not turn into a minimalist over night (or ever really), but I surely hopped on the simplifying train! If you haven’t heard of it yet, this documentary by The Minimalists might get you started with simplifying your life (FYI, it’s on Netflix).
Eating simple(r) foods only fits with this intention. Prepping grains and fake grains (such as quinoa and buckwheat), vegetables and proteins at the beginning of the week and assembling and seasoning them according to my liking during the week has become such a natural way for me to eat – easy, healthy, tasty and so flexible!
To describe myself as ‘trendy’ would be the last thing I’d do (I notoriously discover trends when they have already passed and a new trend has taken over), but somehow accidentally I happen to be a huge proponent of the still trending ‘bowl food’ (and will still be when it’ll be out of trend). Not caring about whether eating my food from a bowl or a plate, it’s the balanced, comforting and sustainable way of eating that matters to me.
We could call these assembled bowls relatives of the vegetarian poke bowl or buddha bowl. Even though naming them after Buddha seems a little far-fetched to me, out of lack of a better word (assembled bowls? No way!!) let’s be trendy for once: below you find my take on Buddha bowls.
While I would have loved to give these bowls an Asian twist yet again, I thought I try to come up with more of a – very broadly speaking – European version of it, using a mustard vinaigrette here to tie the different ingredients together. The different parts of the Buddha bowl could be prepared and eaten on their own obviously, as well as mixed and matched with what you’ve got at hand. The idea really is for you to come up with your own favourite bowl combinations!
Notes: The warm shallot dressing is loosely taken from a vegetarian cookbook by Alfred Biolek and Eckard Witzigmann called ‘Unser Kochbuch’, which originally is meant to go into a potato salad. However, I find that it lends itself for a whole range of other purposes and I therefore dress whatever falls into my hands with it. It even turns the simplest of green leaves into an elegant salad.
In case you’d like to add some grains to your bowls, some cooked red rice would make a nice addition here.
Lentil, Beetroot and Runner Beans Buddha Bowl with Mustard Vinaigrette
Makes 4 lunch bowls
Lentil Salad with Warm Shallot Vinaigrette
For the lentils:
200g firm green lentils (optional: soaked in hot water for 30 minutes)
2 bay leaves
optional: 1-2 pieces kombu seaweed (makes them more digestible)
Place the lentils in a sieve or colander and rinse well under running cold water, removing small stones or debris. Place in a medium-size saucepan together with the kombu (if using) and bay leaves and cover with water. Bring to a quick boil, then turn heat down to a gentle simmer and cover partly with a lid. Cook the lentils until tender, but still with bite, for about 20-30 minutes (depending on your lentils). Add water as needed to make sure the lentils are always slightly covered with water. Drain in a colander and place them back in the saucepan. While your lentils are simmering, prepare the warm shallot vinaigrette (see just below).
For the warm shallot vinaigrette:
100g shallots, finely minced
8 tablespoons good quality olive oil
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar (alternatively another rather sharp, acidic vinegar)
about ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a medium-size frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the minced shallots and fry for 3-4 minutes until they start becoming translucent. Add the vinegar and water, turn down the heat a little and gently simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly reduced in volume. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you find the dressing lacks a little acidity or is actually too acidic, adjust with a little more vinegar or water respectively. Pour the hot vinaigrette over the lentils and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes for all the flavours to infuse.
Beetroot and Rucola salad
1 tablespoon vinegar (I used red wine vinegar, but any other simple white vinegar will do, too)
1 small garlic clove, finely crushed and minced with a knife or pressed through a garlic press
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar or 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
two handful of rucola leaves, washed and patted dry, roughly torn
Roughly wash the beetroots, removing any excess sand or dirt, then cut in half. Place in a medium-big saucepan, cover generously with water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar and bring to a boil. Turn down heat to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid and cook until tender, for about 45-50 minutes. Drain in a colander, and carefully remove the skin. Cut into small strips or slices and place back in the pan. Add the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste, mix well and set aside to infuse for a couple of minutes. Adjust with a bit more vinegar if needed. Once cooled down a little, mix in the rucola leaves.
Green Runner Beans with Mustard Vinaigrette
200g greens runner beans, washed and ends discarded
Steam the beans over a pan with boiling water for about 6-8 minutes, or alternatively blanch them in boiling water, for about 6 minutes, until tender but still with a little crunch (be careful not to overcook them – to me there’s nothing worse than soft and lifeless vegetables!). Drain and set aside.
For the mustard vinaigrette:
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons (slightly spicy) Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon maple syrup or honey
1/8 teaspoon flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a small jam jar, close with a lid and shake until you’ve got a creamy and homogenous dressing. Alternatively, place all ingredients in a small bowl and using a fork whisk until thick in consistency.
Add two generous tablespoons of the vinaigrette to the beans, mix thouroughly. Keep the remainder of the dressing for assembling your bowls.
Crunchy Seed Mix
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon slightly crushed lin seeds
1 teaspoon black or white sesame seeds
¼ teaspoon za’atar
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of flaky sea salt
Dry roast all ingredients in a frying pan over medium-high heat until slightly crunchy and light brown in colour. Place on a big plate and set aside to cool.
Divide the lentils over four bowls. Place some of the beetroot and rucola salad as well as runner beans on top, pour some of the mustard vinaigrette all over and top off with the crunchy seed mix (and optionally some spring onion rings).