An Ode to Nordic Cuisine: smoked mackerel with pearl barley, pickled radishes, rye bread croutons and horseradish and cucumber dressing.

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If I had a penny for the number of times I’ve heard people saying that healthy eating is too expensive I’d be rich enough to…eat healthily? It’s a common misconception that you have to fork out for the next popular health product like makuna honey or macha powder in order to eat better. As a rule I try not to spend more that £5 on a meal for two, and there are almost always leftovers I can have for lunch the next day. Many of us are convinced that a ready meal the cheaper option and use this to justify unhealthy food choices. Yes, it can be argued that healthy eating is a middle class luxury but it can also easily be done on a budget.

Nordic Cuisine is an great example of how healthy cooking has adapted to fit with the modern food system. It prizes meals that are simple, easy to make and not overly expensive. Designed by a group of chefs, Nordic Cuisine cuisine aimed to create a more self-sufficient food culture. Their values are based on seasonality, traditional foods, animal rights, local producers and, most importantly, health.

Since it’s foundation, Nordic Cuisine has become incredibly popular around the world for its’ delicious simplicity. One of the great aspects of this culinary movement is that it encourages only cooking seasonal produce. As well as improving sustainability and supporting local farmers, this functions to restrict food choice. Too much variability in food is of the key contributors to societies current maladaptive relationship with food and consequential obesity crisis. We can no longer make accurate judgments about the caloric content or expected satiety of foods. When even a simple yoghurt can range from around 50 calories to 500, it’s no wonder that bodies cannot adapt to a modern diet. But by only cooking with what’s in season, we can reduce the variability in foods and confine our choices to healthier ones.

Another benefit of simpler cooking is that they generally use fewer and cheaper ingredients while remaining utterly delicious. Generally fish or meat are kept pure or raw, letting natural flavours shine through. The freshness of vegetables are championed and punch is added with stronger ingredients such as pickled veg, horseradish or vinegar. So if money worries are what’s stopping you from eating well, I encourage you to turn to this way of eating. I made this incredibly flavoursome and filling dish for 4 people and the ingredients together cost me less that a small domino’s pizza. If you try nordic cooking and end up spending more that you normally would then I’ll eat my hat (as long as the hat is in season, obviously).

Smoked mackerel with pearl barley, pickled radishes, rye bread croutons and horseradish and cucumber dressing:

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Ingredients (serves 3-4)

2 smoked mackerel fillets (skins removed)

1 punnet cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil

1 cup pearl barley

3 handfuls of salad leaves (spinach or lettuce will do)

5 radishes

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

3 slices rye bread

2 tablespoons horseradish cream

1/2 cucumber

1 bunch dill

1 lemon

3 tablespoons plain yoghurt

1. To start, thinly slice the radishes and place them in a bowl of vinegar, sugar and tablespoon of salt for 10-15mins.

2. Place pearl barley in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 10-15 mins. Once cooked, drain.

3. Meanwhile, roughly chopped tomatoes. Fry over olive oil or coconut oil for 5 mins and then add the mackerel fillets. As you stir break them into pieces.

6. To make rye bread croutons, cut the bread into small squares and fry over a teaspoon coconut oil or olive oil for around 5mins.

5. To make the dressing, grate cucumber into a bowl and mix with yoghurt, horseradish cream, dill, squeeze of lemon juice and pepper.

6. To plate, mix a handful of salad leaves with the mackerel mixture, sliced radishes and rye bread crutons. Then sprinkle a few spoons of pearl barley and drizzled the dressing over the top.

7. Top with dill to garnish.

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