Salsas and salads

SALSA ROMESCO

ingredients for salsa romesco lined up ready for action at the annual calçots festival in Valls, near Tarragona

Catalunya’s famous salsa, served with calçots, but equally good with asparagus or fish
Makes about 1 cup/250ml, enough for about 6 people
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3-4 tomatoes
1 red or green chile, de-stemmed, halved lengthwise, de-seeded
1 chunky slice white bread from country-style loaf, crusts removed
1-2 tbsp vinegar
100g peeled almonds
30g hazelnuts
5 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

  • Put garlic cloves, tomatoes and chile on a griddle or heavy, ungreased frying pan,  heat steadily till garlic is soft and blotchy, the tomatoes burnt in patches and the chile slightly blistered
  • Set all these ingredients to one side to cool a little
  • Soak bread in vinegar
  • Put almonds and hazelnuts in a small baking tin and toast in a 200oC/400oF oven for 8-10 minutes or until the almonds are golden and the hazelnuts toasty and fragrant, and the husks can be rubbed off easily
  • Remove, allow to cool a little, then twizzle the hazelnuts between finger and thumb to remove the husks
  • Put almonds and hazelnuts in the blender and grind to a fine powder
  • Quarter tomatoes and remove any excessively black bits; slip garlic cloves out of their skins
  • Add tomatoes, garlic and chile to the blender and blend till smooth
  • Add the soaked bread cubes and blend again
  • With the motor running, pour olive oil in a steady stream through the hole in the blender lid and continue blending till the sauce emulsifies and turns a gorgeous pale orangey-red
  • If your tomatoes are a little anaemic, it’s permissible to add a splash of concentrated tomato purée
  • Season to taste with salt

BABA GHANOUSH

A deliciously piquant aubergine sauce/dip/salad, originally from Egypt and found throughout the Middle East with slight variations and different spellings. For best results, rub or brush the aubergine with a little oil, prick all over and grill/broil or barbecue it first, which will give it a wicked smoky flavour. If this doesn’t fit your plans, oil, prick and bake it in the oven (220oC) until somewhat deflated and wrinkled.

Makes about 250ml/1 cup
1 large or 2 medium aubergines (about 600g)
125ml natural yogurt
100ml olive oil
juice of ½ lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
plenty of chopped coriander or flat-leaf parsley
salt, pepper

  • Light the barbecue or heat the grill/broiler
  • Brush or rub the aubergine(s) all over with oil, prick in a few places with a fork and grill/broil until the skin is seriously toasted and the aubergine(s) quite soft and deflated – at least 20 minutes, depending on your heat source – turn often to toast evenly
  • Remove aubergine(s), allow to cool, cut in half, scrape all flesh out of skin, discard skin
  • Mix or mash together the aubergine flesh with yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and chopped herbs and salt and pepper to taste (in food processor or by hand)
  • Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate till serving

DICED SALAD WITH MINT, LEMON AND OLIVE OIL DRESSING

The salad most typically found throughout the Middle East is a simple affair of finely diced cucumber, tomatoes and onion. I’ve added rucola for a bit of colour and bite, and I’ve given the lemony dressing a bit of a boost with lots of mint. Middle Eastern sunbaked tomatoes and cucumbers have far more flavour so  best use cherry tomatoes which are tastier and sweeter, and small (‘ridge’) cucumbers rather than big ones.

Serves 6
3 ridge cucumbers or 1 regular cucumber
salt
500g cherry tomatoes
1 red onion or 2 spring onions, finely chopped
a handful of rucola (rocket), coarsely chopped
3-4 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 Tbsp chopped mint
Zahtar dressing
6 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
2 tsp zahtar
pinch of sugar

  • Peel the cucumber(s), cut in quarters lengthwise and cut away the seeds
  • Cut the flesh in small dice, put in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain while you prepare the rest
  • Quarter the cherry tomatoes (or chop coarsely) and put in a large bowl
  • Add the finely chopped onion, rucola and parsley, toss to mix well
  • For the dressing, mix together all ingredients in a jam jar and shake vigorously to emulsify
  • Rinse the salted cucumbers and pat them dry with paper towels
  • Add them to the salad, pour on the dressing and mix well
  • Serve salad in glasses, or on a large flat dish

BALKAN PEPPER AND AUBERGINE DIP (AJVAR)
Dips and salsas of many hues and flavours can be found all around the Mediterranean in various guises – the best-known is probably the aubergine and tahini-based baba ghanoush. This one, based on roasted peppers and aubergines, is traditionally served in the Balkans with pljeskavica (burgers). You’ll get a huge flavour boost if you grill the peppers and aubergines on an open flame (I do them over gas, or on the barbecue or even in the fireplace) to get the right smoky flavour but if this isn’t convenient, grill them in the oven.

Makes A LOT!!
2-3 red peppers (or mix red and yellow), about 500g total weight
2 medium aubergines
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
100ml (6 tablespoons) olive oil
a pinch of crushed chiles or ½ tsp cayenne
salt and pepper

  • Rub the peppers and aubergines with a little oil and prick the aubergines all over with a skewer
  • Roast on an open flame (gas, barbecue, fire) until the peppers are blackened and blistered (about 10 minutes) and the aubergines quite soft and deflated (at least 20 minutes) – turn them occasionally to ensure even roasting. [Alternatively roast them in the oven with grill on maximum]
  • Put the unpeeled garlic in a small frying pan or on a griddle and toast till the skins are a little brown and the garlic soft inside – remove skins
  • Take peppers and aubergines off the fire/out of the oven as they are ready and leave to cool a little in a dish
  • Peel peppers, discard stalks and seeds; strip skins off aubergines or scrape flesh out of skins
  • Put peppers and aubergines in a blender with the softened, peeled garlic, chiles or cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Pour the olive oil in a steady stream through the hole in the lid of the blender, continuing to blend till the mixture thickens and lightens
  • Serve as a dip with pita or focaccia, or with grilled meat, burgers or kebabs

 

LAMB’S LETTUCE SALAD WITH GRAPEFRUIT, AVOCADO SEGMENTS AND PRAWNS, CITRUS DRESSING

Serves 6
2 red grapefruit
salt and pepper
1 tsp mustard
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ a fresh red chile, finely chopped
2 avocados
10 scallops or (raw) prawns
olive oil
200g lamb’s lettuce, trimmed and well washed

  • Using an exceedingly sharp knife, slice away all the peel and white pith from the grapefruit (‘à vif’)
  • Slip segments free from the membranes with the knife and put them on a plate
  • Squeeze any juice out of the membranes with your hands and reserve it for the dressing
  • Put the salt, pepper, mustard, oil, lemon juice and reserved juice in a jar or jug, and shake or beat vigorously until emulsified
  • Wash and spin the lamb’s lettuce and divide between salad plates, mounding it up nicely
  • Arrange grapefruit segments decoratively on top of the salads
  • Cut the avocado in half, discard stone, cut avocado in segments and peel away skin
  • Arrange segments likewise on salads and sprinkle with some dressing If using scallops, remove the muscle and separate them from the corals
  • Slice in half horizontally, season with salt and pepper
  • Toss prawns in sizzling hot oil for a fraction of a minute till just seared (or until prawns go pink)
  • Arrange shellfish on top of the salads and serve

SALADE DE MÂCHES DES VIGNES AU FOIE GRAS DE CANARD
Here’s a wonderful salad inspired by a recipe from Michel Husser at Le Cerf in Marlenheim, who uses the wild lamb’s lettuce (mâches) from the vineyards around the village. His has chopped truffles as well as the foie gras, but they’re a ludicrous price and the salad is quite extravagant and delicious enough without them.

Serves 6
Vinaigrette
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
5 tbsp chicken stock
15 tbsp (225 ml) olive oil
salt and pepper
Salad
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
300g mixed cultivated and wild mushrooms (e.g. chanterelles, horns of plenty, cèpes)
300g lamb’s lettuce
300g fresh duck foie gras

  • Mix together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in the blender
  • Soften the shallot gently in the oil, add the trimmed and sliced mushrooms
  • Cover and cook gently for 5 minutes until the juices are rendered
  • Uncover, raise the heat to concentrate and evaporate the juices
  • Sprinkle the mushrooms with 2-3 tbsp vinaigrette and set them aside
  • Toss the lamb’s lettuce in some more vinaigrette and arrange it on 6 plates
  • Scatter mushrooms over salads
  • Slice the foie gras quite thickly, then cut in fat strips and season with salt and pepper
  • Heat a non-stick frying pan quite fiercely and sear the strips very  briefly till just golden and crusty  – there will be a lot of fat
  • Lift out and arrange strips over the salads and serve at once (use the rendered fat for frying eggs or potatoes)

 

WINTER SALAD OF CHICORY, GREENERY AND TOASTED PUMPKINSEEDS OR PINE NUTS, WALNUT OIL DRESSING

All the ingredients for this fine winter salad can be bought well ahead, and the dressing made in advance – there’s more than you need for this recipe, but it keeps well in the fridge.
Dressing
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and black pepper
50ml vinegar
150ml walnut oil
a pinch of sugar
3-4 heads white chicory
3-4 heads red chicory or radicchio
1 small bag mixed winter salad greenery (lamb’s lettuce, frisée, escarole, baby spinach etc.)
a small handful pumpkinseeds or pine nuts

  • For the dressing, shake together all the ingredients in a jam jar, or blend them in a jug with a hand-held blender
  • Trim the chicory, discard outer leaves, separate remaining leaves and arrange them, alternating white with red, in soup bowls or on a large platter
  • Put a nest of greenery in the middle, mounding it up
  • Put pumpkinseeds or pine nuts in a small frying pan without extra oil and heat steadily till toasted and fragrant – keep the pan moving so they don’t burn
  • Toss the toasted nuts/seeds over the salad(s) and drizzle the dressing on top

SALAD OF GREEN AND YELLOW COURGETTE RIBBONS WITH FETA OR GOAT’S CHEESE AND BLACK OLIVES

Serves 4
salt and pepper
1 tbsp mustard
150ml olive oil
50ml wine or sherry vinegar
a pinch of sugar
3 courgettes (if possible mix green and yellow), about 600g
100g feta cheese, cut in cubes
OR 6 small fresh goat’s cheeses, quartered
8-10 black olives
lots of chopped fresh herbs (chervil, parsley, basil, chives)

  • Make a vinaigrette with salt, pepper, mustard, oil, vinegar and sugar
  • Slice unpeeled courgettes in long ribbons the whole length of the vegetable, using a vegetable peeler
  • Arrange ribbons on a large plate, scatter cheese on top
  • Pour vinaigrette over the salad, scatter olives on top and sprinkle with herbs

WARM SALAD WITH WILD MUSHROOMS

It’s good if you can find a nice assortment of wild mushrooms (e.g. chanterelles (yellow or grey), horns of plenty, hedgehog fungus, shitake, ceps etc.) for this lovely autumn salad, served over mixed salad leaves. Otherwise make up the weight with cultivated mushrooms. The hazelnuts and the lardons are both optional, but provide a nice bit of crunch.

chanterelles for a warm salad

Serves 6-8
optional: a handful of whole, shelled hazelnuts
or 100g lardons
a selection of mixed salad leaves (frisée, lamb’s lettuce, rocket etc.)
200ml vinaigrette (salt, pepper, mustard, 150ml oil, 50ml vinegar)
500-600g assorted wild mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
2-3 tbsp Melfor or Balsamic vinegar + a little extra for sprinkling
chives, and nasturtium and borage flowers to garnish

  • If using hazelnuts, toast them first: heat the oven to 200C
  • Put the nuts in a small tin and toast/roast them for about 10 minutes – be careful, they burn easily
  • Rub and blow away any husks that will come away easily
  • Roughly chop the nuts and reserve them
  • If using lardons, fry them gently without extra fat till golden and crispy and drain on paper towels
  • Toss the salad in the vinaigrette and arrange it in soup bowls
  • Clean the mushrooms, rinse briefly in cold water and spin briefly in a salad spinner
  • Slice or quarter them depending on size
  • At the last minute, fry the shallot and garlic gently in hot oil for 4-5 minutes without allowing them to brown, add the mushrooms and cook a further 5 minutes or so – they will make a lot of juice
  • Raise the heat and cook till the juices evaporate
  • Add 2 tbsp of vinegar and cook down hard till reduced
  • Scatter a selection of mushrooms on top of the salads
  • Garnish with chives, flowers and toasted hazelnuts or lardons and sprinkle with a few drops of vinegar

SALAD OF AUTUMN LEAVES WITH FIGS, GOATS’ CHEESE AND TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

A great salad for autumn with its combination of bitter leaves (chicory, radicchio, rocket/rucola), soft and salty goats’ cheese, sweet figs and walnuts.

Serves 6
150ml olive oil
50ml (4 tbsp) lemon juice
salt and pepper
a pinch of sugar
a bag of mixed salad leaves (chicory, radicchio, rocket etc.)
6 ripe figs, halved
12 soft fresh goats’ cheeses (e.g. Chèvretines)
a handful of walnuts

  • Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing, or shake them vigorously together in a jam jar
  • Wash and spin the salad leaves and arrange them decoratively on plates, or on one large platter
  • Cut the figs in halves or quarters, depending on size
  • Arrange figs and goats’ cheese decoratively on top of the leaves and drizzle with dressing
  • Scatter walnuts on top

KOHLRABI SALAD WITH SHAVED SBRINZ CHEESE AND BÜNDNERFLEISCH

The earthy crunchiness of kohlrabi goes well with the sharp cheese and the pungent Bündnerfleisch in this classic Swiss winter salad. It’s worth seeking out Sbrinz – a superb extra-hard cheese of the Grana family from central Switzerland

Serves 4-6
700g kohlrabi (about 3, tennis ball-size)
salt
a 50g chunk of Sbrinz (or other Grana-type) cheese
50g thinly sliced Bündnerfleisch (air-dried beef), cut in strips
Vinaigrette
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
6 tbsp olive oil or sunflower oil
1 tbsp chopped parsley and chives
a pinch of sugar

  • Trim and peel the kohlrabi very thoroughly, discarding any hard, woody bits
  • Slice very thinly, then cut the slices in strips
  • Put in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave in the sink for 2-3 hours to release some of their juice
  • Cut the Bündnerfleisch into thin strips
  • Take shavings of Sbrinz or Grana off the cheese using a potato peeler
  • Arrange the kohlrabi on a nice plate, scatter the meat strips and cheese shavings over
  • Shake together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a jam jar until emulsified and thick
  • Pour it over the salad and toss all the ingredients together
  • Serve with crusty bread

BOULGOUR SALAD WITH STIR-FRIED VEGETABLES AND WILD GARLIC

This nutty salad of cracked wheat (also known variously as bulgur or burghul), assorted vegetables, olive oil and lemon juice has an earthy, peasant flavour and great texture. Use whatever is in season now: young carrots, baby turnips, coco beans, broad beans, asparagus, plus some shredded wild garlic leaves for colour and punch.

Serves 4-6
2 spring onions, finely chopped
olive oil
250g bulgur/burghul/cracked wheat
500ml water + 1 stock cube
salt and pepper
2 lemons
3 spring onions, sliced in 5 cm bias-cut pieces
a walnut-sized piece fresh ginger, cut in thin strips
2 cloves garlic, sliced
about 500g assorted spring vegetables, trimmed (baby carrots, turnips, shelled broad beans, green beans etc.)
salt and pepper
a handful of wild garlic leaves, finely shredded

  • Soften the onions in 2 tbsp olive oil without browning
  • Add the cracked wheat and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes
  • Boil the water and dissolve the stock cube in it
  • Add it to the cracked wheat, cover the pan and turn off the heat
  • Leave for 10 minutes to allow all the liquid to be absorbed
  • Fork up the wheat, season to taste and put it in a serving dish
  • Add juice of 1 lemon and 3 tbsp olive oil, mixing well
  • Heat a wok or large frying pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil and get it good and hot
  • Add the spring onions, ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a minute
  • Toss in the harder vegetables – carrots, turnips – and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes, add the rest by degrees, stirring madly the while – keep stirring and tasting – stop cooking when they are just tender
  • Stir in the wild garlic and the juice of another lemon
  • Add the vegetables to the bulgour, stir to mix well
  • Serve the salad at room temperature

HERBY BOULGOUR SALAD WITH TOMATOES, ONIONS AND CUCUMBERS
(aka tabbouleh)

Tabbouleh, generally [mis]understood as a couscous salad with a scattering of herbs, has become a bit of a cliché. Real tabbouleh (from Syria and Lebanon, various spellings) is based on boulgour (cracked wheat, also variously spelt bulghur, bulgur or burghul) with almost as many herbs (parsley and mint) as grains and loads of lemon juice. Most have tomatoes and onions (spring or red), some have cucumber. Here’s my version, which can be prepared at least a day in advance.

Serves 6-8
150g /1 cup boulgour (cracked wheat)
2 huge handfuls flat-leaf parsley, about 100g
10-12 mint sprigs, about 25g
3-4 vine-ripened tomatoes
1 small (‘ridge’) cucumber or ½ a regular cucumber
1 red onion
juice of 1 lemon (4 tablespoons)
8 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
romaine or Little Gem lettuce leaves

  • Put the boulgour in a bowl, cover with water (cold takes longer, boiling speeds things up), swirl it about a bit and leave to soak for an hour or two
  • Chop the parsley and mint leaves with a large knife or in a food processor
  • Remove cores from tomatoes, cut in small cubes, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander
  • Peel cucumbers, cut in 4 lengthwise, remove seeds, dice finely and add to the colander with a little more salt
  • Chop the onion finely
  • Drain the boulgour, shaking it well in a strainer to get rid of excess water, and put it back in the bowl, add chopped herbs, drained tomatoes and cucumbers and chopped onion
  • Mix thoroughly with the lemon juice and olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Just before serving arrange lettuce leaves on a big platter and mound the tabbouleh onto them, or serve in glasses

BOULGOUR SALAD WITH AVOCADO,TOMATOES AND HERBS

A nutty salad of cracked wheat with tomatoes, avocado and lemon juice with an earthy, peasant flavour and great texture. Nice served in glasses or a big glass bowl.
Serves 6
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
250g cracked wheat
500ml/2 cups water + 1 stock cube
salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 avocado, peeled, stoned and cubed
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
plenty of fresh herbs (e.g. lovage, chives, wild garlic leaves), chopped

  • Soften the onion in 2 tbsp olive oil without allowing it to brown
  • Add the cracked wheat and cook, stirring now and again, for 5 minutes
  • Boil the water and dissolve the stock cube in it
  • Add it to the cracked wheat, cover the pan, turn off the heat and leave for 10 minutes, by which time all the liquid should be absorbed
  • Fork up the wheat and taste for seasoning
  • Turn the wheat into a bowl, stir in the tomatoes, avocado cubes, lemon juice, 3 tbsp olive oil and the chosen herbs, mixing well
  • Spoon the salad into glasses or a big bowl and refrigerate
  • Just before serving decorate salad(s) with herb sprigs

LEMON COUSCOUS SALAD WITH SLIVERED ALMONDS
A slight variation on the usual couscous salad, this wonderful lemony version gets extra crunch from the slivered almonds.

Serves 4-6
1 cup (about 200g) medium-fine, quick-cook couscous
1¼ cups (300ml) water
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
2 tbsp capers
plenty of chopped mint
grated zest of 1 and juice of 2 lemons
50g slivered almonds
5 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

  • Put the couscous in a large bowl
  • Boil some water, measure out 300ml and dissolve the stock cube in it
  • Stir the bouillon into the couscous and leave it to swell
  • Fork up the couscous to separate the grains
  • Stir in the capers, mint, lemon zest and juice
  • Fry the almonds in 1 tbsp olive oil till lightly golden
  • Add them to the couscous with the rest of the oil
  • Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper

QUINOA SALAD WITH PEPPERS AND CHERRY TOMATOES

Adapted from a recipe in the new tibits cookbook (tibits at home, published by AT Verlag, in German only) this makes a great store cupboard salad full of colour and flavour. Use white or black quinoa, or the kind that’s mixed with cracked wheat and sesame (‘Quinoa Mix Royal Sesame’).

Serves 4
100g black or white quinoa
(or 100g quinoa mixed with cracked wheat and sesame)
½ red + ½ yellow pepper
½ cucumber
100g cocktail tomatoes (a bit bigger than cherry)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp white Balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
plenty of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  • Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and tip in the quinoa
  • Lower the heat so water simmers and cook quinoa for 15 minutes or until just tender
  • Strain quinoa through a fine sieve, shake out any excess water and let it rest in the sieve to dry out a bit
  • Turn quinoa into a salad bowl, stir in olive oil, Hoisin sauce, Balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste
  • Leave quinoa to absorb these flavours while you prepare the vegetables
  • Chop the red and yellow pepper finely, peel the cucumber, remove seeds and chop finely; quarter the tomatoes
  • Add all these to salad, mixing well with your hands or big spoons
  • Scatter parsley on top and serve salad from the bowl, or spoon it into glasses and scatter parsley on top

SALAD OF RED POTATOES, BROAD AND FRENCH BEANS

Serves 10-12
1 kg broad beans (fresh fava beans) in the pod, shelled
400g French beans
1.2 kg red potatoes
2 red onions, finely chopped
Dressing
150ml oil
50ml vinegar
salt and pepper
1 tsp mustard
a pinch of sugar
plenty of freshly chopped mint, parsley and chives
1 egg, optional
sea salt
herbs and/or edible flowers to garnish

  • Shell the broad (fava) beans, trim and halve the French beans
  • Cook them together in boiling salted water until just tender – about 8-10 minutes.
  • Drain, refresh in cold water to set the colour and put in a large bowl
  • Boil the potatoes until just tender (15-20 minutes), then let them cool a little before slicing quite thickly. (Leave the skins on.)
  • Add to the bowl with the chopped red onions
  • Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a jug, add the egg if wished and blend with a hand-held blender till smooth and creamy. Slacken with a little water if necessary to give a pouring consistency
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss and turn the vegetables in it gently to mix
  • Arrange the salad on a nice dish, sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with more herbs, flowers etc.

BROAD BEAN, POTATO AND GOATS’ CHEESE/FETA SALAD WITH MINT DRESSING AND PUMPKIN SEEDS
A green, pink and white salad for spring. Broad (fava) beans can be found fresh in spring and early summer in the markets – better still, if you live (or can shop) in France, Picard has them ready-shelled.
Serves 8
Dressing
1 tbsp mustard
salt and pepper
300ml olive oil
100ml vinegar
a pinch of sugar
1 egg
2 sprigs mint, leaves only, chopped
5-6 medium new potatoes
200g shelled broad beans (fèves/Puffbohnen)
1 red onion, finely chopped
a handful of pumpkin seeds
1 packet Feta cheese (200g), cubed

  • Put all ingredients for the dressing in a small jug and blend with a hand-held blender till smooth and emulsified
  • Put the potatoes in a pan, cover with water, salt lightly and cook for 20 minutes or until just tender when pierced with a fork. Add the beans and cook 5-10 minutes more or until just tender
  • Drain the vegetables, tip into a serving dish or platter and mix them while still hot with 2 tbsp dressing and the chopped red onion
  • Dry-fry the pumpkin seeds (i.e. no added fat) in a frying pan – keep them moving & don’t let them burn
  • Arrange feta on top of salad and sprinkle pumpkin seeds over
  • Chill the salad

LEBANESE WHITE BEAN SALAD WITH CHERRY TOMATOES AND RUCOLA (ROCKET), GARLIC DRESSING

Serves 4
Dressing
1 head garlic, preferably fresh (i.e. new season’s)
 a little olive oil
salt and pepper
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
Salad
1 x 800g can white haricot beans (or cook your own, using 250g dried beans)
1 red onion or 2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
2 tbsp drained, chopped capers
plenty of finely chopped mint
1 pack cherry tomatoes, halved
a bag rucola (rocket) leaves, trimmed and chopped
vine leaves or lettuce leaves

  • Heat the oven to 200oC or light the barbecue
  • Cut the top off the garlic head, sprinkle with oil, wrap in foil and roast/grill for ca. 30 minutes or until soft
  • Separate the garlic cloves; use 3 for the dressing and serve the rest with meat or fish (or refrigerate – it will keep for a few days in the fridge)
  • Squeeze the flesh out of the 3 reserved garlic cloves and put in a small bowl or jug; add salt, pepper, oil and vinegar and blend till smooth using a hand-blender (or fork)
  • Drain the beans (rinse if using canned beans) and put them in a large bowl
  • Add the garlic dressing, onion, capers, mint, salt and pepper to taste, toss to mix well
  • Fold in the halved tomatoes without crushing them too much
  • Line a serving dish with vine leaves or lettuce leaves
  • Arrange the bean and tomato salad on top and sprinkle with rucola

GLASS NOODLE SALAD WITH PRAWNS, CUCUMBER, CORIANDER, PEPPER AND TOMATO

Glass noodles (also known as bean thread noodles, made from mung beans) are light and cleansing, just right for a summer lunch. Here they are used in a bright, clean salad with lots of flavours that leaves you feeling satisfied but not full. If your pack contains more than the 125g needed, the best way to separate them is to cut them with a pair of stout scissors.

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a starter
125g glass noodles
salt and pepper
1 red pepper
200g cherry tomatoes
½ a cucumber
300g shelled prawns
1 tbsp sesame or olive oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
juice of 1 lemon
lots of coriander, rocket leaves, flat-leaf parsley

  • Put the noodles in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 5 minutes
  • Put the pepper directly on a gas flame or under the grill and char till thoroughly blackened. Peel, seed and cut in strips
  • Quarter the cherry tomatoes
  • Use a potato peeler to take broad thin slices off the cucumber
  • Drain the noodles (cut them in manageable lengths with scissors if very long) and put them in a serving dish or salad bowl
  • Add the prawns and pepper strips, quartered tomatoes and sliced cucumber
  • Season generously – the noodles are very bland
  • Stir in the sesame or olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice
  • Sprinkle chopped coriander, rocket leaves and flat-leaf parsley on top

FRENCH BEAN AND ALMOND SALAD

Our French beans are just about ready down in the veggie plot, but while waiting for them to come good I’ve been doing this same salad with mangetout (snow peas). Either way, love that combination of slippery, crunchy beans or peas with the toasted almonds and crunchy red onion..

Serves 4
500g French beans, trimmed and halved
salt
150g peeled almonds
1 red onion or shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp mustard
salt and pepper
a pinch of sugar
50ml vinegar
150ml oil
some bruised leaves of summer savory

  • Cook the beans in boiling, salted water for 8-10 minutes or until just tender. Drain and refresh briefly with cold water. Put in a bowl.
  • Put the almonds in a microwave-safe dish or bowl and microwave on high for about 10 minutes – keep an eye on them, they need to be golden, but don’t let them burn
  • Add the almonds to the beans with the chopped onion or shallot
  • Mix together the mustard, salt and pepper, sugar and vinegar, then beat in the oil until emulsified
  • Pour this dressing over the beans
  • Sprinkle with summer savory

SALAD OF FRENCH (GREEN) BEANS AND MANGETOUT (SUGAR SNAP) PEAS WITH TOASTED HAZELNUTS AND ORANGE ZEST
A recipe inspired by a dish from café/bistro Ottolenghi in London’s Notting Hill.
Serves 6-8
500g French (green) beans, trimmed and snapped in half
500g mangetout (sugar snap) peas, trimmed
75g hazelnuts
zest and juice of 1 orange
salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp hazelnut or walnut oil

  • Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook the beans till barely tender – 4-5 minutes – fish them out with a slotted spoon, drain and refresh with cold water to fix the colour, put in a large flat serving dish
  • In the same pan cook the mangetout for about 1 minute, drain, refresh with cold water and add to the beans
  • Heat the oven to 200oC. Put the hazelnuts in a shallow baking tin and bake for about 10 minutes or until the husks are beginning to turn a darker brown and the nuts smell nice and toasty – be careful they don’t burn
  • Remove from oven, tip hazelnuts onto a teatowel and use the teatowel to rub away the husks
  • Roughly chop the hazelnuts and set them aside
  • Take thin strips (no white part!) of zest off the orange with a zester (or use a potato peeler to cut fingernail-sized pieces and cut pieces in very thin strips); mix zest into beans
  • Cut orange in half, squeeze juice
  • For the dressing, mix together the two oils, orange juice and salt and pepper to taste, shaking well till emulsified
  • Pour dressing over beans/mangetout and hazelnuts
  • Serve at room temperature

TUNISIAN SALAD OF CRUNCHY-COOKED CARROTS AND SULTANAS
Try to find baby carrots (complete with greenery), as small as possible, for this wonderful recipe – the combination of hot-sweet-sour is great, and even hardened carrot-haters will love it.

Serves 4
10-12 new carrots, cut in lengthwise strips (cf. chips/fries)
1 cup water + 1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp sultanas, plumped up in boiling water
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp harissa
plenty of chopped flat-leaf parsley
nasturtium flowers to garnish

  • Put the carrots, water and oil in a wide pan with a little salt
  • Cook over lively heat until the carrots are crunchy-tender and the water all absorbed – about 8-10 minutes
  • Put the carrots in a bowl and add the drained sultanas, lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic, cumin and harissa
  • Toss to mix well and sprinkle with lots of parsley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s