I’ve been making an effort this summer to make salads that aren’t shit – some would say, a worthy goal. My standard salad has always been:
…tear up some lettuce, add some chopped tomato, cucumber, peppers etc (you get the gist), top with lemon juice, olive oil and salt…
Very boring; very shit. But some of my cookbooks have AMAZING salad recipes in them. Yes, they are more time-consuming but they are well worth the effort (and generally provide left-overs – always a bonus).
I bought Gill Meller’s new cookbook “Gather” towards the end of last year; a gorgeous book. I took it to the pub for it’s first reading which may have been a mistake…I had a number of involuntary vocal reactions to the recipes that perhaps weren’t suitable for a public place. So obviously, I couldn’t resist working my way through a few of Gill’s salad recipes. The first two I made were Tarakihi with Pickled Cucumber, Barley & Herbs; and Fried Pears with Roasted Red Onions & Crisped Puy Lentils. So many favourite things in these salads – love pickled things; love barley; love fried pears; love puy lentils.
The herbs and pickles go beautifully with the fish and lighten up the barley; in contrast, the pear and roasted red onion provide a subtle sweetness. A great combination and both were absolutely delicious.
The next couple of salads from this book were Barley , Squash & Mushrooms with Herb & Crème Fraiche Dressing and Raw Courgette with Fennel, Pea, Mint, Dill and Lemon. The squash combined with the barley and a creamy dressing created a pretty robust and filling salad. I think next time I would loosen the dressing up a bit more because the salad became quite thick and dense, particularly the following day. A really delicious salad though. The squash and mushrooms are cooked long and slow enhancing the pumpkin’s sweetness. And once that’s done and the barley’s cooked, it’s just a matter of tossing it with the herbs and dressing and shoveling it into your mouth!
Given the heaviness of the Barley and Pumpkin salad, the Courgette and Fennel salad was a perfect accompaniment and pretty low effort to bring together. A bit of slicing, chopping and dressing is all that’s required. The mint, dill and fennel are so deliciously refreshing against the heartiness of the other dish.
I’ve also created some of Peter Gordon’s salad’s from his most recent book “Savour”. This is proof that my salad skills are improving because, when I first bought this book I was a bit intimidated by the salad recipes. So, buoyed by my recent successes, I launched into Peter Gordon’s recipe for Freekeh, Poached Tofu & Shiitake, Roast Beetroot, Wasabi, Crispy Capers & Curry Leaf Salad (officially meant to be quinoa but I wanted freekeh…I love freekeh). This was a challenging salad because there were a lot of things to do…roast some beetroot, thinly slice other beetroot, deep fry sliced beetroot (whoops…burnt some ie.most), cook the freekeh, make a poaching liquid and poach the tofu, fry the capers, fry the curry leaves…phew! I was definitely starting to get a bit frazzled at the end of all of that! Particularly given that I’d decided to make the Minted Baby Potatoes, Peas & Crème Fraiche as well. Luckily this was a quick and easy one to make. And the good news is that it was worth the effort.
My final salad for this post is a simple Green Salad from “Savour”. As mentioned earlier, my usual “green salads” are “pretty shit” so I decided to up my game on the simple salad front. The salad below is a version of Peter Gordon’s green salad recipe using the greens that I had in the fridge and the garden. My favourite improvements from my usual salads are that:
- there’s no lettuce in it (a revelation!);
- the veggies are really thinly sliced; and
- it contains fresh mint
I was interested to note that Peter Gordon’s dressing is the same as mine – olive oil, lemon juice and salt – but it’s the mint that makes all the difference. Result…my green salads have been revolutionised!
So if you’re also a boring salad maker, maybe it’s time for you to up your game. It’s definitely worth the effort to make a salad that isn’t shit.