Salad

Give A Fig

There is a fig tree in the garden. It was here when we moved in. I am fond of it but our relationship isn’t easy. By the end of last summer it was huge so I cut it back a bit.

This year it has produced a few figs but hidden them right at the top and put all the rest of its energy into growing leaves. I can only imagine it is sulking and does these things to spite me.

baked figs with feta

Fortunately my neighbours also have a fig tree and theirs is more even tempered. Not the neighbours who gave me the vine leaves, the ones on the other side. Yesterday they saw me coming home and pressed some newly ripe fruit into my hands.

It was lunchtime so I made this salad. A nice combination of sweet, salty and sharp with just enough garlic in the dressing to give it a kick.

baked figs with feta

Baked Figs With Feta, Rocket Salad (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh figs
  • 60g feta
  • Olive oil
  • 2 handfuls rocket
  • ¼ pomegranate
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 1 orange
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 sprigs mint

Method

  1. Get rid of any tough stalks the figs might have and cut a cross into each one so it is divided into quarters, but still attached at the bottom. Put them in an ovenproof dish.
  2. Break the feat into large chunks and divide it between the figs. Drizzle over a little olive oil and season with black pepper. Bake for 15 minutes or until you can see the cheese begin to colour.
  3. Meanwhile, arrange the rocket on a serving platter or two individual plates. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until golden and separate the pomegranate seeds. Scatter both over the rocket.
  4. When the figs are done take them out of the oven and pour any pan juices into a food processor. Add the skinned garlic clove in a food processor, 30mls olive oil and the orange juice and zest. Blitz then taste and season with salt and pepper. Maybe a little lemon juice if the orange is particularly sweet. Finely shred the mint leaves.
  5. Carefully nestle the figs on top of the rocket. Drizzle on the dressing and sprinkle over the mint.

Ifs And Ands

  • Most of the elements here are interchangeable. Goats or blue cheese would work in place of the feta. And spinach, perhaps wilted slightly, instead of the rocket. Toasted chopped hazelnuts or almond slivers could stand in for the pine nuts.
  • The orange dressing works well with oily fish. Try it on a grilled mackerel and spinach salad.
  • A small spoonsful of capers is a good addition too, briging a bit more acidity.

 

KitchInspiration: Who Do? Yuzu!

Alice writes:

I have a food challenge for you. What to do with the yuzu juice I got in my Christmas stocking, possibly not even in 2014, and have so far used precisely once? Its only outing was as part of the dressing for a crunchy Asian-inspired salad with some smoked oily fish of some sort, if I remember rightly. 


Yuzu is one of those ingredients that seemed to come from nowhere. A few years ago I’d never heard of the Japanese fruit and now it’s all over the place in salad dressings and cocktails and so on. 

Although, having said that, you can't really get them whole in this country, only the bottled juice. And I couldn’t even find that in my local Oriental supermarket so had to make do with this “citrus seasoning” that I found in Sainsburys. I’ve had it in restaurants though and this is pretty close (not to mention cheaper). Just to make sure the whole thing wasn’t a big con, I did a blind taste test against some bottled lemon juice and am pleased to report that you can definitely tell them apart. The yuzu is sweeter and slightly more floral, still tangy but not as outright sour as the lemon. It fits with the most common description of it which is being like a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. 

Although I must sound a warning note and say that my bottle claims it must be consumed within four weeks of opening so I’m not sure how advisable it is to use your stocking filler at all...

Nevertheless, if you do decide to throw caution to the exotic, citrussy winds, maybe the following will be of use...

yuzu salad dressing

Summer Vegetable Salad With Yuzu Soy Dressing

This is probably not dissimilar to the dressing you made once before. But I think the salad dressing is yuzu's natural home in the world of savoury things so I am going to include it anyway, mainly for the benefit of anyone who hasn't tried it. Also, all these vegetables are in season right now and make for a nice British-meets-Asian sort of vibe. It would go well with a tuna steak or a few slices of tofu, fried on a high heat to crisp them up a bit.

Ingredients

  

  • 2tbsp sesame seeds (I used one each of golden and black but it doesn’t really make a difference except aesthetically)
  • 200g baby courgettes
  • 4tbsp sesame oil
  • 3tbsp soy sauce
  • 4tbsp yuzu juice
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 200g green beans
  • 200g tenderstem broccoli
  • 1 small, ripe mango
  • 1 red chilli

Method

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a large dry frying pan for a couple of minutes then set aside.
  2. Trim the baby courgettes and cut each in half. Crush the garlic and put it in the pan with 1tbsp of sesame oil over a high heat. Add the courgettes in a single layer and leave, undisturbed for a minute. Check to see if they have taken on any colour. If they are going a but golden brown turn them and give them a minute on the other side. Add 1tbsp yuzu juice and let them cook until it evaporates (should be pretty quick). When done put the courgettes into your salad bowl.
  3. Steam the beans and the broccoli for five or six minutes. They should be tender but with bite. Add them to the courgettes when they’re done.
  4. Peel the mango and cut it into smallish slices. Deseed and finely chop the chilli. Slice the spring onions into thin rounds. Add them all to the bowl, along wth the seasme seeds.
  5. Put 3tbsp each of soy sauce, seame oil and yuzu juice into a jar or salad dressing bottle with the sugar and shake. Pour over the salad and toss so everything is combined. Serve.

Ifs And Ands

  • This works warm or cold and can be adapted to almost any green vegetable.
  • The dressing would also be good over steamed Bok Choi or Choi Sum as a side dish.


Delicious but not terribly original. I think things might get more interesting yuzu-wise if one turned to sweet stuff. Apparnetly the zest is very fragrant but, since we only have the juice in the UK, we will have to do without it.

yuzu meringue pie

Yuzu & Thyme Meringue Pie

I’ve adapted Theo Randall’s exemplary lemon tart recipe to become a yuzu meringue pie.

I sometimes find the fillings of lemon meringue pies a bit gummy and not lemony enough. Even Delia’s I’m afraid (the cornflour, I think). And although the Randall tart is the best I've ever come across, I was always a bit saddened by the egg whites that went to waste when I made it. So when I hit on the idea of whipping the otherwise-wasted whites with sugar to turn the tart into a super-lemony pie I was terribly pleased with myself. 

Here, I just replaced the lemon with yuzu and, ooking for something aromatic to replace the unavailable zest, experimented with thyme which worked really well. Also I had some sesame seeds left over from making the salad so they went in the pastry.

Ingredients

  • 175g (6oz) plain flour
  • 50g (1¾oz) icing sugar
  • 120g (4oz) butter
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 130ml yuzu juice
  • bunch of thyme
  • 400g sugar
  • 200g butter

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5.
  2. Combine the flour, icing sugar and butter in a food processor or with finger tips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Mis in the sesame seeds and then add two egg yolks and work lightly with your hands to form a ball of pastry. Wrap this in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for an hour.
  3. Divide the ball into eight and roll each piece out into a circle to fit inside a 10cm mini flan tin. Or else use a single 22cm one. Put a circle of baking paper inside each and fill with baking beans, rice or coins.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes (take them out when the pastry is turning golden brown) then remove from the oven and take out the baking beans. Leave the oven on though.
  5. Meanwhile, put the yuzu juice, butter, 200g sugar and thyme in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water and heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove the thyme and discard.
  6. Beat the eggs and egg yolks together and add to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture acquires a custard-y, lemon curd-y consistency. Give it a whisk if it looks a bit lumpy. When it’s ready, pour the filling into the pastry.
  7. Whisk half of the egg whites until they are white, fluffy and retain the shape of a peak when the whisk is lifted. You could do it by hand but personally I think anyone who does is insane. What are they trying to prove? When the whites are like little fluffy clouds, whisk in the remaining 200g sugar, bit by bit, until the meringue is glossy.
  8. Spoon it on top of the pie filling and put the whole lot in the oven for 15 minutes or until the meringue is going brown on top. Then take it out and leave to cool before serving. Personally I think it's even better after a night in the fridge.

Ifs And Ands

  • Even if you don’t have any yuzu, I would make Theo Randall’s tart. It’s delicious. With or without meringue on top. I bet it would be nice made with lime too.
  • Fresh ginger might work instead of the thyme.
  • I considered adding a tiny bit of wasabi paste to the meringue but lost my nerve. Maybe on a future occasion - a bit of heat would fight the sweetness.
  • Freeze the leftover egg yolks for another time. Whisk them up with the others (with an extra 50g sugar per egg white) and blob onto a baking tray. Cook overnight in a very low oven for crunchy meringues of the kind needed to make Eton Mess.

 

Other Yuzu-Inspired Ideas

I didn't have time to try all of these out but they are worth considering.

  • Try mixing a spoonful or two into some mayonnaise for dipping tempura or panko-fried prawns into.
  • A yuzu jelly would be lovely, as would a sorbet.
  • Cocktails also seem the way to go. Try equal parts yuzu juice and vodka topped up with Champagne or prosecco and a couple of crushed mint leaves. (Add a bit of sugar syrup if you like it sweeter).
  • The reliable, but fancy, Great British Chefs website also has some ideas.
  • Now, after saying the word "yuzu" over and over again just try getting the  music from Labyrinth out of your head. I’ve had it going round my head the whole time I was thinking about this question...

UPDATE (03/09/2015): Since writing this I have been thinking more about yuzu. It sort of plagued me. I could taste it in my sleep and didn't fully feel I had done it justice. I saw a reccomendation for these Yuzu Sake truffles from Prestat and thought that sounded like a good combination, especially with the white chocolate.

The idea of a yuzu-flavoured creme brulee also occurred to me. Perhaps with chunks of mango at the bottom. 
 

It's Bean Salad (And Still Is)

In idle moments I sometimes like to consider which is my favourite vegetable. Definitely something green as I always feel a meal is incomplete without a bit of verdancy on the plate. But is it broccoli - not only delicious but lends itself to the fantasy that I am a giant, pulling up and eating whole trees? Or asparagus, so perfect but available so briefly?

green bean salad

Both are contenders but so is the relatively humble green bean. I love a green bean. I just came across a nice piece from a couple of years ago in which Bee Wilson extols their virtue but points out that the Kenyan sort are so readily available that we don’t always appreciate the British ones when they’re in season.

Yet they’re in shops right now and worth making the most of!

It’s true that summer beans are delicious with no more than a slick of butter and a grinding of black pepper but I thought they were worth fussing over a bit too. Hence this salad which would make a good accompaniment to chicken or lamb or as part of a mezze-ish spread.

green bean salad

I’ve specified half a bulb of garlic (about six cloves) to be roasted for the dressing but I’ve taken to just sticking one or two whole bulbs in the oven whenever I’m using it for something savoury and keeping the cloves in a small airtight container in the fridge. That way I’ve always got the sweet and mellow cloves on hand for blending into dressing and marinades, mashing with potatoes, stirring into mayonnaise etc.


Fine Bean Salad With Tahini Dressing (serves 4 as a side)

Ingredients

  • 350g fine beans
  • ½ garlic bulb
  • 1 red onion
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1tbsp sesame seeds
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 3tbsp light tahini
  • 1tsp honey
  • 1 preserved lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Chop the onion in half and then into roughly 1cm slices. Separate the slices into layers and scatter onto a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat them evenly.
  2. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place them, cut side up, on top of the onions (which should act as balancing aids). Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with salt and the chilli flakes.
  3. Separate the garlic into cloves and find a little space for them at the side of the tray. Put the whole lot in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Top and tail the beans. Boil them until tender but still with a bit of a bite (about five minutes). Drain and set aside to cool.
  5. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan until they begin to smell fragrant then remove to a pestle and mortar and grind. Use the same pan to toast the sesame seeds until golden.
  6. When they are cool enough to handle remove the garlic cloves from their skin and put them in a food processor with the ground cumin seeds, tahini, honey, preserved lemon (cut into quarters) and 75ml water. Blend until smooth. This gives a spoonable dressing but if you prefer something more liquid then add a little more water. You’ll need about half of it here (it’s hard to make in smaller quantities) but the leftover will keep in a jar in the fridge for at least a week.
  7. Arrange the beans, side by side, in a dish. Spoon over the dressing so as to make a stripe that leaves the ends of them naked. Then arrange the onions and tomatoes on top of the dressing in another stripe. Sprinkle the whole with sesame seeds and finely chopped parsley and serve. (Of course you don’t have to be so fussy with the presentation. You could just toss it all together in a bowl and it would taste just as nice. Although don’t want to go lining up the green beans I would advise mixing them with the dressing then topping with the tomatoes and onions, otherwise it really will look a bit of an unappetising mess.)

Ifs And Ands

  • The dressing and topping would work well with other green veg. Sprouting broccoli would be particularly good when it comes into season. It would be nice with roasted butternut squash too.
  • Or as a dip for pitta bread and crudites. 
  • I bought some pumpkin seed "butter" from a health food shop the other day which turned out to be horrible on toast but works OK in dressings. You could replace the tahini with any seed or nut butter and then top the salad with matching seeds/nuts. 





 

Salamagundi, Born On Monday

I thought I was all done with Port Eliot inspired dishes but I’ve actually got at least two more. Today’s is a much simpler version of the absolutely enormous salamagundi I saw Jeremy Lee make whilst he chatted to Rachel Cook.

A salamagundi is basically a giant salad and is as much fun to eat as it is to say. The dish originated in early 17th century England and was made with a variety of meats, fishes, fruits and vegetables.

salamagundi

Lee had all sorts of things in his: chicken, pigeon, anchovies, soft boiled eggs, broad beans, peas, a vast array of leaves and herbs, cherries, peaches, tomatoes, carrots, broad beans, fennel, beetroot… Enough that every mouthful would have been different. It was vast and beautiful and the perfect thing to feed a crowd on a lazy summer lunchtime.

jeremy lee

Mine is more minimalist. But, like Lee’s, it is all about the contrasts: salty samphire and sweet cherries, plump chicken and crunchy vegetables, warm gravy and cool greens.

(This uses only half the chicken, leaving you with the rest for another day. If you want to eat the whole thing then double the quantities of the other ingredients and consider adding one or two of the optional extras mentioned at the end.)

 

Summer Salamagundi with Chicken, Cherries and Samphire (serves 4 as a light lunch)

Ingredients

  • 1 small free-range chicken

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 little gem lettuces
  • handful rocket
  • 100g samphire
  • 150g cherries
  • several sprigs of fresh mint
  • sherry vinegar
  • pinch sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Massage the olive oil and butter into the chicken’s skin and season generously with salt and pepper. Pierce the lemon a few times with the tip of a sharp knife and put it inside the cavity. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes per 500g plus and extra 20 minutes.
  2. While it is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Wash the samphire and check it over, removing any woody stems. Boil it for two minutes then drain and leave to cool. Stone the cherries and cut them in half. Separate the lettuces into individual leaves and shred the hearts.
  3. When the chicken is done remove it from the oven and leave to cool. When it’s comfortable to handle, remove and discard the lemon. Hold the bird vertically so all the cooking juices run into the roasting tin then remove it to a plate and pick all the meat from the bones (keep them for stock).
  4. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large serving platter. Top with the rocket and samphire, then the chicken and cherries.
  5. Add a splash of sherry vinegar to the pan juices - taste carefully as obviously the amount needed will depend on how generous the juices are. Warm the mixture slightly, scraping to make sure all the sticky bits from the tin are incorporated. You don’t want it to be piping hot, just warm enough to melt any gelatinous, stocky bits and take the sting out of the vinegar.
  6. Pour the gravy/dressing over the salad just before serving and sprinkle on the mint.
salamagundi
salamagundi
salamagundi
salamagundi
salamagundi
salamagundi

Ifs And Ands

  • Peaches or nectarines would be good here instead of the cherries.
  • Mackerel or another oily fish would work instead of chicken.
  • Play with different herbs such as basil or dill and different leaves. A old-fashioned butter lettuce would give the dish a nostalgic feel.
  • Bring in even more textural contrast with some sliced boiled eggs (hard or soft, as you prefer) or crumbled goat or sheep cheese. Maybe some capers for little pops of acid.

Life Is Butter Melon, Cauliflower

The Paleo and Primal bandwagons are well jumped on by now. (I imagine them to be like the foot-powered vehicles in The Flintstones.) The backlash has even arrived in the form of archeological debunkers. Yet whatever the truth about how our ancestors ate, it seems reasonably obvious that cutting out modern, processed foods and eating mainly vegetables and protein is going to make your healthier.

Simplifiers of those diets like to make out that carbs are the enemy which isn't the case. Wholegrains, pulses, legumes etc. can all make up part of a balanced diet. But I do know from personal experience that going low-carb for a while is a good way to lose weight. In any case, it’s summer and sometimes you just fancy something a little lighter.

Spiralising has been the big trend here. Do I spiralise? I spiralise a bit. I spiralise from time to time. A courgette can make adequate “spaghetti” over which to serve a tomato-based sauce. Maybe some meatballs. It does the job but you can’t delude yourself it’s anywhere are nice as the real thing.

On the other hand, cauliflower “rice” might not be an exact substitute for the original but it’s legitimately delicious in its own right.

Here are two recipes for it, one cooked into nuttiness, the other raw, crisp and cooling.

butter melon cauliflower

Butter Melon, Cauliflower (serves 2)

I first came across this pun on the phrase Life Is But A Melancholy Flower in Barbara Trapido’s novel The Travelling Hornplayer. Musically talented but dyslexic Stella hears her cousins practising it as a round on their violins: “Back home with Mum and Dad I ask them, ‘What is a butter melon?’ but I don’t say why. I think of it as a sort of pumpkin.”

I’ve been vaguely musing on butter melons and cauliflowers ever since I read and loved the book. This is what I've come up with. It could be either a vegan main (maybe served with a spinach salad) or a side for grilled meat or fish.

Ingredients

  • ½ cauliflower
  • ¼ butternut squash
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp cumin (ground, from fresh if possible)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (ground)
  • 20g flaked almonds
  • 1 onion
  • 50g cooked chickpeas
  • 2 sprigs parsley

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
  2. Divide the cauliflower into florets and pulse them in a food processor until they resemble bulgar wheat. Depending on the size of your machine you might need to do it in a couple of batches. If you don’t have a food processor you can grate the cauliflower instead. Discard the stem or keep it for stock.
  3. Mix one tablespoon of oil, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper into the cauliflower grains and spread them out evenly on a baking tray.
  4. Peel and chop the butternut squash into 2cm chunks. Add the oil and the cinnamon and mix the pieces around until they are evenly coated. Lay them out on another baking tray (or use the same one as the cauliflower if there’s room.)
  5. Put the squash and the cauliflower in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Check on them every five minutes. You want the cauliflower to get brown and nutty but not to burn. Take it out before the squash if it looks like it might.
  6. Meanwhile toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until golden brown. Remove to your serving bowl.
  7. Peel and chop the onion (I like it in slices but you can dice it if you prefer) and sweat over a low heat in the final tablespoon of oil until translucent. Then add the cumin and chickpeas and cook for another minute or so until the spice is fragrant.
  8. Mix everything together evenly, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Ifs And Ands

  • If you really are a super strict Paleo type, leave out the chickpeas which are legumes and therefore verboten to you for some reason I don't quite understand.
  • Try substituting pine nuts for almonds or mint/coriander for parsley.
  • Any other sort of pumpkin-like squash would work in place of the butternut.
  • If you like sweet/savoury dishes then raisins, chopped dried apricots or dates would be nice.
  • Leftovers are lovely cold with a lemony dressing.
  • I haven’t tried but I like the idea of stuffing a pepper or onion with this mixture.
  • If you don’t have plans for the rest of the squash, you may as well roast it all. Lay the remaining pieces out on a greaseproof paper-covered chopping board or baking tray and freeze. When they’re solid, transfer to a bag and put back in the freezer. You can add them straight to boiling stock and blend for a quick soup. Good for risottos too.
cauliflower tabouleh

Cauliflower “Tabbouleh”

I suppose here we’re pretending the cauliflower is bulgar wheat instead of rice. Whatever. It could be served as part of a mezze spread or goes really well with grilled lamb or fish, especially mackerel.

Ingredients

  • ½ cauliflower
  • 300g cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cucumber (try and get one of those small, slightly bumpy-skinned ones if you can. They’re crunchier)
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • large bunch parsley
  • small bunch mint
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice

Method

  1. Process the cauliflower as in the recipe above. Put the grains in a large serving bowl.
  2. Put the oil and lemon juice in a lidded jar or bottle and shake until well combined and pour over the cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
  3. Chop the cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and dice the rest. Thinly slice the spring onions, cut the cherry tomatoes into eighths and add them all to the bowl.
  4. Pick the parsley leaves from the stalks and finely chop them. Do the same to the mint. I will not lie to you - this bit is a hassle. You can try doing it in the food processor but it never comes out right, either not chopped properly or as a kind of mush. Slowly and methodically is the only way to go. You’re just going to have to put on some music or a podcast and get on with it (I recommend Fugitive Waves by The Kitchen Sisters for food stories from around the world).
  5. Add the herbs to the bowl, toss it all together and serve.

Ifs And Ands

  • A sprinkle of baharat spice mix over the top brings out the flavours. 
  • Crumbled feta cheese and pomegranate seeds make delicious, if inauthentic, additions.
  • Likewise, try substituting half of the lemon juice in the dressing for pomegranate molasses


Salad Days

I don’t know if anyone's mentioned this to you already but it’s really, really hot today.

When it’s like this, the only things I want to eat are ice cream and salads so I am using this as excuse to tell you about my favourite new ingredient: salad-enhancer extraordinaire Moscatel vinegar.

moscatel salad dressing

It was only a little while ago that I discovered it, lunching with a friend at Brindisa. I like to have a green item if I'm eating tapas or small plates - if only as nod towards health amidst all the fried/cheesy/meaty things - so we dutifully ordered the Green Salad With Muscatel Vinaigrette. It was very much a where-have-you-been-all-my-life moment. The vinegar is sharp/sweet and has something almost flowery about it that went perfectly with the herbs in the salad. 

After after lunch we trooped across Borough Market to Brindisa's shop and both of us ended up buying a bottle.

The waitress said there wasn't much else in the dressing apart from olive oil and honey so when I attempted to recreate it home I decided to up my game, replacing normal honey with truffled stuff which was even more delicious. It’s not dissimilar to My standard French dressing which is is three parts oil to one part white wine vinegar with a spoonful of Dijon mustard and some salt, sugar and pepper. There's more honey here to echo the sweetness of the vinegar and it makes all the difference.

moscatel salad dressing

I eat this at least twice a week for lunch at the moment, usually with a salad of little gem, rocket, cucumber, radishes, chives and mint. It pleases me greatly. The different greens, pale and cool lettuce and cucumber against darker, peppery rocket, the contrasting pink and white of the radishes, and the finely chopped chives, like beading on a party dress. Something so pretty can't help but give you a midday boost. Especially when it only takes five minutes to throw together. It’s great with tuna or beans and topped with toasted seeds.

As well as the dressing, a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, just before serving, is a must for me. For the crunchy texture as much as the taste.

 

Moscatel & Truffle Honey Salad Dressing

Ingredients

  • 100ml olive oil
  • 30ml Moscatel vinegar
  • 2tsps truffle honey

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients together in a sealable bottle or jar. Add a generous pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
  2. Shake until combined. Make sure all the honey has dissolved.
  3. The dressing keeps in the cupboard more or less indefinitely but, I suspect, won’t last terribly long!

Ifs And Ands

  • This is, of course, super nice with normal honey instead of the fancy truffle stuff. 
  • You can put fresh herbs in the dressing rather than the salad. When they're finely chopped and coat the leaves with the oil it’s a subtly different experience to when they're mixed in with the leaves. Try finely chopped mint, chives, basil, parsley, even tarragon - a couple of tablespoon altogether for a large salad. Don’t add them to the main dressing container if there’s going to be some left over as everything will go soggy and horrid. Portion off what you’ll need, add the herbs to that, then dress the salad.
  • You could put a mild mustard in this for a sweetish vinaigrette, a tiny dab of Dijon maybe. But then I’d use normal honey or brown sugar.
  • It's lovely with a tomato and herb salad too. 

Baby, Itsu

Since taking voluntary redundancy at the end of last year, I've found there are a variety of things I miss about office life. Top of the list of is - no question - my colleagues. I couldn’t have hoped to work with a nicer, funnier bunch of people than I did on the Sunday Express. In comparison, my kitchen is a bit lonely.

FullSizeRender[2].jpg

This chap comes and peers at me through the French windows sometimes but, if I’m honest,  his topical badinage isn’t up to much.

However, running a close second to my fellow S. Expressionists is Itsu’s salad dressing. Working from home has saved me a fortune in travelcards, large Americanos and takeaway lunches, but I still get a regular hankering for what we used to call “crack salad”.

The moreish nature of the dish was largely down to its distinctive Green Herb Dressing. I was wondering if I could recreate it to enjoy an authentic “al desko” experience at home but Itsu’s own website is coy about the exact makeup of the stuff. 

“As with all of our sauces the full recipe is top secret... If you were to try and recreate the fresh herb dressing at home it would take you forever... amongst other things you’d need huge amounts of coriander (like making a good pesto), fresh lime juice and a dash of Thai fish sauce.”

(I imagine the people of Genoa would take issue with the idea of “a good pesto” containing any coriander at all. But this is a discussion we can have another day...).

I took a research trip to my nearest branch of Itsu, bought a salad for comparison purposes and also sneaked a look at their cookbook. I won’t reproduce the recipe I found there as a) I fear a visit from their copyright lawyers and b) when I made a batch, it wasn’t quite right and I had to tinker to get something I was happy with.

The problem may have stemmed from differing interpretations of what they meant by a “large bunch of coriander”. I am lucky enough to live near a number of Turkish supermarkets where you can get huge bunches of herbs for a pittance so I used one of them. I think Itsu meant more like a 50g bag from the supermarket so I had blending issues and had to up the amounts of liquid ingredients.

I did it proportionally but the result still wasn’t quite the same addictive umami/sweet balance of the original. A little more playing about though and I think the result is spot on. And delicious over a salad of lettuce, rocket, matchsticked carrots and beetroot, avocado, spring onions and sesame seeds. 

Now all I need to do is teach that cat to bitch about office politics. 

Green Herb Dressing (After Itsu)

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch coriander (approx 150g)
  • ½ avocado
  • 6 lime leaves
  • thumb sized piece of ginger
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 6 tbsp fish sauce
  • 6 tbsp lime juice
  • 4 tbsp sesame oil

Method

  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor or blender and whizz until smooth.
  2. Serve drizzled over a nice crunchy salad and sprinkle with sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
  3. Will keep for about a week in the fridge

Ifs And Ands

  • Itsu use silken tofu instead of avocado but I didn’t want to open a whole packet just for a couple of spoonfuls. Avocado is great in lots of dressings for giving a creamy texture and keeping things emulsified.
  • If you weren’t set on full Itsu-ness and just wanted a nice, oriental-leaning herb dressing, mint or lemongrass would be good additions.
  • Palm sugar would be even better than brown if you can get hold of it.