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.
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)
- 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
- Put all ingredients in a food processor or blender and whizz until smooth.
- Serve drizzled over a nice crunchy salad and sprinkle with sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
- 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.