Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Cool Green Salad

I struggle with Iceberg lettuce. It goes nicely with chicken or bacon, but on it’s own all there is crunch and then dissapointment. I think the problem is that I have tried to gee up the emptyness of the iceberg with strong flavours when what it needs is quiet companions that will not overpower its subtle green bitterness. And that is what I did today - kept it simple and came up with a lovely accompanyment to a tart made with puff pastry topped with brie, sweet bell peppers and sprinkled chives.

- Tear up a bowlful of iceberg leaves.
- Add in say, half a cucumber siced into chunks.
- Finally thinly slice three or four spring onions and add them to the bowl.
- Stir it all together and top with a dressing made from three or four tablespoonfuls of greek yoghurt, the juice of a lemon and some coursely ground black pepper.

I have noticed lately that whereas I make soups from flavours, salads for me are very much a visual thing first closely followed by texture. Hence I see my salads as colour combinations and rarely mix a large number of ingredients preferring to make several salads instead and can end up with a whole colour wheel on the table if I am not careful.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Salad of Fried Potatoes with a Moroccan influence

I have never been to Morocco, and chances are I never will. To be honest it is quite far down my list of places I would like to see, and although I have eaten several dishes described as “tagine” I often doubt that they have been anywhere nearer to Morocco than I have. So the influence here is my attempt to recreate that feeling, that taste and smell I have in my head of what Morocco is all about. To me it involves a dark mixture of cinnamon and cumin, shot through with the vibrancy of mint and lemon.

It is also late Spring way down here under the world and as usual my soup making has fallen back a bit to be replaced by the salads my body craves at this time of year.

- Begin by boiling some potatoes. I like to leave the skins on and quarter them into biggish bite sized pieces.
- Cook for ten minutes or so until just cooked and a pointed knife will meet just a little resistance in the middle - you don’t want them to fall apart when fried later.
- Meantime take a mixture of salad leaves and put them in a bowl with a couple of thinly sliced spring onions.
- Thinly slice two or three mint leaves, add to the bowl with the juice of half a lemon. Mix it all together gently.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, put some olive oil into a frying pan and leave to heat up.
- Drain the potatoes into a colander and allow to sit and steam dry for a couple of minutes.
- Make a spice mixture up in a bowl ready to add to the potatoes. I used two teaspoons each of ground cinnamon and cumin seeds, along with a teaspoon of fennel seeds and perhaps half a teaspoon each of crushed chilli flakes and turmeric.
- Pop the potatoes into the hot frying and cook on a hottish heat, stirring occasionally until they start to brown.
- Take the pan off the heat and stir in the spice mixture - the spices just need warming through and the last thing you want to do is burn them.
- Add a little salt to the potatoes if they need it.
- Finally make up a dressing from a tablespoon and a half of mayonnaise from a jar with the juice of a lime squeezed in.

Now just put it all together - salad goes into a bowl to make a nest, then a few potatoes go in and a spoonful or two of dressing is dribbled over, with the rest of the bowl put on the table for people to help themselves. Be quick with this though because as soon as the potatoes hit the salad leaves they will begin to wilt and I think the joy of a salad such as this is the contrast between the hot ingredient and the cool crispyness of the lettuce.


(Oh and if there are any left over potatoes mix them with some more mayonnaise to make a salad for lunch tomorrow, you'll be glad you did . . .)

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