Looking back through all things that I made in Norfolk last weekend, most of them could be described as salads in one way or another… I like salad to be a catch all phrase. In my world they can be hot or cold; contain cooked and/or raw vegetables; have not one iota of lettuce, tomato or cucumber anywhere hear them… It’s important just to mix together fresh vegetable ingredients in a complementary combination really.
Warm Roasted Rice Salad
This has been one of my favourite ever-changing, never quite written down, made up recipes this year. It’s great just for a quick and heart warming lunch party, or an easy dinner, and its richness belies how simple it is to make with delicious flavours of roasted and sundried tomatoes, a slight sweetness from apricots and honey and the warm spice of cumin, rosemary and roasted garlic. I like to use a mixture of rices but you can just use brown basmati (the king of rices in my opinion) on its own. I never recommend short or long grain rices – they have a most unsatisfactory and unfragrant flavour. My preferred combination is brown basmati with a couple of handfuls of red camargue rice and black wild rice mixed in. If you try this out just make sure to soak the coloured rices a little longer than the basmati to ensure they cook at roughly the same speed, as they have tougher skins.
Allow about 50g rice per person, presoaked for at least 30 mins beforehand
About a punnet of tasty cherry tomatoes, halved
a head of garlic, separated into cloves but not peeled
2 small beetroot
handful of sundried tomatoes
handful of dark organic apricots
cumin seeds, bay leaves, and rosemary, fresh if possible
lemon juice, runny honey
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to about 180 C. In one roasting tin place the diced carrots and beetroot (not too small otherwise they will dry out too much). Toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper, a sprinkle of cumin seeds, rosemary. In a separate tin, place the tomatoes, cut side up again drizzled with oil, salt and pepper and rosemary. Put the root veg in first, about 20 mins into cooking them, throw the garlic cloves in with them, and place the tin of toms in the oven. Meanwhile, rinse your rice thoroughly and place in a large pan with a little more than equal measure of water, a pinch of salt and a few bay leaves. When the rice comes to the boil, lid it and turn down the heat – it should be done in 10 or 15 mins if properly soaked – do check that it isn’t sticking though as you can always add an extra dribble of water to help it steam through.
Soak the finely chopped sundried tomatoes and apricots in some boiling water (about enough to just cover -you won’t be draining them so don’t be over-generous) at the start of your cooking session To this mix add olive oil, lemon juice, a dash of balsamic, a bit of good quality runny honey, a squeeze of tomato puree plus salt, pepper and rosemary. Keep tasting as you mix and make sure its a bit too tasty as otherwise it will be bland once combined with the other ingredients.
Once everything is cooked – the tomatoes are running juices, the root veg are crisping but not blackening, the rice is soft enough – and it doesn’t matter if some things have to sit and wait, tip them all into a large pretty bowl. Mix together with the dressing and adjust flavouring as necessary by adding more of any of the ingredients you have previously used. Serve with crisp greens: either steamed seasonal leaves or mixed salad leaves.
This is probably nothing like a traditional salsa but it tastes how I would like a salsa to taste so I am quite happy with it! An old friend one day while I was making it gaily threw in crushed toasted cumin seeds as her best salsa tip and I have done so ever since – not enough to overpower the flavour, but it really does enrich the overall effect.
6 good quality tomatoes
half a green pepper
half a small red onion
1 small clove garlic
1 small chilli
large handful coriander leaves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
juice of 1 lime, squeeze of lemon, olive oil
salt and pepper
This is a lovely light juicy tasty salad. The key is in the chopping. Cut up the tomatoes very small; first slice them and then cut each slice into tiny dice. Dice the pepper very small. Take the half onion and cut towards the root both vertically and horizontally and then cut very, very fine. Finely chop the chilli and garlic – it needs bit, so it can be quite a hot chilli. Combine all these ingredients in a bowl. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry saucepan until you can smell them, then crush in a pestle and mortar and add to the salad with some salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, squeeze in the lime and lemon. Roughly chop tyhe coriander and mix this through – taste it. It should be quite strong flavoured so if it is bland in any direction, just throw in more lime, coriander, salt, garlic or cumin to improve.
Beans equal summer. The more the merrier. I ate so many French beans in a variety of dressings, dishes and forms while I stayed with Gabs and Ali in the Correze for a holiday this summer, their garden was FULL of the things (above, I am shelling them in the garden while simultaneously upping my vitamin D quotient). Every day brought out alarming armfuls of delicious beans and dreaded cucumbers! You can do this recipe with one single favourite variety, mix as many as you can together or add other green seasonal veg such as mangetout or broccoli. Super simple and quick as a lunch or a side dish.
Equal quantities of:
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 dessert spoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Runny honey – a good teaspoonful
salt and pepper
Steam the beans until only just tender but still bright green and a bit crisp. Refresh under cold water and set aside in an open serving bowl. Mix up the dressing in the quantities above unless you are making for one or two people – then you could halve these quantities. Or multiply up if you are making for a lot of people. Taste and add more of any of the ingredients until you have your preferred level of sweetness/tartness/mustard bite. Top with parsley or chives or other favourite fresh herbs for variety too if you like.
I love houmous, its probably been one of the staplest parts of my diet for about 16 years. Thankfully I have progressed from mashing it diligently with a fork in my early youth to the rather more satisfying version produced with a hand blender – the only electrical kitchen clutter to bother with in my books.
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
fat clove of garlic
heaped tablespoon tahini
Empty chickpeas into a bowl and tip in the lemon, tahini and garlic. Add a good slug of olive oil – probably about 3 tablespoons and a dash of warm water from the kettle. Grind up a good lot of black pepper and throw this in with about half a teaspoon of salt. Using a hand blender liquidise all this together. Taste it. If it tastes bitter from the tahini, add more lemon, oil and salt. More pepper is always a good plan, and more salt is usually necessary. I usually keep adding little bits of flavourings until it is just right. For a change you could do as my friend Kate used to and add some caramelised red onion, or as a different friend Kate ( I have known a lot of Kates over the years, at least 7, bizarrely one of them is called Kate Oliver; one of them is engaged to an Oliver and one has a son called Oliver. Very strange) suggested, that old favourite toasted cumin seeds make for a lovely aromatic version.
Aubergine and Pomegranate Salad
This was always my super favourite dish when going to my friend Laura’s house… It’s so unusual and full of surprising flavours. I think it might be adapted from an Ottolenghi recipe but I have only eaten/made Laura’s version and its delicious, although also slightly adapted by me! A chinese whispers salad.
2 med aubergines, sliced lengthways
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch chilli flakes
3 tablespoons each of chopped fresh parsley, basil and coriander
juice of half a med-large pomegranate
seeds scooped from other half of pomegranate
1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise (you can get this from healthfood shops, plamil is a good make)
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt OR for a vegan version use tahini instead, perhaps a little less in quantity
Preheat oven to 180 C. Toss the aubergine slices in a roasting tin with olive oil until evenly coated. Sprinkle with salt and cumin seeds. When browned and soft, remove from the oven and let cool. Toast the coriander seeds in a dry pan and grind with the garlic and salt. Add to this the pomegranate juice and chilli flakes. Stir in the mayo and yoghurt or mayo and tahini. Arrange the aubergine slices on a platter, spoon over the dressing, sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and strew liberally with your herb mixture. Mmm.