I was talking to my good friend CC the other week as we were driving up to see the guys at Old Trafford. CC’s quite a bit younger than me but his Bob genes have exploded early in his genetic make-up and he just loves cooking too. He was asking why I hadn’t done a cooking fmwddc posting for ages. I don’t know really – I think it’s because I enjoy the actual cooking process a lot more than the writing up of the menu instructions. Anyway I’m in the mood again inspired by having prepared a really refreshing salad just recently. Maybe it’s all these early spring days and just having a day’s dietary holiday from all those winter recipes.
I’m always reluctant to start with a dull old list of ingredients. I know it’s what everybody does but it puts me off. First off think about what makes a salad great for you and what you’d like to see in it but never do. I constantly read that a great meal should consist of no more than 4/5 ingredients. I think that’s bo***x. I love having a myriad of tastes and colours and textures. I also like the idea of hot accompaniments to complement the coolness of the salad. So think about it but this is what I’ve enjoyed making recently. Items:
– baby cos lettuces -very sweet.
– tomatoes – get the sweetest, smallest varieties or even some of the zingier colours; tiger stripes or all yellows.
– mushrooms – pick your favourites or try something a little different
– salad onions
– pine nuts for some added crunch
– baby corn and asparagus
– celery and cucumber – neither are my favourites but nicer if cut interestingly
– rocket or other interesting leaves
– prosciutto ham or cold chicken
– sweet potato
– red, orange or yellow peppers
– parmesan cheese
– avocado pears
– seasoning – salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne
– crusty bread -ciabatta, focaccia is perfect
– extra virgin olive oil (preferably sourced from your membership of the pp olive oil scheme!)
I think that’s about it. Right you’ve done the shopping, get everything out and pour a large glass of wine or beer. Study ingredients and get a sense of what needs to be done first and in what order to get to the finished product. At least two big slurps thinking about this. Actually this menu is really easy work-wise. Firstly peel the sweet potato – you’re going to make fantastic orange coloured fries with them. Once peeled cut the potato into thin chip strips. Place in a bowl and pour on a little oil – really do keep it meagre – too much and they’ll take forever to cook and remain soft. Pour over some paprika, cayenne and pepper to add a sharp taste but not too much (or any) if you’d prefer a cleaner taste. Mix together with your hands and place on baking tray. Stick in the oven on a generous heat and keep turning. These are the best fries you can make without a fat frier. Kids will love them but ease up on the seasoning with them of course. They will need half an hour or so dependimg on the heat. This is plenty of time to make the salad. Take a slurp son.
I’d peel and wash everything thoroughly now. Halve the baby tom’s, tear up the cos lettuces into forksfull-size pieces, chop the cucumber into odd rough shapes, ditto celery, slice salad onions into small pieces and slice up some mixed colour peppers (you don’t have to do them all). Hard boil a couple of eggs and set aside. When you sense the fries are within 5-7 minutes of being ready slice up the mushrooms, halve by length the baby corn and add both with the asparagus and pine nuts into a frying pan with tiny bit of oil. Fry them up till getting crispy. Have a slurp. Roll up some prosciutto cut into smaller pieces and add to the mix – they’ll cook very quickly.
Presentation – massively important. We’ve got some bowls inherited from daughter E – quite large but tallish. It’s nice to put a bowl on a plate and spread the food across both pieces. Put the cos lettuce pieces into the base of the bowl. Add some cucumber and celery and tomatoes. Sprinkle some of the sliced-up peppers on. Take out a spoon and scoop out bits of the avocado. Sprinkle on the chopped onion. Add some rocket. Peel the eggs and roughly cut them up by hand (they may be hot, be careful) and add to the bowl. Keep a bit back. Have a slurp.
Add the cold chicken torn roughly with your fingers into bite size chunks then the fried mix of corn, asparagus, mushrooms, prosciutto (can be left out if you just fancy chicken) and roasted pine nuts. Take the lime and squeeze over all the bowls – it adds a fantastic piquancy. Add a final bit of brilliant yellow/white from the eggs and a tiny bit of parmesan if you fancy. Take the sweet potato fries from the oven and sprinkle some on the top of the salad and the remainder on the plate (you could do baby new potatoes if you don’t fancy the fries but just add them to the plate). Do a big central bowl of roughly hewn bread and serve. Season to taste.
Take a big slug mate. Half an hour’s work but a really tasty, filling lazy Sunday afternoon kind of meal. Serve with chilled white wine with ice in the glass or cold crisp beers. You won’t get many complaints and everyone will love your crazy, tasty orange chips. Some family and friends, a walk with the kids, simple tasty food and wine, a bit of cool jazz playing in the background. That’s as good as it gets for me.
Is that ok CC?