Salads


Flageolets with green and yellow beans and spring onion butter

This is a contemporary take on the traditional French dish, haricots panaches, in which equal amounts of flageolets and green beans are combined and served with roasted or grilled lamb. You can eat this version as a first course, side dish, or for a light lunch – accompanied by some bread, if you like.

Flageolet beans have a pretty pistachio-green colour, and a delicate, refined flavour that is less earthy and mealy than other types of beans. Combined with vivacious, grassy, fresh bright green and yellow beans, this dish tastes luxurious, while at the same time looking like it’s been plucked from the French countryside.

Yellow wax beans, little bundles of summer savoury, and fresh, tender spring garlic with papery skin that’s tinged with green and lilac are all seasonal ingredients that are available in farmers markets, or even supermarkets these days.

This dish tastes lovely as it is, but you can liven it up by adding a splash of lemon juice and finely grated lemon zest and/ or some Dijon mustard to either the beans or the butter. Another variation to the spring onion butter is butter flavoured with chives and chive flowers. Any leftovers can be eaten as a salad, and would be ideal for picnics. Serves 4.

8 oz/ 200g dried green flageolet beans
Water
2 bay leaves
A large sprig of summer savoury or thyme
2 medium spring onions, trimmed and very finely chopped
4 oz/ 100g unsalted butter at room temperature
Fine ground sea salt (ideally French fleur de sel)
Freshly ground white pepper
6 oz/ 150g fine green French beans, stringed and left whole
6 oz/ 150g yellow wax beans, stringed and left whole
2 cloves fresh spring garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
Salt and pepper

1.    Soak the flageolets for 8 hours or overnight in plenty of cold water. Drain and rinse. Place the beans in a saucepan with water, bay leaves and summer savoury, and bring to the boil. (Do not add salt, otherwise the beans won’t cook properly). Reduce the heat to low, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the beans are tender but have still retained their shape. Drain, leaving aside 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid, and discard the herbs.
2.    To make spring onion butter, combine the chopped onions with butter, sea salt and ground white pepper. The butter will be flecked with an attractive emerald green colour. Refrigerate for around 30 minutes until firm.
3.    Steam the green and yellow beans in separate compartments of a steamer for about 7 minutes until they are tender but still retain some bite. Drain thoroughly.
4.    In a frying pan, combine the cooked flageolets with the 2 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid, garlic, and salt and pepper. Cook over gentle heat for a minute, stirring from time to time. Add the cooked green and yellow beans and mix well. Keep the bean mixture on very low heat.
5.    Set aside a cube of spring onion butter (about a tablespoon), and add the remaining butter to the pan of beans about 2 tablespoons at a time, heating just until the butter is absorbed. The beans will take on a shiny gloss. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
6.    Transfer the beans to a serving dish, and place the cube of butter that you have set aside on the top. Toss before serving.

Advertisements

russian-salad

Normally the words ‘Russian salad’ fill me with dread. Russian salad – also known as Salade Olivier or Salade Russe – belongs to that category of ‘international hotel food’ that is indistinct, safe and seemingly without borders. You know, the sort of food that’s found in every country and in most households: hummus, pasta with pesto/ tomato sauce, mushroom risotto, spaghetti bolognese, vegetable curry, rocket and parmesan salad, grilled goats cheese, omelette fines herbes, lasagne, ratatouille, chilli con carne, tiramisu, banoffee pie… you get the idea.

Moreover, Russian salad seems to be a throwback to the 1970s, when it would have graced many a ‘sophisticated’ dinner party table alongside blancmange and black forest gateau. Generally a little too ‘Abigail’s Party’ for my liking.

But, of course, my Russian salad is different. For a start, the recipe was given to me by the chef of a small, family-run Tuscan restaurant. He serves it spooned into radicchio leaves or in the cavities of cooked artichokes – so this dish is sort of vaguely Russian with an Italian sensibility. The vegetables are soft yet crisp. They are steamed rather than boiled. They retain their bright colours and nutrients. And finally, the tangy lemon mayonnaise is suffused with the anticipation of summertime.

The secret of a successful Russian salad is to add very little mayonnaise – just enough to coat the vegetables and bring them together in harmony, rather than suffocating them in gloopy, heavy, unctuous mass of unnecessary calories. What’s more, any leftovers are delicious tucked into a sandwich. Resolutely rustic with a distinct homemade feel, you certainly won’t find this version in any hotel restaurant – either side of the 1970s! Serves 4 to 6.

For the lemon mayonnaise:
1 medium organic free-range egg, at room temperature
Salt
6 fl oz/ 180 ml mild extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the salad:
3 small red or yellow beetroot, trimmed
2 medium potatoes
4 oz/ 100g fine green beans, trimmed and sliced
4 oz/ 100g green/ yellow wax beans or runner beans, trimmed and sliced
2 small carrots, trimmed, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons or dill pickles
3 tablespoons small capers, rinsed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 recipe lemon mayonnaise (as above)

Optional garnishes:
Green or black olives, pitted and halved
Lightly toasted caraway seeds
Mild paprika
Fresh dill or flat-leaf parsley, roughly torn
Very thin half-slices of lemon

1.    Start by making the mayonnaise. Crack the egg into a blender. Add salt and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil. Blend until the egg is pale yellow and frothy.
2.    Keep the blender running, and add the remaining oil in a thin stream. If the egg begins to curdle and the oil is not being absorbed, stop pouring in the oil and continue blending the mixture until all the oil is incorporated. Then continue to add the oil until the mayonnaise thickens.
3.    Add some of the lemon juice and zest, blend for a few seconds longer, and taste. Then continue adding the lemon juice and zest, and taste until the mayonnaise achieves the desired lemony strength.
4.    Transfer the mayonnaise into a container and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
5.    To make salad, steam the beetroot, potatoes, two types of green beans, and carrots in individual compartments of a steamer. Take special care to keep the beetroot separate, or it will stain other vegetables. Cook until all the vegetables are tender but still a little firm. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, peel and dice the potatoes and beetroot.
6.    Place all the vegetables in a large bowl. Mix in the cornichons, capers, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.
7.    Add enough mayonnaise to lightly bind the salad. Garnish with one or more of the suggested garnishes, if desired. Chill the salad in the refrigerator. Serve cold or at room temperature.

thai-vegetable-salad

This recipe is for Thai ‘dry yam’ – a type of strongly flavoured dish that’s a cross between a salad and a relish. There are dozens of regional variations all over Thailand. This recipe is pretty flexible, and you can increase or reduce the quantity – providing you roughly keep to the suggested ratio of vegetables and dressing.

You may use any vegetables you like, and either cook them or leave them raw – or combine both. Two or more of the following would be good: oriental broccoli (gai lan), fresh or (reconstituted) dried mushrooms (ideally oyster, enoki, or shiitake), baby corn, baby pak choi, white or red cabbage, water chestnuts, bamboo shots, beansprouts, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, spring onions (scallions), wing beans, ‘yard long’ beans, Thai ‘pea’ aubergines (eggplants), and so on.

You can add fruit, too, if you wish: pineapple, star fruit and pomelo go particularly well with the spicy dressing.

This salad is very strongly flavoured, and is meant to be eaten as part of a meal – not on its own – accompanied by other dishes, such as plain jasmine rice, a tofu dish, a curry or a stir-fry, and a soup. Alternatively, you may serve small quantities with alcoholic drinks, particularly spirits, as Thais do. Just place miniature quantities of the salad in small individual dipping plates, egg cups, or paper cones, and give everyone a small spoon or pastry fork to eat.

If you’re eating the salad as part of a meal, leave the vegetables chunky; or chop them very small if you’re serving it with drinks.

Add chillies according to taste. I like using 2 or 3 birdseye chillies in this recipe, but if you’re not used to spicy food, start with a quarter or half a chilli (birdseye chillies are very, very hot). You may deseed them if you wish. In Thailand, around half a dozen or more chillies would be used in this recipe. Serves 2 as part of meal, or up to 6 as accompaniment to drinks.

For the dressing:
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Fresh red or green birdseye chillies, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
Salt and pepper

For the salad:
8 oz/ 200g mixed vegetables (see note above)

To serve:
A few lettuce leaves
1 tablespoon peanuts
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 shallots (preferably red or banana shallots), peeled and finely sliced into rings
Fresh coriander, or Thai green or red holy basil leaves for garnish

1.    Start by making the dressing. Pound the garlic and chilli in a mortar or spice grinder. Mix in the sugar, lemon juice, soy sauce, and seasoning. Try some of the dressing, and adjust it according to your taste – for instance, some people may prefer a little more sugar. You can thin down the dressing with a little groundnut (peanut) oil if you wish.
2.    Prepare the vegetables: trim, peel, slice or dice the raw vegetables, and lightly steam the ones you want cooked. Mix all the vegetables well and set aside.
3.    Dry roast the peanuts and the sesame seeds separately in a small frying pan. Let them cool a little, then crush coarsely in a mortar or spice grinder.
4.    When you are ready to serve, line a serving platter with the lettuce leaves. Pile in the salad in the centre. Pour over the dressing. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts and sesame seeds. Top with shallot rings, and garnish with coriander or basil leaves. Mix gently at the table before serving.

pickled-black-beans-with-rice

This is the traditional Peruvian dish, frijoles negros escabechados: spiced black beans marinated in red wine vinegar. The black beans to use here are black turtle beans. Chinese black soy beans, Japanese black aduki beans, or Indian black urad beans are not really suitable for this recipe.

Black turtle beans have only been available in the UK for the past few years and, sadly, they are under-utilised. This is a shame because they have a sweet, floury earthiness that makes them very versatile.

I don’t normally like the combination of sweet and sour flavours, but I really enjoy the sweet, tart and deeply savoury tastes in this recipe. So much so that I always try to sneak this dish into the menu whenever I’m cooking Latin American food.

Serve the beans at room temperature with plain, steamed white rice, as Peruvians do. Alternatively, they are excellent as a salad or side dish, served on a bed of shredded lettuce and accompanied by avocado slices. Serves 4 to 6.

6 oz/ 150g black turtle beans, soaked overnight, or for several hours
4 oz/ 100g raisins
¼ pint/ 150 ml red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons corn oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes (or to taste)
2 large onions, trimmed, peeled and finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and pepper
4 oz/ 100g pitted black olives
2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered

To serve:
Cooked white long-grain rice

OR

Shredded lettuce
Avocado slices

1.    Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Cover them with fresh water, bring to the boil, and cook vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse again thoroughly to remove any toxins. (It is believed that some varieties of beans contain toxins, so this procedure is recommended when cooking black turtle beans). Cover with more fresh water, bring to the boil, and cook for an hour or so until the beans are tender. Now drain the cooked beans and set aside.
2.    Meanwhile, soak the raisins in the vinegar.
3.    Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and chilli flakes, and let them sizzle for a few seconds until they are a shade or two darker.
4.    Add the onions, and fry until lightly tinged with golden brown colour.
5.    Add the garlic and raisins (leave the vinegar aside) and sauté for a few minutes.
6.    Add the cooked beans and seasoning, and mix well.
7.    Pour in the vinegar in which the raisins have soaked. Add some water if necessary. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. The dish should be fairly moist – neither dry, nor too sauced. Adjust the seasoning.
8.    Garnish with black olives and hard-boiled eggs. Serve at room temperature.

citrus-spiked-chinese-noodle-salad

As it’s the Chinese New Year – the year of the Ox – I wanted to share a recipe for Chinese noodles. Uncut and unbroken noodles are eaten during the New Year in China as they symbolise longevity. Here they are coated in a spicy lemon and orange sauce and served at room temperature. Leftovers are excellent for lunchboxes, or eaten straight from the fridge.

If you can’t find Chinese sesame paste in Asian grocers, use tahini, peanut butter, or 1 teaspoon pan-roasted sesame seeds, crushed and blended with 1 tablespoon cold water. Cider vinegar can be substituted for the rice wine vinegar; and the chilli oil should not be the sort of chilli-infused olive oil found in supermarkets. Sichuan peppercorns have a distinctive, subtly hot, spiky flavour and fragrance – but if you dislike their grainy texture, use ordinary black pepper.

The addition of oranges and lemons to the aromatic sauce will brighten up the greyest of winter days. Serves 2 as light meal, or 4 as appetiser/ side dish/ snack.

For the sauce:
Finely grated zest of 1 medium organic orange
Finely grated zest of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon groundnut (peanut) oil
1 heaped tablespoon Chinese sesame paste
4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon Chinese white rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Chinese dark soy sauce
¼ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, finely crushed
1 tablespoon Chinese chilli oil
½ teaspoon red chilli flakes
A pinch of sugar, to taste
Salt to taste

For the noodles:
9 oz/ 225g dried egg noodles, OR 1 lb/ 500g fresh egg noodles
1 tablespoon dark toasted sesame oil

Fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves for garnish

1.    To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Set aside, or chill until ready to use.
2.    Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and plunge in cold water to prevent further cooking. Drain again, and toss in sesame oil. Set aside until ready to use.
3.    Just before serving, toss the noodles with the spicy citrus sauce. Garnish with coriander leaves Serve at room temperature (or chilled).

beanbarleybeetroot-salad

To the three Bs I would like to add a fourth B – Big flavour. This is a healthy East European-style salad, based on everyday homely dishes commonly found in Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. Barley is available in health food shops, supermarkets, and East European food shops and delis that have recently been springing up in every street in London. If you can’t find it, use the more widely available wheat berries. Serves 4.

For the beetroot dressing:
2 large fresh (not pickled) beetroots
1 oz/ 25g walnuts
A long strip of lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, peeled
9 fl oz/ 250 ml thick, creamy yoghurt (East European, if you can find it)
Salt and pepper

For the salad:
6 oz/ 150g barley, soaked overnight
6 oz/ 150g dried butter or haricot beans, soaked overnight OR 1 x 400g can
2 oz/ 50g currants
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 oz/ 50g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 oz cucumber, finely diced
4 oz/ 100g green salad leaves or baby spinach leaves (stems removed)
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika

1.    Start by making the dressing. Boil or steam the beetroot for 20 minutes or so until soft. Cool, peel, and cut in quarters.
2.    In a food processor or mixer, blitz the walnuts, lemon zest and garlic until finely crushed.
3.    Add the beetroot, yoghurt and seasoning to the mixer bowl, and blitz again until everything is well amalgamated. Chill the dressing if you have time.
4.    Meanwhile cook the barley according to packet instructions until al dente.
5.    Cook the dried beans in unsalted water for an hour or so until tender; or drain and rinse the canned beans.
6.    In a large salad bowl, combine the drained and cooled barley and beans with currants, herbs, walnuts, cucumber, salad or spinach leaves, and seasoning. Toss gently.
7.    Sprinkle with the smoked paprika, and serve each portion with a dollop of beetroot dressing.

The piquancy of salty Greek feta marries well with the earthiness of black turtle beans which are widely used in Latin American cooking. Serves 4.

8 oz feta cheese, diced
2 cups cooked black turtle beans
1 small, ripe but firm mango, diced
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 red and 1 green pepper, diced
1 oz/ 25g mint leaves, torn or shredded by hand
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Chill for a couple of hours before serving with warm, crusty bread.