I have a salad and it’s a complete bobbydazzler of a salad. I can’t be bothered with salads unless they leap out of the bowl and have something to say. None of this iceberg lettuce and half a tomato nonsense, although I’d happily take the iceberg lettuce finely shredded and topped with prawn cocktail – you can keep your tomato though. I want a salad that high kicks into the room and smacks its fist firmly between your eyes. It has lovely colours and delicious flavours and frankly I’m a bit in love with it. This is like the Tallulah of all salads.
That’s a Bugsy Malone reference if you’ve never seen it, which incidentally you should. I’m probably one of Bugsy Malone’s biggest fans. It was nickname of mine as a child, sort of. Tallulah is an amazing creation, all sass and allure. How I picture myself really on a wet Thursday afternoon with a slightly runny nose! I’m also proud to admit that I still have it, I can still perform the finale dance routine to ‘You Give a Little Love’. As long as you have that, do you even need anything else?!
Back to the salad, this is an Ottolenghi. I expect it’s in one of his jaw droppingly beautiful books. The kind of books that make you want to emigrate somewhere warm and colourful tomorrow. Or even just to Islington so you can be near his restaurant. I think this one was from The Guardian newspaper too, where he posts regular delicious recipes that I print out and never remember to make. I made this salad a couple of weeks ago to pair with Easter roast lamb and roast potatoes. I had made an involtini (recipe to follow shortly) for a vegetarian friend and I thought this was the perfect kind of salad to go with these things. Not too summery to ignore that it’s positively arctic out there but lighter and fresher than the composite vegetables that go with a roast. I also made a yoghurty/minty sauce to go with the lamb instead of a gravy. It was that kind of day and I also couldn’t face having everything getting cold and spoiling while we chatted and I got distracted. I really recommend this if you have the kind of friends where every conversation is unmissably brilliant and you know you’re going to have a glass or two or seven of wine and lose the plot a little. It saves burning things and crying and your friends having to tell you you’re brilliant through gritted teeth.
I really think you should make this salad. I keep dreaming of having it for lunch and when asparagus season begins in earnest, I shall damn well try. It’s such a lovely pairing of flavours and the hardest part is shelling the broad beans. Actually that part made me feel a bit stabby but if I hadn’t had an afternoon power nap and overslept and if I hadn’t been trying to tidy the drawing room and shell broad beans simultaneously, this would have been a perfectly lovely brain dead kind of a task. I made this salad while wailing along with Dusty Springfield, that bit is optional but it was jolly nice actually.
Ottolenghi’s Spring Salad
makes a lovely big bowl – fed about 6
- 300g asparagus, trimmed
- 200g french beans, topped and tailed
- 300g broad beans (I used frozen from Asda)
- 50g baby salad leaves
- 1 shallot, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 1 red chilli, finely diced
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the asparagus for two to four minutes, depending on thickness – you don’t want them cooked to very soft. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water. Add the french beans to the boiling water, blanch for five minutes and transfer to the asparagus bowl. Drain both well, then dry with a clean kitchen towel. Blanch the broad beans in the same water for two minutes, drain, refresh and dry, then remove and discard the skins by pressing each bean gently between finger and thumb.
- Put all the greens in a large bowl and add all the remaining ingredients and half a teaspoon of salt. Stir gently, taste, add more salt if you like, and serve at once.