There is a great thrill, to me at least, in discovering not so much a recipe as a tip. So when I recently learnt that the best way to peel ginger was by using a teaspoon (thanks Debora) I was delighted. Try it; you’ll be amazed at how much easier and thrifty it is (as in less waste). Similarly, when I was taught that couscous tipped in a bowl and mixed with oil, salt and hot water was just as delicious as the stuff steamed for hours, I gave up all thoughts of buying one of these (which is a relief since they are about as big as my kitchen). My most recent unexpected discovery is just as good a treat: a salad dressing made with butter…
This is a recipe from Ottolenghi’s first cookbook and, regardless of whether you can be faffed to make this actual salad (de-stalking herbs is a tad in the ‘life’s too short’ category for me), I think the dressing is worth your time all on its own. Melted butter, nuts and lemon juice…I would have put the first two together but not in a threesome with citrus and now, well now I think I will be dressing everything green and leafy with this. At least as long as the weather holds. The recipe has a mix of coriander, flat-leaf parsley, dill, tarragon, basil and rocket which is lovely; I’ve also now done it without the tarragon which also works. I think as long as you have something peppery like rocket or watercress, something fresh like dill or fennel, something sweet/soft like basil or lamb’s lettuce and some parsley for bulk it will work.
If you want to gild the lily and/or make it into more of a meal than a side dish, add some small pieces of a hard nutty cheese: mature goat’s Gouda worked beautifully, and I bet Pecorino and Berkswell would be equally perfect. Almost reminiscent of cake (all that nuttiness), yet full of the goodness of a yoga class, it’s unforgettable. I love it so much I even took a photo of the finished dish for once.
For 1 main portion, 2 small sides
(the original recipe was for six so I halved then halved it again which gives you one dinner or two sides; the amounts therefore look a bit odd but I’ve tried to give you rough versions where possible)
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
unsalted butter, 12g (a couple of small walnut-sized pieces)
sea salt and black pepper, ¼ teaspoon of each (i.e. a pinch of salt and a few turns of a pepper grinder)
olive oil, ¼ tablespoon
herb and salad leaves, 100g
unskinned whole almonds, 37g (a handful, whatever that means to you for 1-2 people)
lemon juice, freshly squeezed, ½ tablespoon
1. De-stalk your herb/salad leaves (painstaking but necessary if you don’t want to feel like you’re eating a tree). Put the leaves in a big bowl of cold water and wash gently. Drain in a colander or spin in a salad spinner and pat dry with some kitchen paper or leave to dry on a clean cloth/kitchen paper.
2. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a low heat then add the almonds, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the nuts have coloured (be careful; they and the butter can catch and burn in a second and then you’ll have to start again). At this point Ottolenghi’s recipe says drain the almonds, leave them to cool then chop roughly; I have done it his way and the lazy (don’t drain, don’t chop, toss together) way and frankly the latter is easier and no less delicious. If you do choose to take the cooling route be careful that the cooking butter doesn’t set; solid butter is not what you are after in a salad.
3. Put the dried herb/salad leaves in a bowl, then add the almonds, cooking butter, lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste and serve straightaway.