Nigel Slater’s easygoing ready-when-you-are salad recipes | Life and style

The most useful of recipes are those that do not demand our punctuality at the table. They carry with them a sense of ease, allowing them to be eaten at our pace rather than theirs. So you can pounce on them the moment they are made (that spirit of urgency to tuck in), but they are also happy to sit for a little while without losing anything in terms of flavour or, perhaps more essentially, texture.

I made two salads this week that fitted neatly around the sort of day we were having, where people came to the table at different times. Early birds got warm chicken fresh from the oven, tossed with a bright and citrussy dressing and fresh herbs; the late arrivals got chicken that had time to rest with the shredded ginger, finely chopped chillies, lime and mint. The second salad was more calming: a collection of brassicas with a balm of goat’s curd and shallots, spiked with sweet-sour onions.

The chicken salad was eaten outdoors, to be followed by a platter of piled-up vanilla ice cream with halved passion fruit tucked among it – little cups of apricot-coloured juice and black seeds to tip over the vanilla ice. There were sweet biscuits on the table, too, to crush at will and scatter over in a shower of sweet crumbs. A sort of last-minute assembly that can be made as someone decides to come to the table.

Chicken with sesame and mint

The roasting juices form part of the dressing, but you could easily use cold chicken left from a Sunday roast, adding a little more dressing as necessary. If you are not eating this immediately, I would be tempted to add the coriander at the last minute.

Serves 4

chicken thighs 6, large (about 900g)
olive oil a little
ginger 70g
red chillies 2, small, hot
garlic 2 cloves
sesame oil 2 tsp
Thai fish sauce 1 tbsp
rice wine vinegar 2 tbsp
limes 2
sesame seeds 2 tbsp
mint leaves 15
coriander a large handful

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Put the thighs into a roasting tin, rub them generously with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes or until the skin is crisp and the thighs’ juices run clear when pierced with a skewer.

Peel the ginger and slice into matchsticks. Halve the chillies lengthways, de-seed if you wish, then slice finely. Peel and finely slice the garlic.

Take the chicken from the oven, remove from the tin, then leave to rest for 10 minutes before tearing the flesh from the bones in large pieces and dropping them into a mixing bowl. Place the cooking juices in the tin over a moderate heat, add the ginger and garlic and let them colour to a warm, nutty brown. Add the sliced chilli for the last minute or so, then remove all from the heat.

Stir the sesame oil into the ginger and chilli dressing, the Thai fish sauce and the rice wine vinegar. Squeeze the limes, stir the juice into the dressing then check the seasoning.

In a dry, shallow pan, toast the sesame seeds until golden then add them to the dressing. Roughly tear the mint and coriander leaves and mix them with the chicken, then carefully fold together the chicken and the ginger dressing.

Brassica salad with crisp pickled onions and goat’s curd

Many textures: brassica salad with crisp pickled onions and goat’s curd.



Many textures: brassica salad with crisp pickled onions and goat’s curd. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

If romanesco evades you, use the thin-stalked tenderstem or purple sprouting rather than double up on either of the others. The salad is best with an assortment of textures. As you lightly cook them, try not to overcrowd the pan.

Serves 4

For the pickle:
white wine vinegar
coriander seeds 1 tsp
black peppercorns 1 tsp
lemon juice of half
salt 1 tsp
caster sugar 1 tsp
red onion 1, medium

romanesco 400g
cauliflower 400g
broccoli 400g
olive oil 3 tbsp

For the goat’s curd:
banana shallot 1
tarragon 30g of bushy stems
goat’s curd 250g

Pour the vinegar into a pan and place over a moderate heat, then stir in the coriander seeds, peppercorns, lemon juice, salt and sugar. Peel the onion, then slice in half from root to tip. Separate the layers, then put them in a jar. As soon as the vinegar has come to the boil and the salt and sugar have dissolved, pour over the onion and tighten the lid. Set aside for 4 hours, turning the jar upside down from time to time.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and salt it. Cut the brassicas into florets, discarding any thick stalks as you go. Cook the florets in the water for 3 or 4 minutes until they are just tender. Drain and refresh in a large bowl of iced water.

Transfer the onions and their pickling liquor into a large serving bowl, then stir in the olive oil. Drain the brassicas, then add them to the bowl. Leave to settle for an hour.

Peel the shallot, cut it in half from root to tip, then dice very finely and transfer to a small mixing bowl. Remove the tarragon leaves from their stems and roughly chop them, add them to the shallot, season with black pepper and then add the goat’s curd and fold gently together and chill. It can stay in the fridge until you are ready. Put the cauliflower and broccoli into a serving bowl then add the pickled onion rings and the dressing.

Email Nigel at nigel.slater@observer.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @NigelSlater



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