CROSS-SEASONAL SALADS BRING TENDER SPRING VEGES TOGETHER WITH ROBUST SMOKY FLAVOURS,
Will Bowman’s spring salads mix robust flavours with tender spring veges
AS SOON AS I started to think about spring salads the ideas were flowing, mostly fed by my attraction to varied textures and strong flavours. I was pretty pleased with my ideas, then a couple of days later I revisited them and thought, “Actually, are these technically ‘salads’?”
This is what Google had to say, “A dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients.” Definitely salads, then!
Here are four salads starring new and tender vegetables and leaves with subtle flavours and delicate textures, which I truly love. But even as the weather warms, I find myself reluctant to give up the bold and hearty flavours of winter. So the following recipes marry the two seasons with classic spring produce and a little winter-like warmth added from smoke and fire.
I’d love you to get outside, light a fire, put some veges on it (or an octopus and some mussels), get some loved ones over and enjoy the lengthening days, while treating your taste buds to some spring salads that just can’t let go of winter’s flavoursome generosity.
CHARRED & PICKLED RADISH, ANCHOVY BUTTER, WATERCRESS SERVES 2-3 / PREPARATION 20 MINUTES / COOKING 10 MINUTES
Love radishes, love pickles, love butter, love anchovies, love watercress. Squeeze it all onto a piece of grilled bread – I’d make extra butter to drizzle all over it – and have a cool beverage nearby to cleanse your salt- and umami-lined mouth.
½ cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seeds 12 radishes
3 tinned anchovy fillets
½ cup butter ciabatta
1 lemon watercress
Mix the vinegar, sugar and toasted fennel seeds. Finely slice 2-3 of the radishes and add to the vinegar and sugar mix. It’s best to do this on the day of making the salad, so the pickled radishes retain their crunch.
Chop the anchovy fillets and combine with the butter in a small pot, slowly heating while stirring.
Slice the remaining radishes in half and place over burning coals, until coloured and softened slightly. Do the same with the ciabatta and halved lemon.
Bring the charred and pickled radishes and watercress together and dress with the warm anchovy butter. Serve with charred ciabatta and a squeeze of the blackened lemon.
BRAISED, CHARRED LEEKS, DILL LABNEH, POTATO CRISPS & PICKLED CURRANTS SERVES 4 / PREPARATION 40 MINUTES PLUS 1 HOUR DRAINING TIME / COOKING 40 MINUTES
The thought behind this was a sour-cream-and-chives-type vibe. I hope that is what you get – smoky, succulent leeks, crispy little chippies and wee pops of sweet and sour with the currants.
500g plain yoghurt
1 cup dill, chopped
½ cup currants
½ cup rice wine or cider vinegar 1 potato
1 litre sunflower oil 1 tablespoon salt
Put the yoghurt in a tea-towel or muslin and hang over a bowl to allow the whey to drip out. You can do this overnight or for as little as an hour, depending on how thick you want your labneh. Once the desired texture is achieved, mix the dill through.
Cover the currants with the vinegar and leave to soak while preparing the other components.
Slice the potato into 2mm thick rounds – a mandolin is the best tool for this – putting the slices straight into cold water. Replace the water once they’re all sliced, add salt and soak for about 30 minutes. Drain and place on a tea-towel to remove excess water. Heat the oil to 180⁰C in a pot, then fry the slices in batches, removing as soon as they begin to brown. Put into a bowl and season with salt. The chips will keep in an airtight container for a few days.
Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. Trim the tops off the leeks and put them in a baking dish with about two cups of water (or I used the whey from the yoghurt as the braising liquid). Cover the dish and bake for 20 minutes. The purpose is to just soften the leeks through, not to cook them so they’re falling apart.
Once the leeks are cooked and cooled (this can be done days in advance as they’ll keep in the fridge) finish them by charring over coals or on the barbecue. You can go further than you think with the charring as the sweetness of the leeks really stands up to the bitterness of the charred outer layer.
Spread the labneh on a dish, top with the leeks and scatter over the currants.
CHARRED SPRING ONIONS & MUSSELS WITH A CITRUS, GARLIC, CHILLI & PARSLEY DRESSING recipe page 78
OCTOPUS, POTATO & GARLIC WITH NETTLE & CHILLI MAYO recipe page 78