Last weekend we celebrated Husband’s niece’s christening and, although many people would roll their eyes at the idea of a christening, I think it’s a lovely occasion for two families to get together and celebrate the arrival of the newest member to the fold. I offered to contribute to the edible offerings on the day and my sister-in-law requested some salads. I love making salads. Really, the only limit is your imagination and it’s possible to come up with some really creative mixtures. But this was not the occasion for such experimentation. Given that there was another family involved, and I wasn’t aware of their dietary preferences or requirements, I thought it best to be a little bit cautious.
I decided to do a garlic potato salad, roasted vegetable salad, carrot and courgette, and quinoa with green olives and feta. Admittedly the quinoa was a bit risky but I knew I’d have no problem finishing off the bowl myself if needed. I had a great plan to spend Friday in a blissful haze of roasting, chopping and dressing, but instead I decided to have a massive night out on Thursday and spent half of Friday pretending I wasn’t hungover and “checking” things in the bedroom while actually having a lie down. At least I wasn’t at work though. Silver lining, and all that.
The salads got a good response and I have to say I was quite pleased with how they turned out. (I still came home with a bowl full of potatoes though. One of the greatest mysteries of life: measuring potatoes/rice/pasta correctly.) So I have laid out below the recipes/methods for these salads. I’ve given the quantities and serving amounts that I think work, but for the most part it will depend on the number of people you’re hoping to feed and just how greedy they are!
I hope you give some of them a go and if you do, please send me a picture and let me know how you get on!
First up, those pesky potatoes…
Garlic Potato Salad
You will need:
1 bag of baby potatoes
3–4 tablespoons of flavourless oil such as rapeseed oil
2–3 cloves of garlic, peeled
Pinch of salt and black pepper
1. Leaving the skin on, place the potatoes in a pot of cold water. Put the pot on a gentle heat and slowly allow it to come to the boil. Gently boil the potatoes until they are soft.
2. While waiting for the potatoes to cook, place the peeled garlic, the oil, salt and pepper in a blender or similar device. If you don’t have anything like that, it’s fine to chop up the garlic very finely (mince it almost) and mix it in a dish with the oil, salt and pepper.
3. Drain the potatoes completely and pour over the garlic-oil mixture. Give everything a good, but gentle, stir and clamp the lid back on the pot. The steam helps to mellow out the strong flavour of the raw garlic, so leave the pot to stand for as long as possible. Overnight is best if you can manage it.
4. When transferring the cooled potatoes to a serving bowl, use a slotted spoon rather than tipping the entire contents into the bowl. This way the salad is less oily, and even though it might seem like most of the garlic is left behind, the potatoes will have a wonderfully appetising smell and flavour that’s strong enough for even the most avid garlic fans.
Next, the roasted veggies. This salad includes some moonblush tomatoes, the recipe for which comes from Nigella and is included in a very simplified form below.
First I’ll give you the low down on the moonblush tomatoes. I used cherry vine tomatoes, which were deliciously sweet and juicy.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7.
2. Cut your tomatoes in half and place cut side up on a baking tray
3. Sprinkle a little salt, sugar and pepper over the tomatoes and a tablespoon of oil
4. Place the tray in the oven and immediately turn it off. Leave the tomatoes in there overnight without opening the door. Best to do it just before bedtime if, like me, you think your overwhelming curiosity might entice you to open the door and sneak a peek.
Now for the salad. Actually, if you roast these vegetables first, you can then stick your tomatoes in the oven and turn it off.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7.
2. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds and stalks
3. Peel the onions and chop each one into eight wedges.
4. Place the pepper halves on a baking tray, skin side down, and sit the onion wedges into the peppers.
5. Place in the oven and roast for about 30-40 minutes, until the skin on the peppers is blackened and withered and the flesh is well cooked. Remove from the oven and leave everything to cool completely.
6. When the peppers have cooled peel the skin off (it should come off very easily), and roughly chop the peppers into large chunks and place in a bowl. Just using your hands, separate all the layers of the onions and add these to the peppers.
7. Add in your moonblush tomatoes to the mix.
8. Roughly chop up the basil and add this to the bowl with the lemon zest, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. You will find that quite a bit of oil comes out of the peppers when they’re roasted so you won’t need to add any dressing.
Quinoa with Green Olive and Feta Salad
This is by far the easiest salad here. It’s worth noting that the olives will not be visible once mixed so you may need to warn your diners of what lurks beneath. Olives are not to everyone’s taste.
Serving size will very much depend on the amount of people you’re feeding; for accurate cooking instructions check the side of the pack of quinoa.
You will need:
Half a 350g jar of pitted green olives
1 small tin of sweetcorn
1 block of feta
1. Place the olives and about a tablespoon of the brine from the jar in a small blender and pulse until the olives are almost mashed. Again, if you don’t have a blender you could chop them very finely.
2. Chop the feta into small, crumbly portions.
3. Add the sweetcorn, feta and olive mixture to the quinoa and mix thoroughly.
I added some extra moonblush tomatoes to this for the extra bit of colour. Regular sundried tomatoes would work well too.
Carrot & Courgette Salad, dressed with Chilli, Lime and Coriander
You will need:
1 large courgette (that’s a zucchini to some of you folk!), with the ends sliced off
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 bunch of coriander
1 red chilli
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste
1. Finely grate the carrot and courgette. This is where the food processor really comes in handy, but it won’t take you long to get through it with a regular old grater.
2. Finely chop the chilli and coriander. The decision to use the seeds is at your own discretion. If you don’t know your diners too well I would advise removing the seeds to avoid any nasty accidents!
3. Add the chilli and coriander to the grated vegetables and squeeze over the juice of the lime. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix well.
Tip: Quite a lot of liquid can come off this salad. I think the salt and lime juice encourage the courgette to release a lot of its water so there are two options for reducing this. You could dress the salad immediately before serving, or even have the dressing on the side (although I wouldn’t be too keen on this idea as some people may think the dressing is optional and really it’s a very integral part of the flavour!). The best option though, is to dress the salad ahead of time, give it a good mix, and leave it to sit for a while. Then, using a slotted spoon, transfer it to another bowl. You get all of the flavour with none of the sloppiness.