In Worcestershire, the weather has gone from snow in March to somehow having bypassed spring straight into late summer weather of humid days and thunderstorms, even though it is still only the end of May. Thankfully despite the wacky changes in the weather, the produce grown in my county is booming thanks to a strong sense of buying local.
This recipe is one I first published in my newspaper column some time ago but it is still an early summer favourite of mine. Whatever the time of year, a salad can make a light and refreshing change to cooked vegetables. You can easily pair it with a lamb chop or a piece of fish. A good salad should have contrasts of flavours and textures to make them interesting and more than just a filler. That said most people tend to put too many ingredients into salads!
Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter)
125g (5oz) rocket leaves
100g (4oz) baby spinach
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp chopped mint leaves
100g (4oz) Padano cheese
100g (4oz) local peas,
Peel of 1 lemon (no pith)
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 thick slices of wholegrain bread
1 clove of garlic, crushed
- Trim the crusts from the bread and cut into chunky sized croutons.
- Place the garlic into a mixing bowl and stir in 2 tbsp olive oil then toss
the croutons into the mix and season with salt and pepper.
- Bake the croutons in the middle of the oven 190°C / gas mark 4 until golden brown.
- Sprinkle a few grains of white sugar onto the lemon peel and cook in the microwave for 15 seconds then soak the peel in the remaining olive oil.
- Use a sharp sturdy potato peeler to shave the Padano cheese into curls and reserve.
- Add the sherry vinegar and mint to the lemon infused olive oil and season lightly.
- Wash the rocket and baby spinach separately then drain well and combine.
- Blanch the local peas in boiling water for 2-3 minutes then chill down fast under
running cold water.
- Gently toss in the drained the peas and the croutons.
- Remove the lemon peel and dress the salad at the very last minute.
- Scatter on the Padano curls and serve.
Choose the rocket carefully, look for green and unbruised leaves. Never buy croutons from the store, make your own if you have time. When washing salad leaves don’t wash them under running water as this could bruise the leaves. Fill the sink or container first then stir in the leaves gently and drain in a salad spinner. As an alternative, you could add some slices of a warm grilled chicken breast for a great light lunch and serve a side dish of buttered new potatoes.