Tag Archives: 52 Week Salad Challenge

Finding Food in My Own Backyard

Hairy Bittercress

Salad as Penance

I was a bit preoccupied with the market last week, and spent my time testing recipes and searching for good potatoes to bake. Funnily, the Dutch seem to prefer thin-skinned potatoes, which mash well for stamppot, but don’t really understand that a good jacket potato needs a thicker skin. I was surprised at the amount of stall holders that tried to convince me that their thin-skinned potatoes would be perfect for my needs.

Anyway, this leads to a confession. I completely neglected to eat or blog about salads for the salad challenge. Salad as penance seems like a fitting start to lent. To make up for last week, I  am using up the leaves that survived the snow all this week in my food.

After the first Salad Days, I spent a little while following the links at Veg Plotting, and have found a lot of really useful information, and a lot of inspiration. This year, I have been asked to help a few friends to create balcony gardens, as not many people here have gardens, but almost everyone has a balcony of some sort. I have a lot of ideas for vertical gardens, and windbreaks of dwarf beans and soon. Until now, I had been overlooking the salads. Some of these posts have reminded me that salad is a great start for first time gardeners, with quick results setting them up to feel good about their ability rather quickly. Really not sure why I haven’t thought of it sooner.

I also found a lot of inspiration for my own salads by following the #saladchat hashtag on twitter, and the links on Veg Plot’s newsletter, The Salad Bowl .

Jane Perrone mentioned some winter weeds from her garden that she was eating. I already knew about the hairy bittercress, which I had been avoiding weeding even before I knew about the salad challenge, so that I could add it to a salad of some  kind. What  hadn’t realised is that I also have creeping wood sorrel and cat’s ear. I had resolved that the next salad for the challenge would be made up of these.

Grden weed salad, Jacket potato and cream cheese

Salad as everyday lunch

However, the snow had done for quite a few things. So, this week, I am left with salads of hairy bittercress, and a few leaves of rocket. I also have a few potatoes and some cream cheese left over from the market. Together, the salad has made a great combination with the soft cheese and the potato. This is mostly what I am having for lunch this week. This is win/win/win/win for me. I am using up the cooked jacket potatoes; I have a quick, yet hearty lunch; I am weeding the garden in preparation for the plants that will soon fill it; and I have a tasty use for the weeds, so I’m reducing waste.  For me, it has more than made up for the fact that last week I took my eye off the challenge!

CAUTION: Wood Sorrel contains oxalic acid. This is the stuff that makes rhubarb leaves inedible. Wood sorrel is fine in small amounts, but can exacerbate rheumatism, arthritis, gout, and kidney stones, so it is best avoided at all if you have these conditions. Additionally, while foraging for weeds in your own back garden may mean that you know more of what has gone onto the plants (and if you use weedkillers in your garden, don’t eat the weeds in it), it is always a good idea to follow some basic foraging rules to keep you safe.

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Tabouleh or not Tabouleh?

That is the question.

Winter Vegetable Tabouleh

Salad as Substantial

The snow caught me out last week. I knew it was coming towards the end of the week, but it arrived a few days early, was preceded by a very hard frost, and caught me on the hop. I hadn’t harvested my salad greens, and they have been under a really good coating of snow ever since. I did manage to get the solitary fennel bulb that I had left, and had that in a risotto, so it didn’t make a salad.

I had also not got round to sowing microgreens, although I have now corrected that. I am waiting on radish, rocket, basil, chervil and beetroot to sprout and grow their first true leaves.

Sprouted Chickpea Bread

Salad as Bread

My poor planning left me with no other choice but to go for sprouted seeds. I put a sprouting mix (which looked like it contained chickpeas, aduki beans and lentils), and some separate chickpeas to work. I followed many of the other bloggers, who have been sprouting seeds for weeks now. Inspired by Joanna, who commented on the blog of Gilly in Ariege, I made bread with the chickpeas, and then added the mix to a sandwich that I made with it. I hope to share the bread recipe, but it needs a bit of work first.

Sprouted Salad Sandwich

Salad as a Sandwich

As last week was all about the sprouts, this week has been filled with thoughts of using flat leaf parsley. I have two pots that I sowed last year, which live on my windowsill, so that I always have access to parsley. The cold weather left me wanting, and with a desire for something more substantial than sprouted seeds.

I kept coming back to the idea of a tabouleh. They should be really leafy, and vibrant with flat leaf parsley, fine bulgur wheat, tomatoes and onions. Most commonly found as part of a mezze, it cleanses the palate, and is a fresh and light dish.

I already knew that I was going to make a lot of changes, because I wanted a more substantial dish, I didn’t have enough parsley to make it the star, and tomatoes are not in season. In addition to all of this, I had some pumpkin and an aubergine to use up, so the focus shifted to a more winter-based dish.

The dish still had the vibrancy from the parsley, but it also had bulk from using larger bulgur wheat, and winter warmth from using cooked vegetables and the spice. But, is it tabouleh?

Ingredients

Half a small pumpkin

Few sprigs of thyme

2 Garlic cloves

Small pinch of chilli flakes

Vegetable oil for roasting and frying

Aubergine

150 g Bulgur wheat

300 ml Vegetable stock

2 tbsp Lemon juice

Zest of ½ a lemon, finely grated

Extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp Sumac

Large bunch of flat leaf parsley, stalks removed & roughly chopped

Peel & deseed the pumpkin, and chop it into small dice. Put it into an oven proof dish, sprinkle with chilli flakes, thyme leaves and salt and pepper, and a splash of oil, along with a garlic clove still in its paper. Give it a good toss around, so that the oil and chilli can coat the pumpkin. Stick it into an oven at 180°C and leave it to roast until the rest of the ingredients are ready.

Chop the aubergine into small dice, of a similar size to the pumpkin. Heat a little oil in a frying pan. When the pan is hot, add the aubergine and cook until it is brown. You may need to add a little oil, as it is quite absorbent, but it will release liquid again as it cooks, so don’t add too much. You want this to fry, not braise. Don’t have the heat too high for this stage, let it fry gently.

Meanwhile, heat up the stock. When it is boiling, pour it over the bulgur wheat. The stock should cover the wheat by about a centimetre. Cover the bowl over, and set aside for about 15 minutes, During which time the bulgur will cook and absorb the stock.

Finely mince the second clove of garlic. You will need this a bit later.

Make a citrus vinaigrette with the lemon juice and the extra virgin olive oil. I always start with the lemon juice, and then slowly pour in the oil, whisking constantly to form an emulsion. I taste it regularly to see when I have a good balance between oil and citrus. Add salt and pepper to taste, and pour some over the bulgur wheat. Set aside for another 10 minutes, so the bulgur can take on the vinaigrette flavour.

Don’t worry if you have a bit of dressing left over, it keeps well in the fridge in a sealed jam jar. You could use it on next week’s salad challenge!

While the bulgur wheat is soaking up the vinaigrette, add the minced garlic to the aubergine, which should be nicely browned by now. The garlic will not take that long to cook, and will give the aubergine flavour.

Stir the aubergine and the pumpkin into the bulgur wheat, with a half teaspoon of sumac, the lemon zest, and the roasted garlic, which you should now be able to squeeze from its papery jacket. Stir through the parsley, and serve immediately.

I served mine with some sautéed mushrooms and leeks. It might not strictly be a salad, and it is definitely not a traditional tabouleh, but it was warm and satisfying, which was just what I needed tonight.

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Signs of Life and an Unexpected Salad

First Anemone

First Flowers

Apart from going to the Neighbourfood Market, I also found some inspiration in the garden this weekend. As always, I was late with getting my broad beans and alliums in. They should get planted before the first frosts so that you get an early crop in the early summer.

We haven’t had any frost yet, as far as I can tell, so I was still able to plant them out, although they will be a bit later than I had hoped. In an attempt to do some decent successional sowing, for once, I have only planted half a bed with beans, so I can plant more later. I also still have onion sets, but no space in their designated beds, so I will plant them in planters when I get some potting compost mixed up. I planted Troy white onions and Onion Electric (red) from sets, and Marco Garlic. I only used the fattest cloves, from the outside of the bulbs. The rest are waiting in my cupboard to have in some dish or another. No point in wasting them! The beans were Aquadulce Claudia and the reliable Sutton.

Primula

Early Colour

I also planted a French leaf salad mix, and some rocket to grow indoors as cut and come again salad, because I need something to use for the 52 Week Salad Challenge, as issued by Veg Plotting. I have decided to join this, because I like to grow my own, and forage for food. Salad leaves grow fairly quickly, so they should be good to help me get much better at the rhythm required for successional planting, which I am not great at. And I hope that it will help me to be more creative when it comes to salad. We eat a fair amount of salads, but they tend to be very samey, so I hope this will force me to think of more diverse things to go in them, and more creative dressings.

Raddiccio & Leaf Chicory

Hidden Gems, not Little

I currently have some rocket, mizuna, endive, perpetual spinach, fennel, beetroots, flat leaf parsley, and some carrots in the garden, all of which can be used as salad leaves, so I have time before my other seeds grow.There should be loads of things already starting in the wild that I can pick, but I won’t get foraging for a couple of weeks. We were also clearing an unloved part of the garden at the weekend, and we found some bonus lettuce in a planter that had seeded itself – a radicchio and I think the green one is a leaf chicory.

I only heard about the challenge when I got back from Australia, so this will have to be a 50 week challenge for me. I may not post about this every week, although I will tweet my pictures weekly. I guess it depends how excited I am about my salad in any given week!

Egg Mayo & Rocket

Salad as Comfort Food

Last week was my first. I was fresh back from Australia, and away from all the lovely fresh, summer produce I cooked with there. I didn’t want a salad in the traditional sense, I think it would have disappointed. Instead, I found myself craving the comfort of an egg sandwich. Nothing goes better with egg mayonnaise than some sharp, peppery rocket. I found that I couldn’t shake the idea long enough to find any other kind of salad inspiration, so that was what I had.

This week should have been altogether more exciting. I had an aubergine that needed to be used up, and I had decided to use that bonus radicchio, although it will be sad not to have it sitting resplendent and red in the brown winter garden.

I made Divalicous’ Aubergine, Tomato and Sumac Salad. I am trying to cook with more spicy food, and I found this one last summer. Do give it a go – sumac can be found in many local stores these days. I left out the tomato this time, because I have no interest in the kind of watery tasteless ones that you can get at this time of year. Instead, I used more flat leaf parsley, added some carrot leaves and upped the amount of dressing. I also served it hot.

I had intended to quarter the radicchio, and put it onto the griddle pan after the aubergine had cooked. I wanted it to char, along with some red pepper, and serve it with a lemon and parmesan vinaigrette. The charring softens the radicchio’s sharp quality, and gives it a nutty flavour. If you try it, be really careful, they will burn in seconds, once they start to char. Slightly blackened edges is what you should aim for, but no more. I would have stirred through some quinoa for bulk.

However, while my back was turned, as I put the first batch of aubergine on, the Big Guy came along, and separated the leaves of the radicchio, making it too flimsy to try to char. So a rethink was required. Inspired  by Divalicious’ mention of fattoush on her salad post,  I decided to make a kind of fattoush sandwich in pita, with the radicchio and aubergine salad on top. It wasn’t as substantial as the other way would have been, but it was really tasty nonetheless.

Aubergine & sumac Salad on Raddiccio

Salad as Improv

Something else that I have found this week is Foodcycle, who collect surplus food, and cook it in a café where you can pay what you can afford. Inspiring stuff, doing things that are close to my heart. I think their project rocks, and they are trying to crowdfund to enable them to keep running. They only need £5k to run for a year, which is a ridiculously small amount for all that they achieve. They have 4 days left to hit this target. If you can, please go along and pledge a little, you won’t have to pay if they don’t hit target, but every little helps, as they say.

Unfortunately, the crowd funding scheme is currently only set up for people in the UK, so if you are outside of that jurisdiction, then you can make a direct donation through their money giving site. I know they are very grateful for all donations as well. Or try and find a local scheme that you can help out. If you do, I’d love to hear about it.

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