Mar 21 2012 By Amy Nield
I HAD a bad meal out at the weekend, actually make that two bad meals as the one I had at a restaurant on Monday night was equally as disappointing.
Don’t worry I’m not going to turn this cheerful little blog post into a tirade of arrogant abuse neither I am about to name and shame any of the establishments that served my friends and I below mediocre food, it’s just not my bag, in fact I’m not sure I would of mentioned it at all if it wasn’t for the fact that one of my over-priced and under par inedible meals that I poked at with my knife and fork for half an hour is similar (and by similar I mean that the only resemblance that is the same is their titles surname) to the recipe I am going to be providing you with today.
I see myself as a bit of a salad aficionado, a lover of lettuce, a fanatic over frisee, an enthusiastic eater of edible greens, I’m a total leaf loving monster. I’m at my happiest when faced with a plate architecturally stacked high with emerald coloured lamb’s lettuce, crispy cos, mellow layers of roundhead all jubilee flecked with crimson leafed radicchio and rainbow chard. My fascination for foliage has helped to distinguish certain tastes and has broadened my senses to allow for a wider variety of different flavours.
Picking the perfect accompaniments to partner my salad is not a challenge nor do I tend to stick to the rules of less is more. One day I can simply just drop a few cherry tomatoes on the cupped hand like leaves of a baby gem garnished only with a small posy of intoxicating basil (a necessity), to the next day when I am just as much likely to enjoy a lavishly dressed artichoke, new potato, roasted red pepper, rocket and steak salad that not only leaves you feeling happily satisfied but also quite heftily adds to your daily quota of the recommended 5 a day.
All types of salad leaves are incredibly easy to grow all year round, plant any variety of seeds now in a greenhouse or on your window sill to allow the seedlings to grow to a more hardy height before planting directly into the soil. Sowing seeds every couple of weeks will ensure that you have an abundant array of a variety of different types of leaves to enjoy throughout the summer months.
There is nothing finer than nipping out to your veg patch to snip off a few loose leaves for a light lunch or an inspiringly fresh garden dinner. You don’t even need a specific vegetable plot, loose lettuce leafs will grow and flourish exceedingly well in containers, hanging baskets and in window boxes, just snip off once ready to eat , wash delicately and enjoy with every meal you eat.
I often make a huge array of salads that I never remember to write down, but this also means I never end up sticking to the same concoction. If you like caesar salad but hate anchovies don’t add them,if you like the sound of a Greek salad but don’t fancy using feta cheese use Cheshire cheese instead.
Be imaginative, use beans and pulses to add fibre, roast peppers, fennel or onions to add sweetness, just remember to be bold and what might seem like a patchwork and miss – match of flavours to others might be your idea of salad heaven.
This particular salad came about just by using up whatever I had lurking at the bottom of my chilled vegetable drawer and at the jar crowded top shelf of my fridge. I could have just as easily gone for something that was all raw and crunchy but I was feeling in need of that sweet toffee like stickiness you get from some roasted veg, the kind that intensifies the flavour of and brings out its most mellow pungent aroma. The garlic infused croutons are not a necessity although the crispy chunky pieces of wholemeal stop me from licking my plate clean by mopping up all of the cooking juices for me.
Make it what you want, add what you want, subtract what you want just make it your own and make it delicious!
Roasted fennel and red onion salad with supersized crispy garlic croutons
1 bulb of fennel trimmed and sliced length ways into ½ centimetre slices
1 red onion peeled and sliced into ½ centimetre think rings
1 tsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper
Day old bread cut into 1 inch sized cubes
1 garlic clove – skin on and crushed carefully with the palm of your hand
A variety of mixed leaves of your choice – washed
Good quality anchovies in olive oil – optional
Pre – heat your oven to 160 (fan) whilst you prepare your vegetables.
Place the fennel and onion slices on a baking tray and drizzle with some rapeseed oil, balsamic vinegar then sprinkle over the brown sugar salt and pepper.
Place in the oven and cook for around 20 minutes or just until the edges of the fennel and onion are starting to caramelize and turn brown around the edges. Keep a close eye on them as they can quickly go from brown and sweet to black and crispy!
Place some more oil into a large frying pan along with the garlic clove and heat gently on a medium heat. Add the cubes of bread and toast for around 10-15 mins turning over every now and again to make sure they don’t brown too much.
If at any time they look like they are a bit thirsty and are in need of a bit more oil, drizzle some more over the top. Cook until lightly browned and really crispy.
Dress your plate with your chosen leaves then artistically nestle the fennel, onions, croutons and anchovies in-between your lettuce. For a dressing I just use any excess juices left in the pan from my roasted vegetables and my garlic croutons and I find this more than sufficient.