I’m starting to believe that I can convert any ‘salad-phobe’ to be a plant lover. LETTUCES UNITE!
No I’m not starting a new superhero team made of vegetables high in antioxidants which fight free radicals (however sounds a pretty good concept, any takers?)
Maybe that’s a rather strong statement. But why should it be. Vegetables shouldn’t be an afterthought, who was it that said meat should always take the limelight.
I’m becoming a big lover of having friends or family over and throwing a dinner party. I don’t know what it is that excites me most about them, planning the menu, shopping, or spending all day cooking to then be rewarded by making people smile. I’ve discovered I am a giver and a feeder. So beware.
When I was younger I would spend hours watching episodes of Nigella Lawson. Even then I used to dream of having a larder, even a fraction of the size of hers, and I would be happy. Little titbits of pointless kitchen gadgets, mismatched crockery and findings from travels, unknown ingredients from far flung stretches of the world, god knows what else she keeps hidden in there. I reckon I’d enter and never leave. She is a bit of a flirt, that’s what makes her even more entertaining. Never have I seen someone pour frozen peas out of a packet like Nigella does, and who knew that dressing gown clad and sleep crusted eyes of early mornings, whilst flipping out pancakes for the whole street could be made sexy. Well somehow she manages it.
Every episode seemed to result in a dinner party, typically with different people every time (that woman must have TONNES of friends, I don’t know where she must find them), and it was always performed with such ease and calm. She held the dinner parties that one can only dream of, with no mess and washing up either, that’s a bit of a mystery to me the word home economist springs to mind. I think it’s from all that time spent watching Nigella, ever since I’ve been trying to hone my hostessing skills.
It doesn’t always go to plan, yes I have cried many times over a failed pavlova or some dry lamb. The food isn’t the be all or end all though, it’s about spending time with loved ones and having a good old chat and giggle. That’s what I really love about them.
I’m starting to learn the best ways for staying calm when cooking for the masses (well anymore than three people), things I’ve only learnt by making mistakes and going wrong in the past. First, always cook things you know and like, stick to easy help yourself dishes like a big one pot and a big salad platter (keep on scrolling for a recipe), and don’t go too out there. I wouldn’t advise serving granny and grandad a raw vegan burger experiment or a massaged kale salad (it will get stuck in their teeth), serve crowd pleasing food but make sure the flavours are BIG and BOLD.
I like to base a menu on a certain cuisine, and try and stick to a theme, but a curry night or something with a Moroccan influence is always my fall back. This is where this salad steps in. It would go perfectly alongside a tagine, or some slow cooked meat such as lamb, or as part as a buffet or mezze. Even add some form of protein like chickpeas or halloumi and you’ll have a lovely light but filling salad.
This is perfect for if you grow your own vegetables and have a glut, of beans (any type will do, runner, string, French, broad beans), squashes, courgettes, aubergines, any late summer veg will fit in perfectly here. I used a mixture of runner beans, French beans and broad beans and butternut squash but don’t feel like you have to stick to that. I made enough to serve around four people, but it could easily be scaled up to serve a crowd or make to keep in a Tupperware for desk lunches throughout the week.
Green beans and spiced squash salad
- Big handful French beans
- Big handful of runner beans
- 2 large handfuls of broad beans (I used frozen, if using ones in the pods you’re going to need a lot of pods!!)
- 1/2 a large butternut squash
- Ras el hanout
- Tbsp ghee, coconut oil or rapeseed oil
- Punnet of cress
- 1/4 pomegranate
- Rose petals
For the dressing
- 1/2 lemon
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Pinch salt and pepper
- 1 tsp sumac
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or 180 degrees fan
- Peel the butternut squash half, and scoop the seedy centre out if using the bottom half. Chop into 2cm cubes, place in a roasting tray along with the ghee (or coconut or rapeseed oil), sprinkle with salt, pepper and the Ras el hanout
- Place in the oven for around 30 mins, stirring to make sure they don’t stick, until slightly caramelised on the edges and soft all the way through. Leave to cool
- Trim the French beans and chop in half, then steam until tender but still with a bite. Leave to cool
- Trim the runner beans and slice on the diagonal 1cm wide, and steam again until just cooked and leave to cool
- If using frozen broad beans pour boiling water over them, leave for a couple of minutes then pour away the water. Peel the broad beans and put to one side. If you have broad beans in the pods, take the broad beans out of the pods, then follow the same process as before. The fresh broad beans may need steaming briefly if you find them too raw
- Add the roast squash, broad beans, runner beans and French beans to a large bowl. Add the cress and sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds
- For the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients and pour over the salad. Toss together, and if you want to be cute sprinkle over rose petals
I challenge you to find someone who doesn’t enjoy this salad, perhaps at your next dinner party. Serve in abundance, and follow Nigellas lead, make it a sexy one!