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Salad days - not my thing

"I must acknowledge my true nature. I am a winter cook currently forced to endure the summer months." Jay Rayner - The Guardian

I absolutely agree with that statement. It's from a funny article about not liking salad and very British. Not all of what he says would apply to us Australians. However, I do heartily concur with him about salads. They are not my thing. Although I hasten to add I am not talking about a simple green salad here. I love green salad as a sort of palate cleanser at the end of a meal - in our daily case - or before the cheese course if it's a more substantial meal with friends or family. No, I'm talking about salad as a meal in itself - like this Cobb salad from Ottolenghi.

At this time of year every magazine is full of salad recipes. Some of them look stunning - like this other Ottolenghi offering. Some just look a bit of a mess, some look pretty ordinary, but to be honest I am rarely tempted. Salads are a bit like rabbit food to me. They take such a lot of effort to eat I find. Such a lot of chewing and munching. I really find it hard to munch my way through a massive mixed kind of salad that you get in some restaurants - Melissa's springs to mind. Generous portions yes, and supposedly healthy, but just too much - well - eating - is involved.

Some of them - especially the noodle kind of version look to me as if they would be better eaten hot - again too much munching.

I'm worrying about all of this because we are hosting lunch for our friends tomorrow - a deliberately light lunch as we shall be having a 'proper' lunch here next week. It's going to be hot and we shall probably sit outside, so something cold is the thing. Yes the smoked trout paste will make an appearance, and I did think about risotto or frittata but at the moment I am just elaborating on our usual casual lunch of platters of cold meats and cheese, with a green salad, lots of bread - and wine of course. I'm going to elaborate by including prosciutto with the cold meats and creating the main cold meat - tarragon stuffed poached chicken breast. With a potato salad. Now potato salad I love. It's so much more substantial and doesn't need nearly as much munching. I think I'll diverge from my normal vinaigrette dressing though and make some mayonnaise. It's a bit posher.

So now I am into trying to create the perfect alfresco summer lunch. I wonder why we always strive for perfection? Really it's the setting and the company is it not, that provides at least 60% of the idyll? As here. That salad bowl of this and that, looks scrumptious, but it's really the hint of some European vineyard perhaps in the background that really makes it look tempting. And I just can't resist trying for perfection - like Jay Rayner:

"I desperately want to be the man who dreams of halving the pertest of cherry tomatoes, then showering them with the petals of purple chive flowers. Add glugs of peppery olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, a crunch of sea salt, then push the plate into the middle of the table while whispering: “When the ingredients are this good you just need to let them shine, don’t you?” Jay Rayner

I'm not sure my ingredients will be that good. But I will give it a good hot go. And he does go on to say that he is not that man.

But it's summer, and as I say, the magazines are full of salads - either as an accompaniment or as the main thing. But are they really as healthy as they look? I also found an article in The Guardian, which completely reinforced my feeling about those increasingly large numbers of packets of salad ingredients or actual salads.

"because salad vegetables are nutrition-lite, resource-guzzling, pseudo-healthy food crimes that enable the overconsumption of blue cheese dressing." Emma Sturgess

And also an enormous source of food waste. Large amounts of water are used in their production, not to mention all the machinery involved in their preparation and packaging. As for wastage - they go off at an alarming rate. David insists on buying packets of baby spinach, but he doesn't eat them - partly my fault I suppose as I always forget to add them to our cleansing green salads. Just this morning I threw out a whole packet which had disintegrated into a smelly mess. It will go into the compost, so not completely wasted, but still it shouldn't happen. It's ironic because both of the major supermarkets seem to be in a big 'look at us and our super fresh fruit and vegetables' campaign, whilst stealthily increasing the amount of vegetables and fruit that comes packaged rather than loose.

Summer is not my favourite time of year. Unless I'm on holiday somewhere. I admit I do like dining outside as it gives a holiday feel, but it's mostly far too hot and therefore worrying. This is Australia. There are bush fires. Everything is currently very brown and dry looking. My photo challenge this week, thanks to grandson number two is flowers - of which there are not a lot at the moment. Incidentally I am testing a way of sharing my pictures with my little photo group by adding a page to this website and posting them there. They will change on a daily basis, if you want to have a look.

And summer is a time of salads. It's too hot to use the oven most of the time and too hot to spend hours stirring things on the cooktop. Fiery barbecues are not allowed, so it's a time of stir fries and sautées. Which is actually very nice. We had some new lamb kebabs from Christine Manfield last night which were delicious. My new dish of the week. I should perhaps, have done something like that. Anyway - cold meat and salad it is now. I'm committed.

"While the hot summer months mitigate the good things, the cold winter months do not exclude the feeble pleasure of summeriness. If you want a tomato and chive salad alongside your steak and kidney suet pudding in December you can have it. Knock yourself out. That doesn’t work the other way round, does it? No, it doesn’t. I rest my case." Jay Rayner


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