Summer salad

It might be windy. It might even be rainy. But it is officially summer here in Dublin and salad is back on the menu at ours. Yay!!!! So, without further ado (it’s been a long day especially without Claire in the office and there’s a barbecue that’s just been lit calling me) here’s my suggestion for this week’s lovely broad beans, tomatoes and that gorgeous lettuce…. a salad with giant croutons. The croutons make it a bit more substantial than your average summer salad aswell as giving the whole thing a lot more chew which I really like.

Now these aren’t those croutons you buy in bags with weird powder on them these guys are homemade and all the better for it. I made mine with stale ciabatta I stashed in the freezer a few weeks ago (I love it when a plan comes together!) and I laced them with sumac. Sumac, if you’re not familiar with it, is a dark red lemony spice found in middle Eastern cooking which you’ll find in good delis or middle Eastern shops. I also threw in some feta (predictable? moi?) . The dressing was pretty simple – lemon and olive oil with a splash of balsamic for richness but I also added some crushed garlic for bite. A chive and sour cream omelette on the side and that was lunch. Yum.

The first (of many) summer salad with broad beans, vine tomatoes and  feta with sumac croutons

You’ll need:

1 Little Gem lettuce washed, dried with the larger leaves torn

300gr (a large handful) cherry vine tomatoes halved or quartered depending on the size or 2 large vine tomatoes chopped

500gr broad beans

100gr feta cheese

2 thick slices ciabatta crusts removed

olive oil for frying

For the dressing

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice half lemon

1 fat clove garlic

Balsamic vinegar

Maldon sea salt

A pinch of sugar

Make the croutons first by cutting the bread into large chunks. Heat some olive oil on the pan and when it’s hot, add the bread and fry until golden adding a little more oil if things start to dry out too much. Take off the pan and drain on kitchen paper while you get everything else ready.

Make the dressing by first smashing then finely chopping the garlic. Whisk it with oil, lemon juice, a pinch of sugar, a dash of balsamic and a pinch of crushed Maldon and set aside.

Pod the beans then steam for about 3 minutes. Rinse under cold water then pop each one out of it’s skin. Toss the lettuce, beans, tomatoes and feta together with the dressing.

To finish things off, sprinkle each crouton with a little sumac and place on top of the salad. Bring to garden, sit and hopefully don’t have all the napkins blow away like we did last night! Lee was very confused…………


Have a brilliant weekend,



Cauliflower and Sumac salad

A while ago I vowed I’d put a stop to my cookbook habit. I have too many, way too many. A lot come from charity shops where I find you can pick up rare and quite off the beaten track stuff. But there are the new editions I see and find very hard to resist. At the moment  The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria from the legendary Catalan restaurant El Bulli and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Every Day! are on my wish list. I know that Adria’s might fall into the more aspirational end of my cooking (ie much thought about but not actually done) while the River Cottage book will be  a more workaday book – lots of ideas, some to be followed exactly while most will be used for inspiration, a starting point for a new take on an old favourite. This week’s recipe is one of those – A raw cauliflower salad with sumac. I saw it in the Guardian a while back and have kept  the combo on the back  burner in my head ever since. If you’re an Ottolenghi fan you’ll have heard of sumac (he’s the reason it’s stocked in supermarkets in the UK now) but if you’re not, you probably won’t have come across it much.

Sumac is a berry dried and crushed to produce a tart lemony spice that is used in Middle Eastern cooking. It’s a lovely deep red or purple colour and looks great sprinkled on things like salads, hummous and chicken dishes. You’ll find it in Middle Eastern shops and good delis.

Hugh’s recipe was for cauliflower florets tossed with lots of toasted seeds dressed with rapeseed oil and lots of lemon juice. I found his version way too lemony so toned that down a bit for mine. I also added lamb’s lettuce which has a lovely nuttiness that works really well with the seeds and cauliflower. I’ve eaten this straight up as a quick lunch but also had it as part of a mezze style feast with things like Spanish omelette, roasted tomatoes, baked feta cheese and hummous and it’s a fantastic addition. The lemony dressing seems to wake everything else up while the toasted seeds bring a gorgeous smokiness to the table. Well worth a go.

A salad with cauliflower, toasted seeds and sumac

You’ll need:

500gr cauliflower broken up into small bitesize florets

5  tablespoons pumpkin seeds

5 tablespoons sesame seeds

A small handful of parsley roughly chopped

2 decent handfuls lamb’s lettuce washed well and dried

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons rapeseed oil

The juice of 1 large lemon

Salt and pepper

A pinch sugar

1/2 teaspoon sumac plus a little more for garnishing

Make the dressing by whisking the oil and lemon juice with the sumac and a little salt and pepper together then set aside. Heat a pan over a medium heat and toast the pumpkin seeds until they start to change colour. Take the pumpkin seeds off the pan and set aside. Put the sesame seeds on the pan and toast until they start to pop then take them off. To put the salad together,  toss the seeds with the cauliflower, parsley and dressing. Taste and add more lemon juice and/or salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Serve on a bed of lamb’s lettuce with a sprinkling of sumac.

Tracking things down

As I said, you should be able to get sumac in delis and Middle Eastern shops but if you can’t find it The spicery website is a brilliant source for excellent quality spices

Irish rapeseed oil is one of the success stories of local food in recent years and you can have yours delivered with your veggies. A bottle costs €8

We also have pumpkin seeds and they cost €3.80 per 500gr.

Have a great weekend,