Friday, 24 June 2011

Cool Summer Salad

I know I said that I wouldn’t be cooking any raw salad lunches just because of the heat, but as these things tend to go with bold statements, yesterday, I did. I probably saved about ½ pint of hydration and I’m not sure anybody noticed either. Nobody asked where the cooked stuff was, standing in line looking vaguely around for the main dish to be presented to them. Nada. Brill, says I, maintaining a cool composure not that common with summer galley cooking. They’re ever so good, the crew. Obviously they assume I always look like that after cooking (or assembling) them a meal.

It was the fennel bulb that did it. It was a lovely, light green, huge bulging bulb of crisp fennel. I had some lovely little, French, red-skinned new potatoes, lemons, mint and one thing led to another. A salad was born. The difficult decision was whether to go the fresh but needed-using-up buffalo mozzarella or add some saltiness and go the blue cheese. The buffalo won but mostly because it needed using. I reckon goats, blue or mozzarella would work very nicely with this. Or none at all if you’re vegan. If you are (Jani), then maybe some nice crunchy croutons eh?

So we’re expecting wind tonight. Not due to the plentiful eating of raw food you understand but due to some weather front or other. The awnings are coming down and a swell is building. Either we’ll sleep very well with the motion, or if the wind really builds we’ll be doing an anchor watch. That would be dull. The other night my shift was from 3:30 am to 5. See what I mean when I say there are pros and cons to anchoring?

Anyway, a crisp, fresh and hearty salad. As salads go, it hit a lot of buttons. It looked very pretty too. Don’t be afraid of the raw fennel. The lemon and garlic marinade helps to soften any aniseed-ness if that’s not what you like. The flavour was mellow and sweet. If you have a mandolin (Thanks Squidge!), then slice the fennel very finely with that and DO be afraid of the mandolin. My stewardess Sian wont go anywhere near mine. Her eyes widen in terror if it’s out of its drawer and she starts backing off out of the galley. If you don’t have a mandolin, get one; but before then, just slice as thinly as you can with a normal kitchen knife. Groovy. Oh and on a lighter note I was thinking how nice this would be with some BBQ’d lamb chops and a glass of very cold white wine on a summers’ eve… one day when I have my very own garden…

You will need;

1 large bulb of fennel, finely sliced
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1 lemon zested (see blog; ‘Zest For a Long Walk’) and juiced of course.
A good handful of washed mange tout, or snow peas, for you guys across the pond
A punnet of new potatoes, roughly 15 small potatoes
2 tbsp roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp roughly chopped dill
1 tbsp of finely chopped chives
Handful of torn basil leaves
Hand torn fresh buffalo mozzarella or blue cheese or whatever fits your mood
3 finely sliced spring onions (or I think Salad Onions now in the UK?)


  • Begin by finding your prettiest serving plate. Salads look so much better on nice big plates. Then finely slice the fennel bulb. Put the slices in a big mixing bowl. (Just admire the plate for now. I shouldn’t have got you all excited about the plate just yet. In fact maybe put it back in the cupboard. Sorry.)

  • Ok. Now add the crushed garlic and lemon juice and some of the zest to the fennel and give it all a good stir around. Put the remaining lemon zest aside (but not in the cupboard with the salad plate, just aside).

  • Doing well so far. Now put the potatoes onto boil (a little bit of cooking I’ll admit). Add a sprig of fresh mint to the pan and when the water is boiling add some salt. When they are cooked, drain and run cold water over them to cool. Toss them in some olive oil and lots of ground black pepper.

  • Slice the mange tout lengthways into thin strips.

  • Cut all the herbs as roughly or as finely as you prefer. I cut the chives finely but the rest pretty rough and tore the basil leaves by hand.

  • Finely slice the spring onions and now you can start assembling the salad on its plate. So get you’re prettiest serving plate (again). Tip the fennel onto the plate and then add the mange tout then the potatoes then give it all a gentle little toss with your fingers. Crumble on half your cheese of choice then sprinkle over half the herbs. Crumble over the rest of the cheese, top with a final sprinkling of herbs and the sliced spring onions. 

  • A final sprinkling of some nice sea salt, a grinding of black pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil, then scatter over the rest of the lemon zest.

  • Serve with some grilled lamb chops, crusty bread and a cold Muscadet. Or whilst onboard, serve with other salads and a cheese board and some charcuterie and serve to your unsuspecting crew.

It’s the weekend! Friday nights are my night off and the crew make themselves pizza. Pizza Friday is legendary. There is huge rivalry as to who makes the best pizza. Of course it’s a very personal matter, what one puts on their pizza. It’s a matter of personal taste. However, my pizzas are obviously as far as I’m concerned, the bestest pizzas ever.

Have a great Friday night and a good weekend. Enjoy the summer weather and the Pimms and Happy Birthday to my wonderful Dad.

I’ll see you soon to let you know how my sweet sushi goes. I’m so excited.

Thanks for reading. Cheers!