Monday, March 05, 2007

Sunshine salad

I’d been meaning to have a go at the Weekend Cookbook Challenge event ever since I first heard about it. Well I have a lot of cookbooks, in fact probably an obscene amount of cookbooks; the challenge for me would be to select ‘a’ single cookbook. The point of the event is to shine a light onto a hitherto unappreciated cookbook in your collection by reproducing a recipe from it. Food stylist Tami from Running with Tweezers opted for the theme of salads for the 14th challenge. My first thought was to make my favourite salad which is an adaptation of one of Jamie Oliver’s from The Naked Chef. But this seemed to be cheating; I have been inspired by many of the recipes by Jamie’s first book so this is not the spirit of the event. So I resorted to my index cards. Before my cookbook collection got rather out of hand, I would catalogue each new addition to my collection by categorising all the recipes contained within that I was interested in. This was enormously handy, as when I desperately wanted to do something fabulous with say a cauliflower, I could consult my cards and get inspiration. If I ever get a spare month or so I will complete my indexing (or, in the modern parlance – tagging) and then I could always immediately lay my hand on any required recipe. Of course if I did reinstate this mammoth task, I should really go electronic as with the aid of a good search engine the sorting possibilities are endless. Oh, for a few spare few months…

Anyway back to Tami’s challenge, I checked out the salad cards, ignoring references to much-used cookbooks and concentrating on recipes that I could produce from the contents of my fridge. And then I espied the following from Simple Suppers by Hugo Arnold, a little paperback from 1996.

Sprouting broccoli salad with quail’s eggs and Pecorino

Serve 4
1 dozen quail’s eggs
3 thin slices of garlic
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
4 handfuls of various salad leaves
110g mature Pecorino
450 g purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed of any tough stalk ends

Boil the quail’s eggs for 2 minutes, drain and refresh under cold water, peel and set aside.

Mash the garlic with a seasoning of salt and pepper until it becomes a pulp. There must be no whole bits of garlic, so sea salt and coarsely ground pepper is best for this. Stir in 5 tablespoons of olive oil and a dessert spoon of balsamic vinegar. Toss the leaves in this dressing. Peel the Pecorino into slivers with a vegetable peeler.

Cook the broccoli in a large pan of boiling salted water for 5 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and refresh briefly under cold water – it still should be warm. Toss the broccoli in with the salad leaves coat in the dressing. Distribute on 4 plates, scatter over the quail’s eggs and Pecorino and serve.

What clinched this recipe for me was with a little tweaking, and when do I not tweak, I could rustle this one up without a trip to the shops and it would highlight beautifully my remaining purple sprouting broccoli. I wasn’t sure if my last few quail eggs are still at their best so substituted them for a couple of D's favourite and now mine, Old Cotswold Legbar eggs as I thought their stunning golden yolks would add an extra dimension to the salad. And I’m really glad I did, I am sure Hugo’s original recipe is lovely but hard boiled quail eggs wouldn’t have given that lovely unctuous just soft-boiled mollet egg treat that I had. I only boiled the eggs for just over 4 minutes as I wanted them to be soft when I peeled them and then broke them up gently on top of the balsamic dressed sprouting broccoli and leaves. I replaced the Pecorino with Parmesan as that is what I had to hand but everything else I followed faithfully.

This was a lovely salad, I never tire of purple sprouting broccoli and it seemed rather virtuous with all that lovely greenery and sunshine-y yolks. And I just managed to get it done before the challenge deadline – just!


Linda said...

wow - impressive. looks lovely. never had quail eggs before. are they very different from chicken eggs?

J said...

Dear Linda,
Quail eggs are smaller than a hen egg, probably about a fifth of the size - I used them here but it difficult to see the scale
This is actually less than one slice of bread that I've cut into six squares. Quail eggs are milder in taste and as lovely as they are can be very difficult to crack and/or peel. I cheated on this original salad recipe and substituted hen's eggs but quite small and beautifully golden Old Cotswold Legbar from Clarence Court , check out their hen cam here!