cooking….lots of things. It’s the season of Chanukah, the Jewish festival that commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over their Syrian-Greek oppressors in the 2nd century BC; and of Christmas; and of the end of the year; and of the start of summer holidays. It is also the time of some birthdays in our family.
One of my favourite salads – it suits any of these occasions – is a mixed salad of greens and cooked vegetables with poached chicken. The mixture is important: watercress provides peppery bite, witlof gives a juicy bitterness, the carrots and the poached chicken a certain not-quite-sweetness, and the asparagus and all the herbs provide freshness. Poach the chicken (whole or breast fillet) with a few slices of ginger and some spring onion.
Ingredients: large poached chicken fillet; a bunch of baby carrots, peeled; about 10 asparagus spears (not thin); watercress leaves; witlof leaves, mixed herbs – chervil if possible, as well as mint, but parsley, mint and chives are good.
A mustardy vinaigrette, made with wine vinegar, extravirgin olive oil, salt, pepper and half a teaspoon of mustard. Use one tablespoon vinegar to four of oil. I use a small screwtop jar, because it is so easy to shake the ingredients to combine them.
Cook the carrots in boiling salted water with a pinch of sugar and a thick slice of fresh ginger. When they are only just cooked, lift them out of the water. Place in a small dish. Add the asparagus (the bases snapped off, and peeled if you have the energy) to the same water, cook until barely done, and place in a small dish. Dress both carrots and asparagus with a little of the vinaigrette.
When the chicken has cooled, slice thickly and toss in some vinaigrette.
To serve: Put the watercress and chervil leaves in a big shallow bowl. Toss them gently in some vinaigrette. Add the vegetables and the chicken, and top with fresh herbs. Drizzle with a little more vinaigrette.
I sometimes add nasturtium flowers, because they grow in the garden. This is a good first course (serves about six, generously) or can be a light main course. Just add a good riesling, or a chardonnay that’s not too oaked, or a rose.