Neil Perry’s Golden Rules of Salad: “With so few ingredients, there’s nowhere to hide” | Australian food and drink

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YesYou might think making a salad is easy, but it isn’t. With so few ingredients, there is nowhere to hide. When it comes to classic green salads, lettuce should be carefully chosen and perfectly dressed – neither below nor above.

The first thing you need to think about is what texture you want – crunchy, soft, or a combination. Here are some popular types to get you started:

  • Cos – crunchy, with a mild flavor

  • Curly endive – narrow, curly leaf, slightly bitter flavor

  • Green and red oak – with a soft texture and a sweet taste

  • Iceberg – crunchy, with a neutral flavor

  • Radicchio – red leaves, pronounced bitter flavor

  • Treviso – elongated variety of radicchio, with a crunchy texture and a slightly bitter taste

  • Witlof (chicory) – crunchy white or red leaves with a slightly bitter taste.

Once you have chosen your leaves, it is very important to wash and dry them well; it is the making of a good salad. If you don’t have a salad spinner, get one now!

Then the bandage. There’s nothing quite like the crunchiness of lettuce and the balance of oil and acid. Usually a ratio of three parts oil to one part acid is about fine, but always taste a little of both first to get a feel for their strength, and don’t forget to season with salt. of seafood and freshly ground pepper.

My two favorite oils for dressing salads are extra virgin olive oil and walnut oil. Most of the time, extra virgin olive oil is my go-to oil. Walnut oil is also fantastic for salads and starters, especially in combination with lime juice. It works great with seafood – crab in particular. But since it is expensive and easily rancid, you should buy it in small quantities and store it in the refrigerator.

Now you need vinegar, verjuice or citrus juice which will add sourness and sourness.

Balsamic vinegar is wonderfully complex: a good one becomes incredibly intense, so you only need a few drops. Red wine vinegar is one of the best all-rounders, but I also like using it in combination with richly flavored sherry vinegar. The smooth, smooth flavor of apple cider vinegar can be a welcome element, and verjuice’s natural acidity (which comes from the acidity of unripe grapes, not fermentation) lends itself to all kinds of salad dressings. Citrus juices provide wonderful sweet acidity and a fresh taste. Always make sure that the quality of your vinegar matches the quality of your oil and use freshly squeezed lemon, lime, or orange juice.

These are the building blocks of salads. Sure, a salad can go anywhere from here – I’m giving you some ideas here, but build them to make them your own and you can create some amazing dishes.

There is nothing more satisfying than a salad topped with leftover roast chicken or pork. Roasted, boiled or barbecued vegetables can also play a starring role, adding substance and flavor to turn a simple salad into something of great beauty. Just follow the golden rules, season well and dress with good quality ingredients, and you will get great results every time.

Ramen noodle salad with chicken, ginger and spring onion

Ramen: the king of noodle dishes. Photography: Petrina Tinslay

Ramen noodles are wheat noodles that do not contain eggs but instead use lye water to bind them together, giving them their precious chew. You might not think so when you read the menu, but for me it’s the king of noodle dishes. I love a bowl of these for lunch – the vibrant green dressing is so refreshing, with the beautifully crisp flavors of scallion and ginger. Add a little chili sauce and it really tastes as good as it gets.

If you want to prepare the white chicken ahead of time, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Serves 4 as part of a shared meal, or 2 as a single meal

For the white chicken
100 ml of Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon of sea salt
2 x 200g chicken breast fillets

For the spring onion oil
200 ml of vegetable oil
Small handful of green onions
, coarsely chopped

For the ginger and spring onion vinaigrette
2 tablespoons of spring onion oil
60 ml soy sauce with mushrooms (or light soy sauce)
2cm ginger apple, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons of sesame oil

For the noodles
200g ramen noodles
30 g spring onions, thinly sliced ​​on the diagonal
Chili sauce, serve – I like sriracha

For the chicken breast, pour 10 cm of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the shaoxing wine, salt and chicken, then lower the heat so that the surface of the water barely moves. Let stand 12 minutes, then remove from heat and leave for another 18 minutes. Remove the poached chicken from the broth and refrigerate until cold, then shred it into long, thin strips (the meat will naturally separate this way) and place in a large bowl.

To make spring onion oil, combine vegetable oil and spring onion stems in a small, heavy-based saucepan. Place on low heat and heat until the oil reaches 80C. Remove the infused oil from the heat and let it cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, then pass through a sieve lined with muslin. Oil that you don’t use right away can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month, but it’s best to prepare it fresh.

For the ginger and spring onion vinaigrette, mix two tablespoons of spring onion oil with the rest of the dressing ingredients in a blender or small food processor until the ginger is finely mashed.

Cook the noodles in plenty of salted boiling water until tender.

Drain and cool in ice water, then rinse and add to the bowl, along with the dressing and spring onions.

Mix everything, then stack on a plate giving it a little height.

Serve with chili sauce.

Variants

Cooked sliced ​​king prawns are good with this noodle salad – and, call me crazy, but a combination of cooked shrimp and chicken is also pretty impressive.

You can also garnish with crushed fried peanuts. They add complexity but keep things light.

The white cut chicken and dressing, along with sliced ​​spring onions, make a great salad without the noodles – just serve with pickles.

Shrimp, tomato, nectarine and hazelnut salad

Shrimp, tomato, nectarine and hazelnut salad
Cos and witlof bring freshness and crunch to this salad of shrimps, tomatoes, nectarines and hazelnuts. Photography: Petrina Tinslay

Ripe tomatoes and nectarines make a summer killer combination: at the height of their season, both are deliciously sweet, especially when paired with the natural sweetness of shrimp.

The sharpness of the lime makes up for any sweetness, and the mellow richness of the crushed hazelnuts and hazelnut oil is pretty hard to beat, although of course you can just use olive oil. The cos and the witlof bring freshness and crunch.

Serves 4

16 large cooked shrimps, peeled and deveined
2 heads witlof (chicory) – red, white or a combination
, leaves separated, washed and dried
2 heads of baby cos lettuce,
leaves separated, washed and dried
2 tablespoons of hazelnut oil
2 limes,
juice
2 yellow-fleshed nectarines
2 tomatoes ripened on the stalk,
hollowed out
75g of hazelnuts,
coarsely chopped
1 small handful of flat parsley leaves,
finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the shrimp in a large bowl. Roughly tear the witlof and baby cos leaves and add them to the bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drizzle with the hazelnut oil and lime juice, adding little by little and tasting as you go to get the right balance.

Cut the cheeks of the nectarines and thinly slice each cheek. Cut the tomatoes into quarters.

Neil Perry Cookbook Cover

Arrange the nectarines and tomatoes on four plates. Divide the salad leaves and shrimp between your plates, placing them gently around the fruit. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and parsley and serve.

Variants

Any shellfish would work well here – crab, lobster, or insect meat would be perfect.

Try this with fragrant white peaches or nectarines. When stone fruits are in season, it can be hard to choose!


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