When does an ever-so-major love of a foodstuff become something that requires you to join a support group and stop hanging out with the pals that are fellow addicts? Is there some maximum amount that I am freely allowed to blab on this blog about the amount of chickpeas that I've eaten before one of you is allowed to have me involuntarily committed to some sort of detox programme? OR - my greatest fear, revealed: have any of you twigged that I am actually a lazy wench and, though it is indeed a superior piece of protein, my extensive use of the chickpea is actually down to its super speediness, handiness and cheapyness?! Don't bother your pretty little heads answering any of those nonsensical questions - just read on for a salad that will make your morning a lovely anticipatory lead-up to tastiness and your afternoon a savouring of the wonderful (and healthy!) flavours that you devoured on your lunchbreak.
This salad comes courtesy of that bastion of how-can-it-be-so-healthy-and-still-taste-so-good food, Cornucopia. I've taken to going for a swim before work a couple of mornings a week, and something that helps me haul my legs out of bed to swim 2.5k when the alarm goes off at 6.45am on a Monday is the thought of tucking into a tasty breakfast as a post-swim, pre-work reward. The brekkie at Cornucopia, though pricey, is a treat, and makes me wish that I worked near there so I could pop out for a sneaky salad as a present from me to me on days when lunchbreak needs to be used to restore sanity. I will, instead, have to settle for my own reproductions of their sublime recipes. This one starts with a lil aubergine. In truth, I really do love to call this eggplant, but, as with pronouncing quinoa 'keen-wah', it sounds pretentious. And to be honest, it is. So lets stick to its Euro-name. The aubergine gets chopped up into little dice - love the bursty-popping sound when the skin is pierced and the sensation of slicing the knife through that unusual thick-cotton-wool texture. Toss the diced aubergine in olive oil, salt and pepper, and into the oven for a good roasting - 200 degrees for about 20 minutes.
While the oven is hot, it can very conveniently be used to toast 2-3 cumin seeds for the dressing.
This is the part that really attracted me to this recipe: the dressing. I can be terribly boring on the dressing front, sticking to utterly pedestrian combos involving balsamic, olive oil, lemon juice, zzzzzz etc etc. If you come across a really cool dressing it can make the simplest salad really come to life. This one has, as well as the toasted cumin seeds, 150ml extra-virgin olive oil, the juice of 1.5 lemons, 1 red chilli and 75g sun-dried tomatoes. Not wildly, Heston Blumenthal-ish-ly unusual, but an interesting little combo that I wouldn't necessarily have teamed up if left to my own devices.
Get some chickpeas and feta together, the chunky calcium-and-protein substance of the salad, and with the cooled-down aubergine it's good to go.
Leafiness, of course, is a must. And look how those vibrant green leaves go beautifully with that thick red dressing. A must for Mayo fans, I reckon.