Since daylight saving has finished, suddenly the nights in the south seem to be colder and the leaves of the trees are thinking about changing colour. My lettuce plants are under threat with a frosty night just around the corner. Best use them while I can. The sun is shining and that’s always the best time to eat a salad.
I gather my autumn salad from the garden. I have two varieties growing an iceberg in the green house and a cos type lettuce with speckles in my garden where nearby the Florence fennel is about to bolt. Remarkably my slow tomatoes are still ripening in the greenhouse along with the basil that is just holding on and is probably protected a little by the chickweed growing over it.
When I make a salad I try to always add herbs, flowers, weeds and a protein of some kind.
First I tore the Iceberg leaves (while other lettuce types add colour and different textures I really enjoy the crunch of the Iceberg and next year will grow more.)
The speckled lettuce with its long leaves I put around the edge of the bowl whole.
I shaved the Florence Fennel bulb with a mandolin because the thinner you slice it the better it tastes and adds a crunch as well as a natural aniseed sweetness.
Now I pluck off the leaves of the thready chickweed. I try not to include too much of the stringy stems that can be a bit chewy. Chickweed was once used like we use lettuce and contains many nutrients. If you are interested in learning about other weeds click on this link:
The easiest and best dressing for me is a squeeze of lemon juice and avocado oil. I decide to squeeze the lemon juice on now before I place the final toppings. I also add a little salt and pepper. The oil I put on last.
I slice up a tomato into 8 and this adds colour to the green.
Now I cut up a sprig of basil and a little of the fennel fronds.
I used violas and petals from a dandelion as the flower element for this salad.
The protein I chose is one of my favourites the salty and soft hulomi cheese that when fried in a pan for a few minutes in avocado oil becomes crunchy on the outside. Over this I sprinkled a little avocado oil and I had a delicious salad to enjoy while I sat in the sun.
You can choose other options and combinations like replace the fennel for thinly sliced courgette, replace the tomatoes for sliced pears with lemon juice to stop them turning brown and match the pears with cumin roasted walnuts. All these ingredients are autumnal produce.
Autumn Salad: lettuce, fennel bulb, tomatoes and Halloumi cheese.
When making a salad I think of sweet and tart, crunchy and soft, and colour combinations. It never ceases to amaze me how many things you can actually find in the garden to put into a salad, especially when you are confident on what weeds and flowers you can safely add to your salad.