Friday, 10 August 2012

warm spring onion salad

warm spring onion salad
a bright and hot summer day calls for a salad with lightness. it speaks to crisp leaves like radicchio or a tangle of peppery leaves like rocket. slices of stone fruit or summer berries should go in for colour and contrast of flavour. play around with the ingredients in the vinaigrette with fruity vinegars that have a gentle acidity. i always add a little zest to brighten the salad.

but since i am talking of a british summer there are also days when warmth is scarce. on such a day a blanket of clouds obscures the sunlight and the wind is cool calling for a more substantial salad, perhaps even a warm one. it should be the kind of salad that has the character of comfort food without the stodginess. for salads like these i turn to a base of lentils, grains or rice of which there is so much choice – puy lentils, chickpeas, couscous, quinoa and wild rice to name a few. 

my warm spring onion salad has a robust texture and is quite earthy in its colours. grains of brown-black wild interspersed with aromatic basmati are what give it substance. i tossed it with spring onion sauce warmed with root spices ginger and garlic. a splash of mirin picked on and elevated the sweetness of the spring onions whilst the heat softened their sharpness. the chickpeas provided protein, as i was too lazy to stir-fry cubes of firm tofu. a generous sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds would not have been amiss but as with the tofu i was too lazy to go the extra mile. a handful of raisins plumped with hot water added small bursts of sweetness. on the day that i made this salad i ate it warm. the cold leftovers the following day were actually much more delicious. the spring onions had relaxed into the rice giving it a stronger alliums taste. 

i find that often onions are relegated to the backbone of recipes. can you imagine how bereft of depth and sweetness curries and gravies would be without these humble bulbs? so sometimes i put the onion centre stage, either by using a large proportion like in the ginger spring onion sauce, where i used a whole and rather large bunch of spring onions from the farmers market or by constructing a salad around them. a couple of weeks ago i made a warm salad of caramelised red onions, roasted yellow beets and jalapeno yoghurt on a cold summer day. i caramelised large chunks of three red onions with a generous amount of smoked paprika and tossed them with one can of drained chickpeas. thick coins of honey roasted yellow beets framed the warm salad that was finished with a dollop of jalapeno yoghurt. 

since it is a warm day i am headed to my kitchen to put together an heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad drizzled with gremolata. but before i go here’s the recipe for the warm spring onion salad. 

{warm spring onion salad} 

eighty grams basmati and wild rice 
water for boiling 
two tablespoons raisins soaked in hot water 
a can of chickpeas, drained 

- spring onion sauce - 

two tablespoons groundnut oil 
one inch piece of ginger, grated fine 
three cloves, finely minced 
a generous pinch of sea salt 
a large bunch of spring onions (preferably from the farmers market) 
two tablespoons mirin 

cook the rice using your preferred method. i find that wild rice requires a longer steam although i must confess that my rice is never as perfect as my mama’s. i am luckier on some days than i am on others so it is easier to refer to others like felicity cloake on how to cook perfect rice. while the rice is cooking make your spring onion sauce. this recipe was featured on the blog earlier but in context of a soba dish so i am re-writing it here. 

place the groundnut oil in a wok and place it on medium heat. add the ginger and garlic. the root spices should cook gently without gaining any colour. all you want is for them to soften and loose their aggression. this will take around five to seven minutes. 

meanwhile thoroughly wash the spring onions before chopping them fairly finely. i like chopping them on the diagonal. use both the green and white parts of the spring onion. my whole bunch worked out to be approximately one large coffee mugs worth of chopped spring onion. 

when your spring onions are ready dial up the heat and introduce the spring onions to the pan. at this point you must work quickly. the spring onions should spend no longer than a minute and a half on the heat. the green part of the onion will wilt slightly. i find that a good measure is when the raw smell of onion cooks down and stop stinging the eyes. turn off the heat and pour in the sake giving it a quick whirl to finish. 

fold the warm sauce into the rice and chickpeas and then fold in the raisins.

1 comment:

  1. m! This looks and sounds wonderful! I remember you telling me how you adapted my spring onion sauce with mirin, this must be the one you're talking about, sounds lovely with the salad instead of noodles (: