So it appears we may actually be having a summer here in Blighty, although it’s probably clouding over as I type this. Not only is this new tropical climate putting everyone in a super good mood it means we can all plan BBQ’s, picnics and trips to the beach in ADVANCE. Yep, that’s right kids, you can invite your friends over, plan to eat outside and then actually eat outside! Crazy right!
The great thing about this heat as well is that the kinds of foods that your body wants to eat are the naturally healthy ones. I am pretty sure it’s the way evolution was supposed to work, it’s hot, you want salad, you become slim and beach beautiful!! No stress, no stupid faddy diets, everybody’s happy!
Salad used to get a bit of a bad press, the best you could hope for was usually a few limp iceberg lettuce leaves, a slimy slice of cucumber all topped off with a dollop of crusty Hellman’s mayo. It was never going to be enough to convince anyone to put the bread basket down. But times are changing, and they’re changing for the better.
Despite this I do have fond memories of salad bars in certain ‘restaurants’. I used to think they were amazing, which led to lots of pestering the parents to take us there for dinner. They have lost there magic somewhat since then, I’m not even sure what it was I liked so much about them to be honest, maybe it was just the sheer amount of different compartments. I felt like there was a surprise waiting in each one, unfortunately when I tried to rekindle the romance recently, reality struck, and I realised they’re actually pretty crap.
The key to a great salad? Pick really fresh ingredients, make a killer dressing and chuck something substantial in it too. Be it some warm squidgy goats cheese, marinated chicken, delicious fresh seafood…endless possibilities. Croutons too, home made though- obviously. I like to roast mine in the oils from the salami, try it and you'll never reach for the ready made ones again. Always dress it at the end, just before serving, to keep every ingredient at it’s best.
So here’s a recipe that will hopefully make even the most hardened salad dodgers reach for the leaves. Best bit, it’s so quick to whip up, you’ll be tucking in before you’ve even drank your first glass of chilled rose. Plus if there’s any left over lunch is sorted for tomorrow, man this salad just keeps on giving!
Chicken, mozzarella & salami salad with pesto dressing
FOR THE CHICKEN
2 chicken breasts
10 large slices of salami
125g ball mozzarella cheese
2 tsp pesto
fresh basil leaves
FOR THE CROUTONS
1 small ciabatta roll, chopped or torn into bite size croutons
drizzle olive oil
FOR THE SALAD
Bag mixed baby leaves
Handful baby plum tomatoes, halved
Few radishes, sliced
1 pack mustard cress, cress removed from dirt
1 carrot, cut into ribbons with a peeler
¼ cucumber, diced
few fresh basil leaves
FOR THE DRESSING
2 heaped tbsp pesto
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6. Lay the chicken on a board and slice through the middle lengthways being careful not to slice all the way through the breast, open up like a book, season and spread with half the pesto. Lay on some basil, then ¼ of the mozzarella. Fold up and wrap in the 3 slices of the salami then place onto a flat tray lined with a double layer of foil. Repeat with the other breast. Lay another sheet of foil on top and being folding the edges of the three sheets together to create a nice parcel. Before you seal the final side chuck in a splash of wine should you have some open or a bit of water if not. This is going to create some lovely stream in the parcel and keep the chicken really moist. Cook for 20 mins.
2 Meanwhile in a small baking tin put 4 bis sof salami and a drizzle of oil. Add to the oven for about 3-4 mins, until all the nice oils have been released into the tin. Then remove the meat, (EAT, or keep as a crispy garnish) and toss your croutons in the fat. Season and cook for about 8 mins, keep an eye on them or they might catch.
3 Arrange all the lovely salad in a nice big bowl or serving platter, scatter on the rest of the mozzarella. Make the dressing. Mix the pesto and vinegar in a small bowl. Once the chicken is done, remove and slice the foil open from the top. Take out the chicken (and any escaped cheese) and pop onto a board ready to cut. Pour the parcel juices into the dressing and mix well, season if you need to.
4 Slice the chicken and tip onto the platter, along with any juices from the board. Scatter on the dressing, then top with your crispy salami tasting croutons.