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 the goods

salad:

4 parsnips

1 bunch baby carrots

2 bunches (about 6-8) baby golden beets

1 can chickpeas / garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

about 6 cups good spicy salad greens; water cress, arugula (or a mix of both)

fresh dill

splash dry white wine

4-6 oz  / 250g goat cheese

olive oil

1/3 - 1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts

2 tblspns semolina (or all purpose flour)

1/2 tspn cumin*

1/2 tspn cayenne*

1/2 tspn ground coriander*

1/2 tspn ground ginger*

1/2 tspn turmeric*

pinch fennel seeds *

1 tspn salt

1/2 tspn cracked pepper

3-4 cloves garlic

vinaigrette:

2 cloves garlic

1 tspn salt

2-3 anchovies

juice 3 lemons

about 1/3 cup good olive oil

pinch sugar

1 tspn mustard

2 tblspns fresh dill, finely chopped

pepper

time: 1 hr

you will need:

  • baking sheet
  • aluminium foil
  • salad bowl
  • measuring jug
*if you do not have all of these spices at hand,a couple of teaspoons of curry powder will suffice

the wombat salad

A salad named after a burrowing marsupial might not sound very tasty, but trust me; I have been offered everything from jewelry to sexual favours for this recipe.

It all came about last Boxing Day. I had been invited over to a friend's house for dinner. Of course, I asked the inevitable question, 'Can I bring anything?'

'Oh, just yourself...maybe a salad...?'

It's December, it's the day after Christmas. There is nothing fresh in the shops. Where am I going to pull a salad out of?

I look in the fridge; it's got the random scraps that didn't get cooked into the Christmas dinner; some parsnips and carrots. A few beets. There is a wedge of Chevre. And some watercress which I had neglected to serve with devilled eggs on Christmas Eve.

Well, root vegetables and a few leaves. This is where the wombat enters the story.

You see, the Australian male's mating pattern aligns with a wombat's eating pattern:  he eats, roots and leaves. 'Root' being a coital verb in Australia.

So here I am with a salad of roots and leaves. I roast the veggies in some spices and make a lemony dill dressing. Throw in some chickpeas, pistachios and a few nuggets of goat cheese.

It looked pretty.

It was alluringly fragrant.

'That'll do'

Or so I thought. The people at this party went berserk over it. I say that with modesty in check. They went truly bonkers.

And every time since, it has the same reaction.

So here you go;

preheat the oven to 350f.

tear the stalks off the top of the beets, but do not peel them. Place them on a sheet of foil, drizzle a little olive oil over them, wrap the foil over them and put them into the oven. They need to roast for about 1 hour.

peel and trim the carrots and parsnips.

cut the parsnips into wedges about the same size as the carrots.

steam or boil the carrots and parsnips for about 5 minutes.

douse the par-boiled vegetables in a little white wine or lemon juice and let sit for a couple of minutes.

raise  the heat of the oven to 425f. Remove beets if done.

line a baking tray with foil and pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on it. Pop it into the oven to heat the oil.

mix all of the spices, garlic cloves, salt and pepper with the semolina (or flour). Toss the spice mix into a large plastic bag.

toss the carrots and parsnips into the bag and shake to coat them.

place the carrots and parsnips in a single layer  (carefully) on the heated baking tray. Douse with a little more olive oil and place back in the oven. Roast until tender and browned.

make the salad dressing:

mash the garlic and salt in a small measuring jug (I find the end of a wooden spoon does this well). Add the anchovies and mash into an unrecognizable paste. (people have such an unfounded aversion to anchovies; it pays to sneak them into a dish)

add the lemon juice and mustard.

pour in enough olive oil to double the volume in the measuring jug.

whisk to emulsify (fancy word for mixing the oil and liquid into an opaque, slightly frothy mixture)

add the pinch of sugar, chopped dill and pepper. Taste; you might need more lemon juice, more oil or more salt.

putting it together:

arrange the washed, dried cress  / arugula into a large salad bowl.

peel the beets and slice into wedges, add to the bowl.

scatter the chickpeas / garbanzo beans over the top.

place the roasted carrots and parsnips on top

crumble the goat cheese into nuggets and morsels around the edge of the bowl (so that the hot vegetables don't melt the nuggets).

sprinkle a little chopped dill and the pistachios over everything.

pour vinaigrette onto salad just as you serve.

serve with warm naan or a lovely oven-warmed loaf of wholemeal bread.


 

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