Smokey Spring Salad

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  • Vegan
  • Serves 4-6 as a side salad or 2 as the main part of the meal.
  • Consume on the day – doesn’t keep well.
  • Ensure you allow 4-7 hours depending on your oven and the thinness of the slices/1 day upwards for sun-drying. It’s actually a relatively low labour as a recipe, but this part requires some time and a really good result can be obtained by doing it slowly and just getting on with other things in the room for a morning or afternoon. The bulk of the salad should take about 30 minutes maximum to complete.

This is my go-to Mediterranean-inspired salad when the sun is out and the air is balmy. Combining fresh coriander, creamy avocado, seasonal, flavoursome beef tomatoes, aubergine cured and flavoured with a smokey, salty maple glaze, with a simple dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Best eaten al fresco on a warm day. Makes a great accompaniment to pasta and rice dishes, pizza, jacket potatoes and BBQ food.

Ingredients

Crispy Aubergine:

  • 1 tsp of chosen cooking oil for roasting
  • 1 small Aubergine/Eggplant (sliced long ways in thin strips (approx 1cm)
  • Maple syrup (1.5 tsp)
  • Smoked paprika (2 tsp)
  • Salt (1/2 tsp)
  • Fry light (sunflower oil)

For the bulk of the salad:

  • 3 medium Tomatoes/2 beef tomatoes (Freshest tomatoes you can get that have stayed as room temperature as possible)
  • 1/2 large cucumber
  • 1 Red pepper
  • 2 medium, ripe Avocados
  • A generous bunch of Coriander chopped roughly. If you have the heritable trait of tasting Coriander as washing up liquid and think I’m revolting for using it in such abundance… the Coriander can be subsituted with Parsley. It has a similar freshness in flavour and works well with the other ingredients.

Dressing:

  • Olive oil (1 tbsp)
  • Lemon juice (1 whole lemon juiced)
  • Salt (½ tsp)
  • Black pepper (1 tsp)

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METHOD

Preparing the Aubergine:

Curing/Drying:

Aubergines are naturally very moist, which is great for absorbing flavours of marinades. But to get the crispness of the aubergine required for this dish, this part is crucial. You can actually do this part the day or even week before if you wish. Once the aubergine has been dried, you can store it like you would dried mushroom, in tupaware, cling film or a sandwich bag, until you intend to use it.

It is best to do when you have plenty of time and can be getting on with other things, whilst occasionally checking (4-7 hours).

This process can also be done for free by leaving it out in the sun –  Here’s how  . However, the brazen London squirrels mean that’s not an option for me today, so I am opting for the oven method.

  • Put the oven on a low heat (50 degrees c),
  • Wash aubergine, chop the ends off and slice long ways in thin strips (approx 1cm) – it may be useful to use a potato-peeler for this, the thinner the better).
  • Sprinkle salt evenly over the tray (I used a chip tray so the holes on the bottom allow for both sides to be crispy, but a conventional tray is also fine) and bake with the oven door open for a minimum of FOUR HOURS (usually 4-7). It’s important to leave the door open so that the moisture can escape.
  • You will notice the aubergine becomes damp like it’s sweating and that the moisture will be mostly on the underside of the aubergine strips. Keep turning every 30 minutes or so. The thinner slices will dry out quicker.

Adding flavour:

  • Pre heat the grill to 250 degrees c (for a fan oven).
  • Mix Maple syrup, Smoked paprika, Salt and cooking oil together in a bowl with a pastry brush.

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  • Paint the mixture onto the dried aubergine strips
  • Put back in the oven for 5 minutes.
  • Take out, turn strips and give them a squirt of fry light (sunflower oil) for 3 minutes.

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Preparing the salad (Do this part on the day you intend to eat it):

  • Rinse and chop the tomatoes, pepper, cucumber into approximately 1cm cubes.
  • De stone and skin the avocado and also chop into approximately 1cm cubes.
  • Add the chopped ingredients to a bowl

Dress and toss:

  • Mix Olive oil, Lemon juice, Salt, Black pepper, along with the bulk of salad to a large salad bowl.
  • Toss the salad and add the crispy aubergine chunks.

Notes:

  • The oven and the size of the aubergine slices can affect the time a lot, so it’s better to allow plenty of time for the curing.
  • Made the bulk of the salad on the day of eating.
  • Make a bigger batch of the dressing if you want extra. Keep refridgerated.

Making the recipe more accessible:

  • If you live with chronic fatigue, you can pace by curing the aubergine over one day, and the rest on another. This can be done weeks ahead because once the aubergine is completely dried, it will keep for very prolongued periods. Pacing like this will also potentially make for greater enjoyment on the day of eating (which is crucial)!
  • Daily living and mobility aids used to prepare this recipe: chopping aids, hand splints and a wheelchair.

 

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