Friday, February 19, 2010


...and the living's easy.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt like this song should be playing on repeat.

Back when I moved into my new apartment 8 months ago, the mornings were dark, the evenings were darker and howling winds blew straight from Antarctica into my bathroom window (which never closes properly). The whole place shuddered and groaned with cold, and my little faux-fireplace gas heater became my best friend. But I knew then that the time would come, in late summer, when the decision to live directly opposite the beach would be the one of the best I ever made. And indeed it was.

We have now entered late summer, or, as it seems in Melbourne, true summer. The days are ridiculously long, the days are hot, the nights are warm and the beach beckons every day as I trudge home from the station. There’s nothing quite like scurrying across the hot bitumen in nothing but a bikini and bare feet, having a quick dunk and splash in the cool sea, and then scurrying home again for a cold beer – especially if the whole exercise takes you no longer than about 5 minutes.

Of course, the one downside to all this glorious weather is that it’s just too too hot to cook anything. Believe me, last night I made a bit of a Lebanese feast, which required 3 burners on the stove and the oven on – it was about 50 degrees in that little kitchen of mine! Remind me not to do that again, and rather, to stick to cold beer, juicy peaches, homemade banana ice-cream (recipe to come soon) and the occasional refreshing, crunchy salad – just to even out the sweet/savoury ratio.

This salad is the perfect summer salad – cool, fresh, easy to put together, and with enough substance to pass as a proper meal when served with some crusty sourdough bread.

I’m usually all for innovation and creativity in the kitchen, and fully support making substitutions and experiments with basically every recipe I post – this one is different. I wouldn’t change a thing, ever. The flavours couldn’t be more perfect if they tried. So throw one together, as soon as the next hot day comes along (which will probably be tomorrow around here) and enjoy a clean, crunchy, fresh salad for dinner.

Fennel Pea and Ricotta Salad

Inspired by an old Karen Martini recipe

Serves 1

1 small head of fennel

¼ cup peas (I used frozen, but fresh if you’ve got them)

Juice half lemon

100g ricotta

Small handful mint leaves

Olive oil

Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Drop in the peas and let them cook for 30 seconds – no longer or they’ll get shriveled and sad rather than sweet and juicy.

Drain the peas, pour over the oil, lemon juice and season well with salt and pepper.

Coarsely chop the mint leaves and add them to the peas

Trim the stalks and fronds off the fennel

Shave the fennel as thin as possible cross-ways with a sharp knife if you want to hone your knife skills, or a mandoline if you’re lucky enough to have one and haven’t chopped your finger off on it yet – thereby swearing off mandolines forever.

Toss the shaved fennel and reserved fennel fronds through the minty peas.

Smear the ricotta onto a plate and top with the salad.

Drizzle with a bit more olive oil.

And that’s it, you’re done! Best enjoyed sitting on the balcony in still slightly damp bikini bottoms on a warm evening.

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