Let’s get one thing straight: as Matt Wilkinson points out early on in Simply Dressed Salads (his second book), it’s crazy to think that salads are just, “leaves or lettuce with things added to them.” According to the expat-British chef, salad is better defined as, “A marriage of flavours and textures that you bring together.”
By his way of thinking, “any ingredient can be made into a salad – any fruit, vegetable, grain, pulse, seafood or meat – not just salad leaves.” They can be served hot or cold and they most definitely can – and indeed should – change with the seasons. And if you’ve eaten at Pope Joan, you’ll know the chef’s spectacular talent for creating magic with fresh produce and for coaxing the best out of really simple ingredients.
Split into four parts: summer, autumn, winter and spring, the beautifully shot hardcover contains more than 250 pages of seasonal salad and dressing recipes, a handy glossary of lesser-known salad ingredients and an entertaining smattering of personal anecdotes – mostly from the chef’s family life at home with his partner Sharlee and their two little boys.
Recipes range from the delicate (sesame-fried asparagus with sashimi and miso or cured mackerel with nasturtium flowers, coconut and rhubarb), through to the hearty (baked broccoli with goat’s curd; a comforting pearl barley tabouleh; or a warm salad of fregola with chorizo and mussels).
Wilkinson was nice enough to share a summery recipe from the book. Try it out this weekend.
Grilled Peaches and Chicken with Rocket and Kasundi
Serves 4–6 (to share)
6 boneless, skinless, free-range chicken thighs
280g (10 oz) plain yoghurt
2 tbsp tomato kasundi
3 firm peaches, each cut into 8 wedges, with the skin on
100ml olive oil
pinch of ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
1 large handful rocket (arugula) leaves, washed
Place the chicken in a bowl. Mix the yoghurt and kasundi together. Reserve 2 tablespoons to dollop over the salad, then thoroughly mix the remaining yoghurt mixture through the chicken. Cover and marinate in the fridge – overnight if you can. If not, an hour or so is good, but if you haven’t time, then I guess just go for it.
Heat a chargrill or barbecue to high.
While that heats, take the peaches and gently mix in a bowl with the olive oil and ras el hanout. Cook on the grill or barbecue for about one minute on each side, until the skins on the edge start to split – you want the peaches to be cooked but not mushy. Place back in the bowl and cover with a plate.
Now grill your chicken on each side until cooked, about 7–10 minutes all up. Place on a board and cut each thigh into about 8 slices.
Mix all the chicken in with the peaches. Throw in the rocket, toss gently, then transfer straight away to a serving bowl or platter. Spoon the reserved kasundi and yoghurt mixture on top and serve.
This is an edited extract from Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads by Matt Wilkinson published by Hardie Grant RRP $49.95 available in stores nationally.