Rockpool’s Salad with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette

Serves: 4

Nat and I have both come to understand the importance of a green salad to accompany so many of the mains we plate.

Because a brilliant green salad, clarifies; it mops up and gives you time to talk about the main; it refreshes and brings the end to the savoury part of the meal.‘

It’s the time where the big wines are poured.

This green salad by Neil Perry is probably the best I have had. I genuinely struggle to think of how it could be improved. Sure, Rodney Dunn’s Leaf Salad with Anchovy Cream is absolutely knockout.

And the addition of caramelised pancetta and fennel in this Giant De Laurentiis salad is genius.

Though if its green leaves you need. And the wonderful freshness of herbs. And a vinaigrette.

I commend to you the best.

Ingredients

1 heads of radicchio, leaves separated, washed and dried
2 heads of baby cos lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
2 heads of witlof, leaves separated, washed and dried
8 sprigs of watercress, tough stalks removed
6 chives, cut into 2.5cm lengths
Large handful of coriander leaves
Handful of dill fronds
Handful of tarragon leaves
Handful of chervil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Palm Sugar Vinaigrette

3 tbsp grated palm sugar
2 tsp sherry vinegar
2 coriander roots
1 garlic clove, peeled
5 tsp red wine vinegar
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Method

  1. To make the palm sugar vinaigrette, put the palm sugar into a small pan and heat until melted and caramelised. Add the sherry vinegar and let it cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the coriander roots and garlic with 1 tsp of salt until you have a fine paste, then add the cooked sugar mixture. Whisk in the olive oil and coriander.
  3. To serve, put all the leaves and herbs into a large bowl. Pour over the dressing band toss very gently. Season, arrange on four plates and serve immediately.

Giana De Laurentiis’ Caremalised Pancetta and Fennel Salad

Serves: 4

In the family, I known for my green salads.

I’m known for plenty of other things too 🥴, though pulling together vinaigrette and a bowl of greens and leaves, is definitely my thing; with pasta, with grilled meat, by-itself.

Shaved parmesan, toasted, sliced almonds, French shallots, plenty of avacado… or just leaves.

Yum.

Which is why when I find a new salad that hits it out of the park, it makes me so excited.

We did a lockdown date-night last night and I did a Giana De Laurentiis lemon spaghetti and this salad.

The pasta was good.

This salad was brilliant.

Cook the pancetta until it crumbles. And don’t hold back on the salad greens.

Because trust me, none will be left.

Ingredients

1 fennel bulb, halved and cut into 1cm wedges
6 slices pancetta
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground blac pepper
6 – 7 c mixed salad greens
Red wine vinaigrette
Bottle of cold, crisp white ready for big pours

Red Wine Vinaigrette

2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss together fennel, pancetta, garlic, brown sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the ingredients on the baking sheet in a single layer. Cook until the pancetta is crisp and fennel is caramelised: about 20 – 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  3. For the Red Wine Vinaigrette: mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Adjust the seasoning as necessary.
  4. In a large bowl, place the salad greens, crumbled pancetta and caremlised fennel. Toss with the Red Wine Vinaigrette.

Neil Perry’s Classic Prawn Cocktail

Serves: 4

I have plated this dish at least half a dozen times and it is always so well received.

Classic Saturday lunch sort of stuff.

Fresh prawns, iceberg and a wonderful cocktail sauce. Everything you would expect of Neil Perry in his style of cooking.

Of course, it’s nothing new and people have been doing this since the 70s. Though slightly deconstructed like this recipe is, it’s a great return of a classic dish.

Follow it up with a good steak over charcoal and oh man, that is a great Saturday indeed.

Ingredients

150gm iceberg lettuce, outer leaves and core removed, finely shredded (about 1/4 of a whole lettuce)
2 lemon wedges, plus extra to serve
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
16 large cooked king prawns, peeled, tailed instant and intestinal tracts removed

140ml thick good-quality egg mayonnaise
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp finely grated fresh horseradish (I use horseradish cream)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Dash of Tabasco sauce

Method

  1. For sauce, combine ingredients and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Divide lettuce among 4 plates, squeeze 2 lemon wedges over and drizzle with oil. Season to taste, top with prawns and serve with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.

Antonio Carluccio’s Insalata all’Abruzzese (Vegetable and Tuna Salad)

Serves: 4

This salad is a triumph of flavours: the combination of cooked and raw vegetables, the tuna, the whole thing.

(Yes, it is a summer salad and we had it in the tail of winter, though the sun was out and we had some good Italian wines to try.)

With a bit of toasted bread, this is a meal on its own.

Though next time I serve this, I hope it is part of a long Italian feast welcoming our family and friends back into our home.

That’s when the really good Italian whites and reds are coming out.

Bookmark this one. It is beautiful. And lockdown will end one way or the other!

Ingredients

300gm young zucchinis (around 4 small)
200gm green beans, trimmed (about a big handful)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200gm tomatoes (around 2 tomatoes)
1 red pepper
1 red onion
150gm good canned tuna in oil, drained
8 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
8 basil leaves, torn
1 tsp dried oregano
1 – 3 red chillies, chopped
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method

  1. Quarter the zucchinis lengthways, then cut into chunks. Cook the beans until al dente, drain and cool. Repeat with the zucchinis.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and remove the seeds. Halve, core and deseed the pepper, then cut into long, thin strips. Finely slice the red onion.
  3. Put the zucchinis, beans, tomatoes, red pepper and onion into a bowl. Break the tuna into little chunks and add to the salad with the anchovies, herbs and as much fresh chilli as you can take! Toss everything together, adding the olive oil, followed by the wine vinegar. Season and serve at room temperature.

Prawn & Cannellini Bean Salad

Serves: 4

This is just a great salad.

Like surprisingly great.

Saturday lunch is served!

Ingredients

500gm green prawns peeled
400gm canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained well
2 inner celery stalks, sliced, leaves torn
20 pitted Ligurian olives
8 basil leaves, torn
Crusty bread, to serve

Red Wine Dressing

100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp oregano leaves, roughly chopped
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients

  1. Make Red Wine Dressing: combine oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper in a screw top jar and shake well to emulsify. Pout into a bowl.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil with 2 tbsp of salt per litre of water.
  3. Add the prawns to the boiling water and cook for a minute or two. Allow to cool somewhat and then cut into chunks and add to the Red Wine Dressing.
  4. Add beans, celery, celery leaves, olives and basil and toss until well combined.
  5. Serve at room temperature with crusty bread.

Rodney Dunn’s Leaf Salad with Anchovy Salad Cream

Serves: 4

A few years ago – actually six by my count (!) – Nat and I did a Hobart (Australia) holiday.

It is a quiet city, though it is just lovely. Good food, quiet as I said, unassuming, a very organic feel to it. Shops closed on Sunday (bless), cold, as close to the Antarctic as one can reasonably get without driving to the bottom of the island.

The sometimes forgotten state of mainland Australia. (Though one of my brothers lives there, so slightly less forgotten!)

When we were there, we travelled an hour from Hobart to a a farm run by Rodney Dunn of the Agrarian Kitchen, which at least at the time, was the number one destination for foodies in Australia.

What a brilliant afternoon. We foraged in his garden and collected everything we needed to cook. He had a greenhouse with some of the more tropical ingredients, and animals further afield that were also part of the meal we cooked.

I’ve gone from a man making signature vinaigrette’s to this as my go-to. (It’s a Caesar just easier. And frankly better. )

I think wheat was the only thing – used in a dough for ravioli – that came offsite.

Anyway, the guy is a genius and so is this salad.

You will think so to.

Ingredients

100gm mixed baby salad greens
1 radicchio, washed, dried and coarsely torn
1 frisée, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
1/2 bunch chives cut into 2cm lengths

Anchovy salad cream

6 anchovy fillets
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp double cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Method

  1. For anchovy salad cream, pound anchovies to a smooth paste in a mortar and pestle. Stir in remaining ingredients, season with freshly ground pepper and set aside.
  2. Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl, drizzle with salad cream, toss to evenly coat leaves and…
  3. Enjoy!

Iceberg’s pea salad recipe

Serves: 4

We have had some just excellent, long lunches at Icebergs which at its best, is much more than a must-try Eastern Suburbs joint for the well heeled.

If you have ever been, you will know the famous pea salad. This is legit the recipe.

We didn’t have enough time to drain the ricotta salata so we crumbed it on top; at Icebergs, it is shaved and the effect is just great.

Ingredients

Salad
1 cup farro
1½ cups cooked peas
5 leaves basil, chopped
5 leaves mint, chopped
1 shallot, finely diced
½ Lebanese cucumber, diced
½ stick celery, diced
25ml vinaigrette (see ingredients below)
Salt and pepper to taste

Vinaigrette

25ml lemon juice
35ml sherry vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
¾ tsp salt
200ml extra-virgin olive oil
Ricotta salata (salted ricotta) to serve (this is hard to find. We mixed a tub of ricotta with salt and let it drain over a fine mesh sieve sprinkling with salt. It takes at least 2 days for the liquid to drain away – see here)

Method

  1. Cook the farro in plenty of lightly salted water for 20–30 minutes or as per the packet instructions. Drain and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. To make the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt and lemon juice and then the oil. Do not emulsify.
  3. Combine the herbs, peas, farro, cucumber, celery, shallot seasoning and 25ml vinaigrette. Place the dressed salad in bowl, coat with a fine grating of salted ricotta and serve. Store excess vinaigrette in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Karen Martini’s Cabbage Salad

Serves: 8

You really can’t go wrong with anything Karen Martini.

This salad is no exception.

We served it along-side some wicked BBQ chicken and lordy, this was a good combination.

And healthy too.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

1/2 cabbage, very finely shredded
6 mint sprigs, leaves picked and torn
6 red radishes, very finely sliced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground caraway seeds!
1/2 lemon juiced
100 mls olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

  1. Whisk together the caraway, lemon juice, olive and salt and pepper.
  2. Toss the dressing with the cabbage, mint, radish and onion, and stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Ranch, Iceberg Lettuce Salad

Serves: 4 – 6

As soon as Covid hit Sydney, we purchased a Kamado BBQ.

They’re brilliant and I cannot recommend enough.

An ancient form of cooking in a ceramic egg, the heat retention is extraordinary. A pile of charcoal can last several BBQs.

You can cook at 60c, smoking away for a day or take it up to 450c to blast a tomahawk steak in literally minutes.

We’ve cooked pizzas and slapped naan on the roof. We’ve done amazing skewers of chicken tikka. Slow cooked ribs, slow cooked pork shoulder. Lordy.

It takes practice and I recommend one of the many WiFi/Bluetooth heat thermometers, though the theatre, the fun and of course, the incredible flavours make this a very good – and long-term – investment.

Being us, we have recreated a number of memorable meals we have had out. And being Covid, with so many of our favourite restaurants – and countries – closed, we had no choice.

One of our favourite Sydney restaurants is Gowings in the QT.

It is just a great dining room. Warm, buzzing, swift service, down-the-line great mains and great sides.

Nat served this salad from Gowings on one of our Kamado nights and it won the show.

It looks the part, it pairs perfectly with a steak, grilled chicken or a pork schnitzel: and you can prepare it ahead of time.

A bit of extra effort makes the restaurant. And restaurant-quality this is.

Ingredients

1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tbsp chopped spring onions or chives
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp vegetable stock powder (you can grate or chop a stock cube)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp yellow or Dijon mustard
6 rashes streaky bacon, cubed
Iceberg lettuce or 3x cos lettuce

Method

  1. Fry bacon until crispy.
  2. Whisk all dressing ingredients in a bowl to combine.
  3. Cut lettuce into 4-6 pieces and lay on a flat plate.
  4. Sprinkle bacon and dressing on top of lettuce.

Paul Bocuse’ Chicken Salad

Serves: 3

This Paul Bocuse salad is just excellent.

(Not that one would be surprised coming from one of the greatest chefs of all time!)

Such a wonderful, sophisticated flavour. Everything balances, everything is just right.

Definitely a Saturday lunch winner.

(The recipe calls for white baby onions. These ARE NOT those appalling things you can find pickling in jars. You’ll have to shop around – Harris Farm or a nice IGA – though they are out there. If you use those onions in a jar, a curse will come over your kitchen!)

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
Cos lettuce, sliced
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 white baby onions, sliced finely
100 gm Gruyère cheese, diced
100 gm black olives, pitted and torn
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
100gm walnut pieces
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Method

  1. Poach the chicken in water together with some celery leaves and peppercorns and then cool and slice into strips.
  2. Place the chicken, celery onion, cheese, olives, tomatoes and walnuts in a large bowl and chill.
  3. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and toss well.