Ricky’s Herb Vinaigrette

Serves: 4

A few weeks ago, we spent a weekend in Noosa – sans kids – and it was just marvellous.

Day after day of late lunches, lying on the beach, reading, walking it off. Some very memorable dinners too.

When in Noosa, the beach is a must… before lunch. (And a diet after all these lunches!)
Nat. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

A good mate recommended Rickys which really was a highlight.

If in Noosa, Rickys is a must.

It is a beautiful restaurant on the river. A modern, relaxed interior of wood and glass, opening onto the water.

Friendly, incredibly professional service. A wonderful wine list. The ferry pulling alongside every half hour or so.

It was just a great lunch, though perhaps ironically, it was the greens and herby salad that stood out for me.

And thankyou to the kind chef who jotted down the recipe for me, which I have adapted below:

Because we have recently been chasing the best vinaigrettes to serve with leaves: convinced that after a beautiful piece of steak, pork, chicken or fish, a wonderfully simple salad of greens just mops it up.

This is one of the best, for three reasons: it is so simple, it hero’s herbs, a key signature of Neil Perry’s brilliant vinaigrette and finally, it isn’t sweet.

Not that there is anything wrong with a sweet vinaigrette, though the muted flavour of the canola oil and white balsamic (substitute white wine vinegar) really does blunt the whole thing down to almost the best, simplest paring you could ask.

Safely back in Sydney, we did a wonderfully simple seafood lunch, accompanied by this excellent Iceberg’s pea and farro salad as well as the Ricky’s salad:

How good is a seared tuna. And only a seared tuna.

It had 1-hat genius written all over it.

Try this vinaigrette. It is the best of all the vinaigrette worlds we have been trying.

Ingredients

100ml canola oil
50ml white balsamic (or white wine vinegar)
A handful of basil leaves
A handful of tarragon leaves
A handful of Italian parsley leaves
Salt
Green leaves

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the green leaves in a blender until well emulsified.
  2. Stir well through the greens and serve immediately.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Roast Cauliflower with Yoghurt and Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

Serves: 4

I start every Ottolenghi recipe with some statement about how they are all consistently great and I’m agraid I am going to have to do it again.

Because this dish – you could call it a salad – is layers upon layers of just incredibly complimentary flavours, with crunch and spice and the cooling yoghurt at the end.

Nat cooked it along side a medium-done, barbequed eye fillet and the pairing was magic.

Indeed, bring this salad to a barbeque and even a medium-rare, chargrilled tomahawk will struggle to knock the cauliflower off first stage.

Yum!

Ingredients

1 large cauliflower, trimmed, then cut into wedges (800gm net)
75ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 onion peeled, halved and cut into 1.2cm-thick slices
1 tbsp coriander seeds lighly toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
1 tsp caraway seeds, lightly toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
1 1/2 tsp sumac
25gm mint leaves roughly chopped, plus 1 handful extra to serve
30gm pine nuts, toasted

For the yoghurt sauce

300gm Greek-style yoghurt
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice (from 1 – 2 lemons)

For the red pepper sauce

70ml olive oil
2 tbsp mild Turkish pepper paste (or tomato paste)
1 tbsp red chilli flakes (or 1 1/2 tbsp if using tomato paste)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 220c. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with 3 tbsp of oil and 1/2 tsp of salt, then spread out on a large oven tray lined with greaseproof paper. Roast for 22 – 25 minutes, until lightly charred though still with bite. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, put the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a medium saute pan on a medium heat, Once hot, add the onion and 1/8 tsp of salt and cook, stirring occassionally, for 15 – 18 minutes, until soft and browned. Tip the onions into the cauliflower bowl and wipe clean the pan.
  3. Put the oil for the pepper sauce in a saute pan on a medium-high heat and, once hot, add the pepper paste and red chilli flakes and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Take off the heat, stir in a pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper and transfer to a medium heatproof bowl.
  4. For the yoghurt sauce, mix the yoghurt, garlic, a tbsp of lemon juice, 1/4 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper in a medium bowl and set aside.
  5. Stir the coriander, caraway, sumac, mint, half the pine nuts, the remaining 1 tbsp of lemon juice and a good grind of black pepper into the cauliflower bowl.
  6. To serve, spread the yoghurt sauce over a shallow platter and arrange the cauliflower mixture on top. Spoon over half the red pepper sauce, then top with the extra mint leaves and the remaining pine nuts. Serve with the rest of the pepper sauce in a bowl alongside.

The French Laundry’s Staff Dressing

Makes: 2 cups

We have been on a salad tear the last six months.

Neil Perry’s classic palm sugar dressing with leaves and herbs is just amazing.

My mother said that this Giana De Laurentiis’ salad of leaves tossed with caramelised pancetta and fennel was the best salad she had ever had.

Though in what is certainly seeming like a never-ending crescendo, the podium needs to be cleared again.

Because this dressing is superb.

Nothing less than one would expect from Thomas Keller.

The basic ingredients don’t vary from a traditional vinaigrette, though the use of the blender and the addition of the egg yolks completely transforms what would have been a vinaigrette, into the most wonderful cream.

Just add leaves and some fragrant herbs: dill, basil, coriander, chervil, tarragon, whatever you have in the fridge.

Get excited. It’s superb.

Ingredients

1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 1/2 tsp chopped shallots
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 large egg yolk
2 c canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Place the garlic, shallots, mustard and vinegar in a blender and blend until well combined. Add the egg yolk and blend again.
  2. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the dressing is thick and emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be refrigerated in a covered container for 1 week.)

Neil Perry’s Chicken and Macaroni Salad

Serves: 4

This a super simple, super wonderful salad. It has Saturday lunch written all over it.

It is delicious. And whilst the simplicity of the ingredients might not let onto that, it is the simplicity of the ingredients that deliver.

You can buy a cooked chicken to make things easier though I cooked a chicken and it was just a bit more special. Leave the skin on either way.

And Neil’s tip… buy artichokes in olive oil and not brine. Though that’s obvious right!

Ingredients

1.6kg roast chicken, shredded
250gm cooked macaroni, al dente, drained and refreshed under cold water
2 celery stalks, cut into julienne
4 preserved artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
250gm cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered
235gm aioli
1 lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Aioli

3 egg yolks
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Sea salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
375ml half olive oil, half extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

(Makes about 400ml)

Method

  1. Place the pasta, celery, artichoke, tomato and egg in a large bowl and gently fold in the aioli.

For the salad

  1. Divide among four plates and top with roast chicken. Squeeze over a little lemon juice, drizzle with oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

For the aioli

  1. Put a saucepan large enough to hold a stainless steel bowl on a bench. Place a tea towel around the inside edge of the pan and place the bowl on top; this will hold the bowl steady while you whisk.
  2. Put the egg yolks in the bowl and whisk. Add the garlic, sea salt and lemon juice and while whisking, drizzle in the oil very slowly. As the emulsion starts to form, add the oil in a steady stream. Don’t let the oil sit on the surface as this can cause the aioli to split. Add a grind of pepper and check the seasoning for salt and lemon juice.
  3. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge for a week.

Neil Perry’s Vietnamese Chicken and Prawn Coleslaw

Serves: 4

This is such a classic Vietnamese dish.

Pops of flavour, could be had as a main or a side.

Very hard to get it wrong. Very hard to complain.

Ingredients

1 small roasted or barbecued chicken
6 cooked large prawns, peeled and deveined
1 carrot, julienned
200gm shredded cabbage
1 small red onion, cut into thin rings
40g mint and coriander
1 1/2 tbsp crispy fried shallots, plus 2 tsp to serve
1 1/2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts, plus 2 tsp to serve

Nuoc Cham Dressing

2 long fresh red chillies, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar
60ml fish sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice

Method

  1. To make the dressing, pound the chillies, garlic and sugar in a mortar and pestle. Add the fish sauce, rice vinegar and 60ml water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse. Stir in the lime juice, taste and adjust as necessary.
  2. Pull the chicken meat off the bones, tear into bite-sized pieces and add it to a large bowl. Cut the prawns in half lengthways and add them to the bowl.
  3. Add the carrot, cabbage, onion, herbs, fried shallots and peanuts to the bowl. Pour over the dressing, mix well and transfer to a salad bowl. Serve immediately with the extra fried shallots and peanuts.

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.