Salad love – Lilly pilly, goats cheese and honey

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There’s been much salad love this year. When I work from home I can mix together a salad in no-time. For me, salads are all about texture. There must be something crunchy, either a raw vegetable or toasted nut (I keep a small amount toasted on hand). There must be something soft – goats cheese, ricotta, feta are all excellent additions (i’m a sucker for cheese). There must be something sweet – peach, pear, raspberry and watermelon – to name just a few. There must be something sour – lemon, apple cider vinegar, or pickled vegetables. If I can get a cooked grain or pulse in there then that only adds to the balance of textures, and of course nutrition. And a salad just wouldn’t be a salad without a smooth extra virgin olive oil.

I took it as a challenge when my brother in-law offered me a kilo of lilly pillies the other day, freshly foraged from his back yard. I accepted them immediately with the after thought of “what do you do with lilly pillies?” Most recipes I researched are for jam, or chutney. I think I’ll do a small batch of both. But what else could I do with these lilly pillies?

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The gorgeous pink fruit of the lilly pilly is know for being slightly sour. Tick. I could do a salad. I figured as long as the dressing had a sweet edge then that would balance the sharpness of the berries. Since red grapes have been going in my salads of late, it didn’t take long to figure out I could swap the grapes for lilly pillies and make one of my favourite combinations with goats cheese, toasted pepita and sunflower seeds. But as well as being sour, lilly pillies have a really interesting texture, kind of soft yet crunchy.

My husband reminded me that a few years ago, before we were married, I had a lilly pilly tree growing in the back yard of a previous house. It had been under my nose all that time. I was amazed that I’d never thought to use the berries, or that he never thought to tell me to use the berries! I read in Juleigh Robins book – Wild food , which by the way has some lovely recipes using Australian ingredients, that lilly pillies (also known as riberries) were always eaten by the East coast indigenous people of Australia from Victoria right up to Queensland. They’ve been eating them for thousands of years. They’d pick them straight from the trees and eat them raw. I had the proof. They can go in salads – i’m so impressed!

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Next time you spot a lilly pilly tree in your area why not try foraging yourself some of these gorgeous little fruits, and hey, make this salad, why not?

Lilly pilly salad with goats cheese and honey

This recipe makes one small salad. If you can’t get your hands on lilly pillies, swap them for red grapes and swap the honey for balsamic vinegar.

Ingredients

A handful of rocket leaves, washed and picked

1/4 cup lilly pillies cut in half, tiny seed removed

1 tbsp soft goats cheese

2 tbsp toasted pepitas seeds and sunflower seeds

For the dressing

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp seeded mustard

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Wash the lilly pillies and cut in half with a small knife. Remove the tiny pip from inside, it should just kind of fall out. Place them in a bowl with the rocket, goats cheese, toasted pepita seeds and toasted sunflower seeds, toss lightly.

For the dressing combine the honey, seeded mustard and virgin oil in a small bowl, stir to combine. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and eat immediately.

Bubble and Squeak with Caramalised Onions

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This is the only dish I know that’s been named after the sound it makes whilst it cooks (yes it really does bubble and squeak). It’s not a name that you’d expect to hear of a dish that uses up left over roasted vegetables. I’ve tried in the past to make bubble and squeak with freshly cooked vegetables, it just doesn’t work.

Traditionally in England, they might add roasted brussel sprouts. I’m yet to try it with roasted beetroot, or roasted parsnips, but I suspect both of these in addition to potato would make an excellent base for bubble and squeak.

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The hardest thing about this dish is roasting enough vegetables the evening before that you have them spare for the next day. At times I’ve been known to hide the remaining roasted potatoes so when my son asks if there’s any left I can reply, “no sorry- all gone”. Ha, a mother must do what she must do to make sure she has a chance of cooking bubble and squeak.

Once you’ve done what ever you have to to ensure some left over roasted vegetables, you can then bulk out the mix with some freshly steamed ones. In this case I’ve used broccoli and cabbage, next time it will be kale and peas. A little besan (also known as chickpea) flour binds it all together, this gives the vegetables a base to hold on to.

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To finish my bubble and squeak, I just can’t resist adding caramalised onions. I can’t resist their smell, I can’t resist their sweet flavour, I can’t resist the crispy black bits that cook faster than the rest…

Is it time to put the oven on, and start roasting vegetables?

Bubble and squeak with caramalised onions 

Ingredients 

1 packed cup of day old roasted potato and pumpkin – or any other root vegetables

1/2 cup shredded cabbage

3/4 cup broccoli florets

2 tbsp besan chickpea flour – If you don’t have chickpea flour you can substitute wholemeal plain flour

Butter

Olive oil

1 brown onion, sliced thinly

Parsley leaves

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

Steam the cabbage and broccoli florets for 2 minutes, place in a bowl to cool.

Add the day-old roasted vegetables and lightly mash together. Leave some chunky bits. Add the chickpea flour, season with sea salt and cracked black pepper and use your hands to squeeze the mixture together (this binds it nicely).

Heat a drizzle of oil and a knob of butter in a small fry pan, add the onions and a pinch of salt, cook the onions on a medium-low heat for 7-8 minutes till caramelised and golden in colour.

Heat 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp of oil in a medium sized non stick or well seasoned cast iron fry pan. When the pan heats and the butter starts to froth, press the vegetable mixture into the pan. Leave room around the edges to flip the patty over. At this stage turn the heat down so the vegetables have a chance to fry to a golden colour, shake the pan every now and then to loosen the vegetables from the edges.

When you suspect the base is golden and crisp, use the biggest spatula you have and try to flip it in one go. If this is impossible you can flip half of it then flip the remaining half and join them together again by sealing the broken pieces together with a spatula and lots of pan shaking (bubble and squeak wins no prizes for it’s looks so don’t be worried if it falls apart slightly).

When the bubble and squeak is caramelised on both sides, slide it from the pan onto a board or plate, top with fried onions and garnish with parsley leaves. Eat whilst warm.