Monday 2 May 2011

It's only a salad...

It was my turn to cook today. I didn't actually cook much, and what I did cook was done in advance. I decided to do a meal that was basically a collection of salads.

Inspired by Diane of Diane's Texas Garden I experimented with Cedar plank cookery for the first time. I don't eat fish, so I didn't cook any salmon, but I did chicken instead. Since it's April, not July, I cooked it under the electric grill in the kitchen, not in the barbecue in the garden. The basic principle of this is that you heat a (pre-soaked) cedar-wood plank until it is very hot, place it over the coals (or under the grill) and cook your food on it. This imparts to the food a tangy, smoky flavour. To stop the chicken drying out, I covered it with some foil.

My verdict: OK, but not as good as I had hoped. Not as strongly-flavoured. I think maybe I wasn't brave enough! If I had got the cedar wood even hotter the flavour would probably have been stronger. In the Instruction Manual (yes, you CAN get an Instruction Manual for a plank!) it says "When the plank begins to smoke and crackle, it is ready." Next time...

Here are some of the other things I prepared...

Asparagus (home-grown, of course), with boiled egg and lemon-flavoured Hollandaise sauce. This time I cooked the Asparagus in advance, and served it cold. This way you can appreciate the flavour even better. I'm sure that many of my blogging friends would serve this with home-produced eggs, which would be just perfect.

Tomato salad with (home-grown) Red (aka Purple) Basil. I just wish I could have had some home-grown tomatoes. The shop-bought ones are always bland-tasting in comparison.

Mozzarella cheese marinated in Extra Virgin olive oil and (home-grown) fresh Oregano. The milky sweetness of the soft cheese was a lovely foil to the pungent sharpness of the oil.

Home-grown Baby Leaf Salad. A mixture of lettuces, spinach and Oriental Greens. Oil from the marinated Mozzarella acted as a dressing.

Home-grown radishes. Notice that this time we had a few of the "French Breakfast" two-tone red and white ones. They taste pretty much the same as the plain red ones, but are perhaps a tad more decorative.

Some lovely olives - definitely NOT home-grown - but delicious nonetheless. These are of two types: Kalamata ones (stones left in) at the front, and "Black Cherry" (pitted) at the back. The Black Cherry ones had been marinated in something that included orange zest because they were very tangy.

And some home-baked Spelt bread (Jane takes the credit for this, not me...). This is bread as it ought to be: a crisp crust but soft interior, and with a delightfully nutty taste. I didn't photograph this, but you just KNOW that we had lashings of soft salty butter on that bread...

All the above was ably complemented by a bottle of great wine - a Wickham Vineyards Dry White 2009.

This is a wine from a Hampshire vineyard, not more than 40 miles from where we live, and a vineyard moreover that is part of the Wineshare company/club, to which we have a subscription. The vines we rent are in the Cotes de Duras region of South-West France, but the club has several vineyards, this one in Hampshire being the most recent acquisition.

If this elegant, vibrant wine was the Silver medal winner in the 2009 UK Vineyards contest, I wonder how good the Gold medal winner was!

You know what was the only problem with this meal? We would have liked to have eaten it outdoors, sitting in the sunshine in the garden. However this was definitely not an option because it has been incredibly windy the last three days, making being outdoors very unpleasant.


  1. It all looks delicious. We've had a windy few days here too and it's turned much cooler.

  2. My goodness Mark - what a treat of a meal. It looks just perfect. You have most definitely convinced me to try growing some asparagus now, I will find it a space today.

  3. It all looks very VERY tasty.

  4. I love salad. And when it is from our garden, it's the best.
    Today, I will eat my first radish.
    Bonne app├ętit.

  5. Oh Mark! What a difference a few weeks make. Your recipes have changed from warm filling comfort food to lovely fresh salads. We are traveling in the opposite direction. I love food that fits the season.

  6. No such thing as JUST a salad I love them. I think I too wouldn't be brave enough to have the plank as hot as needed.

  7. What an impressive meal...looks and sounds delicious.:)

  8. Wish to be there! They are so delicious! While I was lived in UK, I have plenty of fruits at my garden and lots of flowers and missed to be there...

  9. Sounds like a great meal! I've never heard of plank cooking, but cooking with flavored wood chips (to replace some of the coals) is popular here. The lettuce looks beautiful - I'm hoping to harvest some soon.


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