It’s been so hot over the last few days that I’ve had to rig up a sunshade over the guinea-pig hutch and seem to spend my life watering the tomatoes. I usually become mildly panicked when it’s sunny, incase I miss any opportunity to be outside, but now I’m relaxing into the seemingly endless warmth. Lunch in the garden feels almost normal and I’m rediscovering lots of great salads.
Parsley may not be as punchy as coriander, mint or basil but I love its summery freshness and there’s nothing like a good bunch to spruce up my Calabrian cockerel. I do try to reign myself in and stick to white china, so much better for photography, but can’t resist a bit of gaudy kitsch when it comes along.
But back to the parsley. I abandoned the curly English stuff years ago, you have to chop it so finely (otherwise it’s like eating sawdust) that it becomes a faff. Childhood memories of the rather gloopy parsley sauce that always accompanied the home-cooked ham, and the ever present garnish on the pub plate, didn’t hold much promise either. It wasn’t until I experienced Mediterranean ways with parsley such as Middle Eastern tabbouleh, the Spanish picada or Italian salsa verde that I was really smitten.
Salsa verde is loaded with fresh parsley, salty anchovies, feisty garlic, acidic lemon juice or vinegar, slightly bitter capers, pungent mustard and rich extra virgin olive oil. It’s the perfect balance of piquancy, leafiness and oily richness that breathes new life into simple ingredients such as my chickpea and potato salad. Salsa verde is traditionally eaten with bollito misto (boiled meats) but it’s good with roast lamb, salmon and with the crispy, parmesan-fried chicken that I’ll have to share with you at a later date.
A large handful of parsley, roughly chopped
2 ½ tablespoons of capers
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbs of red wine vinegar or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
6-8 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you have a rough pesto consistency. Now taste and balance with more salty anchovy, oil or acidity as necessary.
I sometimes play around with the herbs in the sauce by adding a little basil, mint, chives or rosemary but always keep the parsley as the main player. You can, of course, just leave out the anchovy for a veggie version and add a bit of extra salt.
The salsa verde’s punchy flavours really give this salad some punch. I adore the potato/chickpea combination. It’s worth splashing out on a good salad potato- the knobbly Pink Fir Apple, the nutty Anya and, of course, Jersey Royals when they’re around.
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side
350 g/ 12 oz small waxy potatoes
500 g/ 1lb 2 oz home cooked or 2 x 400 g /14 oz tins of chickpeas, drained
100 g tender, green salad such as lamb’s lettuce or spinach
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 eggs, hard boiled (7-8 minutes on a rolling boil will give you a just-set egg yolk)
1 x Salsa Verde recipe
Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, drain and place in a large serving bowl with the chickpeas.
Add the salad leaves keeping about a dozen for garnish. Stir through the olive oil to coat.
Spoon over the Salsa Verde, allowing the potatoes and chickpeas to peep through in places.
Peel and quarter the eggs and lay over the top of the salad with the remaining leaves.