I should really, by rights, call this salad "Twitter-created" as that is pretty much how it happened.
I was sitting here doing the menu for the coming week and had included Scotch Broth soup for the Wednesday evening. However, that didn't seem right to me - after all, what if the weather turned really hot? I wouldn't want to be sat over a soup pan for an hour or more - and everyone wouldn't really want to be tucking into bowls of steaming soup, when they were far more likely to fancy lazing around on the top shelf of the freezer.
So I began to think down the salad lines, but not your classic "lettuce, tomato, cucumber" salad. I wanted to do more of a Jamie Oliver style main course salad that included interesting ingredients that you wouldn't have, upon first thought, necessarily put together.
However, my brain just wouldn't conjure up an exciting combination. I knew that we'd got a whole shed load of chicken on the menu, so I was trying to think of an alternative main meat ingredient. Now I know that everyone loves bacon - and our butcher's bacon is just amazing, so that was a good start. I considered Impossible Quiche, but I have to be in the mood for that - and I just wasn't.
My eyes strayed to the computer screen, where Twitter was open. So I asked - of the general Twitterati - "@JennyEatwell is trying to think of a salady thing that doesn't involve lettuce, that is a main meal. ~ponders~". Almost instantly, came suggestions from @presentsqueen, @TheSourceLeeds, @CarolineTecks, @Scarlie_Maere and @rmrezendes, suggesting things like chicory, fennel, new potatoes, citrus dressing, feta cheese, baby spinach and others.
So began the compilation of my Wednesday evening's dinner. After many suggestions, exclamations of approval, expressions of doubt and alternative suggestions, we came up with a salad which involved a bed of baby spinach & watercress (so good for you), with baby plum tomatoes (so sweet), roasted Jersey new potatoes (so gorgeously earthy) and red onion (so savoury), crispy bacon (so salty), sauteed chestnut mushrooms (earthy again, but a different kind) - all topped off with crumbled creamy goat's cheese (so gorgeous) and a dressing made from wine vinegar (red, in this case) and wholegrain mustard (so tart).
You're salivating, aren't you. I know I was!
The reality proved to be every bit as tasty as the imaginary creation - in fact, it surpassed my expectations. It was one of those salads that, every forkful you took, contained different mixtures of flavour that all went so superbly well together. It was impossible to become tired of eating it. In fact, where the bacon was concerned, hubby declared himself reluctant to swallow on occasion, so as to live with that gorgeous flavour for as long as possible. The onion and the goat's cheese, the tomato and the goat's cheese, the potatoes and the bacon, the bacon and the tomato - every bit was as gorgeous as its neighbour. The spinach and watercress leaves were gently dressed with the red wine vinegar and mustard, which served as a beautiful palate cleanser as you progressed through the meal.
Two cook's notes - firstly, I prefer to use muddy Jersey Royals as they seem to have the best flavour. For the cost of having to scrub them in the sink, they are well worth the benefits you get in flavour. Secondly, the goat's cheese I used was a little square one that I got from Asda, called "Poitou-Charentes". It's one of their "extra special" range and is perfect for the job.
I'm going to ask the Twitterati to create my dinners more often, if this is what they come up with!
NEW POTATO SALAD WITH BACON & GOAT'S CHEESE (feeds 3)
500g muddy Jersey Royal new potatoes, scrubbed and halved (or quartered, in my case, as they were mahoosive!)
a drizzle of olive oil
2 red onions, cut into 6 wedges each
12 baby plum tomatoes, halved
a pack of back bacon, diced
140g chestnut mushrooms, sliced finely
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 big handfuls of watercress & spinach salad leaves
85g creamy goat's cheese
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200deg C.
2. Place the new potatoes onto a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove the tray and add the onion pieces. Give everything a shake and return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes' roasting. When done, let them cool for a few minutes, before adding to the salad.
3. While the potatoes are roasting, dry fry the bacon until crispy. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
4. Add the mushrooms to the pan and saute them on a high heat until they are softened and lightly caramelised. Remove from the pan and keep these warm, too.
5. Make the dressing by whisking the mustard and vinegar with a little water to let it down sufficiently to drizzle.
6. Place the salad leaves into a large bowl and drizzle 2 tsp of the dressing over. Toss to coat the leaves lightly, then pile onto the plates - a handful for each plate.
7. The add the tomatoes, potatoes, onion, mushrooms and bacon, finally crumbling the goat's cheese over the top.
8. Add a last drizzle of the dressing, and serve.
Utterly, utterly divine.