I like salads although I’m much more a fan of cooked vegetables which is why a warm salad of sorts always appeals. Here in Israel warm salads always seem to be a combination of your antipasti vegetables, so we’re talking roasted courgettes, aubergines, peppers and sweet potatoes. A few unfortunate shrunken soggy lettuce leaves are usually found forgotten at the bottom of the bowl. Despite those lettuce leaves it isn’t a bad salad, in moderation. When it’s on the menu of every cafe it can get extremely tiresome though and I for one had fallen victim to associating warm salads solely to these few roasted vegetables. That is until I happened upon a wonderful warm leek salad by Hugh Fernley Wittingstall in, The River Cottage Everyday cookbook.
It’s the leeks that caught my attention. I love cooking with them. I find this slightly neglected and unpopular vegetable inspiring and exciting to cook with. Leeks have a charm to them that no onion could ever reach. So, the idea of cooked, warm leeks together with fresh crunchy lettuce leaves certainly appealed and as I went for the leeks the chard lying next to them seemed a great companion and then the beetroot, well it just couldn’t be left behind.
The chard and leeks were cooked in olive oil and a knob of butter on a low flame until the leeks became soft and caramelised while the chard cooked itself all the way through. The beetroot, already pre-cooked, was chopped up and thrown together with the fresh lettuce leaves. Combined, the warm leeks and chard married well with the cool lettuce and beetroot. A beautiful mustard dressing (recipe to follow) added the perfect finishing touch.
This salad is heavenly. It’s refreshingly different, particularly if you’ve also been stuck in some sort of salad rut. I can’t get enough of the perfect balance between warm vegetables and crunchy raw vegetables. It’s a match made in heaven with leeks the star of the show and I for one couldn’t ask for more.
Warm Leek Salad
• 1 leek, chopped
• 4 large chard leaves, white stems removed and chopped – you can replace with half a pack of spinach.
• 2 beetroots, chopped
• 2 handfuls of lettuce leaves (or one pack of lettuce leaves – any sort or mix will do)
1. Heat a pan on a low flame. Add about 1 tablespoon of oilive oil and a knob of butter to the pan followed by the leeks. Let them cook for about five minutes until softened. Add the chopped chard and leave to cook for about 7 to 10 minutes or until the chard is cooked through.
2. Meanwhile mix the lettuce leaves and chopped beetroot together in a medium bowl.
3. When the leeks and chard are ready mix together with the lettuce and beetroot and serve with the mustard vinegrette (recipe to follow).
Serve alongside, fish or chicken, or with a poached egg on top and some toast or even with some goat or feta cheese.