I've been a little less than enthusiastic about cooking the past week. It happens every now and then. Coming up every day with something exciting to eat for supper can be a train that runs out of steam occasionally. Getting back late from shoots and peering into an uninspiring fridge means we've also eaten out and had takeaway more than usual recently.
Mostly, I'm up to the challenge and will happily cook a quick prawn curry, a risotto or simple pasta with salad. Last week even that was beyond me. It happens. Perhaps it's the laziness of summer, the thought of holidays and eating lunches by the water's edge, white linen tablecloths and the clinking of ice in glasses. But last night, I roused myself from my torpor and cooked a simple steak with asparagus and baby potatoes with chive butter. There was a delicious tomato salad with balsamic on the side and a bowl of green leaves, lightly dressed with vinaigrette to cut through. It was lovely.
But the most delicious part of it was the final potato, crushed into the buttery juices of the steak, mopping up the mustard and melting into my mouth. That alone would have made a great dish.
Today, with a little more time I'm making a carrot salad for lunch. I've jazzed it up with some fun ingredients. It's worth every now and then going out of your way to buy strange things such as cucamelons or shiso leaves, it adds a little wow factor. Just buy or grow what you can and have fun, remembering to use good things simply. They often speak for themselves.
This salads simplicity, colourfulness and delicacy is just as exciting to look at as it is fresh, delicious and healthy to eat. If you don't like anchovy, leave them out of the mayonnaise, but they are a taste worth acquiring.
Ingredients For the cumin oil: 100ml olive oil 2tbsp cumin seeds
For the aioli: 1 egg 1 anchovy, chopped 1 small clove of garlic, crushed 1tsp Dijon mustard Olive oil
For the salad: A bunch of baby carrots, a mix of purple, yellow and orange A handful of pea shoots A handful of fresh peas A punnet of cucamelons, halved, if you can get them (I use Mash Purveyors), if not, some chopped cucumber Shiso leaves and flowers (Use mint leaves if unavailable) A head of fennel seeds just starting to flower, otherwise dried ones are fine Some carrot leaves
Method Make the cumin oil first. Heat a small pan with the olive oil and add the cumin seeds. Heat until the cumin becomes aromatic, then turn off the heat and leave to cool.
Make the aioli. I use a jam jar as I find it emulsifies a little easier than whisking in a bowl. Blend together the mustard, anchovy, garlic and yolk and slowly drizzle in the oil, drop by drop at first, whisking all the time until you have a thick sauce. Keep going until you have half a jarful. This keeps in the fridge for a couple of days.
Thinly slice the carrots and pile up on a plate with the other ingredients. Drizzle over the cooled cumin oil and serve with the aioli.