Jul 21

Cheap Salad – Use Weeds!

I just love a good weed feast…No, I don’t mean marijuana! I mean literally eating weeds. Such as dandelions; They are lovely in a salad, but don’t get the old, tough ones, and don’t pick them right next to a road where they’re all covered in pollution, exhaust fumes and yuk (technical botanical term).

Another thing I have discovered is that if you buy a supermarket pot of growing basil (£1.79 at Tesco for a large pot), and you don’t pick off the top shoots, then it will just keep growing and cropping and give you loads of basil for months. Just pick off the leaves from further down the stalks (if only I’d read these instructions on the packaging years ago). I’ve just repotted my plant too, so hopefully it’ll last on until next year – any budding gardeners please advise me otherwise. So, we’ll also use basil in this recipe.

It’s quite a tart salad, what with the raw onion, so have it with some creamy mash or blandish potato gratin, as well as grilled chicken/fish or (my favourite) grilled halloumi cheese.

Dandelion Salad

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 225 g torn dandelion leaves
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh dried basil
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic or other vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. In a medium bowl, toss together dandelions, red onion, and tomatoes.
  2. Add basil, salt, and pepper, and a slosh of oil, and a smaller slosh of vinegar.
  3. If you can’t face all dandelions then go half-and-half with ordinary salad leaves.

Another delicious weed is the nettle, don’t worry, you don’t eat them raw – ouch! My country upbringing comes to the fore now (well, Surrey). Nettles are in season now so gather a bagful (wear gloves) and get cooking.
My Swedish in-laws do a lovely nettle soup with a boiled egg in and that is a nice lunch dish, but here’s something a bit different. If you can make rocket pesto, which is quite a bitter salad leaf, why not nettle pesto? And it tastes lovely. A fusion recipe – a bit of Bologna and a bit of my Backyard.

Nettle Pesto

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 125g nettles, blanched in boiling water, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 60g grated parmesan
  • 80ml extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper

Method:

  1. Put the nettles, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and a grinding of salt and pepper into a food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth, then pour in the oil with the motor running.
  3. Use immediately with hot pasta or put in a clean jar in the fridge with a little more olive oil over the top.
  4. Pesto will keep for up to a month in the fridge.
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