The weather has been glorious the past few days in Newie. Summer is fast approaching, which means salad season is also here.

I never really understood the concept of a main meal salad until I lived overseas. One of my favourite restaurants in Aix-en-Provence was a place that only served salad. Some came with a slice of quiche, but most were meals on their own. And they were glorious things. Giant plates overloaded with delicious fresh flavours, sometimes with surprises. I remember accidentally ordering one which arrived overloaded with sautéed chicken innards – giblets, I think – with the dressing made from the fat they’d been cooked in. Turned out, to my surprise, very tasty… provided I didn’t think too hard on it.

Then there are Asian salads: refreshing green papaya, hot and sour dressed noodles, ones with crunchy nuts, or prawns and squid or minced pork or chicken. And herbs. Loads and loads of fresh herbs. Healthy, tasty and perfect for hot weather dining.

The selection is endless.

And we have a whole long hot summer coming in which to make them. Yeehaa!

Here’s one I make quite a bit. It looks complicated but it’s actually not. I can never remember to soak chickpeas overnight so I just use tinned. And the yoghurt sauce I make by mixing a clove of minced garlic and the juice of half a lemon into half a cup or so of Greek yoghurt. Easy. But do try to use fresh dates. Those things are awesome, like hunks of fruit toffee, and they’re a great offset to the spiced lamb.

Enjoy!

SPICED LAMB AND CHICKPEA SALAD

 

Serves 6

1 large (450g) sweet potato cut into 1.5 cm cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow capsicum, cut into strips

1 cup each mint and coriander leaves, roughly chopped

200g baby rocket leaves

10 fresh dates, pitted and sliced

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

Tzatziki or yoghurt sauce to serve

For the spiced lamb:

4 x 200g lamb backstraps

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon harissa paste

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander root

For the chickpeas:

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water for 8 hours or overnight (or used tinned)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoons harissa

Method: Spiced lamb

Combine all the ingredients in a glass bowl, cover and marinate in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

Method: Chickpeas

Cook the chickpeas in a large pan of boiling salted water for 50 minutes or until tender, then drain. Combine the warn chickpeas in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and harissa. Season to taste.

To make the salad:

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Toss the sweet potato with the olive oil, then spread on a baking tray and roast for 20 minutes or until tender and caramelised around the edges.

Heat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat. Cook the lamb for 3-4 minutes each side until medium-rare. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.

Slice the lamb thinly and toss in a large bowl with the chickpeas, sweet potato, yellow capsicum, herbs, rocket, dates and nuts. Serve with tzatziki on the side or with a dollop on top.

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