Yes, it is another salad recipe. With the exception of the gazpacho a couple of weeks ago, this is my sixth salad recipe in a row. It is the season for lighter meals and salads in Sydney, with beachside picnics, BBQs and celebratory gatherings continuing throughout the hot summer.
I have brought this salad to pretty much every occasion which I’ve been invited to recently. It is inspired by one of the meals at Suzie Q, our favourite brunch place in Sydney (nothing at all to do with its proximity of, say 5 metres from our front door – it really is very, very good), which is aptly named “Summer in the City”. SuzieQ is a celebration of good food, coffee and music, and each of their menu items is named after a classic hit – this one presumably after the tune by The Lovin’ Spoonful. Their version of this dish comes served with a poached egg on top.
After ordering this almost every time I’ve been into the cafe over the past couple of months (which has been quite a lot with all our visitors in town) I decided to recreate my own version at home, minus the poached egg and a few other tweaks so that it could easily be transported as a salad. So far it has made its way to a BBQ by road cycling enthusiasts, with the addition of a cup or two of cooked quinoa (these people need protein as evidenced by their on-cue 10pm disappearance in order to make the cycling trip at 5am the next day), some New Year Eve celebrations and a birthday picnic last weekend.
I organised the picnic with a group of our friends for Barth’s birthday, with a “bring your own antipasto plate” theme. I may have gone a little overboard with the salads, making this chickpea one, a roasted vegetable, harissa and quinoa one (from this amazing book – love it), a green salad, a roast pumpkin, pomegranate and nigella seed salad and a watermelon, tomato and mint salad (the last two from this amazing book – another great addition to my ever growing cookbook shelf), plus three dips or so… Anyway, there was plenty of food, and plenty of swimming, climbing trees and tyres and jumping off cliffs.
This salad is best made with dried chickpeas, which are soaked overnight and then cooked. It does take a little more preparation, but its very easy to do, and worth the additional effort. You can substitute any fresh herbs which are on hand for the basil and mint. The salad is a great combination of creamy and crunch, fresh and zesty, and salty and sweet. It would be perfect at an Australia day BBQ next Monday. It makes a really large salad bowl, which serves approx. 6-8 adults.
- 1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas (just over 3 cups of cooked chickpeas) or 2x 400g tin chickpeas
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon)
- 85g dried apricots (about 12-14 apricots)
- 20g dried cranberries or currants
- 15g fresh basil leaves
- 15g fresh mint leaves
- 1/8 preserved lemon
- 1 large zucchini (courgette)
- 50g baby spinach leaves (1 large handful)
- 50g dry roasted unsalted almonds*
- 100g olive oil marinated goats cheese (this one is my favourite) or persian feta
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- If you are using dried chickpeas (please do, its easy but just needs some time!), prepare the chickpeas by soaking them in water in a large saucepan overnight, around 6-8 hours – there should be about 4cm of water above the level of the chickpeas. (If you forget to do this in advance, you can use the quick soak method and cover the chickpeas in a saucepan with 4cm of water, put on the stove and bring to boil. Turn off the stove and leave the chickpeas to sit for at least an hour in the warm water.) After soaking, rinse the chickpeas in cold water, return to the saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook the chickpeas for 25-40 minutes – until they are cooked but still have some bite. It will depend on how long the chickpeas have soaked as to how long they will take to cook. Remove from heat and drain chickpeas. You should have about 3 cups of cooked chickpeas. If you are using tinned chickpeas, drain and rinse well.
- While the chickpeas are cooking, prepare the dressing by smashing the garlic clove with some salt until it forms a paste (use the back of your knife or a pestle). Add the olive oil and lemon juice and mix well. Set aside.
- Slice the apricots into very thin strips, and cut the cranberries or currants in half. Roughly chop the basil and mint leaves. Finely chop the preserved lemon. Spiralise or julienne the zucchini into very fine, thin noodles (or you can also use a mandolin or vegetable peeler). Add these ingredients into a large salad bowl.
- Once the chickpeas are cooked, let cool and then add them to the salad bowl. Mix in the dressing and stir well. At this stage, you can put the chickpea salad in the fridge to marinate (its not essential but at least an hour improves the flavour – you can also leave overnight if you are making this salad the day before).
- When ready to serve, stir in the baby spinach leaves and almonds and crumble the goats cheese or persian feta (with a little bit of its marinated oil) through the salad.
* You can buy dry roasted almonds, or make your own by putting the raw almonds in oven at 140°C and bake 20-25 minutes until the almonds are a darker brown and crunchy. Check regularly to make sure they do not burn. Let cool. Alternatively, you can dry roast them in a frypan over high heat for 5-10 minutes but they are not as crunchy cooked this way.