It’s happening again, Christmas time is here. At this time of the year I swing between strong feelings of happy nostalgia and modern time cynicism.
At the site of a Christmas tree, my mind is filled with memories of sheer delight, happiness, indulgence and the never ending stretch of days of play to come before having to go back to school (although, even this thought was exciting; being another year above the rest, clearly more smart and distinguished..)
On the other hand however, as I walk through the mall, bombarded with decorations, advertisements and ways for people to spend more money, I see a race of people, lost, without tradition or religion, addicted to material items, thoroughly persuaded by advertising and media and convinced that that new shiny kettle will surely make their lives better.
To survive through these feelings (that don’t just come at christmas time), I try to focus on the beautiful side of life. The side that I have created with the help of my friends, family and positive people that I am lucky enough to meet in everyday experiences. Part of this happiness and appreciation comes through the purity of nature; and in turn, plants, fruit and vegetables; food.
Sharing food with others, eating a meal together and really appreciating the food, is so important to me. And so, although there are some things about christmas that bother me, it is a fantastic time of year to get together for barbecues and picnics. December weekends are filled up before it even begins, with invitations asking to bring along ‘just a salad or something easy’. If you find this happening more than once then you might need a few new salad ideas, as there’s only so many lettuce, tomato and cheese cube salads one can bare…
Being on the road for the last couple of months, grains and legumes were a great way to make meals, adding them to any fresh produce we managed to find every few days and getting creative with some different dressing combos.
I love all the green veg in this salad and their different textures, together with the chewy pearl barley and the creamy ricotta. All tied together with the zesty lemon and fresh mint. We even picked a few greens from the garden including sorrel spinach and brazilian spinach; these were a last minute addition so I haven’t included them in the recipe but you can add anything you like.
This salad is beautifully satisfying on it own but is also lovely with any grilled meat or fish.
1 cup pearl barley, cooked to packet directions
2 large zucchini, or 3 small, finely sliced (a mandolin is ideal)
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 tbs white wine vinegar
1 tbs light olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
500g frozen broad beans, thawed and shelled
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
120g rocket, roughly chopped
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped, small leaves reserved for decoration
4 shallots, white and most of green parts, sliced into 5mm pieces
400g firm ricotta cheese
In a medium sized bowl or large jar combine the zucchini, juice of one of the lemons, white wine vinegar, olive oil, sugar, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix or shake to combine and allow to sit and marinate for at least 20mins, stirring or shaking often.
In a large bowl, except for the ricotta, combine the rest of the ingredients and add the marinated zucchini. Stir to combine and check for seasoning.
Add 3/4 of the ricotta and gently stir to combine.
Turn out onto a serving platter and top with the remaining ricotta and the reserved mint leaves.