Unless I'm eating out, lunch is a bit of a funny meal for me. I've been talking about my breakfasts recently, and you usually see things I have for dinner like Chicken Fajitas, Bolognese and Sausage Roasts popping up here in recipe posts. But unless you follow me on Instagram where I throw up the occasional snapshot, I don't usually share what my usual lunch time looks like. In all honesty, it is because most of the time for me lunch is what I throw together from what I can find last minute in the fridge, whatever recipe I'm testing at the time, or leftovers (successful or even just edible) from the recipes I've been working on, such as roasted vegetables, dressings, cold cuts, ragged bunches of herbs or the ends of loaves of bread.
To celebrate the launch of Rachel de Thample's new book FIVE: 150 effortless ways to eat 5+ fruit and veg a day (Rachel is Abel & Cole's food editor) her publishers sent me over a copy of the book and Abel & Cole sent me one of their medium gourmet veg boxes to provide me with a bit of vegetable based kitchen inspiration. I was really excited to receive the box, because I've secretly always wanted one. I never wanted to place an order as we grow most of our own fruit and veg here on the farm in the Summer months, but I've found it is actually a great way to change things up in the kitchen a bit with some ingredients I might not usually use. A chicken soup recipe I was testing was elevated with the chard and a handful of shiitake mushrooms I found in my box, and the rest of the mushrooms and the end of the bread I made to go with the soup made for a very satisfying lunch yesterday, enriched with a little butter and soy sauce, and topped off with slithers of Japanese omelette.
FIVE is the sort of cookbook you want to add to your shopping basket if you grow your own fruit and vegetables, and you're out of ideas of how to prepare and serve your produce. A few recipes from the book I've earmarked as brilliant ideas I want to try are her Edamame with Lemon Sea Salt (made with sugar snap peas), Parsnip & Sherry Marmalade Bisque, and Rachel's Gorgeous Green Indian-Spiced Rice.
This is what I had today for lunch. An experiment inspired by the ingredients that arrived in my veg box, a few techniques I wanted to try out, and the throw it all together attitude that I think embodies Rachel's new book. On the bottom I have a bed of roasted cauliflower. I've never roasted cauliflower before (I usually don't like it as a vegetable), so I tried several different approaches on roasting tins in the AGA. While olive oil and my mandolin were involved, I've found that grating the cauliflower over the biggest hole of the grater and dry roasting it, tossing occasionally for about 10 minutes is the way forward for a good salad base.
Next, we have segments of a navel orange. I needed oranges for my Valentines Borough Market feature that is due the beginning of next week, and when I was in Waitrose last night on my way home, and I got a big bag of them reduced to 95p. There is nothing physically wrong with them, it is just that the printed date had expired. Also thrown on top we have matchsticks of the one raw vegetable from the Abel & Cole box that I was desperate to use, had never encountered before and was the starting ingredient of this salad of mine: kohlrabi. It is that flying saucer shape vegetable you can see in the picture. I used half of it here, and I must say I'm a little obsessed. It is light, crunchy and it has a very mild peppery taste (think the worlds most delicate radish) and stands up very well to dressings.
Before dressing the salad, I finished it off with a handful of toasted walnut pieces for some added crunch from the tree outside our house in France. However, I thought it needed a bit of colour so I added what turned out to be a wonderful edition of a few mint leaves, funnily enough left over from another upcoming recipe from my Borough Market column. As for the actual dressing, I went for a classic vinaigrette (mix up a little olive oil, vinegar (I used red wine here as I wanted sweetness, but you can use any dressing vinegar you wish) and dijon mustard, tasting as you go along to check the dressing is balanced to your liking), spiked with a squidge of honey, as I felt the dish needed a bit of sweetness as the oranges were quite tart.
I have not given you a proper recipe for this salad for a reason; I wanted to show you what the book really drove home to me, is that there are not really any rules. I love exactly following a recipe from someone whose food I love and trust as much as the next cook, but doing this for every recipe is not practical for everyday life. I challenge you all this weekend to make a lunch out of what just happens to be in your fridge. I'd love to hear how you get on! FIVE is out on February 15th, but you can pre-order it here. Enjoy!