Friday, 25 May 2012

Thomasina Miers "The Original Caesar Salad"

My two favourite things about summer are picnics and barbecues.  Reading Good Food Magazine this time of year makes me insanely jealous because of the picture perfect family gatherings they show accompanied by pages of recipes for tasty outdoor eating.  The closest we generally get as a family to outdoor eating is a cheese and ham toastie in a pub garden - mostly because the husband wants a beer.

It's not for want of trying.  Whenever I invite my family to visit in the summer, it always rains and we end up eating indoors.  We do occasionally go on picnics to Corsham Lake but my new fear that Miss A is going to end up drowning herself looking for the sheep that was stuck in the lake on our last visit, coupled with the husband's discerning food palate (I once made cheese and onion bread for the picnic - this didn't go down well and all he ate was Hula Hoops and bananas) means that it's not really the relaxing, joyous occasion that I always hope for.

Then there's the barbecue.  Source of endless despair.  The current incumbent was purchased two years ago.  It's not been used.  Not for want of trying, but the husband has this paranoid fear about setting fire to things.  I think I only got away with having lit candle votives scattered around the tables at our wedding reception was because he was so nervous beforehand - and then so inebriated from the apple vodka a Polish friend bought - that he didn't notice  So whenever I suggest a barbecue, rather than beating his chest like a caveman (how I assume most men react to the thought of cooking large slabs of meat over open fire) he finds a way to convince me to cook indoors and eat outdoors.  I feel like Hyacinth Bucket (a reference for UK readers) with her "Indoors Outdoors Barbecue with Finger Boo-fay"

Summer lunching
But because our bottom-of-the-garden neighbour angered the husband earlier this week for randomly burning stuff in his chimenea at 11 o'clock in the morning and making two loads of washing stink of smoke, the husband is determined we will have a barbecue tonight to exact revenge and smoke out said neighbour.

There is a small flaw in this plan.  It has nothing to do with wind direction or the fact we barbecue on our patio which is a good twenty-feet from the neighbour's house.  It's the fact that the minute it stops raining and it's warmer than 10C, the bottom-of-the-garden neighbour barbecues every single meal.  Well maybe not his cocoa pops, but in weather like this, they often seem to have all day barbecues every day.  So any effect from our paltry barbecue will be lost in the fug that regularly emanates over the bottom fence.  But still, if it means we actually get to eat real, barbecued food then who am I to complain?

In anticipation, I went a bit mad with the Ocado 3 for £10 offers this week and have enough barbecue food to reciprocally barbecue every meal for the next week.  I never thought for a moment that this was an ideal opportunity to try something new on the barbecue.  And so this is why, after thumbing through Mexican Food Made Easy and rueing a missed opportunity, I settled on trying a Caesar salad.  Mostly because I still have some anchovies left over from another experiment and have no idea what to do with the strange little salty fish.

I never would've guessed that the salad had its origins in Mexico but apparently it was invented by an Italian chef in a restaurant in Tijuana.  I knew the story about it being thrown together in desperation when they ran out of food, just not that it was in Mexico - hence it's inclusion in the book.

In essence, it's just lettuce with some croutons (made using a square of the gorgeous foccacia that I made and partly froze) tossed with the ubiquitous dressing and then covered with shavings of parmesan.  But of course, it's that ubiquitous dressing that caused the problem.

Because I wanted to halve the ingredients and didn't want the faff of messing up my food processor, I toyed with the idea of making the dressing manually so researched other recipes and they pretty much all use regular mayonnaise, thinned down with a variety of liquids including white wine vinegar, lemon juice and yogurt.  I toyed with the idea but then figured that it would be someone else's recipe and not Thomasina's.  So sticking with the original quantities, I got under way.  Except the rubbish food processor attachment for my Kenwood Prospero didn't even touch the ingredients with its blades.  I ended up scooping it all back out and putting it into the blender attachment instead.  This time it worked better but I ended up with double the faffy washing up!  And the anchovies were still a bit lumpy - but you can't have everything.

Worth it for a really tasty, if unhealthy salad.  And it now means that I know what I'm having for lunch or dinner over the next few days.  Bang goes the diet :-/

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