If you’re anything like me sometimes the idea of a salad just doesn’t feel like a meal. Perhaps it’s the often lack of a carbohydrate that perpetuates this feeling or the far too often chicken Caesar everything that appears at almost every function. Maybe I’m still traumatised by rolled up slices of cooked ham, pickled beetroot from the jar, and hard-boiled eggs that constituted a salad in my youth. Come to think of it, the latter makes the most sense. In the reality of my adult life it’s more about wanting to feel like I am making a good choice but also wanting to satisfy the need to eat. And when I say eat, I mean EAT. Sometimes, just sometimes, a salad just doesn’t do that. You know what I mean, some insipid lettuce, half a cherry tomato and probably sprinkled in goji berries, pomegranate seeds or some other superfood du jour.
On the other hand, hot summer evenings like we are currently having gives rise to yearnings for breezy al fresco dining, as we daringly push out the evening like schoolchildren on their summer holidays refusing to give in to the night and head home. There’s a romanticism in it that nestles safely with the light, soft cooking that salads bring. I think this recipe satisfies all those needs and allows for something lighter and fresher, and yet doesn’t compromise on giving us a dish that feels wholesome and giving. Ultimately there’s a fine balance here that I want to embrace and I think this is it.
The idea for this salad came forward from one that I had of combining the iron richness from black pudding with the salty creaminess that you get from Feta. Upon my research I found a recipe for a salad from Barnabrow House in East Cork which makes up the basis for my own recipe here. I’ve changed the dressing however and I’ve gone with a maple/golden syrup and balsamic dressing that contains a lovely sweetness that works well with the ingredients. Feel free to experiment by using red wine vinegar for example. I also have used a combination of regular and extra-virgin olive oil as sometimes extra-virgin can have an astringent grassiness that can slightly overpower. I feel that the blend works better but that’s entirely for you to decide. The bacon fat is an indulgent inclusion but adds a lovely flavour if you’re feeling frisky. The crisp green apple really works here, it’s fresh light tartness cuts through the richness of the pudding and the cheese and delivers a fantastic flavour combination. As Stuart Bowes, chef in Barnabrow House says, all of the components can be made in advance. However don’t prepare the apple too far in advance and make sure to toss in lemon juice to prevent browning.
Recipe Serves 4
Maple Balsamic Dressing
To Assemble the Salad