Red radish and apple salad with smoked salmon flowers

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This recipe has been languishing around un-posted since last year. I know, I know it’s only February, but that’s still about two months of me not telling you about this. Two months, you guise! OK, so it may not seem like that much of a loss, because smoked salmon isn’t everyone’s favourite, because it sounds weird and because quite frankly it is a little weird. But in a good way. I promise.

The reason we’re in this mess in the first place is simple: radishes. To be honest I just didn’t know what you were supposed to do with them. And then I decided, well, I’m an adult, I should be able to deal with some radishes. So I bought some.

Speaking of buying things, I’ve also acquired a few new gadgets since starting this blog. Things I thought it was worth investing in if I was going to actually start *measuring things* like some kind of *fancy* gentleman of the kitchen. Guys, meet my measuring scales.

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I’m not sure what to call them. What’s a good name for a set of dapper red scales like these?

Anyway, I’ve gone off topic – we’re here for the funky salad. So, off we go! Fishy floral arrangements!

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It kinda looks cool, right? And yet there’s something off-putting about it. A retro-ish vibe that seems to highlight how quickly good taste can become suspect. Or maybe it’s just the thought of cured pink salmon flesh coiled into the shape of a flower that’s doing it. But something here works. Salmon, crunchy things, the addition of dill, which for some reason reminds me of holidays (perhaps because of all the potato salad and smoked salmon appetisers floating around at summer soirees). Paired with a weird-ass gris blanc from the Barossa it went down a treat (two months ago, when we were celebrating *Housemate Christmas*). Maybe it was all the wine that made it ok.

Maybe.

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Ingredients:
5 red radishes
2 red delicious apples
2 chat potatoes
1 cucumber
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tbsp dill
2 tsp sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 lemon juice
at least four slices of smoked salmon (120g)

Directions:
Cut potatoes into bite sized cubes. Submerge potatoes in water in pan and bring to boil. Turn down and gently boil for about 10 minutes until just tender. Set aside to cool. You’ll need a mandolin or a lot of time to cut all the apple, radish and cucumber into thin slices. Do this and toss together so they’re all mixed somewhat evenly. Serves four.

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Baked haloumi and peach salad

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Sometimes everything falls apart in your hands, like so much vegan chocolate cake. (Not that I’m being disparaging about vegans or vegan food, it’s just my mum made me a vegan chocolate cake for my birthday and it was amazing, but cru-u-mbly). Then again, sometimes you only think things have fallen apart, when really, had you thought things through, you would have realised what you already knew: it is impossible to ruin haloumi cheese. Initially I set out on a quest for baked fetta with sweet slices of summer peaches. But how to make that into a meal? Perhaps the container of messaged kale taking up 1/4 of my fridge space would be the answer. And I could switch the fetta for haloumi – haloumi being firmer, more ready to survive a good tossing.

I should have known from the start that baking haloumi was risky business, but I threw it in a dish with sliced white peaches and some red onion anyway. Deciding that kale was a little overwhelming on its own, I mixed one cup of kale with two cups of mixed salad greens and awaited my tray of baking fruit and cheese.

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It all came out a bit of a mess, purple juices bubbling towards the haloumi side of the dish leaving the border cheese pale, deformed and clinging together. Nevermind though, the cheese on the edge of the pan was nicely golden and the salad turned out tasty enough, thanks to the indestructible deliciousness of cheese in general.

If I had my time again there are a few things I would change. Firstly, despite desperately wanting to reduce the amount of washing up anyone has to do, the peaches and the cheese need separate dishes. Secondly, I’d change the kind of leaf to a few simple handfuls of baby spinach, which is softer and subtler than kale, but nicer wilted than mixed salad leaves. Finally, I’d add some hazelnuts to the mix, just to give the salad some semblance of structural integrity. As an alternative you could leave the peaches fresh and just pan fry the haloumi, maybe adding some mint to the salad. I’m sure this version would be just as nice, especially in the heat we’ve been having. All in all I’m sure I’ll make this again, just a little differently. Which is good, because it means I’m learning, even if it’s stuff I thought I already knew.
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Ingredients:

4 peaches
1/4 Spanish onion
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pepper
100g haloumi cheese
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup whole hazelnuts
handful of mint (optional – but of course everything is)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 200 degree Celsius. Slice haloumi into bite-sized pieces and arrange sparsely on tray or baking dish. Put in oven. Slice peaches into thin wedges and onion into cemi-circles. Add to second baking dish with vinegar and a good grind of pepper. Put second dish in oven. Leave trays in over for 15mins or until haloumi is golden on top. In the meantime add spinach leaves to salad bowl. When cheese and peaches are cooked, leave to cool for ten minutes. Finally add warm ingredients to salad bowl, finish with hazelnuts and mint if you want it.

Tea’se Me chicken salad with “chai” dressing

Sometimes I look back on my (undergrad) university years and wonder what the hell I did with all the time I had. Only one or two hours of paid work a week, roughly four classes taking up about 12 hours all up, study, sure, sometimes, but there were also four day weekends, days and days of Buffy marathons and idle op shopping.

In my third and fourth years I spent about as much time at the local tea shop as I did at university. Tea’se Me was just a few blocks away from the apartment I shared with a fellow creative writing student, and along with a modest gang of cohorts we would while away the hours trying different sorts of tea, tucking in to three-tiered sandwiches and talking a whole lot of crap. My favourite thing on the menu was the chicken salad. And the best thing about the chicken salad was the dressing.When I moved to Sutherland in my final year of undergrad I invented this version of the salad. Too far away from Wollongong, too infrequent a visitor and too busy juggling casual work with study, my days at Tea’se Me were whittled down to a minimum. I still go there sometimes when I’m in the area, as should you if you’re ever in Wollongong. There’s a wall of tea, where you can inhale the scents of the many varieties on offer (varieTEAS, more like). The tea is served in glass teapots with tiny handleless white china cups, perfect for sharing. The food is great and reasonably priced and the staff are genuinely lovely. As for the chai dressing – it’s sweet, with just enough tartness, plus it has an added depth from the mustard and cinnamon. It’s on every salad on the menu and many of the wraps and sandwiches, but to me this salad is the staple. Tea’se Me is a must-visit as far as I’m concerned, but in the meantime, if you’re too far away, give this a whirl. I’ve been a little more generous with the avocado and used a combination of slivered almonds and pine nuts, because that’s what I had on hand.

Note: the amounts in this recipe are a rough guide for one serving, because this salad is best made individually. However, the dressing recipe will yield enough for two servings. If you’re not using it all straight away, it can be kept in its jar in the fridge.

Ingredients:

Handful of mixed greens
Handful of shredded BBQ or roast chicken (or about ¼ of the chicken), cold
2-3 slices of spanish onion separated into rounds
about 20g of crumbled fetta
1/3 of an avocado
tbsp pine nuts

Dressing:

2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp white wine vinegar
tsp brown sugar
pinch (about ¼ tsp) of cinnamon
tbsp honey wholegrain mustard

Directions:

Assemble salad ingredients in layers in the order listed. For dressing, put all ingredients in clean glass jar and shake until emulsified. Drizzle dressing on salad as desired.