Green bean and tomato salad.
Green bean and tomato salad. Photo: Graham Tidy

My recipes this week are for two salads for you to share with friends and family as part of your Australia Day celebrations.

The roasted cauliflower and lentil salad can stand alone as a complete meal or will fit in well with other salads and grilled or cold meats. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.

To add a sweet note to the cauliflower salad, you can use roasted grapes or currants. The grapes are easy to do and I have given them in a separate recipe, as you may like to try them with other things. They are delicious served with cheese and also with chicken.

Food and Wine. Cook this week column. Roasted cauliflower and lentil salad. 6th. January 2014 Photograph by Graham Tidy The Canberra Times.
Roasted cauliflower and lentil salad. Photo: Graham Tidy GGT

The colourful green bean and tomato salad is all about summer and is one salad that, I think, you will make again and again. You can vary it as you please, especially if you have beans and tomatoes growing in the garden. Use different types of beans, tomatoes and herbs. I think adding some yellow beans would be pretty. Broad beans could be included if you can find them still, or use frozen ones. At the end of the recipe I have suggested a variation with mozzarella.

Roasted cauliflower and lentil salad

Serves 6

1 small cauliflower

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

½ cup small brown, green or Puy-style blue lentils

a few sprigs of thyme

1 small red onion, sliced lengthways

1 bunch (250g) of roasted red seedless grapes or ¼ cup currants soaked in hot water

¼ cup toasted walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

200g feta cheese, cut into small cubes

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, picked leaves

2-3 handfuls of baby spinach leaves to serve

Dressing

1-2 tsp honey

juice of 1 lemon (2-3 tbsp)

1 clove garlic, crushed

sea salt and ground black pepper

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tsp white-wine vinegar (optional)

Cut the cauliflower into florets and soak in cold water to refresh. Drain and leave to dry. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with the ground coriander and pepper. Drizzle with a generous tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat. Tip the florets out on to an oven tray.

The onion can be roasted in the oven with the cauliflower for a mellow taste or it can be used fresh. To serve fresh, soak in cold water for 10 minutes to temper the sharpness. To roast, toss with a little olive oil and add to the tray with the cauliflower at one end.

Preheat the oven to 200C regular or 180C fan. Roast the vegetables on a high shelf in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning halfway. The cauliflower should be tender and tinged with brown. Keep an eye on the onion as it may need to be taken out a bit earlier.

Meanwhile, check through the lentils for pebbles and other debris and rinse. Simmer in plenty of water with a sprig of thyme (no salt) until tender, about 25 minutes, then drain.

For the dressing, mix the honey, lemon juice, garlic, a sprig of chopped thyme, salt and pepper together in a bowl, then whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust. It may need a little more lemon juice or a dash of white-wine vinegar. Mix about a third of the dressing into the warm lentils.

Tear the cauliflower into smaller pieces and, if using grapes, cut the larger ones into halves. Combine cauliflower in a large bowl with the onion, lentils, grapes or currants, feta cheese and parsley leaves. Add the remaining dressing and toss. Keep in the fridge until needed. At serving time, mix the baby spinach leaves gently through the salad and transfer to a platter or shallow bowl. Scatter the toasted nuts over the top.

Green bean and tomato salad

Serves 6

500g green beans (not trimmed)

500g mixed cherry and heirloom tomatoes

2 handfuls fresh herbs: flat-leaf parsley and thyme, basil or oregano

Dressing

1½ tbsp red-wine vinegar

1 small eschalot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

sea salt, pinch of sugar and freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and thyme, basil or oregano

4-5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil. Throw in the whole beans and cook them for three or four minutes until just tender. Quickly lift them out (or drain) and spread out on a tea towel to cool. Top and tail the beans, cut them at an angle and then cut each into two or three shorter lengths, also at an angle.

To make the dressing, mix the vinegar, eschalot, garlic, seasoning and herbs together in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Cut cherry tomatoes into halves and remove the core ends. Cut bigger tomatoes into chunks of a similar size. Mix half the dressing into the tomatoes and a few roughly chopped herbs and leave to macerate for about 30 minutes. Don't add the beans yet as they can discolour.

At serving time combine the tomatoes and beans in a salad bowl, add the remaining dressing and mix through gently. Garnish the salad with herb sprigs and leaves.

Variation: Try adding cubes of fresh mozzarella to the salad and be sure to use basil as well.

>> Diana Lampe is a Canberra writer, dlampe@bigpond.net.au