la ensalada que no era ensalada

December 19, 2022

After you get over the sheer pleasure of a Spanish menu comes the next instalment of “The Wow Factor” – the names of the dishes in the native tongue. Covid hasn’t done much for my dexterity both physically and when it comes to ‘Habla Espanol’. My Spanish is improving by the moment and that’s a lot to do with my kind hosts who accept I am trying to be both an ambassador for Cymru and a respectful guest in what is someone else’s home.

Referring to food, the Spanish have an almost teutonic simplicity – a ‘say it like it is’ mentality. Take for example, one of my favourite dishes to cook, “Habas con Jamon”. A hearty dish of Serrano ham with broad beans. Simplistic in ingredients, straightforward in culinary skills required and a taste experience that will have you begging for more.

The Spanish ‘ensalada’ or salad, like its British counterpart comes in various forms. A common, healthy, hearty and frugal lunch is the “ensalada mixta” – the mixed salad. So what does a mixed salad offer the would-be culinary traveler. Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweetcorn, peppers, eggs and tuna, are the main requirements. It is quite a plate and is usually a little over €5. Add a beer and a coffee and you’ll have enough change from €10 to leave a meaningful tip.

Enter my “Carry On” salad. That’s the working title I had until Claire said “What I love about this salad is, it isn’t like a salad!” She said this whilst tucking into second portions. That’s another bonus for this dish; you present it as a centre-piece and let everyone tuck in.

So why did I want to name my salad “Carry On”? If you cast your mind back to the “Carry On” films and honestly answer, who was the star? The truth is for years the cast were referred to as the “Carry On Team”. It was an ensemble performance and each actor had their part to play in order to bring the best out. And so each ingredient in my salad is an equal member and not one item stands out.

The Ingredients

1/4 red and yellow bell peppers diced. 8 or so baby plum tomatoes quartered. Two mushrooms thinly sliced. 4 boiled eggs (4-5 mins max), a couple of slices of any salami, or pork and garlic sausage, thinly sliced to make strips. Whole grain rice cooked with diced garlic from one clove. Garden peas (about 1/2 cup). 1/2 portion of blue cheese from the Christmas cheese hamper. Finally the dressing; plenty of mayo and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

Mix it all up and serve with bread and of course, a Spanish lager. There you have it “la ensalada que no era ensalada” – ‘the salad that is not a salad!