I am a country girl at heart.
No, not Nashville…although I do love the music and how singing in the shower can make one sound (albeit remotely) like Carrie Underwood…
…but rolling hills and cold streams, gentle breeze and trees…lots of trees.
I loved our yard back home with its grass and fertile soil. When my maternal grandma lived close by there was always something growing in the backyard; passion fruit, bitter gourd, tomatoes and winter melons. Sometimes, there were also chickens and ducks roaming free.
The mango trees still live and bear the sweetest fruits.
And somewhere in between all that life and peculiar shrubs she called ‘Chinese herbs’, was my father’s fish pond – also the proud home to a choir of bullfrogs during the monsoon season. I loved that fish pond.
When we moved to London, I found it hardest to adjust to living without a backyard.
But a few months back I wrote about us moving to a new flat. What I have been anxiously waiting (for the right time) to tell you is that we finally have that little bit of outside space; we have a balcony!
It is about the size of a queen-sized bed with pretty white patio doors opening out to black tiles, worn out and flaking from the sun’s heat. We bought reed screens to wrap around the railings and tied them with kitchen string. We even added a garden chair and flip flops. But like an instrument out of tune in an orchestra, there was something amiss…until we added an array of potted herbs and baby leaf lettuce.
Now it is a symphony I cannot stop admiring.
There they sit in their little corner; bright green and upright, reaching for the sunlight. As their stems grow stronger and their leaves more lush I am reminded yet again to be thankful for God’s amazing grace, and providence…and for the gift of the balcony too.
using baby leaf lettuce and coriander fresh from our little ‘yard’
1 Packham pear (firm and the skin should still be green)
1 ripe pomegranate
½ cup whole pecans (to be roughly broken to serve)
125g block of mature cheddar cheese (to thinly slice)
Bunch of baby leaf lettuce (see note in Preparation guide)
Small handful of roughly chopped fresh coriander
For the dressing
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp orange blossom honey
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Whisk the dressing
In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing until well-combined. It should look smooth, glossy and take the texture of thick pouring cream. Set in the refrigerator to chill.
From the garden
I harvested half of our baby leaf lettuce from the pot, which in terms of quantity amounted to a bunch I could still wrap both hands around and fingertips meet.
I cut a handful of fresh coriander, and washed all the greens together in filtered water until all the dirt had been removed. You could spin dry it in a salad spinner or just leave to drain in a colander before placing in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
The part that needs just a tab more work
To extract the pomegranate arils, cut across the fruit to halve it. You should have the calyx (that part that looks like a crown) on one half, and the top that would have connected to the stalk on the other half.
Hold the pomegranate halve in the palm of your hand, seed side down, over a bowl. With a wooden spoon, apply sharp and firm taps all over exterior rind; the pomegranate seeds will drop into the bowl. Aside from the potential dangers of accidentally smacking one’s own hands, this process is rather pleasantly therapeutic.
Repeat with the other half of the pomegranate. You might find some of the white pulp membrane falls out too, just pick these off and discard them. Drain off any juices from the seeds as they will add too much moisture to the salad. Set aside.
Top and halve the pear. Then remove its core by cutting a ‘V’ down its centre. Slice to a thinness of approximately 1.5mm – 2mm. Set aside.
Divide ingredients between four salad plates to serve as starters or four dinner plates if serving as a side salad together with a main.
The coming together of a salad
This is a toss-your-own-salad kind of salad, so it is assembled and served in layers.
Place a serving of salad leaves on each plate,
Then add a layer of sliced pears, and another of thinly sliced mature cheddar cheese,
Give it a scattering of pecan pieces
Sprinkle abundantly a blessing of pomegranate gems,
…and finally add a generous drizzle of the honey Dijon mustard dressing.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
I am fairly certain I have found my favourite salad dressing! The sweetness from the orange blossom honey marries beautifully with the strong cheddar. And the sharpness from the Dijon mustard balances out what could possibly be too sweet and rich for a salad. It gives the dish a lovely lift and looks like liquid sunlight on the plate, which is always a plus in my books.