An Autumnal Salad

We love salads in this house. I’m not just talking a few leaves on a plate, I like a salad that makes a whole meal. Something with substance, texture and flavour. To start with, I always had to separate out the different components for the children. But gradually over time I have been able to mix parts together so that now we can just put one big dish in the middle of the table. In saying that, if I know there are a few items that are not favourites (a polite way of saying supposedly inedible for a four year old), I still serve a ‘deconstructed salad’ and find the meal much more successful.

Here’s a wild rice and mushroom salad that tasted even better when topped with halloumi. It’s lovely for this time of year when mushrooms, radicchio and walnuts are in season. I haven’t given measurements on any kind of precise instructions as it’s more of an idea for you to try next time you feel like a fresh yet hearty meal.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Salad
Wild rice
Black Olives
A mixture of nuts and seeds
Lemon juice and olive oil

Simply cook the wild rice according to the packet instructions, fry the mushrooms in plenty of olive oil and salt, and once they have cooled slightly (the radicchio can discolour if it comes into contact with something too hot) mix together with the rocket, radicchio, radishes and olives. To add a nice crunch, I fried some pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds to toss on top- texture is everything. Dress with some olive oil and lemon juice and add some fried halloumi if you would like to turn it into a main meal. I served this salad with some freshly baked sourdough (thanks Ollie) and hummus. Delicious.

Around our table

When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth baby, the first thing I thought was HOW MUCH FOOD WILL I NEED TO MAKE WHEN THERE ARE FOUR TEENAGERS IN THE HOUSE!? Perhaps moments like this don’t bring out the most rational thoughts, my husband’s main concern was whether we were going to have to sell our car and buy a mini van, but this is a thought I come back to a lot. Already I feel like all I do is buy food, cook food, clean up after eating food. Luckily there is that golden moment in amongst this that is the eating food.

I love that meal times act as an anchor in our days. Now that we have two at school as well as a preschooler and a baby in the house, life can feel a little manic. There is always a sock that needs finding, a question being asked, a baby with a marble in her mouth, a boy who needs you to find the specific small dolphin toy immediately.

Breakfast, lunch (during the weekend when there’s no work and school) and dinner we sit up together at the table as a family. We try to never snack between meals, but come to the table hungry and ready to eat. We try to set the table nicely every evening with napkins and candles and water in a jug. We try to have a dessert every night, even if it is generally some greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey and some stewed fruit. We try not to go completely crazy dealing with our four year old. We try not to drink the whole bottle of wine on a Tuesday. This moment, when we come together as a family and talk about our days and gossip and share food together is everything to me.

I hope that one day they all look back and remember at least one of the hundreds of banana breads I made for afternoon teas that we ate on autumn afternoons after school, the bowls of spaghetti alla puttanesca we ate on Friday evenings as we made plans for the weekend, the scrape of the knife across a piece of toasted sourdough as the butter was spread on thick and the smell of coffee in the air, the pop of a pea jumping from its pod as the first sun of spring warms our skin.

Although I feel like the time that isn’t spent in the car driving everyone to different activities is spent in the kitchen, these are the small moments that make up a life and there is nothing better than sitting round the table with family or friends that I love. And it is because of this that I thought I would get back on the blog and start sharing some of these recipes that I come back to time and time again a little further beyond our table.

So, what shall I start with?