I enjoy a complex curry or fiddly French pastry as much as the next person, but good ingredients don’t always need a lot of faff and hours spent hovering over a hot stove.
Some of the best meals I’ve had have been the simplest – fragrant amber honey poured over thick yoghurt with a handful of chopped nuts for breakfast in Corfu, freshly caught mackerel barbecued on the beach in Ireland, home-grown asparagus drenched in salted butter. And this.
It’s not an obvious pairing but it works, so thumbs up to ace photographer Ros Atkinson, aka Instagram’s @her_dark_materials. I’d picked strawberries in a fold of my t-shirt and tumbled them into a basket of broad beans, never intending to put the two together on a plate. “Mmm,” said Ros, “I bet they’d go magic with feta and balsamic.”
I love the sharp, fruity burst of the strawberries against the soft, salty cheese and mild, nutty beans. Sorry, but it’s that time of year when the overuse of adjectives is mandatory. I’ve swapped balsamic vinegar for a fresh mint dressing that I think brings everything together but lets the individual flavours sing.
This makes a good summery starter or light lunch and with minimum prep, gives you more time to spend in the sunshine.
Broad Bean, Feta and Strawberry Salad
Ingredients for the dressing:
7g freshly picked mint leaves (from about 10-12 small sprigs) + more to garnish
2 tbsp Aspall honey cyder vinegar (or regular cider vinegar with a scant 1/2 tspn of runny honey)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Grind of black pepper
For the salad:
About 300g broad beans, podded weight
6 large strawberries and a few tiny ones, if available
50g to 75g feta cheese, to taste
Chop the mint finely and add to a small blender with the remaining dressing ingredients. Pulse until blended. Check the seasoning: this isn’t a pudding so don’t go mad with the honey and do add enough salt to give it a slight savoury edge. Set aside.
Cook the broad beans in salted, simmering water until just tender. Drain and run under cold water to stop them cooking further. Drain again and if they’re fat and starchy, slip off the skins when they’re cool enough to handle. Place in a bowl.
Stir through about half the dressing. Crumble over the feta. Slice or fan the strawberries, leaving tiny ones whole, and add to the bowl. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the top and garnish with extra mint leaves.
NB: if you want to get fancy and fan the strawberries, place them on a board hull side down and make a series of vertical slices from tip to base without cutting all the way through. Turn over and gently squeeze the fat end to fan them out. Yours will probably look more elegant than mine.