Trust Me Salad

I’m making dinner tonight for my esteemed friend, Mr. Ukelele, ‘cos I missed his birthday party last weekend. As befits a belated birthday treat, it is a slightly posh, 3 course dinner, but it still works out at about £2.50 a head for all 3 courses, even if you have buy all the ingredients.
Mr Ukelele is one of my non-vegan friends, so I’m making this salad for starters. I’ve come up with loads of recipes over the years, only to find out later that it’s a really common dish in a culture I’m not familiar with. This, however, I think I can safely say is an original 😉 When I invented it many moons ago, my French boyfriend teased me mercilessly about the ‘English and their fruit’… he was mainly referring to apple sauce with pork. He liked this salad, though.
I’m using strawberries from my plot in the community garden, but because it’s Wimbledon fortnight, they’re on special offer all over the place – I saw them for £1 for 400g in Lidl, so I’m sure the others have similar offers. Roquefort cheese is a blue sheep’s milk cheese from the south of France, with a pleasantly sharp flavour – I don’t think other blue cheeses would work.

You can make it stretch further by serving it on a nest of little gem lettuce, or, for a party, by placing a spoonful on individual leaves.

Ingredients – serves 4+ as a starter, or 2-3 as a main.
100g Roquefort cheese
200g strawberries
200g cucumber (or equal volume to the strawberries)
Coarsely ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoon of walnut oil
1 ½ teaspoon of lemon juice mixed half and half with water. NB, if you have some, use walnut vinegar instead, but it’s hard to find in the UK, although it’s quite common in France – sherry vinegar would also work.
1 head little gem lettuce – optional

Method
Roquefort can be quite soft at room temperature, so make sure yours is well chilled in the fridge, as you’re going to crumble it.
Wash and de-hull the strawberries and half or quarter them. Cube the cucumber into 1cm blocks. Place in a mixing bowl and season with black pepper. Crumble over the Roquefort – you want the chunks to be smaller than the cucumber, as the flavour packs quite a punch, but not so finely that it all disintegrates into the dressing (although, inevitably some will). Pour over the oil and lemon juice or vinegar and gently turn to mix.
Serve in a nest of little gem leaves, at room temperature. You may also need a crusty baguette to mop up the sauce 😉

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Cantaloupe melon with mint, sherry vinegar and walnut oil.

I LOVE cantaloupe melons, not only for their delicately perfumed flesh, but because they’re sooo pretty – sage green stripes on an eau-de-nil skin and apricot coloured inside. (I’m talking about European cantaloupes, which are also called charentais melons – apparently cantaloupe is what musk melons are called in the States – I’m sure musk melons would also work for this recipe)
The next recipe I’m putting up after this one isn’t vegan, so keeping my promise, here’s a vegan alternative for a posh starter. I first had this at a dinner at a friend of my mother’s about 18 years ago and it’s been a favourite ever since – so, thank you Julia 🙂
At the moment, cantaloupe melons are just coming into season, and they’re about £1 for a good sized one, or I saw 2 small ones in a £1 bowl on the market the other day. Sherry vinegar is usually cheaper than balsamic, and walnut oil is about £1.80 for a 250ml bottle (which usually lasts me for at least 6 months), so each portion should cost about 35-40p.

Ingredients
Cantaloupe melon, preferably a small one
Per portion, 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar and 2 teaspoons walnut oil
1or 2 finely shredded fresh mint leaves
A (very) few grains of salt – optional, but it does bring out the flavour.

Method
Mix the oil, vinegar and shredded mint leaves and set aside for 15 minutes.
If you have a small cantaloupe, cut in half horizontally and deseed. (If you have a large one, cut it in quarters along the length of the stripes, deseed and score a grid into the flesh, so that the dressing can ooze in and not spill all over the plate.) Dress and serve in a bowl.