I’m reading this book called Eating On The Wild Side, by Jo Robinson. Each evening I climb into bed, with two hot water bottles strategically positioned to warm my frosting toes, and eagerly open Jo’s well-researched book. I lose myself in the pages, attempting to soak up this nutritious information. Did you know open, loose salad leaves are the most nutritious, as they are exposed to UV rays and bugs and other “threats” so they are hence made to fight and produce more phytonutrients to become stronger (and in turn, more nourishing)? It’s fascinating stuff.
A little while ago during a cooking demonstration I was running, encouraging people to give anchovies some love, I cooked up some rainbow coloured carrots. Along with the familiar and fantastic orange kind we had purple (both deep and light shades) and a bright yellow variety. Everyone loved these carrots, the colours, the texture, the shape, not to mention the flavour. They were farm-fresh, far from the tasteless and monotonous kind the Supermarkets demand. Folks are missing out! And, as Jo Robinson states in Eating On The Wild Side, these varieties, with stronger flavours (bitter is great!) and vibrant colours, hold the most beneficial health properties. Over the years we’ve bred our crops for high yield and sweet produce, which is such a shame. Food can be so much more interesting, colourful, textured, nutritious and tasty if we branch out, visit a farm or farmers’ market and find a few quirky carrots to throw into our salads.
I made this sumac-spiced roasted carrot salad with preserved lemon and labneh for lunch that Saturday when it was just Ben and I hanging out at home, eating flourless chocolate pots. I purposely made a lighter lunch so as to allow room in our bellies for dessert, so if you are not presently prepping your chocolate pots for a sneaky second course, you may like to bulk this recipe out with chickpeas or perhaps some wild rice.
Ever since watching my friend Yasmeen make labneh and having a girl power *yeah! I can totally do that!* moment, I have been itching to make my own labneh. And so bought myself some yoghurt, set it up in a strainer and did just that. You can have a lot of fun when it comes to serving your labneh. I rolled mine in oregano as that is what Ben requested when I shouted out a few options from the kitchen, but next time I might serve a big mound of it covered with dukkah, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt alongside some crackers, and then just going to town on it. Maybe a few fantastically coloured carrots, too…
Sumac-Spiced Roasted Carrot Salad with Preserved Lemon and Labneh
Prep your labneh at least 1 day ahead of time, following Yasmeen’s instructions.
6-8 small colourful Carrots
1 large clove Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Sumac
2 big handfuls Mixed Greens (dark, bitter, loose leaf goodness)
1 large Radish, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Preserved Lemon, pith discarded and very finely sliced
2 tablespoons Almond Flakes
2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 homemade Labneh Balls
1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
2. Clean your carrots then slice them in half lengthways and place them, along with the garlic clove (skin on) on a baking tray lined with baking paper. If your carrots are particularly large, you might like to slice them again, just beware that how you slice them will affect how long you cook them for. Drizzle the carrots and garlic with 1 tablespoon of the oil, then scatter the sumac, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Use your hands to massage the seasoning into the carrots, then place the tray into the hot oven to roast for ~25 minutes (tossing the carrots halfway through) until nicely browned and sticky and caramelised. Note: be careful to watch the garlic clove so it doesn’t burn. If yours is soft to touch when checking your carrots halfway through, remove it at this point. If not, check it again later but be sure to not burn it.
3. While the carrots are roasting, toast your almond flakes in a hot pan until lightly golden and fragrant, then set aside. Finely slice your preserved lemon (the skin only, no pith) and set aside. Mix the extra virgin olive oil and the lemon juice in a small bowl. Smush in the roasted garlic flesh, add the preserved lemon and whisk it all together. Taste before seasoning as required with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
4. Assemble your salad into bowls, starting with the leaves and radish, then the roasted carrots. Drizzle the oil/lemon/garlic dressing over the salad and toss to combine using your hands. Add the labneh balls and toasted almonds. Season to taste with more extra virgin olive oil, sea salt or freshly cracked black pepper as desired. As stated above, add some chickpeas or cooked with rice to bulk out the salad if desired.