I don't like salad. I don't even, really, like vegetables that much. I like hot, fried things, salty, fatty things. I like meat. And pies. And, most of all, meat in pies.
But I've got to eat salad. Got to. I am a grown-up and a sensible person and what separates me from animals is the ability to act now for my future self - thus I must eat vegetables to be healthy and not die from heart disease before then next series of X Factor starts.
The other problem is that I'm not that great at making salad - especially not salad dressings. What will always prevent me, and anyone else, from being anything other than a perfectly competent home cook is a lack of clever taste buds. What makes, in my view, someone like Jamie Oliver, a genius, is his mastery of taste. He can create with taste in the way that a brilliant novelist can create with words. When it comes to taste, I'm barely past my ABCs.
Anyway, I put out a plea on Facebook for a great salad and my old friend Carly Chenowyth (try typing THAT when you're drunk) replied with a lovely asian fusion confection, that involved mung beans, which I've always dismissed as little more than tapwater in fancy dress.
But Carly is an Australian, you see, and does asian fusion off the top of her head, poof, just like that. So I went for it and it was magnificent (although I did add a lot of chopped, grilled chicken, just because I felt like it). Giles, who had initially made his just-seen-a-gross-mouldy-thing face, hoovered it up.
So here we go (this is not the exact recipe as Carly gave it to me, but this is my interpretation)
large clove of garlic
0.5 fresh red chilli
light soy sauce
juice of half a lime
a small sprinkling of sugar
This is a very long list of ingredients, and you could skip out most of them except the beans, the sesame oil, the soy, chilli and garlic. Everything else is just vaguely asian salady-stuff I had hanging around.
Anyway, so start off with a base of about 3 parts sesame oil to 2 parts soy. Then add the garlic if you like garlic, or for just a hint (raw garlic at lunchtime doesn't work for me) chop up a really large clove into 3 chunks and let it sit in the dressing until you're ready to eat, at which point you can fish it out.
Add a sprinkling of salt and then the chopped chilli and you're done. If you want to add the other ingredients, add a little of each one and keep tasting as you go. The dressing tastes pretty overwhelming when it's neat, but over the mung beans and the carrots and alfafa, it's perfect.
I blanched the mung beans for one minute just to take the edge off and julienned the carrots rather than grated them as grated carrots always taste a bit weird to me. Throw the veggies in a bowl, pour over the dressing and that's that. If you want to add a bit of grilled chicken, brush it with the dressing before it goes under the grill and really grill it hard, to make it nice and crispy.
If anyone out there has a failsafe, tasty salad idea, send it my way.