Sunday, 31 August 2008

Is that a Lebanese Cucumber in your salad or are you just pleased to see me?

Saturday 30 August - and believe it or not the sun is shining. In fact it is beating down on an unsuspecting London. Shorts are immediately donned and the pubs make proper use of their outside seating for the first time in a long while. I head into central London to get my hair cut and Bren joins me later. We head into Soho and spend a lengthy period quenching our summer thirst at a number of the local hostelries. As a result of this I waken on Sunday (late morning) not feeling at my sharpest and without any of the required ingredients for the salad I have promised for the theatre picnic this evening. I resolve to head to what I believe is a Middle Eastern grocers on the Walworth Road in the hopes of being able to source everything I need there. My mood and hangover do not improve when I discover my car has a flat battery. Thinking it wise to get the salad done first, I leave the car and take Bren's car for the short drive to the shop - noting as I go that the sun has disappeared and been replaced by low cloud!

The shop turns out to be something of a treasure trove of things Middle Eastern (or possible Turkish - but I am not in the mood to be picky at this point!). The pavement area has a brilliant display of fruit and vegetables and I am soon collecting huge bunches of mint, dill and coriander which each cost considerably less that the rather pathetic plastic bags of herbs available in the supermarkets. They even appear to have Lebanese cucumbers (probably). I have researched them and they are described as smaller and sweeter than normal cucumbers and with a thinner, less tough skin. Wishing to avoid further disappointment and delay I convince myself that the small cucumbers on display are indeed of Lebanese origin and throw a couple into my basket. In fact the only thing I can't pick up at the grocers is the lamb fillet I need but at least I will have the satisfaction of looking disdainfully at the pathetic bags of herbs in Sainsburys when I call in there to pick up the lamb.

Scornful looks having been thrown at the supermarket herbs I arrive home and make the following:

Cucumber, Pepper and Lamb Salad.

Marinade the lamb fillet in some olive oil, lemon juice, ground cumin and ground black pepper for about 30 minutes in the fridge.

Meanwhile, chop one red and one green pepper into very thin strips lengthways and then cut two Lebanese (!) cucumbers into thin batons (having discarded the watery seeds in the middle by scraping them out with a spoon). Combine these ingredients with one very finely chopped red onion, a cup of chopped mint and a half cup of each of chopped dill and coriander. The smell at this point is amazing!

Next cook your lamb fillet in a very hot griddle pan for about 2 or 3 minutes on each side (it should still be pink in the centre). Don't be tempted to turn the fillet or move it too soon but feel free to press down on it to get those nice chargrilled marks. When it is cooked, leave it to rest for 5 minutes and then slice it very thinly and add it to the salad.

Finally make a dressing with the juice of one lemon (add another half lemon if there does not seem to be much), some very good olive oil and a crushed clove of garlic. Season the dressing with sea salt and black pepper, pour over the salad and toss.

I propose to serve this piled onto Turkish bread spread with some fantastic hummus that I picked up at the Middle Eastern grocers.

Now all I need to do is get my car to start.

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