Being trapped in a home-office which is not big enough to house my goods is really a challenge, not only because I am technically working 24 hours (which is fine), but also because I have converted my only possible kitchen space into a small warehouse to keep more stock. For 8 months, I have been forced to eat out 100%, until my new love Zanussi (an oven) invaded my pantry.
No kitchen, no place for proper washing, no stove, no gas, no fire, but nothing's gonna stop me from churning out meal after meal of wholesome goodness and health. I need to give the credit where it's due. I do not know how many of you give a damn about Jamie Oliver, but having followed his programmes since his very first one and buying his books, I am sure he was the one who convinced me that proper cooking can be easy.
Ok, I am going to be a nice boy and share with you guys my recipe for this delicious warm salad that's almost vegetarian. Its name is a long one: Warm baked pumpkin and garlic salad with cherry tomatoes, rocket and Thai crispy pork fat.
Ingredients for salad (serves 3, or 2 hungry people):
- Half a small-sized pumpkin (preferably Japanese pumpkin), cut into 1cm-thick slices
- 10 garlic cloves, keep them whole in their skins, cut of the end with the root so that it will be easy to squeeze the insides out when it's done
- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
- A small bunch of rocket, you can use something else like watercress, but I like rocket's spicy punch and fragrance. Remember, pumpkin is the star of the show, do not overdo the greens for this one
- Medium-grade olive oil, expensive extra virgin would be wasted in the oven
- Thai crispy pork fat, or you could use the 猪油渣in Singapore, or if you do not like the Asian twist, croutons or bacon bits work just fine, I just prefer the fusion feeling
For the dressing:
- The juice of half a lemon
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil, 3 times the amount of lemon juice (3:1 proportion)
- Freshly ground black peppercorns
For starters, I would suggest we do the dressing first and make it ready and not wait till the last minute as this is a warm salad.
Preparing the dressing:
- Find a nice leak-proof tupperware/honeyjar, squeeze the juice of the lemon, removing seeds
- Slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil, stopping when u have 3 parts oil and 1 part acid
- Add a good pinch of salt and some freshly-ground black peppercorns
- The last bit is the fun bit, cap the jar/container and give it a good shake, like what you would do with 泡泡茶/cocktail. Once you see a creamy yellow emulsion, you're laughing.
Making the salad:
- Put the cherry tomato halves into a big mixing bowl and hit them with a dash of salt, tomatoes taste great when they are slightly salted
- Garlic cloves take an hour while the pumpkin slices take half an hour, so pre-heat the oven to 200degC, put the garlic on the baking tray, whack them with some medium grade olive oil and put them in for half an hour
- When it reaches half an hour, lay the pumpkin slices onto the same baking tray, put a bit more olive oil to slightly cover the pumpkin, flavour with some salt and put it back in for another half an hour.
- By this time, your garlic would be soft and your pumpkin gooey and sweet. When the pumpkin is piping hot, throw them into the mixing bowl with your raw tomatoes. I like the tomatoes to be shocked with some extreme heat to warm them a little and force out the nice juices
- Squeeze out the garlic from their skins, crush each one a little (but leaving them still as individual cloves) and put them into the mixing bowl
- Put in your washed rocket only right before you dress the salad, we do not want the rocket to be wilted by the heat of the pumpkin!
- Lastly, give your dressing a last shake and pour them into the mixing bowl to mix. You are now ready to plate the damn thing, and indulge after topping it off with some crispy pork fat.