I’ve made this salad twice this week and I’m already looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow. The somewhat utilitarian beigeness of the chickpea, onion and cauliflower is enlivened by the lime, chilli, coriander and spices, resulting in a delicious contrast of flavours and textures in a very satisfying salad. Instigated by this Ottolenghi recipe, but adapted to my store cupboards, I lacked an alphonso mango but gained a fillet of smoked mackerel and some broccoli—not quite a straight swap but they both fit in very well. The real star of the show, however, is the sweet curried onions and it’s worth being patient to get them just right.
Serves 4: If, like me, you rarely plan ahead far enough to soak dried chickpeas overnight, drain and gently boil a tin of them in salted water. Meanwhile, sprinkle roughly 1tsp of cumin, coriander and mustard seeds into a dry frying pan over a high heat until they start to pop. Pour the hot seeds into a mortar, add 1tsp each of curry powder, salt and sugar and crush everything to a powder with a pestle. Pour some groundnut oil into the same frying pan, turn up the heat and add a finely sliced white onion along with the spice mix. Cook on high for about five minutes then turn the heat down and let them soften and sweeten before setting aside in a bowl. Break the cauliflower and broccoli into very small florets (I’ve always thought this rather pretentious but a chunky pale branch of cauliflower just wouldn’t do here, or anywhere else for that matter, unless drowning in cheese). Blanch in the pan with the chickpeas for a minute then remove the floating florets with a slotted spoon and transfer to the hot frying pan with a drop more oil until lightly browned. Add to the onions then drain the chickpeas and add them too along with the mackerel fillet broken into chunks. Leave everything to cool and infuse while you finely chop a few handfuls of coriander and make the dressing from the juice of 1 lime, 1 finely sliced red chilli and some salt. Roughly spread one layer of the salad onto a plate, scatter over some fresh spinach leaves and half the coriander, then drizzle with half the dressing. Add another layer of salad and do the same. Season or add more lime to taste, give everyone a fork and tuck in. Don’t worry if it’s not all finished in one sitting, this hardy salad keeps very well in the fridge for a day.