The cultivation of lettuce is thought to date back to 4,500BC and the ancient Greeks and Romans regarded it as highly therapeutic and medicinal. The word salad comes from the Latin word ‘salata’, which means salted,m as the Romans would eat it with lots of salted vegetables. The French call it salade and eat it with only a healthy dressing as a course on its own, usually after the main course as it will aid digestion.
Not everyone has such respect for lettuce. Since seeing a snail eating some, my six-year-old son strongly believes that lettuce is food only for snails. Well, lucky old snails! The leaves are packed with goodness and anti-oxidants.
Romaine lettuce is a personal favourite of mine. With its lovely texture and being low in calories – around four per leaf – and rich in vitamins B1 and B6, it is a good source of folate and has dietary fibre, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium and iron.
A powerful salad full of nutrition should ideally consist of a small variety of salad leaves – ideally your foundation should be romaine (sometimes known as cos) with the addition of endive, lollo rosso or rocket.
It is preferable to buy as fresh as possible or opt for organic and try to avoid the ready mixed salad leaf bags in supermarkets – I recommend cutting the fresh leaves as needed and drying the freshly washed leaves in a salad spinner.
The Makings (for four servings):
- 1 large romaine lettuce;
- 4 slices of goats’ cheese (here I use goat cheese log with a rind, which has a soft taste and a chalky texture);
- 2 tbsp of roasted pumpkin seeds;
- 2 tbsp of roasted sunflower seeds;
- sea salt;
- freshly ground black pepper;
- juice of ½ lemon; 4 tbsp of walnut oil.
Set oven to 180C. Brush the cheese with some of the walnut oil, then cover with all the seeds. Place in a baking tray.
Wash and dry the leaves then cut into strips. In a small bowl poor lemon juice, walnut oil, one pinch of sea salt, one pinch of black pepper, then whisk.
Place cheese in the oven for five to eight minutes.
Place all the leaves and dressing in a serving bowl, toss all ingredients together and put dressed leaves on plates.
Remove cheese from oven when baked, then place over salad. Sprinkle the remaining roasted seeds around the plate.
The addition of sunflower and pumpkin seeds adds protein, fibre, omega three and minerals.
In this recipe I have used walnut oil, which is considered a magic potion in France and studies have shown that it can benefit moods, assist blood flow and is an anti-inflammatory. It tastes great too!