Betty's Fennel and Celery Salad

Our friend Betty is a bit of a legend. She has a cafe, a catering company, teaches kids to cook through the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program and then on weekends she and her sister Stella work minor miracles with a BBQ and produce from the stall holders to serve breakfast at farmers markets around town.

At a market last spring, she made this amazing salad to go with her bacon and egg rolls and found time to the recipe down for me. She chopped lots of celery, fennel, mint, black olives and dressed it with lemon and olive oil. It was so, so good, the kind of thing that makes me hold my bowl very close to my face to speedily hoover up.

Betty's fennel and celery salad
Serves 4 as a side dish

1 small or half a large bunch of celery
1 fennel bulb
A handful of mint, chopped
1/2 a cup of black olives, pitted and chopped
2-3tbs olive oil
Juice of half a lemon

Cut the fennel bulb in half, then slice length ways using a mandolin. Slice the celery stalks on a mandolin too and place them in a large bowl with the fennel. Finely chopped the leaves of the celery and the fennel fronds and add them to the bowl. Add the mint, black olives, then the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and toss well. Serve straight away.


Grilled peppers, lentils and walnut taratoor

Spring has been absolutely scorching in Melbourne so far, this Sunday morning just passed though, was cool enough to jump on the bike and consider turning on the grill to cook some peppers.
It's pretty funny how often I find myself doing things in my leisure time that I often do for work. Roasting eggplants, grilling peppers and chopping salads my MO at Shuki and Louisa and while I love my time off to spend as I please, often I find myself doing just these things, on a much smaller scale. I'm always thinking too of dishes we can add to our catering menus and this one, which was inspired by a dish from the London restaurant Moro was a prime example.

The market closest to my house is run by lovely Turkish man. He's always giving my daughter grapes and peaches and his range of peppers and eggplants is mind boggling. Sunday morning I picked bag of these and being inspired by the menu at Moro, I grilled them and mixed them up with warm black lentils, mint, lemon and olive oil. I also whipped up a bowl of walnut taratoor, (which is incredibly delicious!) to serve alongside.
Grilled peppers, lentils and walnut taratoor

1/2 cup of lentils
1 bay leaf
1 clove of garlic
8 small or 4 large peppers(a mix of colours is nice)
2 tbs olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Handful of fresh, chopped mint

Walnut taratoor
150g walnuts, toasted
1 clove of garlic, crushed with salt
3 tbs olive oil
1.5 tbs red wine vinegar

Heat up your grill to very hot. Lay the peppers under and cook, turning once until the skins are very black and loose. Place in a plastic bag and set aside to cool. Rinse the lentils and add them to a pot, cover with plenty of water and add the garlic and bay leaf. Place on a high heat and bring to the boil, then simmer slowly. Check them after 20 mins, you want them to have a bit of bite and the cooking time depends on their age. Meanwhile, peel the peppers and cut into strips.

Make the tararoor by placing the walnuts in a food processor. Process until it resemables bread crumbs, add the garlic and pulse again for 10 seconds. Mix the olive oil, vinegar and 1-2 tablespoons of water together and add a little at a time to the walnuts. Season and pour into a bowl.

When the lentils are done, rinse and place in a bowl, pour the olive oil over, toss, then add the lemon juice and season. Add the mint and toss well. Serve with a spoon of taratoor on top, or spread on the bottom of the plate.