Dinner on a Friday evening – the end of the working week – is, I think, the most difficult meal to put together. By the end of the week you’re tired, thinking longingly about the weekend and dismally about the mountain of work still on your desk to clear. The meal plans I put together on the Sunday have probably unravelled by Friday and I’m left with either leftovers from three weekday meals (about three mouthfuls each) in unlabelled food storage containers at the back of the fridge, or maybe a couple of carrots, a sad looking bag of spinach and half a butternut squash. Probably half a cake, whose temptations now seem all the greater. By the time I’m home my imagination usually fails me entirely and I struggle with deciding what to cook – despite an hour of empty travelling time on the Tube to figure it out.
So on Fridays there tends to be either a bit of a rummage through a fridge of slightly wilted produce, or a capitulation in the form of a run to the local fish and chip shop. As good as the fish and chips and lovely as the couple who run the place are, this is not an option for me given the ‘dietary recalibration’ I am currently putting myself through. Instead, there are experiments with salad.
Salad! I have never hitherto really considered a bowl of lettuce a proper meal…and I still don’t. A bit of soft butter lettuce, a handful of cherry tomatoes, maybe a scattering of chives or parsley…this is the stuff of a side plate. To be a real, proper meal – satisfying, filling and nutritious – you need different textures, and it needs to be loaded up with more than twelve varieties of rocket. If you’re having salad for a meal, lettuce and its varients aren’t constituted of a whole lot beyond water, and finding nutritional balance is even more important for me as I’m restricting my calorie intake temporarily, giving me fewer instances in which to find the nutrients my body requires. At the very least there should be a protein component to keep you going for a bit.
So, a salad perfect for the Friday evening rummage (though no less suitable for lunch). This one is quick and offers enough interest to suit both a dieter and a non-dieting partner or friend, if those are your circumstances. The most important thing is that, in terms of taste, this salad is utterly rewarding to eat: delicate, slightly bouncy prawns; crunchy, salty lardons; sweet asparagus; creamy avocado. It all comes together beautifully. In many ways the lettuce is just token.
I’ve pictured above also a much plainer variation which was what the recipe below evolved from – a mixed leaf salad dressed with lemon juice and punctuated with avocado and prawns. If you don’t want to bother with all the steps in the recipe below, this is also very delicious and even quicker.
Prawn, avocado and bacon salad
- 40g mixed salad of your choice – I went for ‘Italian style baby leaf’
- 100g smoked bacon lardons (if you cannot find lardons then cut up the equivalent amount of bacon finely. I find kitchen scissors easiest for this)
- 150g raw king prawns
- 100g fine asparagus
- 1/4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Two avocados
- Juice of one lime
- Preheat your oven to 200C. Rub the fine asparagus with the tiny bit of olive oil and roast in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until tender and cooked through.
- Heat up a frying pan on medium heat and, when hot, add the lardons. Cook for 5-8 minutes (or longer if necessary), stirring occasionally, until the lardons are cooked through and crisp. Remove and set aside on a plate lined with kitchen towel.
- In the same pan, toss the king prawns into the fat that has been rendered from the lardons and cook for 1-2 minutes each side, until they go from grey to pink. Remove from the heat.
- Divide the mixed salad onto the serving plates. Cut the avocados in half and cut the flesh into cubes. I find it easiest to do this by cutting them while still inside the flesh and then turning them inside out. Sprinkle the lime juice over the avocado cubes and divide over the plates.
- Divide the prawns, asparagus and bacon over the plates. Toss together gently to distribute the lime juice and add seasoning as you wish (you might want to taste to see how salty the bacon is).
For your non-dieting partner or friend…you can make a proper dressing (olive oil and lime juice, with maybe a touch of honey and mustard), add more prawns, bacon and avocado on their plate, and provide warmed-up pita bread to serve.
A variation: omit the king prawns and instead roast some baby peppers (supermarket packets are usually between 150-180g) in the oven for 15-20 minutes prior to adding the asparagus for a final ten minutes. Make the salad more or less as above, missing out step 3. Continue from step 4, adding the peppers instead of the prawns to the plates. You can also add chunks of feta or mozzarella.