You know what they say about the sun – mad dogs and Englishmen and all that. Well, it’s true. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose brain is a bit addled by the current heatwave. I’m so glad that I no longer work in an office or worse still, have to face a hot and sweaty commute to work. Still, it’s hard going. Without wanting to sound like one of those people, it’s a bit too hot, isn’t it?
Anyway, ‘tis the season to eat salad (or sorbet, if you’re a vegan with a sweet tooth) and it’s pretty much all I want at the moment. I fell in love with a little lunch pot I bought from Marks and Spencer at the weekend and decided to try to recreate it.
The flavours in this salad verge on the sublime, thanks mainly to a creamy lemon and parsley dressing, and it’s a good way to use courgettes which are just in season. The peas (also in season if you use fresh) and chickpeas are full of protein so it’s a sustaining salad, too. Instead of fregola, I’ve used orzo, which looks like rice but is actually a type of pasta but much lighter – ideal if your appetite isn’t up to much in this weather. You can buy it in most large supermarkets but if you can’t find it, quinoa, couscous or brown rice will work just as well – just adjust your cooking times.
Orzo with courgettes and peas and a lemon and parsley dressing
For the salad
100g orzo pasta
200g peas (fresh or frozen)
1 large courgette, diced
1 can of chickpeas (400g), rinsed and drained
2-3 handfuls spinach
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the dressing
Juice and zest of 1 unwaxed lemon (if you can’t get unwaxed, use the juice only)
½ tsp mustard seeds (black or yellow) or 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp maple syrup
Salt and pepper
Add the orzo to a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 6-7 minutes, then drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan, then add the peas (shell them first if you’re using fresh) and courgette and squeeze over the lemon juice. Cook for 5-6 minutes, then add the chickpeas and the spinach and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir through the orzo then quickly make the dressing. If using mustard seeds, grind them using a pestle mortar or the base of a large mug, then mix together with the other ingredients – you can do this in a bowl by with a whisk or a fork or you can pop everything into a jar and give it a good shake.
Stir the dressing into the salad and serve. This goes particularly well with a cool glass of crisp white wine. Enjoy.