I often struggle with lunch.
Sometimes, there are too many meetings and it just slips by unnoticed, and other times, I fail to prepare and end up grabbing another mediocre sandwich here or there.
Other times, my planning and effort collapses as I stare down dismally into a plastic box full of whatever was left after yesterday’s dinner, repurposed carelessly as something that just about passes for ‘lunch’.
My two recent successes on the lunch front are the discovery of homemade sauerkraut and kimchee, which make a simple salad of a few tomatoes and some cucumber explode with flavour, and tinned sardines that my colleagues detest for smell-related reasons, but which give a huge boost of protein at a time of day when its much-needed. I stockpile cans in my locker, like some sort of office-bound survivalist. It’s a point of great amusement to others.
This leads me to Savage Salads, the break-out book by Davide Del Gatto and Kristina Gustafsson written on the back of their influential street food business, which takes the idea of a ‘salad’ and gives it a serious shake up.
There are no limp lettuces at Savage Salads, and none in this book. Instead, it’s packed with interesting and creative flavour combinations, drawing from food from all parts of the world, and using a diverse but accessible range of ingredients. The idea of the salad as simply a token nod to healthy eating, something shoved onto the side of a plate of food to be pushed aside and ignored, only there in the first place because convention dictated its presence, is firmly dismissed. These are meals in their own right, and there are many recipes here that constitute substantial and balanced plates of food.
Lunch, and more.
The book, arranged by season, kicks off in Spring, with asparagus and poached eggs, radish, pecorino, and speck, that glorious Italian bacon. Summer features grilled poussin, rubbed with sumac and served with rocket, chickpeas and pomegranate, Autumn plunders the late haul of root vegetables – pumpkin with bulgar wheat, dates, red onion, spinach and goat’s cheese. Winter rounds things out with salted brisket, with honey roasted swede, pearl barley, cavolo nero and parsnips cut thin and roasted crisp.
Recipes are presented clearly and simply – they’re well written and easy to follow – and the photography, most of which favours that lifestyle blogger’s favourite angle, the overhead flat lay, is excellent, picture bursting with colour and vibrancy.
Savage Salads is an inventive and inspiring guide, a great place to grab ideas on how to move beyond that dismal pile of forgotten iceberg lettuce into something a little – a lot – more wholesome, nourishing, tasty and satisfying.