The more food I eat, and I do so with every passing day, the more I love the simple things. Last night we had spaghetti al pomodoro, using a jar of beautiful Italian plum tomatoes cooked with long softened onion, garlic, some good olive oil and a snowstorm of Parmesan. The key was the tomatoes. It’s only May here, so we’re not likely to have great ones, and while you can get pretty good tinned ones (I use Cirio as my storecupboard tins) it’s worth every now and then splashing out on a really good jar of Italian ones and Antica Enotria are brilliant. If your dish is this simple, you really need great ingredients. It’s as simple as that.
We had salad on the table every day growing up, and I try and keep that going. I’m not a great fan of salad as the main meal, but I love it as an accompaniment. Summer tomato salads with chopped shallot, balsamic and oil; a little chicory, pear and walnut; fennel and orange; cucumber and dill. They bring colour and freshness to the table. But my salad of choice you probably couldn’t even call a salad. It’s just gem lettuce and a good mustardy vinaigrette. You can’t get much simpler than that. Maybe it’s the dressing I love and use the leaves as a healthy and edible spoon to scoop it into my mouth. You can add a touch of garlic to this if you like, but be careful to not put too much in. Even half a clove can be a bit much.
This dressing keeps for about a week in the fridge and should stay emulsified if you’ve made it well. It’s also great mixed through some warm new potatoes and sprinkled with chives.
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
A pinch of Maldon salt (or kosher salt if you’re in America)
50ml tarragon cider vinegar. (Basically a bottle of cider vinegar you’ve stuck some sprigs of fresh tarragon in and left to infuse for a few days)
150ml olive oil
50ml rapeseed oil
Put the mustard and salt in a bowl and mix in the vinegar.
Slowly, as if making mayonnaise, whisk in the oil, drop by drop at first until it starts to thicken and emulsify. Continue until it’s all in and you have a thick dressing.
Taste, and if you prefer it sharper, add a splash more vinegar. Or oil if you prefer it less acidic. I like mine on the poky side. Loosen it a little with a splash of cold water and pour it into a dressing bottle to store in the fridge.