As we know, December and January are times of celebrations great and small, parties, picnics, feasts and fun. We all join in and contribute a dish to help the hosts and share the load. In Australia this is called ‘bring-a-plate’. It’s similar to a ‘potluck’. On occasion, this has led to confusion when those unfamiliar with the term may have thought they were being asked to bring their own crockery. Perhaps you’ve seen the amusing ad for a well known chocolate brand where the host tells the guests ‘Don’t bring anything’ and a guest imagines the food he’ll bring to the party to show off and impress the host. ‘It’s a croquet-bush!’.
If you are bringing a plate to a party, you need to make something that transports easily. What you may serve at your own house may not make it in one piece to your hosts’ house. The croquet-bush is probably not the best option if you are on dessert duty. And whilst it’s fine to take something that just needs to be dressed or garnished at the table, you probably don’t want to turn up and need to use the oven or take over the fridge. So that also rules out the 40 litre jelly castle you were going to prepare.
Don’t Judge A Bean By Its Provenance
This broad bean salad is just the thing to transport easily and impress the crowd. It can withstand being bumped around in the esky, doesn’t wilt and will make people feel virtuous as they pile this vibrant green salad alongside their barbecue sausages and spicy chicken skewers.
It started out life as a quick broad bean and feta topping on toast for Saturday lunch and has evolved from there. I use frozen broad beans as they are readily available and can be kept in the freezer to be called upon at short notice. Don’t go all judgey on me about frozen broad beans. As far as I’m concerned, they are like frozen peas. They freeze well and are nearly as good out of the freezer as fresh. There aren’t too many broad beans kicking around Brisbane either, so needs must. If you do have access to fresh broad beans, by all means use them. However, after peeling you will need to blanch and refresh them, which is something you don’t need to do with frozen beans. I also always have feta in the freezer. It becomes crumbly when you thaw it but this is exactly the look you are going for with this dish.
The broad bean salad feels vaguely Mediterranean because of the feta and olive oil and vaguely Middle Eastern because of the broad beans and mint. Ottolenghi would love to steal this idea. This is a freeform recipe that I usually make without measuring so I had to make it again for our work lunches this week, to check the quantities. It’s a base for other ingredients you may favour or have in your fridge or cupboard. I took this version to a pre-Christmas party and then added a hint of sparkle with the addition of half a pomegranate for my Christmas Day contribution. If you’re having an event any time soon, expect to see this as my ‘plate’.
Broad Bean & Feta Salad
- 1 x 500g bag frozen broad beans, defrosted and peeled
- 125g firm feta cheese*
- 1 handful fresh mint, chopped
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (or lime)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Pepper to season
- 1 tsp Sumac to season (optional)
- After beans have been peeled, place them in a large bowl and pat with paper towel to absorb any excess water. Some beans will be whole, some broken. That’s perfectly OK and in fact, I like to give them a bit of a squash with a fork. This makes the beans a little more ‘rustic’ rather than being uniform
- Crumble feta into beans. You don’t want tiny crumbs, rather, you want pieces that provide a colour and texture contrast to the beans. Around the size of a 5c piece (a nickel).
- Add all other ingredients except sumac and stir. Season to taste and sprinkle sumac over salad.
Serves 6 – 8 as a side
- *I prefer to use a firm feta that crumbles rather than a creamy Bulgarian or Danish. Go for a Greek or Aussie feta if you can.
- You don’t need to add salt as the feta is generally salty enough. You can add some washed capers if you have them to hand.
- The salad can certainly take more mint if you have it.
- Lemon juice, oil and seasonings are to taste but you may like more tang or try using a different oil such as macadamia for a nutty addition.
- Smash leftovers on slices of toasted baguette.