Some years back, way before the Internet had begun to rule our lives, the married owners of a design studio I worked for hired an old stone farmhouse deep in the Mallorcan countryside. Their intention was to take the whole summer off which meant that a couple of us had to volunteer to take papers and artworks out to them every weekend (these were the days before the Internet, remember and this is what life used to be like). My God, my hand shot up before they had even issued the invitation. So, my new Friday routine began at lunchtime with a dash to Heathrow to board a plane to Palma followed by a long drive over to the mountains on the other side of the island. We got into a routine of visiting a restaurant that we always referred to as ‘that lamb restaurant’ (actually called ‘Es Verger Alaró‘) halfway up the Puig de Alaró mountain. It’s somewhat of an institution that’s justifiably famous for its ‘paletilla de cordero’, a slow-roasted lamb dish served with roast potatoes and a very basic salad. For my vegetarian sensibility the wife of the owner would create the most beautiful fresh salads based on whatever she could find brought together with a zingy caper & sultana dressing which I love for its little pops of briny freshness and the sweetness of the juicy sun dried sultanas. She foraged for the capers herself (they grow wild in the Balearics) before pickling them in brine and, I suspect, that the combination of these two ingredients is probably influenced by the Arabs who very often combine the two with pine nuts. So, here’s my take on it. Just so you know, I usually make the dressing the day before and keep it in the fridge. It allows the sultanas to plump out and for the flavours to merge together.
400g of crunchy seasonal green vegetables (as it’s spring, I used Tenderstem broccoli tips and sugar snaps)
2x 400g of butter beans, drained and rinsed
Lots of flat leaf parsley, mint and basil, roughly chopped
3 tbsp pine kernels, toasted
For the dressing:
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
3 tbsp capers
3 tbsp golden sultanas (you can also used mixed raisins)
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
How I make it
Make the dressing the day ahead by heating a frying pan on a medium heat before adding the olive oil. When the oil is up to temperature add the shallot, capers and sultanas and fry, stirring regularly for a few minutes until the shallot is translucent. Add the sherry vinegar, take off the heat and leave to cool.
Let it steep in a sealed jar in the fridge overnight.
The next day, bring a large pan of water to the boil and blanch your vegetables for a couple of minutes. Drain and refresh them in cold water to stop the cooking process; you want them to be fresh and crunchy rather than cooked.
In a large bowl combine the blanched vegetables, butter beans and herbs before tossing in the dressing. Sprinkle with the toasted pine kernels and serve immediately (if you want to make this ahead, leave out the herbs, dressing and pine kernels until you’re ready to serve).