When I first came to live in this glorious part of France I had a good long meeting with the local Maire. We talked about schools and children and local services – all the usual things – then got on to fêtes and food. Finally, as twelve o’ clock approached and his tummy began to signal its need for immediate sustenance, he stood up, shook my hand and announced.
‘Et voila, Madame! Vous êtes une Albasienne.’
And so I have christened my favourite salad Albasienne. The ingredients are all local, available in every market, grown in the garden or picked from the hedgerows. It’s just the thing for a summer lunch.
Serves four as an entrée or two as a main course.
2 large or 4 small globe artichokes
I large crisp lettuce – any variety
100g lambs lettuce
1 spring onion, finely chopped
8 nasturtium flowers (optional)
100g shelled walnuts
200g goat’s cheese – I use Rocamadour, but any variety will work just as well.
12 baby cornichons, rinsed, drained and chopped
A good slosh of walnut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Firstly, deal with the artichokes. Snap off the outer leaves and the stalk, and cut the artichoke in half crossways with a sharp knife. You should now have the bottom half of the artichoke with the hairy choke exposed. Now cut the artichoke into quarters lengthways and scrape out the choke. Trim away all green parts with a sharp knife. Cut the lemon in half and rub all cut surfaces of the artichoke with it to get rid of the black. Squeeze a little lemon into a saucepan, add boiling water and salt and toss in your cleaned quarters. Gently simmer for fifteen minutes.
Take the outer leaves off the lettuce, cut the bottom off and plunge the whole into a sink full of cold water to flush out any lurking protein.
Meanwhile slice the baguette carefully into thin rounds about a centimetre thick. You need about a dozen. Toast the slices under the grill, then spread the cheese roughly and set them to one side.
Drain the lettuce and chop roughly, rinse the lamb lettuce and mix together.
Make a dressing with the juice of half a lemon, a good slosh of walnut oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Take a large platter and begin to assemble your salad.
Pile all the lettuce in the centre and toss with half the dressing.
Grill the goat’s cheese until it bubbles and melts a little.
Grill the walnuts for one minute.
Scatter the onion and cornichons over the lettuce.
Plunge the artichokes in cold water, drain and toss in the remaining salad dressing. Arrange on the platter.
Arrange the toasted cheese slices next, scatter the walnuts over all, and finally place the delicate flowers.
Serve with a chilled rose and some warm walnut bread.
© Amanda Lawrence