Today was my nephew, Benjamin’s, first birthday. On this day last year, I was blessed to watch him come into this world, with a front row seat in the delivery room. My job was as ‘hand holder’ to my sister, while Phillipe watched the special effects at the other end. This tiny, beautiful baby had no idea of the family he was entering into, or of this father who has little time for peace and tranquillity. Little Benjamin has been thrust into a noisy world of noisy toys that light up with one touch, endless episodes of ‘In the Night Garden’ and constant excitement. To say that he is loved by all of us is an understatement. He has absolutely lit up my life over the past year.
The birthday party meant one thing for me: I would be asked to make the damn rocket, pear and parmesan salad again! And I was, but as I was asked to make two salads, the second would be my Greek salad. I call it ‘my Greek salad’, because in calling it a Greek salad, I would be inferring that it is the definitive Greek salad. And there are far too many opinions on what constitutes a real Greek salad. My version is a little more Greek-Cypriot, which also happens to be the background of my mother’s family. As this needed to be a super-sized party salad, I used large amounts of each ingredient, so please adapt this as you wish.
3 punnets mini Roma or cherry tomatoes
3 Lebanese cucumbers
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
250 g Danish feta
1/2 baguette, preferably stale
few sprigs of fresh rosemary and oregano
few cos lettuce leaves, for decoration
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dried oregano
sea salt and ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Wash and thoroughly dry the cos, then place around the edges of a large salad bowl. Chop the tomatoes in half and place in a salad spinner or large colander, also adding the olives to this. Peel sections of the skin off the cucumbers (very daggy, but I like it!), leaving a centimetre between each section of skin, then dice. Add these to the colander, along with the fresh rosemary and oregano, roughly torn up. Toss the colander or spinner, or use your hands to combine the ingredients well and then shake or spin (depending on your equipment) the ingredients to get rid of any excess water. Transfer this into the salad bowl, arranging it neatly over the cos lettuce.
Cut the baguette into 2 centimetre-thick slices and then cut each piece into chunks. Scatter these onto a baking tray, spray with a little olive oil spray and season, then place into the oven for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool.
To make the dressing, combine all ingredients and whisk together or shake well in a jar. Remember my ‘3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar’ rule here, so please adjust the amount of dressing for the amount of salad ingredients used. Cut the feta into chunks and scatter over the salad and add the croutons. Dress immediately before eating. Kali orexi and happy, happy first birthday sweet Benjamin!!