Is it possible to cook facetiously? This recipe was born out of facetiousness, at any rate. A gastronomic riposte. Middle Easterners love jelly, and at one stage my family-in-law seemed to be having rather a lot of the stuff. So I made them a jelly salad. Actually they hated it: but it does work. No really.
It is of course nothing new: chefs have been setting anything and everything in aspic and with gelatin since the gastronomic year dot. My grandmother used to be a dab hand with it too, but as she was an averred witch, I usually refrained from asking her what was ‘under the jelly’. Anyway, let’s think of this as being in the great spirit of the Ottoman or Safavid empires: ostentatious, but fun!
You will need:
lemon and lime vegetarian jelly crystals (enough to make ½ litre jelly)
juice and zest of 1 lemon
few sprigs lemon thyme (hard to find in shops, easy to grow – check your neighbours’ patio pots)
either 2 baby cucumbers, or about 8cm of a regular cucumber, scrubbed
1 small onion
big handful flat leaved parsley, chopped
small handful fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper
Make up the jelly as per the instructions on the packet, BUT only using about ¾ of the liquid content that they recommend – veggie jelly never seems to set properly otherwise.
Include the lemon juice in this measurement.
Add the lemon zest and the lemon thyme to the jelly, and pour it either into a fancy jelly mould or a pliable plastic tub, and pop it in the fridge (or freezer if you are in a hurry) to set.
Grate the cucumber and the onion. When the jelly is half set, add the vegetables and herbs to it, mixing thoroughly with a fork. Season to taste, and return it to the fridge to finish jellifying.
You can either turn the jelly out on to a platter of lettuce leaves, or serve it in individual scoops. It makes a great accompaniment to spicy food, and is a real hit on a cheese board.
Sally Butcher and husband Jamshid will be giving a tutored tasting at The Abergavenny Food Festival. Their event is sold out, but you can still buy her latest book, Veggiestan and get a signed copy. Please see our booksigning schedule
Veggiestan is a fictitious land dreamt up to describe the non-meat cookery of a region stretching roughly from Turkey to Pakistan. Sally and her Iranian-born husband run the award-wining deli Persepolis. Veggiestan is the follow-up to Sally’s entertaining first cookbook Persia in Peckham. Visit their website here