IMG_3612[1]This is happiness in a bowl. This is food to make you smile. This is food custom designed for languid meals, pink wine, easy chat and Indian summers.

If what you want is the ingredients and instruction, skip to the next image at the bottom.

If you have time on your hands for a group therapy session, read on (warning, female content ahead).

There are things that are not in this salad. There are no pulses – strange for me (though you could easily fold through some du puy lentils, or a rinsed tin of lentils for some earthy rubble to stretch the luxury ingredients a little further). There is no quinoa (though the same applies, as would a few croutons of chickpea flour foccacia – recipe here). There is no balsamic vinegar glossing the top – as it was served to a dear, dear friend who is on a sugar restricted regime at the moment- but its plummy inkiness would be a valiant inclusion.

There are no poppyseeds scattered over the crests, instead you’ll find some chopped hazelnuts for crunch. Though if you were feeding someone with a nut allergy, poppyseeds would contribute a lovely contrast to the figs and/or plums tucked inside.

What there is draped throughout is plenty of cured meat (though if you were serving vegetarians or those ‘with child’, you could omit it).

I however, am eating all the cured meats. I’m eating all the cured meats and drinking all the pink wine and slicing all the soft cheeses and scoffing all the raw fish.

Because as it would turn out, for another month, there are no poppyseeds being celebrated in this house.  There are no stowaways along for this ride. There hasn’t been one since our Balinese blessing last year left us early in the game. Certainly, the past stretch of time has seen a couple of small seeds of varying sizes take up ghostly residence, but none that will stick and unfurl to anything of substance. I know in the scheme of efforts, ours is minor. This is a just a page, when so many in my circle could have written the encyclopedia on the issue. I know I am so, so blessed to have my son. At two and a half he is a real live boy, with thoughts, curious habits and hair on his shins. He is a marvel.

But I was spoiled. 

I stumbled into my first pregnancy with the ease of someone waltzing straight onto a waiting bus. ‘Should we?’ ‘Sure!’ Woosh! We were off. Certainly the years that followed were bloated with graft.  I was not a magical pregnancy unicorn (my particular bag of tricks included rollicking nausea, migraines, a rogue nerve in my leg and a patch of hormonal dermatitis on my hip that nearly sent me mad with a 33 week itch that only quelled after my squalling son was placed on my chest). Then we played host to Will’s tongue tie, the silent reflux,  struggle with supply, fortnightly weigh ins and 18 months of splintered sleep. There was that day I was so delirious I nearly backed us off a cliff in Coledale. There was the other when I put a daisy razor covered in toothpaste up to my lips in the shower. There were the months when I kept putting the milk in the laundry by mistake.

Yet now, I miss that itch.

Hormones are a mercurial witch.

Now each passing month feels like I’m breathlessly chasing down a bus, then slumping over dejectedly when it speeds off again (or worse, getting on the bus, feeling so excited that you’re on the bus, struggling to contain the elation/creeping nausea of the journey – and then being kicked off at the next stop).

I could not count the amount of hours I have spent in recent months clutching white plastic sticks next to a window, tilting them like cheap holograms and squinting at faint, faint dual pink lines, which fade in a few days like flowers from a service station. I can not confess to the amount of hours I have spent in early hours on google, with a search history littered with ‘chemical pregnancies’ and ‘implantation assistance’. I am doing the acupuncture. I am making and drinking the bone broth. I am eating the brazil nuts.

I am trying to be zen.

Yet I am impatient and greedy and selfish. And I am terrible at keeping things close to my chest.

There is no greater high than the smell of a newborn. And I am like a parched addict, scratching for another fix.

So until then, I am working on my gratitude. I am grateful for my family.  I am grateful that I live in the age of Peak Television (ooh- another season of House of Cards? Don’t mind if I do). I am grateful for good yoga classes and soft cheese, beach swims and idle chats. I am grateful that there are plenty of other babies around I can borrow for a quick sniff and a cuddle. And I am grateful for a life filled with good things to eat and delightful distractions, such as this.

IMG_3612[1]Think of this salad as more of a flexible template. The non negotiable elements are the shaved courgette – be sure to use a vegetable peeler or a speed peeler to get the right wafty texture – they will soften under the influence of a little sea salt and olive oil and become as pliant as blanched spinach. You want perkily fresh basil leaves, milky burrata (or good quality mozzarella – nothing turgid in plastic please) and a good combination of sweet red things in season. Cherry tomatoes are lovely, but think of accenting them with either some sliced fresh figs or plums for a little additional syrupy contrast to the salty ham. The blanched green beans could be swapped for broccolini or asparagus and the hazelnuts for almonds or poppyseeds.

Dress it with good quality olive oil and either some apple cider vinegar and a lick of honey, or some good aged balsamic.

Eat it on its own, with some charred bread if you fancy, or as a delightful side to some simple roast lamb or chicken. The pink wine to drink is up to you- but it does pair beautifully with a Provencal Rose and some sunshine.

Prosciutto, Courgette, Burrata and Basil Salad

IMG_3612[1]

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side to roast protein (lamb or chicken are lovely)

Shopping/foraging

1 medium courgette/zucchini, shaved into long ribbons with a vegetable peeler/ speed peeler
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
1 1/2 tbsp good quality olive oil
15 medium basil leaves, roughly torn
10 green beans, trimmed, halved and blanched, or 5 stems of broccoli or asparagus trimmed, chopped and blanched
125 g ripe cherry tomatoes, cut into halves or thirds
2 ripe figs or plums, thinly sliced
4 slices of prosciutto or jamon, torn into thumb length wafts
1 large ball of burrata drained (approx 80 g) or equivalent amount of fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces the size of a postage stamp
1 tbsp hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Additional sea salt flakes and ground pepper to taste

Here’s how we roll

1 ) Combine the courgette ribbons with the sea salt flakes and olive oil and massage it together with your fingers.

2) Combine on a serving platter with the remainder of the ingredients and drizzle with vinegar. Serve at room temperature.