Avocados are like a metaphor for life, right? You have all this hope and anticipation that it’s going to be perfect and it’s really expensive but you do it anyway because it’s an avocado and you’d give up everything for this avocado and you feel, gently, from the outside that it’s going to be a good one this time! You’ve been burned before but damn it, you just know this avocado is the one. And you carry it home, imagining all the good times you’re going to have together – will you spread it on toast? Eat it in its entirety with a teaspoon, sprinkled with salt? Roughly mash it into guacamole? You could do anything! The taste is almost in your mouth, your teeth can almost feel that sensation of crushing through its soft, soft flesh. And then you finally slice into it and it turns out that despite your very best efforts, it was not ready to be cut open and exposed to the world; it was underripe and cold at its core. Or it had been left for too long and could not be saved no matter how you try to disguise it – greying and sulphuric and with no way to make you happy. Even though you wanted it so, so bad and you paid so much for it.
Or sometimes you just randomly buy an avocado because it’s on special and like, slice into it and it’s perfect and you’re like “phewf, don’t know what I would’ve done for lunch otherwise” and that’s kind of that.
I was not particularly in the mood for metaphors when I made myself lunch the other day: the avocado was green and unblemished and yielding and that was enough for me. I used it in a simple, beautiful pea, mint and avocado salad from Nigella Lawson’s seminal text How To Eat. A book I turn to again and again when I forget how to eat: it’s the most trustworthy manual I know. Her tone is gently bossy yet undone and dishevelled at the same time and it’s ever so comforting.
Yeah, it’s Spring, so eating sprightly green stuff feels obvious, but no matter what time of year it is this salad is gorgeously delicious. Especially because all you really need to worry about is the state of your avocado – the peas can be frozen and the salad leaves are highly interchangeable for whatever’s seasonal. You can basically make the entire thing in the bowl you’re planning to serve it in, which appeals to my utter laziness, and while it’s meant to be a side salad it makes a thoroughly satisfying meal all on its own, depending on your appetite I suppose. It’s also vegan, which is nice.
The flavours here are so wonderful – the green-green-greenness (yes) of the peas, the bitterness of the leaves, the sweet, ice cold mint, the buttery avocado. Then you’ve got crunch and softness and oiliness and saltiness and honestly, all I want is a whole bowlful of this and nothing else. I do think it would be a good vehicle for some roasted asparagus if you’ve got the inclination – I mean, it is Spring! – and you could always add some chopped nuts to add further crunch. But it’s truly perfect just as Nigella stipulates it. As per usual though I have given lots of alternatives and notes because I get helpfully nervous about being too specific in case people feel like they can’t make something because they don’t have the exact right thing.
pea, mint, and avocado salad
recipe by nigella lawson from her important book How To Eat, below is the vague quantitiy I made though which doesn’t quite match her specs
- three quarters of a cup of frozen peas, or thereabouts
- half a bag of baby spinach
- one perfect, beautiful avocado
- one whitloof, radicchio, or other bitter lettuce, or just something else crunchy – heck, half a regular iceberg lettuce would be chill here
- several tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, at least three but definitely more
- a pinch of sugar
- one tablespoon of white wine vinegar; you could always use apple cider vinegar though
- a handful of mint leaves, plus more to serve
- sea salt
Briefly cook the peas in a pan of boiling water and then strain under cold running water. If you’ve just bought them from the supermarket and they’re not super frozen you can probably get away with just letting them defrost in a bowl, maybe filled with warm water to hasten the process. Basically: get your frozen peas to be unfrozen, please.
Put the olive oil, vinegar and sugar in the bowl you’re planning to serve the salad in. You can always add more oil later. Rip up some mint leaves and stir them in. Tip in the drained peas and the baby spinach. Tear in the whitloof leaves, or whichever crunchy leaves you’re adding in, and then halve your avocado and scoop out rough spoonfuls, letting them fall into the same bowl. Use a large spoon to carefully mix all this together, adding a little sea salt and more oil if you like. Throw over a few more mint leaves. You’re done.
As I said, this recipe is given by Nigella as a side dish, but I quite contentedly polished off the entire thing by myself and didn’t feel inclined to need anything else for a long time after; avocados and olive oil are good like that, making you all shiny-haired and full.
And it’s surprisingly practical when eaten lying down: I honestly didn’t expect that.
title from: Joni Mitchell, River. Lol…………………….this song is so sad.
The Damned, New Rose. I made a kind of surfy punky playlist for work and it turns out I am a sucker for pretty much anything with big drums, this song included.
New Editions, Something About You. If you haven’t heard this song from 1996 do yourself an enormous favour, it’s so great.
next time: more acknowledgements of Spring, I guess? I haven’t actually eaten any asparagus since last year so should get on to that, what with uh, being a food blogger and all.