I’m not very keen on being judged or competing, which might sound like a huge lie for someone who chose to compete in a televised competition. It’s true. I didn’t like competitive sports as school and exams made me so nervous at uni I had to sit them in a special room for people who freak out and faint. I can only blame the post-natal hormones on my Bake Off application. It’s back on air next Tuesday and whilst I am hugely excited about the prospect of watching the show without wincing at my double chin, I’m also terrified at the thought of the judging.
Every week of the Bake Off I felt the judging ruined what had become a very enjoyable meeting of minds. 12 people hanging out in a tent, baking like crazy and then trying each others food and being awfully complementary about it. Now I know that wouldn’t have made great telly, but the judging felt like a grubby aside. An unnecessary spoiler. Sure, there was the relief when you got to stay in, but losing someone each week was awful. And, well, asking someone to leave what felt like a party isn’t very British. Don’t we just moan about people rather than speak our minds in this country? My how we’ve changed.
Recently I was invited to a barbecue where foodie types all bring a dish. I had no idea when I accepted the invitation that this was the deal. I may not have said yes; I can smell competitiveness even through the medium of text message. I took a lemony, minty salad full of broad beans, peas, asparagus and grilled halloumi. It’s my kind of salad; full of flavour and bite without relying on a huge chunk of seared fish or grilled chicken. As I removed the lid I couldn’t help but feel disappointment from the foodie folks. No cake. No pastry. No bread. Nothing baked. Just a cold, healthy salad. Well, I wasn’t about to enter another Bake Off…
Ingredients (very rough quantities)
– half a bag of frozen petit pois
– half a bag of frozen broad beans
– 2 bunches of asparagus spears
– 1 pack of halloumi
– 1 lemon, zested and juiced
– 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
– olive oil
– black pepper
This is easy but time consuming if you go the whole hog and shell the beans. Boil the kettle and then pour into a large saucepan to about half way. Pour the broad beans into the pan then boil on the hob as per packet instructions. Just before they are ready add the peas. They only need a couple of mins. You just want to defrost rather than cook them. Drain boiling water away from the beany/pea mountain, swish some cold water over the lot, drain again and leave to cool.
Take a large frying pan and add a glug of olive oil. Heat for 2 minutes then add slices of the halloumi and fry until golden brown. Turn using tongs and fry on the other side, then set aside in a bowl to cool a little. Then chop the asparagus spears into 1 inch chunks and fry in the pan until they are kind of charred and a sharp knife goes through the thickest stem easily. Take off the heat and transfer to the serving dish. Add the zest of your lemon, then the lemon juice, a good glug of olive oil, loads of black pepper and the finely chopped mint leaves.
Now for the boring bit. Start to pick through your beans and peas. Every time you see a bean press it between your thumb and index finger and pop the bean from the tough outer broad bean shell. Then add the bean to the asparagus sitting in all the tasty flavours and throw away the empty shell. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you’re finished. Tip the left-behind peas in. Give it all a good stir and then pop the halloumi on the top. If you can’t be bothered to shell the broad beans you could skip this stage, but be warned that people will most likely judge you for it.