Taking inspiration from Nigel Slater
This salad of cracked wheat and herbs with nectarines is a variation of a recipe from Nigel Slater’s ‘The Kitchen Diaries II.’ If you don’t have one of Nigel’s books in your cookbook collection, I’d recommend you add one. He describes himself rather eloquently as a writer who cooks.
I love the way Nigel Slater writes – “I cook…nothing flash or show stopping, just straightforward, everyday stuff. The kind of food you might like to come home to after a busy day.” Now, that’s my kind of cooking – not too many ingredients, not too complicated. That’s what restaurants are for, don’t you think?
I chose to make this salad for our family Christmas lunch. I think it looks rather festive, with its flecks of dark green parsley, the red ribbons of chilli, the shiny orange crescents of nectarines and the pretty pink and white slices of radish.
Do you have a favourite festive salad for your Christmas gatherings?
Tangy lemon balm – a member of the mint family
I’ve used lots of herbs from my vegetable garden in this salad – mint, parsley and the tangy lemon balm. I’ve found it to be a very easy plant to grow in my planter boxes – and it also attracts the bees!
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a member of the mint family, with a similar shaped leaf. It is considered to be a calming herb. It is native to southern-central Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, Iran, and Central Asia.
The herb has been used medicinally since the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion. Even before the Middle Ages, lemon balm was steeped in wine to lift the spirits, help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings.
Today, lemon balm is often combined with other calming, soothing herbs, such as valerian, chamomile, and hops, to promote relaxation. It is also used in creams to treat cold sores.
How to use lemon balm
Lemon balm has a subtle lemon flavour. I like to add lemon balm leaves to my green smoothies. They taste delicious blended with apple, cucumber, celery and lemon juice. Lemon balm leaves also make a refreshing herbal tea.
Herb Cottage has many suggestions for how to use it in your cooking. Use the fresh leaves as a garnish for drinks, desserts and savoury dishes. You can add them to fruit salads, dressings and sauces. Lemon balm butter, with a bit of pepper, goes well with corn, broccoli, beans and asparagus. You can use it in marinades or sauces to accompany fish or chicken. It is also nice stirred through sautéed shellfish.
This salad of cracked wheat and herbs with nectarines is a great one to make a day ahead. You may like to add a little more lemon juice and zest to your salad if you don’t have any lemon balm. In this case, I suggest you leave out the nectarines – as they tend to get a bit squishy – as well as the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss these ingredients into the salad just before serving.
If you like stone fruits in summer salads, you might like to try this celery, fennel and nectarine salad.
PS: If you’ve tried this cracked wheat and herbs with nectarines, or any other recipe from At Amanda’s Table, please let me know how it turned out in the comments below. And, if you’d like to read more, please subscribe to my monthly newsletter for stories, recipes and tips for simple, nutritious meals.
Cracked Wheat and Herbs with Nectarines
- 1 cup cracked wheat
- 6 spring onions, washed and finely sliced
- 10 radishes, washed and finely sliced
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, washed and diced
- 4 white nectarines, washed and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, washed and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup mint leaves, washed and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup lemon balm leaves, washed and finely chopped
- 1 long red chilli, washed, de-seeded and finely sliced (optional)
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pour the cracked wheat into a small bowl, then add enough boiling water just to cover, and set aside while you prepare the salad.
- Mix all the other ingredients together in a large bowl, then season to taste. You may wish to add a little more lemon juice.
- Drain the cracked wheat, then toss through the salad.