Feta, Black Olive and Cranberry Salad

December 19, 2008

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I’ve had a packet of dried cranberries sitting on the chest of drawers in my bedroom for the last week. I have a nibble at them when I go by, not really because they’re a superfood but because they taste so good, sharp and just chewy enough. You know, they taste red to me, like red sweets did as a child, even when it was only a matter of food colouring, not flavour at all.

But the cranberries weren’t bought simply as a snack; I had plans for them, great plans. First they were going to top a puff pastry tartlet thingy with chestnuts and mushrooms and maybe cream. Then they were going to be baked in a gingerbread, one with lots of crazily fattening and delicious extras, like ginger pieces in syrup and slivers of rich dark chocolate.

I may still make all those things. I fully intend to. But I’ll need to buy more cranberries. Mine have all gone now, gone into this salad.

A Christmas salad, I think you could call it, because of the cranberries. But that’s not the main point about it. What we have here tastes fresh, vitamin packed and rearin’ to go, in the face of all the heaviness of normal Christmas fodder.

Before I tell you how to make it, I just want to point out the options I encountered and why I did what I did. We have three strong flavours here just to start with. There are the cranberries themselves, the tangy bite of the feta cheese, and the deep earthy growl of the olives – nothing tastes more ancient Mediterranean than olives, does it? It’s enough to make you learn to read the Iliad in Greek!

So that was already quite a tremendous trio and I could have stopped there, maybe cooled them down with oil or metered them out with something bland which sucks up flavours, like couscous.

But unless you’re new at the Eat Think and be Merry household, you’ll know I didn’t. I added to them. I went the full (vegetarian) hog.

First I got out the vinegar and poured on a good dollop and then went completely over the top with crunchy wholegrain mustard. Luckily – for this was all guesswork – it was the right thing to do. It really worked.

The final feta melange tastes amazing – but strong, you know?  I had mine with roasted vegetables, garlic, cherry tomatoes and red onion, and then, to ease it out, a little green salad, undressed.

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Feta, Black Olive and Cranberry Salad, for 4
for the roasted vegetables
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
1 red onion, peeled and sliced into wedges
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
10 cherry tomatoes
3 tbs olive oil

for the feta medley
100g feta
3 tbs cranberries
3 tbs pitted black olives
1 tbs olive oil
1-2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp wholegrain mustard

salad leaves

Set the oven to 220C. Put the vegetables in to a large roasting pan, season well and drizzle over the oil. I left most of the tomatoes whole, but cut them up if they are very big. Roast for about 20 minutes, until well done, then cool.

Crumble the feta into a bowl and add the cranberries. I chopped up the olives before adding those in too. Stir in the mustard, oil and vinegar.

That’s it. Serve with salad leaves. A healthy and fast lunch for Christmas.

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