'Big Salads' cookbook: Recipes from freekeh and chickpea to pear and ricotta

Salads aren’t just for summer. Here, Kat Mead’s autumnal recipes show how they can be warm and comforting too

Balsamic fig and baked goat’s cheese salad with hemp hearts

This is such a delicious autumnal salad – and warming too. The hemp hearts add a lovely nutty flavour to the jammy, sticky sweetness of the baked figs and salty goat’s cheese.

10 fresh purple figs, quartered or halved depending on their size
2½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
Small handful of thyme sprigs
100g (3½oz) goat’s cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
20g (¾oz) shelled hemp seeds (hemp hearts)
50g (1¾oz) rocket (arugula)
50g (1¾oz) baby leaf kale
Zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas mark 6. Find a roasting dish that will fit all the figs in one layer and arrange them inside. Drizzle over the balsamic vinegar and honey. Tuck the thyme sprigs in and around everything and pop the dish into the oven to roast for 12-15 minutes, until the honey is bubbling and the figs are softening and browning slightly around the edges.

Remove the dish from the oven and add the crumbled goat’s cheese and the oil. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Place the hemp seeds onto a lipped baking sheet and pop into the oven on a shelf under the figs and toast for 7 minutes. Put to one side until you need them.

When the figs are cooked, take the dish out of the oven and remove the figs and cheese. Toss the salad leaves in the sticky juices and then arrange on your serving plate. Place the figs and cheese on top of the salad leaves.

Scatter the toasted hemp seeds over the top and grate over the lemon zest. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Freekeh and chickpea salad with pulled harissa lamb

This for me is the ultimate warm and meaty salad and uses another ancient grain – freekeh, which is young wheat. As this grain is popular in the Middle East, it seems only appropriate to cook it with chickpeas, harissa and lamb. The deep layers of flavour will seduce you...

1 lamb shoulder, around 2kg (4lb 8oz)
3 tbsp rose harissa​
2 tsp garlic powder
3 onions, sliced
1.5l (61⁄3 cups) vegetable stock
700g jar of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed (about 540g/1lb 3oz​ total drained weight)
200g (7oz/1¼ cups) freekeh
300g (10½oz) sugar snap peas
Small handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
Small handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

Small handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/320F/gas mark 3. Place the lamb shoulder onto a chopping board and rub the harissa and garlic powder all over it. Put the sliced onions into a large roasting tin and spread out to cover the base. Sit the lamb on top and pour 500ml (2 cups) of the stock around it to cover the onion. Roast the lamb in the oven for 4 hours.

You don’t need to do anything to it in this time other than look at it longingly. When you have 30 minutes’ cooking time left on the lamb, add the chickpeas to the roasting tin and coat in the juices.

Add the freekeh to a saucepan and cover with the remaining stock. Bring to the boil and cook according to the packet instructions (usually simmering for 12-15 minutes). Drain off any excess liquid and set aside.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the sugar snaps for 4 minutes, then drain and add them to the freekeh. Add the herbs and a little seasoning.

By now the lamb should be super tender. Remove it from the oven and transfer to a chopping board. Using two forks, shred the meat. Pour off any excess lamb fat from the roasting tin and then stir the onions and chickpeas together. Tip the freekeh onto a large serving platter, mound on the chickpeas and onions, and heap the lamb on top. Drizzle over any juices left in the roasting tin. Scatter over some fresh coriander leaves and serve immediately – hopefully to a round of applause.

Warm pear, mushroom and ricotta salad

This is such a lovely autumnal salad, using all the delicious pears that are just coming into season. It actually helps if the pears are still hard, so you don’t need to be watching and waiting for them to ripen or trying to plan for the perfect moment.

30g (1oz) parmesan cheese, finely grated (shredded)
1 garlic clove, finely grated (minced)
3 tbsp walnut oil
2 tbsp cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

To serve

Parmesan cheese shavings
¼ nutmeg, freshly grated
2 tbsp olive oil
80g (2¾oz/¾ cup) walnuts
40g (1½oz/scant 3 tbsp) unsalted butter
3 lemon thyme sprigs
300g (10½oz) portabellini​ mushrooms, sliced
150g (5½oz) mixed salad leaves
200g (7oz) ricotta

For the dressing

30g (1oz/generous ¼ cup) walnuts, toasted

Add all the dressing ingredients to a food processor and blitz until it’s very smooth. This may take anything up to 5 minutes. Scrape the sides and keep blitzing. Set aside when it’s ready.

Heat the oil in a saute pan over a medium heat, add the walnuts and cook for 5 minutes, flipping them in the pan every now and again, until they give off a nutty aroma and turn a deeper shade of brown. Cut the pears into quarters, leave the skin on but carefully remove the stalk and the core. Add the butter to the walnut pan and place the pears in, cut side down, as well as the thyme sprigs nestled in and around them.

Cook the pears for a couple of minutes, then turn and cook the other cut side in the same way. Finally, flip the pears onto their skin side and cook, basting with the foamy thymey butter, for another few minutes, until they are softened but still hold their shape.

Remove the pears and walnuts from the pan. Turn the heat up and add the mushrooms, flicking the pan to keep them moving. You want them to fry, not steam and become golden brown in the buttery oil. This will take 4-5 minutes.

Throw the salad leaves on a serving plate and add the pears and mushrooms. Dot over the ricotta and dressing. Scatter with the parmesan and lightly grate over the nutmeg. Tuck in straight away.

‘Big Salads’ by Kat Mead (Quadrille, £16.99)

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