Nasturtiums are one of the great features of a cottage or coastal garden. They take care of themselves, vanish when the sun gets too savage and, in the dark of winter (such that we have in sunny Queensland) pop up overnight in crevasses and garden beds, climbing over fences and draping themselves laconically as they soak up the winter sun.
They are also an integral part of the French country garden especially in spring. Monet’s inimitable Giverny garden is one stunning example as pictured here.
Most of us know they are more than just pretty, in fact they’re pretty delicious. You can eat both the flowers and the leaves – the youngest, smallest leaves are the most delicious.
It’s a member of the Brassicaceae family and so is watercress, which explains the delicious peppery, mustardy bitterness of the leaves, which is balanced out by a sweet nectar, contained within the flower that tastes like herbaceous honey.
Adding the leaves and flowers to a dish adds complexity and depth as well as subtle beauty and some serious plate appeal.
We’ve paired them today with some hot smoked salmon (good deli’s sell it already prepared) and a crunchy, moreish salad of broccolini, young celery and eshallots. We’ve dressed it simply with a lemony vinaigrette and added a sprinkle of exotic crunch by adding a sprinkle of toasted sesame and nigella seeds.
Crusty bread is essential as is a homemade hot chilli salsa or a creamy roasted garlic aioli – or in our case both and we’ve included all dressings and sauce recipes, all of which you can mix and match with other dishes (see recommendations at the bottom of each recipe).
HOT SMOKED SALMON AND NASTURTIUM SALAD
- 4 slices hot smoked salmon
- 12 nasturtium flowers
- 20 small, young nasturtium leaves, washed and drained
- 2 bunches broccolini
- 300gms young celery stalks, leaves on
- 8 eschallots, finely sliced
- I bunch small radishes, cut into quarters
- 80gms nigella seeds
- 80gms sesame seeds, lightly roasted
Steam broccolini and cut each stalk in half lengthways. Trim celery into 5 cm stalks and place in a wide, shallow bowl with the broccolini. Top with shallots and radishes and arrange the nasturtium leaves and flowers. Drizzle with vinaigrette and sprinkle the seeds over the salad. Serve with crusty bread and a small but lethal pot of smoked chilli dipping sauce.
Makes about 1 cup
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place salt, pepper, mustard, garlic and lemon juice in a high-sided bowl. Whisk to combine well. Add honey and whisk again. Gradually add oil in a slow drizzle while whisking briskly. Continue until all oil is incorporated and the ingredients are emulsified. Adjust the seasoning. The vinaigrette can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.
ROASTED GARLIC AOILI
Makes about 1 cup
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 egg yolk
- Pinch of sea salt
- 150ml mild-flavoured oil (olive, grapeseed or bran)
- Lemon juice to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 180C fan forced. Wrap garlic in foil and cook for about 35 minutes, until very soft when pierced with a skewer.
Remove from oven, unwrap and allow to cool. Squeeze the garlic cloves to remove the flesh from their papery skins.
Put eight cloves in a food processor with the egg yolk and a pinch of salt and blend. With the motor running, slowly add the oil, a little at a time, until you have a smooth creamy consistency, like mayo. Add lemon juice to taste and season with pepper. Your aioli will last for at least two weeks in and airtight container in the fridge.
SMOKED CHILLI DIPPING SAUCE
Makes about 2 jars
- 550g over-ripe tomatoes
- 6 scotch bonnet chillies
- 3 red capsicums
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 250ml white wine vinegar
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbs sugar
- 2 tsp salt
Skewer capsicums and hold them over the flame of your stovetop. (this can also be done on a bbq). Do the same with the chillies and, when they are charred, wrap loosely in tin foil to sweat.
Cut a cross in the base of each tomato then place them in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave for a few minutes until the skins loosen and can be peeled away easily. Dice the tomatoes and set aside.
Saute onion in oil until soft but not coloured. Peel and roughly chop the peppers, discarding seeds and add to the pan with the chillies, garlic, vinegar, tomatoes, paprika, salt and sugar. Cover and let the mixture simmer for about 25 minutes until the tomatoes have started to break down into a pulp. Set aside to cool then blend until you have a smooth consistency. Adjust the seasoning. You can add a little water if it looks too thick.
Store in a clean airtight container in the fridge.
Recipe by Lizzie Loel