I make a version of this as a hot spaghetti dish, but it works so so well as a fresh salad. I know it SEEMS like a lot of dressing, but I usually use it all! You can substitute feta cheese for canned sardines if you like here, or omit this for a vegan option. To get ahead, make the dressing and roast the pine nuts in advance. Cook and rinse the pasta up to 2 days in advance, then toss in a little olive oil and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Shave the fennel and toss in the dressing up to 2 hours in advance.
Time: 40 minutes
Photography: Chloe Hardwick
250g orzo, or other small pasta shape of your choice
90g currants or raisins
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
75g pine nuts, plus extra to serve
2 large fennel bulbs
4 tablespoons capers
30g soft herbs – I used a mixture of dill, flat leaf parsley and tarragon
salt and pepper
1 or 2 × 120g (4¼oz) cans of sardines OR a block of feta cheese, to serve (optional)
For the lemon & olive oil dressing
4 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons, depending on. how juicy your lemons are (about 2-4 tablespoons)
salt and pepper
OPTION: add a pinch of sugar
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the orzo (or pasta of choice) and cook according to the packet instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water until completely cooled, then drain well. This rinses away the starch so that the pasta doesn’t stick together when tossed in the salad.
Whisk up the dressing in a large serving bowl, then pour off about one quarter of it and set aside for adding later if needed. Add the currants or raisins, mustard and oregano and set aside.
To roast the pine nuts,
Shave the fennel as thinly you can – use a mandolin if you have one, but if not, finely slice with a very sharp knife. Add to the bowl and toss well. Add the capers, orzo and most of the roasted pine nuts. Pull the herb leaves from the stems, add to the bowl and toss well again. Taste and season with salt and pepper, adding the remaining dressing if it needs it. Top with the remaining pine nuts and serve alongside some sardines for a real Sicilian experience!
When it’s hot outside and all you want to eat are cold, fresh, flavourful salads, Ellie has got you covered. Her book is one that you’ll keep referring to whether it’s for quick, easy and simple mid-week meals or big salad parties and BBQ spreads. Salads Are More Than Leaves by Elena Silcock is published by Hamlyn, priced £20.00. Photography by Chloe Hardwick.