Now I have a lot of cookery books, but this one, by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi, is really fabulous.

Salads are such a great way to increase your vegetable intake in a colourful and delicious way. They can be quick to prepare and easy to transport, making them a great option for busy lives. I often recommend that a nutritious lunch is made at breakfast and stored in the fridge until lunchtime, even when people are around the home. Then when you get hungry it feels like someone has made lunch for you and you’re less likely to dive into something naughty!

Anyway, back to the book. The Caldesi’s are a wonderful couple, food lovers to the core. Giancarlo is an Italian chef and his wife Katie adds creative flair and literary skills. Together they run two restaurants – La Cucina Caldesi in Marylebone and Caldesi in Calpagna in Bray. Their latest book is beautifully laid out, with enticing pictures bursting with colour and yumminess. The Caldesi’s are extensively well travelled which lends itself to a global salad influence – from Greek lemon chicken to Mexican beef salad to an Asian rainbow slaw. Lots of lovely choice to help you extend your eating repertoire.

I’m delighted to say that I have permission to share a recipe with you – enjoy!

Click here for a link to purchase Around the World in Salads

asparagus with roasted tomato dressing & baked lemon ricotta

serves 4

This couldn’t be easier to make and keeps well for a few days in the fridge so is good for entertaining. The dressing also pairs well with grilled fish, lamb, chicken breast or pan-fried goat’s cheese. The soft herb and cheese moulds are wonderful with roast asparagus, however when it is not in season serve them with buttered toast, grilled courgettes, roasted and peeled red peppers or heirloom tomatoes.

for the moulds and asparagus
butter, for greasing
250g ricotta, drained
1 egg
a small handful of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
25g Parmesan cheese
finely grated zest of 1/2 unwaxed lemon
250g asparagus, woody ends removed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the dressing
400g cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a little finely chopped red chilli or finely grated lemon zest,
according to taste (optional)
a handful of flaked almonds, toasted, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Generously grease 4 dariole moulds (about 8cm across x 5cm deep) or ramekins with butter and line the bases with baking parchment.

To make the dressing, roast the whole tomatoes on a baking tray for 20–30 minutes or until they have collapsed but not browned.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Reserve a handful of cherry tomatoes. Tip the remainder into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add the olive oil, salt to taste, and either a little chilli or lemon zest, if you like. The dressing will keep in the fridge, covered, for up to a week.

Make sure the ricotta is well drained. You can do this in a fine sieve or by holding the ricotta in its container over the sink and tipping it. Tip the ricotta into a mixing bowl and stir in the egg, thyme, Parmesan, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Spoon into the moulds and bake for 30–40 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden and firm to the touch. Meanwhile, place the asparagus on a baking tray, season and drizzle with the oil, roast for 15–20 minutes or until tender. Toast the flaked almonds, if using, on a baking tray until lightly browned, they will take 3–5 minutes.

Turn out the moulds and serve straight away or at room temperature, with the asparagus drizzled with the cooking juices and a squeeze of lemon juice, the dressing and a few roasted cherry tomatoes.

Garnish with a few toasted almonds and thyme leaves.

Around the World in Salads by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi, published by Kyle Books, priced £16.99.  Photography by Helen Cathcart. Click here to purchase

SALADS_FRONT COVER (2)Click here to purchase

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