"My mother put on some baby reins which I interpreted as a dog lead as a child" Queen Viv said while exercising her perfect table manners and dabbing at the corners of her mouth with her napkin. "I even cocked my leg up when we got to a tree" she added. Everyone around her looked surprised. If there's something we couldn't imagine, it's Queen Viv being a dog.
"How long were you a dog?" I asked her.
"Oh just the once, it was an unsuccessful experiment" she said, popping a large olive in her mouth and chewing on the pip before adding with a wink. "My mother never repeated it."
One of my favourite things about getting together with friends is the random conversation that may occur or learning interesting tidbits about their lives. And whenever you have someone over, the food is just as important as the conversation. I first came across something like this salad at Leura Garage in the Blue Mountains. I decided to make a version of this as the weather is starting to warm up and we defrost and become more sociable and the idea of inviting people over for lunch becomes as appealing as a shiny new toy or a pair of twinkly shoes.
This salad is one of my favourites ever - it is healthy, low carb it is crunchy and it doesn't feel virtuous because of the balance of flavours and textures. You can add things like halved kipfler potatoes, chickpeas or roasted beetroot to it if you feel like it and it is interchangeable with whatever vegetables you might like. I've tried so many additions and combinations!
The key to this recipe is a balance of flavours and the ability to do things ahead of time because when you have people over, you don't want to miss any interesting conversational tidbits. The eggs can be boiled the day before, the onions can be done that morning, the trout easily skinned and filleted that day and the celeriac remoulade can even be done the night before.
And the best thing about friends? That they don't judge you if you have done these ahead of time. Because of course, they may have spent a day as a dog cocking their leg at poles!
So tell me Dear Reader, who do you like to cook for the most? And are your friends interested in food as much as you are?
Smoked Trout, Celeriac & Watercress Salad
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella
Serves 4 for lunch
250g/1.2 lb celeriac (about 1/4 a small celeriac or 1/2 a large one)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon low fat cream
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt to taste
4 eggs (use older eggs as they are easier to peel)
1 red onion
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 smoked trout
1 bunch watercress
Step 1 - Firstly make the celeriac remoulade. Peel the celeriac with a vegetable peeler and then slice or grate into thin matchstick thin pieces. Rub the sides with lemon juice to prevent the celeriac browning and toss in the lemon juice to prevent it browning. Toss with the mayonnaise, cream, mustard and parsley and season with a little salt. Set aside to soften for about 30 minutes-this is best done on the day although I've had this after it has been made the night before and it is still fine.
Step 2 - Boil the eggs for about 5 minutes and run under cold water. Set aside to cool and you can do this ahead of time too and peel when ready.
Step 3 - Slice the red onion thinly and place in a bowl with the rice wine vinegar and sugar. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes (you can do this a few hours before).
Easily peeling the skin from the trout
Step 4 - On the day you want to serve this, place the watercress in four bowls. Remove the skin from the trout and remove the backbone by taking the head and backbone and removing it in one piece. Flake the trout into bite sized pieces. To the plates, add the celeriac remoulade in the centre and the red onion pickle around it and then the smoked trout. Don't throw out the pickling juice, divide this among the bowls and drizzle on top of the celeriac. Place quartered eggs on top and grind some black pepper on top.