I love salads, but it feels weird to buy tomatoes and capsicums and cucumbers and other summer vegetables when it’s freezing cold outside and probably pouring with rain, too. So as the year changes, I start swapping out my summer greens and vegetables for more wintry fare – red cabbage, apples, celery, citrus fruits, fennel, kale, and lots of nuts and legumes.
This is a recent lunchbox favourite of mine, making the most of the cooler weather and the beautiful things that are in season even now, when the idea of getting out into the garden isn’t terribly inviting. I think I even prefer this to my summer tuna salad – I like the acidity of the orange and the earthy flavour of the hazelnuts and chickpeas, and even fennel has started to grow on me.
But mostly I’m posting this recipe because it made my office-mate envious last time I brought it in for lunch, which is a good indicator in my book!
Your Shopping List (serves 1)
1/4 red onion
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 x 125 g tin chickpeas
1 small or half large fennel bulb
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
2 handfuls baby spinach, rocket or parsley, or a combination of both (or any other likely winter greens that aren’t too bitter)
1 x 90g tin tuna packed in olive oil
Now what will you do with it?
Dice the onion finely, and add it to a small jar with the oil and vinegar. Season if that’s how you roll, and then shake the mixture up a bit.
Slice the fennel bulb as finely as possible and divide the orange into segments.
Drain the chickpeas. Pile these ingredients into your lunchbox with the hazelnuts and baby spinach.
Pack in the tin of tuna and the little jar of dressing. You don’t have to store this in the fridge, but it doesn’t hurt if you do.
When you are ready to have lunch, open and drain the tuna, and add it to the salad along with your oniony dressing. Toss everything together and eat immediately and with joy!
This is, quite obviously, not vegetarian. I’m not sure what would make a good vegetarian substitute for the tuna, to be honest. Persian feta, perhaps? Or maybe diced smoked tofu? The recipe is, however, gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free, though not nut-free. It’s quite low GI, but the onions, chickpeas and fennel make it unfriendly to those who have fructose intolerance. Sorry.
As for variations, any citrus fruit that isn’t too wildly bitter would work here. Adding things like currants and capers might be fun, for a bit of a Sicilian flavour. You could also swap the hazelnuts for pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds, though pine nuts would be a bit of a pest to eat.