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Recipe courtesy of Nigella Lawson, from her Forever Summer cookbook.
From Nigella: “Whenever I make this, it’s met, at first, with slightly patronising amusement – and then with the most colossal greed. The trick is twofold: first, substitute sliced fennel for the more traditional cucumber (which has the added benefit of not making the salad go soggy on standing); second, let the onion steep, sprinkled with dried oregano, in the oil and vinegar long enough for it to lose all of its acrid, rib-sticking aftertaste. This version is mild, abundant, gloriously summery. If you don’t like fennel, just leave it out, although don’t be tempted to reinstate the cucumber.”
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus steeping
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
200ml extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon caster sugar (regular works fine)
Pinch of salt
1 very large head of romaine lettuce
1 bulb fennel
125g pitted black olives
400g Feta cheese
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Sprinkle the oregano over the red onion and grind over some pepper. Pour in the vinegar and oil and toss well, cover and leave to steep for a good 2 hours; longer’s fine. You’ll notice, once it’s had its time, that the blooded crimson of the onion is now a luminescent puce. It’s something to do with the acid in the vinegar: don’t ask. You don’t need to be fully conversant with the technicalities to take advantage of them.
But to return to the case in hand: cut the tomatoes into quarters, then cut each quarter into quarters (always lengthwise) again, so that you have a collection of fine segments. Sprinkle the sugar and a pinch of salt over them and set aside. Tear the lettuce into big pieces and put in a large bowl. Slice the fennel and add that, then the olives and Feta, crumbled into chunks, and toss well. Add the tomatoes, the onion in its marinade, and the lemon juice. Toss gently but thoroughly, so everything is well combined. This is addictive: you will find yourself making it all through summer – and beyond.