I was teaching a student the other day when he asked me to explain the term ‘idiolect’. As with so many definitions, this is something that benefits from the giving of an example. I was plunged into a moment of introspective self-analysis, rapidly mentally running through the lexicon I use on a daily basis, the words to which I attribute non-standard uses or meanings and which therefore constitute my own, distinct, idiolect. I hit, suddenly, upon the word ‘insane’. “You see, when I use the word insane,” I explained to my student, “I use it to mean amazing; ridiculously good; incredible.”
The other night, I found myself murmuring, through a mouthful of pecan nuts, “Oh my god these are insane.”
(I must admit that I was doing this while completely alone in my house, so perhaps it isn’t the pecan nuts that are the real deservers of such a title…)
But you would behave in a similar fashion, I guarantee, if you had just taken these pecan nuts and tossed them in hot butter, brown sugar and a pinch of paprika before letting them cool to a state of salty, sweet, spicy, butterscotch-scented lusciousness.
Insane, adj. (and n.)
1. Of persons: Not of sound mind, mad, mentally deranged. Also of the mind: Unsound.
2. Of actions (also colloq. of things): Mad, idiotic, utterly senseless, irrational.
I wasn’t of sound mind while eating these. Had you asked me to perform any normal human task at the exact moment those sweet, salty morsels hit my tastebuds, I would have been incapacitated. Moreover, I can tell you that I would behave entirely irrationally if you tried to take the bowl away from me. So, in fact, I think ‘insane’ is a completely appropriate way to describe candied pecans spiced with paprika and coriander.
If that is the case, what adjective do you apply to a salad topped with these beauties? A salad which, moreover, contains tangy green apple, good-for-you kale, buttery avocado and glistening pomegranate seeds? A salad that is tossed with a tangy, lemony yoghurt dressing bursting with the flavours of aromatic herbs? A salad which almost makes you want to cry, so beautiful does it look in the bowl?
How about you try it, and send me your suggestions in the comments below?
Honestly, this is just one incredible salad. It is so fresh, light and invigorating to eat, absolutely stunning to look at, and is a really unusual combination of tastes and textures. The pecans are the crowning glory, giving an indulgent toffee crunch to the plate (make double and save for topping other dishes, or...ahem...eating from the pan), and the yoghurt dressing, zingy with lemon zest and juice and full of tangy, fresh herbs like basil and coriander, makes every mouthful a creamy burst of flavour. One of my favourite things about this salad is it’s great for using up any past-their-best herbs you might have in the fridge – you can use the stalks, too, for the dressing, meaning there isn’t any waste – as well as odd bits of yoghurt, greens (you could use raw spinach or rocket instead of the kale) and apples. I like coriander, basil and mint in the dressing in particular, but most herbs work well.
This is beautiful just as it is (and would be a great side dish with roasted meats or cheese dishes), but to make it a more substantial meal, add chunks of goat’s cheese or fried chorizo.
Insane? Perhaps not literally, but I am a little bit mad for this salad.
Kale, avocado, apple and herb salad with tangy yoghurt dressing and candied paprika pecans (serves 2):
For the pecans:
- A small knob of butter
- 1 tsp light brown sugar
- A pinch of smoked paprika
- A pinch of ground coriander
- 4 tbsp pecan nuts, roughly chopped
For the dressing:
- 50ml plain yoghurt
- Juice and zest of half a lemon
- 1 tsp honey
- ½ tsp cider vinegar
- ½ tsp lemon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- A small bunch (stalks included) of two or more of the following: coriander, basil, dill, tarragon, mint
For the salad:
- 100g kale, blanched for 2 minutes in boiling water and drained well
- 1 chilli (red or green), finely sliced
- 1 green apple, cored and thinly sliced
- Seeds of half a pomegranate
- 1 ripe but firm avocado, sliced
First, make the pecans. Melt the butter in a small frying pan then add the sugar and spices. Add the pecans and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until caramelised and fragrant. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool.
Next, make the dressing. Blitz all the ingredients together in a mini food processor. You can use the stalks of the herbs, too – bits you’d normally throw away – because everything will be chopped so finely.
Put the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the dressing (gently, so as not to break up the avocado). Divide between two plates, and top with the candied pecans.