This salad is inspired by my travels to the Far East, where I have enjoyed light, healthy, oil-free salads, such as this one from Thailand, which is a close cousin of the famous Som Tam salad. It has the perfect balance of sweet, salty, sharp and herby tastes – and contrasting textures – making it one of my favourite simple dishes. As a bonus, the papaya is a nutrient powerhouse, making it the perfect raw food.
1. First, make the dressing. In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients together until evenly combined; set aside.
2. To make the salad, halve and peel the papaya, then slice the flesh into fine 2mm strips and place in a large bowl. Halve the cucumber lengthways, scoop out the seeds and slice the flesh into fine strips. Add the cucumber to the papaya with the spring onions and chopped herbs. Scatter over half of the pomegranate seeds and two-thirds of the peanuts.
3. Toss the salad ingredients together with 3 Tbsp of the dressing, then taste and add more of the dressing if required (or a little more lime juice, fish sauce and/or palm sugar to adjust the flavours). You are looking for an even balance of salty, sweet, acid and spicy.
4. To serve, pile the salad into a bowl, garnish with the reserved pomegranate seeds and toasted peanuts and finish with a few mint leaves.
Variations: If you cannot find unripe papaya, you can substitute an unripe green mango, or any crunchy vegetable that can be cut into fine strips, such as carrot, celeriac, courgette or peppers, or you can use apple or firm pear. For a more substantial, main course salad, add some quick stir-fried finely sliced chicken, duck, dried shrimps or grilled tiger prawns.
Recipe courtesy of 'Kitchen Secrets' by Raymond Blanc, published by Bloomsbury.
Recipe courtesy of Kenwood's Around the World in 80 Plates