This beautiful and easy little salad is the coming together of two timely things: an abundance of bright and delicate nasturtiums in our new front garden, and an even greater abundance of unprepossessing mung beans that have been lurking around the kitchen looking for a cause and a purpose.
I rather like the meeting of something so noble as a velvety heaven-sent flower, and something so humble as a mung bean – so long associated with stale 90s vegan dives where seasoning and flavour come rarely if at all. Well their staying power is testament to their greatness and I especially love this recipe, adapted from Silvena Rowe’s great book Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume (yes please to both) because it is so quick to throw together. Light, bright and full of plant-powered protein, it is a versatile base for all sorts of simple or sexy additions, from feta to flowers and anything in between. For me, a lot of good healthy cooking is simply throwing what you have on top of something flavoursome and nutritious, and a salad like this is perfect for this. The toasted citrus zest was leftover from an aioli recipe test (also from her book) that went awry and the crunchy tangy flavours perfectly bring out the nigella and the vinegar in the dressing (extra healing for your digestive system if you opt for apple cider). Meanwhile a bundle of fresh parsley and thymoquinone-containing nigella seeds support the liver and its detoxification process.
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side
Toasted citrus zest
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lime
zest of 2 oranges
250g dried mung beans, soaked overnight or for as long as possible
2 red onions
5 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
3 tbsp red wine or apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
A large handful of fresh parsley
8 sundried tomatoes, finely sliced
1 tbsp nigella seeds
Sea salt and pepper to season
Nasturtiums or other edible flowers to decorate
Start by preheating your oven to around 180 and roasting your citrus zest in a tray, on baking paper, for about 15 minutes – but keep an eye to check it doesn’t burn as this can happen quickly.
Remove and set aside when crispy, and start to boil your mung beans in some vegetable stock. Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until they are soft but not falling apart. Remove from the heat and drain.
Meanwhile, slice your red onions and brown them in a pan on a medium heat with one tbsp of your oil until they are soft and caramelised but still a vibrant colour. Leave to cool while you finely chop your shallot, tomatoes and parsley.
Add the shallot to the remaining oil, along with the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix into a dressing. Add the beans, tomatoes, parsley and onions to a large bowl, dress and garnish with the citrus zest and nigella seeds – and anything else you feel like throwing in.
Serve at room temperature.