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Healthy, light and quick – the salad returns

28 March 2014

"These salads are some of our most popular dishes and salad recipes are always a frequent request from our diners,” says chef Nicky Riemer (below).

Nicky -ruby

All the recipes are salads featured at Union Dining, Nicky’s Melbourne restaurant.

The first salad is her very popular shaved savoy cabbage salad – which she says is a great way to use the humble cabbage.

The second is a tomato and pearl barley salad with almonds – which she says is very tasty and very healthy.

Finally, the warm lamb and fregola salad is an easy way to use up roast lamb, or “a fun way to eat lamb instead of in the conventional ways”.

Tomato And Savoy Salads

Shaved savoy cabbage salad (pictured in background)

For 4 people:

1 small savoy cabbage, thinly sliced to shreds

3 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced Asian style

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley rough chopped

50g grated grana padano parmesan

30ml fresh squeezed lemon juice

100ml extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove fine diced

1 heaped teaspoon sumac

50ml saba

Sicilian sea salt

Fresh ground pepper


To make a lemon vinaigrette combine the lemon juice, garlic and extra virgin olive oil in a bowl with a whisk season to taste and set aside

Combine the shredded savoy cabbage, fennel, red onion, chopped parsley, grated parmesan and sumac in a large stainless steel bowl and toss gently

Now pour in the lemon vinaigrette and saba then mix well and serve immediately

Note : Saba and sumac are both available at Essential Ingredient at the Prahran Market.

Chopped tomato, barley, almond & sumac salad (pictured foreground)

For 4 people:

8 assorted types of ripe tomatoes – whatever you like to eat, but nice sized ones are best, not too small

2 cups of cooked pearled barley (to cook: place 1 cup of pearled barley in 2 cups of cold water, simmer for 30 minutes then drain)

1 bunch flat leaf parsley roughly chopped

½ cup blanched almonds, lightly roasted and rough chopped

2 tablespoons of sumac

½ cup homemade tomato sugo or chunky tinned tomato well drained

½ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup pomegranate molasses

2 cloves of garlic fine diced

 ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds that have been lightly toasted in a pan and ground in a mortar & pestle

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to season


First make the dressing for the salad by combining the tomato sugo (homemade is best, or you can drain some chunky chopped tinned tomato and use that), red wine vinegar, pomegranate molasses, garlic, lemon juice, ground cumin seeds and extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl using a whisk and set aside.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to a large bowl with the cooked pearled barley, chopped parsley and chopped almonds.

Pour the dressing over the tomato salad mix and season with the sumac, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

This is a great salad on its own, or garnished with feta, or served with any grilled meat straight off the BBQ. The better the tomatoes, the better the salad.

Shredded Rutherglen lamb shoulder, fregola, feta, sumac & almonds

This is a simple dish, but does require a little pre-organising with roasting the lamb shoulder. You could even roast the lamb the day before – or use left-over lamb roast. The fregola is available at good food shops like Essential Ingredient. I like to use a feta in brine – not in oil. The Yarra Valley Feta is sublime. This dish also works well with goat curd if you can’t get hold of feta.

For 4 to 6 people

1 small lamb shoulder still with bone

½ bunch oregano – rough chopped

1 head of garlic – peeled cloves all rough chopped

250ml extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper


1 pkt fregola (500g)

1 bunch oregano – picked leaves

1 bunch flat leaf parsley – picked leaves, roughly chopped

250ml chicken stock

100ml white wine

1 cup feta in brine (we use Yarra Valley feta in brine – nice and creamy) - crumbled

½ cup natural almonds – lightly toasted & roughly chopped

2 tablespoons of sumac

salt and pepper


Rub the lamb shoulder with the oregano (1/2 bunch), garlic, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil then place on a rack in a tray and roast at 170C for 3 to 4 hours uncovered. Cook until the meat is extremely tender and falling off the bone. The bigger the shoulder – the more meat, but it will take longer to roast.


Remove from the oven, whilst still warm, pull the meat off the bone – shred the meat and set aside.

Cook fregola in boiling salted water for about 7 to 8 minutes – strain well in a fine strainer. Spread out the cooked fregola on a tray and coat with a little olive oil, and allow to cool (the oil will stop the fregola from sticking together whilst cooling down), set aside once cool.

Place a large non stick pan on medium heat, add the chicken stock, white wine and bring to a simmer, add as much shredded lamb as you like to the pan, now add the fregola (I usually go 2 cups of cooked fregola for 4 people for a nice amount), season with salt and pepper, add a good slurp of extra virgin olive oil and the chopped parsley and the picked oregano leaves – stir well, add more stock if not wet enough.

When everything in the pan is nice and hot and the lamb is soft, transfer to serving platter or bowls and sprinkle over the crumbled feta, chopped almonds and sumac. Eat it at once!