“Salad?” Disgust drips from Joseph’s voice, and his lip curls. “You’re giving us salad for dinner?”
I have some sympathy for his position. Even during an English childhood, in the dark ages before the nation discovered that food should taste of things, salad was the most depressing meal: limp lettuce, huge flavorless tomatoes, wafer-thin slices of cucumber and for dressing, nothing but Heinz Salad Cream. Mixing oil and vinegar to make salad dressing was viewed as akin to witchcraft.
“This is going to be a nice salad,” I insist. “It’s a pasta salad with pesto.”
In previous Shunyi Family Foodie posts, we’ve tried out whole ranges, but today we’re looking at a single product: fresh pesto from the makers of Bonne Nani jams. We talked to founder Caroline Nath about how she got into the food business.
“I was a documentary filmmaker for many years,” she told us. “But documentaries became something you filmed on your mobile phone, so I had to reinvent myself in this transition period. Since I always loved cooking i decided to try something small scale, so I started making very low sugar jams. My mom told me it wouldn’t be possible: not putting 1 kilogram of fruit to 1 kilogram of sugar, and no pectin either. But after many trials it worked. Then I shifted to making more and spice-inspired jams, pestos, and sauces.
“It’s a small side business,” she said, “and we enjoy (my partner and I) meeting all sorts of people in the markets. Using our hands as artists makes our hearts smile, and enjoy the amazing people in this community.”
I added the pesto sauce to a pasta salad, with panfried chicken fillets, spinach, cherry tomatoes, spring onions and cucumber. Only half a jar was needed, even for a big family-sized salad.
And the verdict? All complaints were forgotten as the salad was scoffed in reverent silence. Then, later in the evening, the boys went and made toast, on which they slathered the pesto thickly, and wolfed that down too. The jar was empty before I could even take a picture; but that, I think, tells a story of its own.
Photos: Andrew Killeen