Salsa: Spanish language term for ‘sauce’, wildly overused in cookery terminology to describe all manner of hot and cold dips, drizzles, sides and accompaniments.
see also: hip-wiggle heavy dance discipline dependent on black silk shirts and excessive amounts of hair gel.
Like many a child of the 90s my first experience of salsa was of the picante kind- a mildly spicy tomato based ‘dip’ to go with the almighty Saturday night Crisps and Dips spread. However, unlike many I did not discover salsa in the red corner of a 4-pack dip special between the sour cream and garlic & herb options from your chain supermarket of choice. No, I was blessed with StepMother. StepMother knew about all kinds of weird and new things to eat- or quite possibly, being about 8 years old there was a lot in the world that was new and weird to me. I have never known anyone chuck out a cannelloni dinner anywhere near as good as she does either but her forte is certainly in the fresh produce- awesome salads and the ultimate salsa. My kind of salsa is fresh and crunchy, a perfect mix of iddy biddy little bits chopped to within a breath of oblivion and minimal wetness. Tomatoes, onions, chilli, herbs, other stuff I’m never quite sure of. I have never, ever been able to replicate it to a satisfactory level. There are potentially many reasons for this and one must not discount my shoddy knife skills and laziness when it comes to a very fine chop. Plus one must also ask, is it ever as good as when someone else makes it for you?
So I can’t make salsa, however asking about it and seeing it done and yumming a ton of it down in my life so far has been a great lesson in flavour combinations. In the darker economic days I made salsa soup- canned tomatoes, spring onions, chilli flakes, blender. A fantastic student dinner, with actual vitamins and whatnot. Now as middle age approaches and Saturday dinners have to incorporate the five-a-day rule, I make a damned fine Spanish style stew which is basically chicken cooked in tomatoes, coriander, onions and chilli. And it’s awesome. And easy. Even easier is Salsa Salad, again incorporating the basic principles of StepMother Salsa with less chopping. A great BBQ side should the summer ever get here, even better with fajitas on a rainy Saturday night in with the boy.
For the love of all that is holy do not get cheap horrible anaemic value pack tomatoes. Come on, we farm some amazing tomatoes in Kent and the time is right for them. Spend the extra 60p and get good ones. Red ones. Not hard orangey watery sad ones. Please. Whitewine vinegar will enhance the flavour from the toms and as a bonus handy cooks hint- a splash of whitewine vinegar in any hot tomato sauce towards the end of cooking will give a lot more punch to your final dish. Die hards will want you to use olive oil but I’m a rapeseed convert, especially as (yawn) I can buy this as a domestic product from not many miles from my house.
Boomboom Salsa Salad
300g cherry or baby plum tomatoes
1 red onion
1 bunch fresh coriander
1 red chilli (de-seeded if you wish)
1Tbspn Rapeseed Oil
1 Tbspn Whitewine vinegar
Half a lime
Salt & Pepper
Halve the tomatoes and put them into the biggest bowl that you have- you want a huge bowl with plenty of room to mix the salad gently. Finely slice the red onion and very finely slice the red chilli then add on top of the tomatoes. Roughly chop the coriander and add. Without too much ceremony drizzle over the oil and vinegar, and a squeeze of the lime and mix very gently to combine only. You don’t need too much lime as it can take over so just a squeeze, don’t crush every drop from it! A good crack of pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then cover and leave for at least and hour. You can make it the night before and refrigerate but for imminent serving leave it at room temperature.
Transfer to a prettier bowl and serve alongside your BBQ/Summer Sunday Roast or just simply with some fresh bread and maybe a bit of cheese.
Variations: You can use larger tomatoes just chop down to bitesized; In a pinch you can swap the fresh chilli for a shake of dried; sub the dressing for olive oil or cider vinegar if you wish; if you don’t have the lime just leave it out; smoked sea salt will give a great finish you can get this from Maldon Sea Salt in most supermarkets now; for a richer Italian version swap coriander for basil (but add the basil just before serving), rapeseed to olive oil and cider vinegar for balsamic and lose the lime altogether. So basically a totally different dish but you get the idea.