Cooking With Oriental Leaves

Oriental leaves – a group that includes pak choi, rocket, mizuna and mustard greens – come in a range of flavours and sizes. Easy to grow and versatile in the kitchen, oriental leaves are perfect for half‐hour gardeners.

Growing Oriental Leaves

Despite the name, Oriental leaves don’t require an exotic climate – and you needn’t live in the Orient to grow them successfully. They’re quite hardy, so you can sow them almost all year round, using protection (such as a sheltered spot or cloche) in the cold months. Oriental leaves will grow quickly, making them suitable for late autumn salad crops.

There is a wide variety of leaf types to be found in this casual group, so you should follow the instructions for each type. Allow Pak Choi (or other members of the Chinese Cabbage family) to grow and it will form a vertical, tight head of firm leaves which each have a rewardingly crunchy stem. Mustard Greens (such as Komatsuna) have a more open habit and a peppery, brassica flavour. Oriental Saladini is a mixture of oriental leaves especially designed to be grown quickly and picked small, making it perfect for stylish salads and sandwiches.

How to Cook Oriental Leaves

Oriental leaves sold as ‘saladini’ are designed to be cut while small; they will regrow once or twice (depending on the season). Take a good look at the leaves you’ve harvested before cooking them. Taste them – are they tender, or tough? Is the flavour delicate, or overpowering? Tenderise tougher leaves by boiling, steaming, or stir‐frying; the smaller, finer leaves will be delicious raw in a sandwich or, for example, sprinkled over the top of a bowl of cooked noodles.

Classic Dressed Saladini

You don’t need to dress saladini with much to bring out the peppery and mild flavours – and it’s delicious plain on sandwiches. But if you want to serve it alongside dinner, you might wish to dress it up a little. Here’s our favourite of the classic salad dressing recipes ‐ perfect to toss into your freshly‐picked‐and‐washed saladini.

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2tsp sea salt
  • 1tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1tsp honey
  • 4 tbsp olive oil

Crush the garlic with the salt using a pestle and mortar. Transfer to a jar with the remaining ingredients and shake vigorously until combined. Toss through washed and dried saladini.

Chow Mein Noodles

A Chinese classic that works well with oriental leaves. Serve as an accompaniment or a tasty vegetarian supper.

  • 250g dried egg noodles
  • 350g mixed oriental leaves, washed and shredded
  • 1 small tin bamboo shoots, drained
  • 150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3tbsp soy sauce
  • 2tsp grated ginger
  • 3tbsp vegetable stock
  • 1tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1tsp sugar

Mix together the remaining ingredients in a jug. Put the dry noodles into a wok and cover with boiling water; simmer for 2 minutes (see pack instructions) or until tender. Drain in a colander. Heat 1tbsp vegetable oil in the wok and toss in the drained bamboo shoots and mushrooms; stir‐fry over a brisk heat for a minute, then add the oriental leaves and stir for another 30 seconds, or until just wilted. Add the noodles and the sauce ingredients and stir‐fry until everything is heated through. Serve hot.

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