19 May 2018 Last updated at 18:29

Salad Days at Crabtree & Evelyn

John Evelyn, Crabtree's namesake and visionary horticulturist, was a big believer in making sure nature - and all its goodness - was a key feature of city life. Exploring his archive, we've learned that much of what he wrote is still more than relevant today. This is the first in a series of his recipes that we've updated and reimagined for the modern cook.

In Evelyn's day, this concoction was known as "minced salad" as all the ingredients would have been finely chopped. For us modern cooks we've made it a bit chunkier and somewhat less sweet than the original version, which contained candied flowers. It's bright, fresh and big on contrasting textures.

You can store the cucumbers in their brine for several weeks or even months, as you would a gherkin. The sea vegetables make a wonderful addition to the pickled cucumbers. The coastline of the UK reveals some great seaside treats if you know where to look. Salt marshes in spring and summer are some of the best places to forage for wild samphire, purslane and astor. Or you should be able to buy from your local fishmonger.

Edible flowers not only look fabulous but also taste delicious. The borage flower for example, tastes of cucumber, and pansies or violas are lettuce-like, making them perfect for this salad. Nasturtiums would add a peppery kick to the dish as well as lots of colour. Pinks (dianthus) and cornflowers have a slight clove-like flavour, whilst marigolds taste slightly citrusy. When herbs are in flower, rosemary, thyme and oregano are full of flavour, while chive flowers have a wonderful allium or garlicky flavour.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

300g whole almonds, 125g capers (drained), handful green olives (stoned and quartered), large handful of raisins, 2 lemons or oranges or one of each, handful fresh fennel fronds or dill (picked), sea salt and black pepper, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, edible flowers

For the pickled cucumber and purslane - 6-8 baby cucumbers or gherkin cucumbers, 140g sea purslane, sea astor or samphire, 350ml white wine vinegar, 350ml water, 150g caster sugar, 2tsp yellow mustard seeds, 1tsp each black and white peppercorns, 3-4 blades of mace, 2 sprigs rosemary, handful dill sprigs


To pickle the vegetables, slice the cucumber into half or quarters lengthways. Put in a dish or large storage jars with the sea vegetables.

Heat the vinegar, water and sugar in a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the mustard seeds, peppercorns and mace and bring almost to the boil. Remove from the heat and stand for a minute or two.

Tuck the herbs in amongst the cucumbers then pour over the hot vinegar. Allow to steep and marinate for at least an hour before using.

Pour boiling water over the almonds and stand for 5 minutes then drain and rub in a clean tea towel to remove the skins. Slice half the almonds lengthways into small pieces and keep the rest whole.

To assemble the salad, mix the almonds with the capers, olives and raisins in a bowl. Segment the lemons and/or oranges and add these to the mix.

Remove the cucumbers from the brine and finely chop a couple, then slice the rest into strips. Toss these and the sea vegetables into the bowl. Season with salt, pepper and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Mix in the fresh herbs and serve scattered with edible flowers.

Foraging must always be undertaken with care and supervision. Do not pick or eat any wild food without first getting expert advice on whether it is safe to do so. Crabtree & Evelyn will accept no liability for any independent actions taken or not taken as a result of information given here. 

Crabtree & Evelyn
8 High Street
The Exchange

T: 0115 958 6454


Salad Days at Crabtree & Evelyn 1
Salad Days at Crabtree & Evelyn 2
Salad Days at Crabtree & Evelyn 3