I need to find a wedding gift. Actually, I need to find two.
With weddings, there are two distinct philosophies where wedding gifts are concerned: To gift-list or not to gift-list, that is the question.
I am firmly on the side of putting together a gift list. A big part of the reason is because people will be spending a lot of money anyway and isn’t it better to get things you actually want and need? I managed to get lots of gifts which would have taken me years to afford (plus you can choose the colors you want – volcanic orange-red Creuset for me all the way!). It also makes it easier for the person who is buying the gift. You know the bride and groom will love it because they chose it, plus you don’t have the stress of actually going shopping, carrying the gift home, wrapping it, and then suffering from buyer’s remorse which makes you spend hours Googling the gift you bought.
I know the Non-Gift-Listers find gift-lists tacky because you can see the price of each gift plus it is a little less personal than having someone go out and choose something for you. But I am just haunted by memories of my aunts who got married in the ’80s (when nobody made gift-lists) and received gifts such as a Renaissance-inspired statuette with a clock embedded in its abdomen, useless crystal bowls which were politely put into storage (until someone finally donated them to charity), and picture frame after picture frame after picture frame…
The two weddings I am buying for fall into separate gift-list camps. My cousin is getting married in London this weekend and she didn’t put together a gift list, so I am trying to figure out what to get for her. My sister also got married, but it was last year in August. She had put together an online gift list, but I didn’t manage to buy anything off of it because I got too busy with the preparations and when I finally sat down to buy something after the wedding was over, the list had been closed. Luckily we’re all close enough that a delayed wedding gift is not going to raise any eyebrows, so I’m going to take my time to find a gift which they will love and more importantly use almost every day.
Actually, waiting to buy a wedding gift is not such a bad idea. When you first get married and move into your new home it takes time to figure out how you want to decorate your house, what sorts of things you like using in the kitchen, and what your lifestyle will be like. I have loved cooking since I was young so for me it was a no-brainer that almost everything on my list would be kitchen-related. My sister, who was never a fan of cooking (possibly because my mother or I would always cook so she never had to), has found that after marriage she actually enjoys cooking and finally has a full appreciation of why a Creuset pot is so amazing to cook in and the importance of very good chopping knives. Time will tell if my cousin will start enjoying cooking as much as my sister now does. For now I’m watching and waiting, but I have given myself a deadline that the gift needs to be bought within one year of the wedding date.
With a spring wedding in the air, I decided to make Spring Greens and Fig Couscous Salad. It is packed with nice tender green vegetables like peas, asparagus, mache lettuce and mint. Couscous is probably the easiest grain to make, you simply steam it for a few minutes in seasoned water to plump it up. And then I threw in some pumpkin seeds and dried figs for variety.
SPRING GREENS AND FIG COUSCOUS SALAD
(Serves 6 as a side dish)
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
a pinch of salt
250g / 9 oz / 1&3/4 cups dried couscous (wholewheat)
Half a stock cube (I use Kallo’s Organic Vegetable stock cubes)
320mL freshly boiled water
1/2 tsp salt
200g fresh peas, if you are lucky enough to get very tender peas then leave them raw otherwise simmer for 3 minutes in salted water until just tender
1 bunch thin asparagus, if it is very tender then leave them raw otherwise simmer them for a minute and a half in salted water
1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped (finely or roughly chopped, depending on your preference)
1 cup mache leaves/lamb’s lettuce (or any other spring lettuce)
100g / 4 oz / 1 cup / 8 pieces dried figs, chopped into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp very finely diced red onion (or spring onion)
- Couscous: Measure out 250g couscous and pour it into a saucepan which has a tight lid. To prepare your stock, put 1/2 a stock cube and 1/2 tsp salt into a measuring jug. Pour 320mL of freshly boiled water into the measuring jug and stir well until the stock cube has dissolved. Pour the stock onto the couscous in the saucepan, stir and cover with the lid. Steam for 6 minutes. Then uncover the couscous, fluff it with a fork and spread it on a platter to cool.
- Peas & Asparagus: Cut the asparagus spears into 2-inch pieces. If you are lucky enough to get very tender peas and asparagus then leave them raw. Otherwise, bring some water to the boil in a saucepan. Add a little salt to the boiling water, and simmer the peas for 3 minutes until tender and the asparagus for 1-2 minutes until just tender. Drain and set aside to allow to cool.
- Mint leaves: Separate the mint leaves from their stalk. You need about a cup of loosely packed mint leaves. Wash and dry the mint, and then chop it finely or roughly (according to preference). Set aside
- Lettuce leaves: If you are using mache leaves, separate the leaves from the stems. Discard the stems, and wash and dry the mache leaves. If you are using another type of lettuce leaf, you may not need to remove the stem but you may need to chop the leaves if they are large. Set aside.
- Dried figs & Pumpkin seeds: Take 8 dried figs and chop them into bite-size pieces. Measure out half a cup of pumpkin seeds. Set aside.
- Red onions: Finely chop a little bit of red onion until you have 2 Tbsp.
- Dressing: Once the couscous is cool, add 4 Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 4 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Toss well. The couscous should not need extra salt because we added it with the stock.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the dressed couscous and toss well (peas, asparagus, mint leaves, lettuce leaves, figs, pumpkin seeds and red onion).
- Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you want a more pronounced dressing flavor, you may want to add a little more lemon juice or even a splash of vinegar.
- The salad can be served straightaway at room temperature, or can be refrigerated and served within the next 48 hours.