An assembly job more than a recipe. You can make the sherry vinegar dressing and toast the pine nuts in advance, and you will save time by buying pre-washed spinach.
For the dressing:
8 tbsps sherry vinegar
4 tbsps caster sugar
Juice of one orange
½ red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
Squeeze of fresh lemon
20g pine nuts
1 teaspoon olive oil
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 ripe avocados
Juice of half a lemon
250g baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
1. Make the dressing: Put the sherry vinegar, caster sugar, orange juice and chilli into a non-stick saucepan. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat to medium and cook until it get syrupy and coats the back of a spoon – this will take anything from five to eight minutes. Leave to cool.
2. Toast the pine nuts: Put the pine nuts in a dry pan and turn the heat to medium. Shake the pan every 30 seconds to stop the pine nuts burning. If the pan is getting too hot, turn the heat to low. When they are lightly golden, place the pine nuts on a plate.
3. Just before serving, heat a griddle until you can barely hold your hand an inch above it. Brush with olive oil and lay the halved tomatoes on it. Leave for a minute or two or until the tomatoes are lightly golden on one side. Turn the tomatoes over and turn the heat off. They will stay warm there while you are assembling the salad.
3. Cut the avocados in half and remove the stone. Peel each half and cut each one quarters. Rub both sides of each quarter with lemon juice to stop them going brown. Reheat the sherry vinegar dressing and add a brief squeeze of lemon to brighten it. Arrange the baby spinach leaves on a large dish, toss in the avocado slices, the toasted pine nuts and the warm tomatoes and spoon over the warm dressing. Toss lightly with clean hands and serve.
How to toast pine nuts
When you toast pine nuts, remember not to use oil to fry them as the nuts already contain oil. They can take up to 15 minutes to toast over a low heat and less than 5 minutes over a medium heat. Watch them: they can fly out of the pan!
As featured in the Irish Independent Weekend magazine. Photography by Ronan Lang.