Bennett & Luck dressing
By the mid-90s, disillusioned with the government's increasing interference in teaching, I decided to leave the profession. I took a job at the original Elfrida Rathbone Settlement near Highbury & Islington running groups. Though I quit after six months, I do not regret taking the job; it gave me six whole months of blissful lunches!
Bennett & Luck sat at the entrance to the street. Inside, a meander through the health food shop led to a vegetarian restaurant, with alternative therapy rooms beyond. Though the restaurant served a hot meal which changed daily, its real stock-in-trade were its salads: a portion of grains - couscous, macro rice, or wholemeal pasta (usually involving seeds or nuts); a portion of beans or lentils (usually - but not always - without a sauce); and a portion of mixed organic salad/slaw...and the Bennet & Luck dressing, which mercifully you could help yourself to.
So popular was the dressing that the three staff (all Spanish, and none of whom were confident English speakers) spent much of their time slowly listing the ingredients for anyone who inquired. You could almost hear the sigh of frustration from the back of the long queue whenever the words, "I LOVE your dressing. What's in it?" were uttered.
What makes it so special, you ask? It's basically a vinaigrette with the addition of two unusual ingredients: tahini paste and Kikkoman soy sauce. The tang of the vinegar and the umami of the soy sauce fight for control of your taste buds as it glides across your tongue. It won't be to everyone's taste.
The one and only time I ever fell in love at first sight was across the floor of their dining room area; amazingly it was reciprocated...though it took several weeks before I plucked up the courage to join him and his colleague at their table. Turned out that they too were teachers.
Though Bennett & Luck is long gone, I still make their unique definition of "a salad". A number of my recipes for Gallagher's Cook It or Wot! fit the bill perfectly...and I will be adding others. It gives me the perfect excuse to make a jar of their dressing.
2 big heaped teaspoons tahini
5 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 heaped teaspoon prepared wholegrain mustard
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 scant tablespoons Kikkoman soy sauce
a pinch of black pepper (and perhaps salt)
If you're unfamiliar with any of the ingredients, find out more about them here:
Place the tahini into a jar and add 3 tablespoons of the vinegar. Start to blend them together using the back of a teaspoon to press the tahini against the side of the jar. It will seize up like concrete, but keep working away at it, regularly scraping down the sides and the spoon itself, until you have a thick emulsion.
Stir in the wholegrain mustard, then add the final 2 tablespoons of vinegar and the soy sauce, and stir well to combine before adding the oil and the pepper.
Pop a lid on the jar and shake well. Taste and adjust the soy sauce, vinegar (well everything, for that matter), till it suits you. Store in the fridge. Shake well before use.
A typical Bennett & Luck salad: boiled pinto beans, wholewheat fusilli with walnut and basil pesto, and a mixed salad. The beans and salad are dressed with Bennett & Luck dressing. Served with a slice of grant loaf on the side.
Munch your way slowly through this, enjoying every single mouthful. It will regulate your blood sugar levels for hours.
Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.
Did you know?
You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series: