Natural Wine Killers: Ultimate Spring Salad and Koppitsch Homok 2022

The arrival of spring usually makes me a little loopy. It’s not only the warmer temperatures, the scent of blossoms on the air, the blessedly later sunsets. It’s also the new bounty of fresh, bright spring veg after months and months of soups, stews and other stodge you don’t even need teeth to eat. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for crunch.

I set out to make a salad that would represent the best of the season. I wanted it to feature asparagus (the king of spring vegetables) and peas (preferably fresh rather than frozen), rocket and radishes, mint and wild garlic (naturally). It also had to follow the principles of good salads I’d argued for previously: Assembled in layers for the best distribution of ingredients and seasonings; featuring an extra-crunchy component, like nuts or seeds; and it absolutely had to have cheese.

This recipe is the result, and it really does feel like the best of spring distilled into one dish. Toasted, chopped hazelnuts add that extra-dimensional crunch, and fresh goat’s cheese lends its contrasting creaminess. And the dressing – bright and lemony, but given a nutty base note courtesy of a good glug of sesame oil – completes the experience. While this salad is an excellent side dish for a spring main (I can personally vouch for rotisserie chicken), it also has more than enough going on to enjoy as a light main on its own.

The only problem with spring ingredients like asparagus, radishes and wild garlic? They’re notoriously hard to pair with wine. That’s why I reached for Koppitsch Homok 2022, which hails from Austria’s Burgenland region. Grüner Veltliner, Weissburgunder and Sauvignon Blanc are considered some of the most reliable pairing options for spring vegetables, and this joyful white blend happens to feature all three. Tropical, limey and unabashedly springy, it’s not just an ideal choice for the season – it’s the perfect foil for those troublesome but oh-so-delicious vegetables…

Ultimate Spring Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish or as a light main

For the salad:
250g asparagus
160g fresh peas
Fine sea salt, to taste
100g blanched hazelnuts
240g radishes
100g rocket
Small bunch fresh mint
Small bunch wild garlic 125g fresh goat cheese
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

For the dressing:
75ml lemon juice (from approximately 2 large lemons)
75ml olive oil
75ml sesame oil
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Freshly ground black or white pepper, to taste

1. First, blanch the asparagus and peas. Bring a small pot of water to the boil and salt generously; meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Snap off and discard the woody ends of the asparagus, then cut the spears into roughly 1-inch pieces. Once the water is boiling, add both the asparagus pieces and the peas. Cook for roughly 3 minutes, or until the peas and asparagus are bright green and just tender. Remove from the heat and drain; immediately transfer the vegetables to the ice water. Set aside.

 2. Next, toast the hazelnuts. Place a small frying pan over medium-low heat; once hot, add the hazelnuts. Toast, tossing frequently, for roughly 5 minutes, or until evenly golden-brown and fragrant. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl; leave to cool.

3. Top and tail the radishes. Slice very thinly. Set aside.

4. Next, prepare the greens. Pluck the mint leaves from their stems and mix together with the rocket. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

5. Rinse the wild garlic (I recommend rinsing individual leaves, as they can be slightly dirty) and dry well. Julienne the leaves: Layer the leaves on top of each other, roll into a tight cigar shape, and then slice into very thin strips. Add to the rocket and mint and mix through to combine.

 6. Once the hazelnuts have cooled, transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop. Meanwhile, crumble the fresh goat’s cheese into a small bowl. Drain the asparagus and peas.

7. Finally, make the dressing. In a liquid cup measurer (or in a small bowl), add all of the ingredients. Whisk vigorously, until thickened and emulsified. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed.

8. Now, assemble your salad in a large bowl. Build it in three layers: First, add ⅓ of the mixed greens, ⅓ of the prepped asparagus and peas, and ⅓ of the radish slices. Season with a pinch of flaky sea salt and pour over roughly ⅓ of the dressing. Toss lightly; then, sprinkle over ⅓ of the crumbled goat’s cheese and ⅓ of the chopped hazelnuts. Repeat with the remaining two layers.

9. Once the salad is assembled, divide between plates and serve immediately.

Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our Natural Wine Killers wine subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings plus expert tasting notes for three amazing wines like this one every month.