Food: A fresh spin on salads
YOU’s food editor Eleanor Maidment gives our favourite summer staple a glamorous makeover
Beetroot, goat’s cheese and nectarine salad with spiced vinaigrette
MY ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS
For the perfect salad, you need the right balance. Here’s how
Salads are beautifully versatile. They can comprise countless ingredients – raw or cooked, hot or cold – and can be happily served for lunch or dinner. But while you should always let your creative juices flow, it’s worth considering some key factors:
GO BIG ON TEXTURE
A good salad needs a range of textures. You definitely want crunch whether it be crisp cos lettuce, garlicky sourdough croutons or toasted nuts and seeds (roast big batches of cashews and pumpkin seeds to have at the ready). Proteins (such as chicken or prawns) and grains (such as wild rice or quinoa) make salads feel more substantial, while soft-boiled eggs, mozzarella or avocado are creamy and mellow.
Broccoli and bacon slaw; Salmon, citrus kale and black rice salad
BALANCE SALT, SWEET AND ACID
Just as you want a variety of textures, so too should flavours be balanced. A little saltiness – think olives, prosciutto or blue cheese – is always appreciated. Sweetcorn, finely sliced green apple or nectarine can add a subtle sweetness, while just a small amount of dried fruit such as cranberries will do wonders to a slaw. Sharpness is important, too, as it lifts other flavours. This could be as simple as a squeeze of lemon juice or the vinegar in a dressing, though quick-pickled onions or cucumber (or indeed any veg or fruit) add a lovely sweet-and-sour hit.
DRESS IT WELL
The dressing is arguably the most important part, so consider it carefully. It must suit your salad – a leafy green salad needs something delicate and should be dressed last minute, while a chunky chicken, veg and noodle number can hold its own with something a little more heavy and might do well to soak up the dressing for a while before serving. If you’re going to the trouble of making a great dressing, then double the quantity and store leftovers in a jar in the fridge.
GET THE KIT
No matter how good your knife skills, a razor-sharp mandoline is worth investing in for finely slicing raw roots (beetroot and carrot) and shredding cabbage. A good one (such as Benriner Japanese Mandoline, £34.99, souschef.co.uk) will come with attachments for julienning vegetables, which is great for slaws. A compact high-speed blender (such as a Nutribullet 600, £57.99, amazon.co.uk) is ideal for whizzing up super-smooth dressings.
NOW BUY THE BOOK
Our recipes are from California: Living & Eating by Eleanor Maidment, published by Hardie Grant, price £22. To order a copy for £18.70 until 22 August, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.