A leafy salad is always a part of my day, be it all green, or combined with a few carefully chosen ingredients and thoughtfully dressed. A good one is all about each mouthful being unique; a pop of lemon, a crunchy leaf, the frond of a delicate herb. This is what makes a simple salad, for me, one of the most pleasing things to eat.
Here are the key things to consider in upping your salad game:
- If most of your salad is going to be leaves, it makes sense to choose interesting ones. Each week, a small unassuming bag arrives in my vegetable box, labelled “Hackney salad”. The leaves come in pretty colours: piercing greens, acid yellows, deep emeralds and rich purples. Each shade has a flavour so unique and so full of personality that eating a simple salad has become the leafy equivalent of a 3D film in surround sound.
- Even with leaves from a local supermarket though, comes the possibility of a cut-above bowl of salad. There is a lot to choose from on the shelves: the bitter crunch of chicory, the soft frill of lamb’s lettuce, spiky rocket as hot as a peppercorns, sweet and crisp little gems, red-fringed cos. I often like to buy whole lettuces, cutting and washing them in one go, then filling a sandwich bag or the salad drawer with a few days’ worth of leaves, which stay crisp and cold in the fridge.
- Look beyond your usual repertoire for your secondary ingredient. Sometimes I’ll get stuck using the same ones again and again, but when this happens I’ll keep an eye on the seasons for inspiration. Consider too beautiful ingredients like artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes and buttery nocellara olives, which often come in oil that can be used later for the dressing.
- The key with including veg is how it is prepared. Cutting wispy, cool, paper-thin fronds of fennel or delicately grating carrot will have an impact on how the vegetable tastes – these little pieces will have a more subtle flavour and texture, and better ability to absorb a dressing. If your knife skills aren’t up to wafers of veg, then a mandolin or a speed peeler will come in handy.
MAKE IT A MEAL
- Wholegrains make up a big part of my cooking. I vary them as much as possible to derive the maximum amount of pleasure, interest, flavour and nutrients from my food. At home, I like to cook them in big batches and have them close at hand in my fridge or freezer. So often salads are on the side but to make it the main event, I’ll add a few handfuls of whatever I have in the fridge. I’ll crisp up leftover rice, pop some chickpeas quickly, add some cooked quinoa or lentils.
- The one thing that’s often forgotten in cooking, but such an important element of a dish. Use tortilla strips, flash fried breadcrumbs or homemade sourdough croutons for a finishing crunch that will make you satisfied.
KILLER JAM JAR DRESSING
- A killer dressing brings everything together. The nutrition from salad leaves is actually boosted when we dress them, as the good fat from the oil makes it easier for our bodies to take up the nutrients. A very simple tip that I use almost daily is to make a dressing in a jar – shaking it blends everything together effortlessly and it’s great if you’re taking the salad to work as you can dress it as your desk.
MY EARLY SUMMER GREENS GODDESS SALAD
Coconuts and avocados are two of my favourite things and luckily they are a happy pairing. Here they join forces to create an incredible dinner salad as fresh and zippy as it is satisfying. This dressing is inspired by the famous Green Goddess dressing I loved so much growing up in San Francisco.
My version has some coconut milk and a kick from rice wine vinegar and soy. Search out the ripest avocados, as this salad is really a love song to their creamy grassy deliciousness. When asparagus isn’t around I make this with purple sprouting broccoli. If I am really hungry I add some cooked and cooled buckwheat noodles, quinoa or brown rice to my bowl too.
- A bunch of asparagus
- Olive oil
- 400g sugar snap peas
- 300g edamame beans
- 300g baby spinach
- 1 ripe avocado
- 50g toasted white or black sesame seeds
FOR THE DRESSING
- 1⁄2 a ripe avocado
- 4 tablespoons coconut milk
- A squeeze of runny honey or agave syrup
- 1 green chilli
- A small bunch of fresh basil
- A small bunch of fresh coriander
- 2 tablespoons tamari or light soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients and equipment together.
- Put a frying pan on a high heat. Chop the asparagus stalks into 1cm coins, leaving the tips intact. Add a little oil to the pan and add all the asparagus. Cook for a couple of minutes to take off the raw edge, then take the pan off the heat.
- Place the sugar snaps in a bowl (I like to cut them in half down the middle, but you can leave them whole to save time) with the edamame beans. Cover with boiling water and leave to one side.
- Now make the dressing. Scoop half an avocado into a blender (or use a deep bowl and a stick blender). Add the coconut milk, honey, chilli, half the basil and coriander (stalks and all), the soy and vinegar and blitz until smooth and green. Taste, and add more soy, vinegar or honey, if needed.
- Put the spinach into a serving bowl. Drain the sugar snaps and edamame well and add them to the spinach with the asparagus. Cut the avocado in half and take out the stone, then use a knife to criss-cross both halves all the way to the skin. Using a spoon, scoop the avocado flesh into the bowl. Finish by topping with the dressing, the rest of the basil and coriander leaves and the sesame seeds.
Recipe taken from A Modern Way To Cook by Anna Jones.