Making a good salad - part 1

Salads can be a delicious part of a meal and a great way to increase the amount of vegetables in the diet.  A salad does not need to be complicated, it just needs ingredients that complement each other and a good dressing. Below I've listed a few salad dressing recipes.  See this post about salad ingredients.

Dressings/Vinaigrette

A good salad dressing can turn even the most basic green salad into something special.  Instead of using a shop-bought salad dressing, try making your own.  They taste much better than a dressing from the shop and are cheap, quick to prepare and can be kept in the fridge for up to a week. Even when the rest of the ingredients in the salad are exactly the same as last night, a different salad dressing will give a new flavour and help to keep salads interesting.

A little bit of something sweet such as honey will help to soften the acidity of the vinegar and make a more rounded flavour but try not to make it too sweet. 

Mustard acts as an emulsifier and thickens a salad dressing and help it to stick to the salad.  Even if you don’t normally like mustard, try a little in a salad dressing and you’ll be surprised to find that it adds flavour without being overpowering, when coupled with a little honey.

If a salad contains green leaves such as lettuce, dress it just before serving, as vinegar can cause leaves to wilt if left to stand for too long.  If you make a large salad and you want to save some for later, dress the salad on the plate instead of into the bowl and the rest of the salad will keep for longer.

Salads without green leaves such as bean salads, tabbouleh, potato salad, Greek salad or coleslaw can be dressed in advance and often taste better if they are.

Basic Salad Dressing

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vinegar (white wine, red wine or balsamic)
  • 1 tsp runny honey (or 1 tsp of brown sugar)
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Method

Place all ingredients except the olive oil into a jar with a lid and shake vigorously until all ingredients are blended together. (If the honey is firm, you might need to crush with the back of a spoon to get it to dissolve.)

Then add the olive oil and shake again. Use just enough dressing to coat the salad lightly.  Use a spoon to put it onto the salad, rather than pouring it from the jar.

Variation

The above recipe makes a basic dressing but if you want variation or extra flavour, a couple of additional ingredients can make a big difference.  To follow are some recipes to get you started but don’t be afraid to try your own combinations or vary the quantities to suit your own taste. 

Try adding:

  • garlic
  • onion
  • fruit juice
  • herbs
  • pesto
  • spices
  • different vinegars
  • soy sauce

  

Oils

You can also try using different types of oil.  Not everyone likes extra virgin olive oil – regular olive oil has a less distinctive flavour and can be used if preferred.

Blending olive oil with a nut or seed oil can give new flavour and also supply the diet with omega 3 essential fatty acids (* indicates high in omega 3).

  • walnut*
  • hazelnut
  • linseed*
  • avocado
  • Udo’s oil blend*
  • sesame oil (tsp only)*

Try using 2 tablespoons of olive oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of nut/seed oil.

Honey Mustard Dressing

  • 2 tbsp vinegar (white wine, red wine or balsamic)
  • 1 tsp runny honey (or 1 tsp of brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp dijon or wholegrain mustard
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Honey Garlic Dressing

  • 2 tbsp vinegar (white wine, red wine or balsamic)
  • 1 tsp runny honey (or 1 tsp of brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp dijon or wholegrain mustard (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic – minced/crushed in a garlic crusher or back on knife
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Note: This is especially good with balsamic vinegar.

If you only want a mild garlic flavour, bruise the clove with the side of the knife and place in jar whole. The garlic flavour will slowly get stronger if stored in the fridge with the clove left in the jar.

Honey Lemon or Lime Dressing

  • 1 tbsp vinegar (white wine, red wine or balsamic)
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tsp runny honey (or 1 tsp of brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp dijon or wholegrain mustard (optional)
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Note: can also add garlic to this dressing for added flavour.

Pesto Dressing

  • 1 tbsp vinegar (white wine, red wine)
  • 1 tbsp red or green pesto
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

French Dressing

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Herb Dressing

  • 2 tbsp vinegar (white wine, red wine)
  • 1 tsp runny honey (or 1 tsp of brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard (optional)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, coriander, oregano…)
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Note: can use a teaspoon of dried herbs instead.

Tasty Dressing

  • 2 tbsp vinegar (white wine, red wine or balsamic)
  • 1 tsp runny honey (or 1 tsp of brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic – minced
  • 2 tsp chopped shallot, spring onion or red onion
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper