Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The world of salads

Time goes by so quickly and it's hard to believe that in seven days the project will be over. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I plan to make a list of my top ten favourite recipes from the book and let me tell you, it's not easy. I could do a top 56 recipes, if you insist.

I flicked through the pages of the book and each recipe has its own deliciousness; and what I like the most is they all have their own stories. I enjoy reading cookbooks, and not just for the recipes and looking at the beautiful pictures. Most importantly I like reading the stories behind the recipes and what inspire them. And from there, I am then inspired to try the recipes myself.

So, instead of making a 'top' list, I have decided to go through each chapter in the book and look back into some of the memorable recipes and also to share Jamie's and my stories and what I have learned from this experience...

Chapter One: Salads
I like salad when it's 'real' salad. I don't want boring salad of wrinkly lettuce, sliced cucumber, tomato, chopped pepper and perhaps topped with grated carrot with a wedge of lemon on the side; mostly known as 'side salad'... and I am appalled by this idea.

There are so many ways to jazz up a salad with countless combinations of flavours and textures you can play with to make a salad as exciting as any other dish you make.

With salads, it's crucial to understand the balance of flavours and also knowing the ingredients that love one another. It could be a mixture of sweet, salty, bitter, smoky, sour or peppery. Some examples are smoked salmon and lemon, chilli and mints, walnuts and cheese, pomegranates and duck, et cetera. What also important in a salad is texture. Crunchiness from nuts like pine nuts, almonds and pistachios; crispy salad leaves, or maybe meatiness from tuna, grilled chicken, or cured meats like salami and prosciutto.

The selection of salad leaves are endless these days, you have crunchy iceberg and romaine, peppery rocket and watercress, hearty spinach and red veined chard, bitter chicory or endive and radicchio, firm frisee and cabbage. I have also recently discovered fresh herbs also make great salads, like parsley and coriander. I can eat fresh coriander all day long. So delicious.

When you have a nice contrast of flavours and texture, you're three quarters of the way to a great salad. All you need to round up the dish is the dressing.

A basic dressing starts with a ratio of 1 part vinegar or acid (lemon or lime juice) to 3 parts oil, with a few twists of seasoning. Depending on the salad or your mood, the selection of vinegars and oil are also pretty much endless. My three most used vinegars are red wine, rice wine and balsamic; and for oil, the obvious, extra virgin olive oil, but I also like walnut and avocado oils. And when I want something lighter or when making Asian style salad, I like to use sunflower oil with a few dashes of smoky toasted sesame oil.

One dressing I absolutely love from the book and I use it religiously is Jamie's Japanese dressing, made by mixing finely chopped onion, soy sauce, rice vinegar, a little sugar (to balance all the salty and sourness), English mustard powder (or wasabi is nice too), grapeseed oil, sesame oil, salt and pepper. It's great with cold soba noodles and seafood salad. YUM.

Through this learning experience, I have also found my 'fairy fingers' which means I can dress the salad with clean hands without bruising the leaves. It's always fun touching and playing with your food, so if you've never try it, give it a go...

Now, let me pick some of my favourite salads from this chapter:

Amazing potato and horseradish salad with fine herbs and bresaola has got to be one of my favourites. I'm a big fan of horseradish and it works so well with the potato, tarragon and the cured meat. I had the hardest time looking for bresaola. Jamie says you can easily find them in all good supermarkets and I don't know which supermarket he goes to... I accidentally found them in a menu from an Italian restaurant and I bought them there.

When I want a refreshing salad, I'd make crunchy raw beetroot salad with feta and pear. Sweet pear, sweet beetroot and sharp, salty feta cheese. Delicious. Perfect for the warm summer, and Let me warn you, this salad is addictive.

I also like the all day breakfast salad, bacon, bread, egg, black pudding, best eaten the morning after a great night out with few dashes of Tabasco sauce to wake you up.

For something meaty and heartier, I like the Middle Eastern duck salad. It's a beautiful combination of rich duck meat, pomegranates, mint, almonds, pistachios and sour cherries. And I will always remember the day I made this salad was the day England lost to Germany at the South African World Cup....

And for dinner tonight, I had Greek Salad with tomato, black olives, romaine lettuce, avocado, oregano, shallots, red wine vinegar, lemon dressing and no Greek salad is complete without feta cheese. Oompa!

Greek Salad

One salad I absolutely love and I'll be serving it for the celebration meal this weekend is fifteen Christmas salad. Just wait and see...

To finish, Jamie says, and I couldn't agree more, a great salad is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. So, buy whatever is fresh and colourful and in season and then think about the flavours and textures. And have fun.


  1. I love to have fun with salads, I don't always put protein in mine, but I love fruit, nuts and cheese. Mixing them up with whatever is fresh and seasonal makes a nice change of pace!

  2. Way to go with the salads; that's quite an undertaking! I love a huge variety of salad but particularly ones with dried fruit and nuts. The duck salad looks delicious and my family would love that! I'm new here and like your blog a lot!