How to Be a Salad Queen

Paul and I eat a lot of salad. He often has a chunk of steak sliced and tossed through whereas I have beans, chickpeas or sometimes squid or smoked salmon. If you have the basic ingredients at hand it takes literally 10 minutes to make a great salad.

The key to super success is having a balance of textures, flavours and colours as well as a finished dish that looks great.

Textures: soft baked kumara, avocado, hummus, crunchy seeds or nuts, crisp salad vegetables / sliced or grated raw vegetables / fruits, firm beans or other pulses, fruit such as nectarine, apple, feijoa, tamarillo, tomato, plum all give an interesting mouth feel to the salad.

Flavours: tart lemon juice, tangy feta or parmesan, sweet balsamic drizzle and fruits, salty tamari or soy sauce, creamy sweet dressing, fresh vegetables, spicy chilli sauce and ungent avocado or olive oils are some of the flavours to include – not all at once though.

Less is usually more when it comes to food combinations.

Think about what you like to eat and start there – if you’re new to making salads start by making them to please your own palate first and then you can refine your recipe until you get it just right.

This salad I made for lunch one day last week.

Serves 2

Ingredients

10 pieces of crumbed squid – baked in the oven until crispy and sliced thinly

1 large cup prepackaged coleslaw (grated carrot, red and green cabbage, parsley)

½ perfectly baked kumara, chopped roughly (recipe in an earlier post)

2 knobs blue cheese, crumbled

2 really big tablespoons hummus

Small handful of pumpkin seeds

Small red chilli sliced finely – optional if you like a bit of heat

Creamy Caesar or Ranch dressing

Tamari (you can use soy sauce) this takes the place of salt.

Fresh Cracked Pepper

Method

I always like to use nice bowls, you can see my favourite blue one in the picture. People eat with their eyes first. It doesn’t matter if you have mismatched bowls – there’s something quite nice about that too. If you can serve salad in a bowl slightly larger than you need so that there is more bowl showing (if that makes sense) it looks great. Any colour bowl will do.

First place your kumara in the bottom of each bowl, follow with the coleslaw and then the squid – so you have three layers. Just plonk them on top of each other – don’t worry about being too careful. Drizzle over your dressing and tamari – not too much you can always add more later – over dressed salad is a bit yuk. Using your fingers (or two forks) gently toss the ingredients together by scooping and lifting the kumara up from the bottom of the bowl to mix with the squid and slaw. Don’t try and get it perfectly mixed – just separate the layers really and distribute the dressing a wee bit. Next put a big dollop of hummus on one side of the salad, sprinkle the blue cheese and seeds over the top and finally add the sliced chilli pepper and cracked pepper . Serve and eat immediately.

Recipe: Fresh Peach Chutney

Picking and eating peaches from the tree by our front door is a major family highlight every year.  Our old peach tree is famous among neighbours and friends for producing the most incredibly juicy fat mouthwateringly sweet orbs – and during the year there is much speculation about what next summer’s crop will be like.  This year peaches only cover one half of the tree, and one branch is so laden that we’ve had to tie a stake to it so it doesn’t crack under the weight of the ripening fruit.

peachy beauties
peachy beauties

I made peach chutney a couple of days ago.  A new recipe this year which is chunky spicy and sweet and will be fab on sandwiches, with a cheeseboard or antipasto platter.

Ingredients

2kg peaches, peeled

1 onion, diced finely

1 garlic clove, sliced finely

10cm ‘thumb’ of ginger, peeled and grated finely

1 cup of dates, chopped roughly

1 cup malt vinegar

half cup brown or raw sugar

4 tbs sweet chili sauce

1 heaped tsp ground cumin or cumin seeds

1 tsp ground turmeric

4 med sized clean glass jam jars with metal lids

Method

Turn oven on to a medium heat and place jars (without lids) inside to heat and sterilize.  Put lids in a bowl, boil the kettle and pour boiling water over the lids to sterilize also.

Cut peaches in half to remove stones and chop flesh roughly.  Place peach flesh and all other ingredients into a large saucepan and turn on to a medium heat.  As the chutney mixture begins to simmer stir frequently to avoid mixture sticking to the bottom.  Simmer / slow boil for 20 minutes or until nice and thick and then taste (allow it to cool on the spoon before tasting to avoid a burnt tongue!) Add more sugar or sweet chili sauce if you think it needs it and then stir to combine.  Turn off heat when desired consistency is achieved.

Turn oven off and remove jars placing them carefully on a wooden board (they are very hot).  Transfer chutney to a large jug and pour the hot mixture into each jar until approx 1cm from the top of the jar.  Using a tea towel to hold the jar full of hot chutney (and also the lid) screw lid on firmly.

Leave to cool before applying your hand written labels.  This chutney will keep for months and months – and it seems to improve over time like a fine wine!  When open keep in the fridge.