Don’t be a victim of the sad leaf salad

I’m trying to think of winter salads that will bring a bit of warmth or at least fill us up more

Try celeriac, sliced up thinly and dressed with a mayonnaise, and smoked salmon. Photograph: Frank Miller

Try celeriac, sliced up thinly and dressed with a mayonnaise, and smoked salmon. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Is it just me or are we beyond recognising a salad if it doesn’t have leaves? Surely a tomato or fennel salad doesn’t need loads of lettuce, oakleaf or otherwise. I’m always amazed how the Italians bring vegetables together in beautiful combinations, without the necessity for additional greens.

Perhaps most of us already know that a feta salad is a beautiful amalgamation of feta, tomatoes, cucumbers and black olives with possibly some red onion but certainly nothing else. Of course, it’s dressed with lemon and olive oil and maybe some herbs, but my point is that it contains no leaves. How did it happen that all salads in Ireland came under the “must have leaves” decree? Am I imagining this? 

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It’s the cold outside so I’m trying to think of winter salads that will be bring a bit of warmth or at least fill us up a little more. Celeriac, from Beechlawn organic farm in Ballinasloe, makes a wonderful winter salad. Sliced up thinly and dressed with a nice mayonnaise and then topped with Burren smoked salmon and trout roe. I think that should satisfy any cold winter’s day. Maybe some capers or red onion tossed through for colour, acidity and texture. It’s really up to yourself.

Knobbly fingers

Pink fir apple potatoes are also back in season. They’re from an extraordinary potato farmer in Co Louth. These little knobbly fingers are just wonderful in a potato salad. I like them served warm with slivers of buttermilk chicken that has been breaded and deep-fried. While it might stretch the bounds of what a salad is or is not, it will certainly bring joy to belly. 

The word “salad” originates from salted leaves that were intended to stimulate the appetite before eating. But we need not be too tied to this definition. Mary, Queen of Scots, enjoyed a salad of boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and slices of hard-boiled eggs. 

Salads should make you happy. They should not be too prescriptive. Don’t become a victim of the sad leaf salad. If leaves are good, use them. If not, then don’t.

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