Salad days are here again. So it’s time to dust off the salad spinner and get creative.
If you include a protein or a grain, your salad will keep you fuller for longer. But for those who may just want a tangle of nicely dressed leaves, we’ve got three killer dressings too – lemon and ginger; tarragon, and lemon tahini. Or you could just follow the ratio for classic French dressing: one part vinegar to three parts olive oil, sweetened with sugar or honey to taste, with piquancy from a little mustard – Dijon or wholegrain – all shook up in a jam jar.
Is chicken Caesar Ireland's favourite salad? I think it might be, and with a side order of nicely crisp shoestring fries, it's a real treat. Below you'll find the Guardian food writer Felicity Cloake's recipe for the ultimate chicken Caesar, from her book The A-Z of Eating, and it relies on charring the lettuce to add a delicious point of difference.
Donal Skehan also brings a smoky note to his salad by throwing the lettuce on the barbecue or griddle pan in his baby gem salad with toasted hazelnuts and Pecorino recipe. A vaguely Caesar-ish dressing – with Worcestershire sauce but no anchovies – ramps up the umami hit here.
A big hunk of steak meets barley, grapes, sumac and a big handful of flat-leaf parsley in Carmel Somers’s protein feast masquerading as a salad, and nothing wrong with that.
Vanessa Greenwood reveals how to make the healthy eater's favourite green leaf less tough in her recipe below for kale salad with tahini soy dressing. It involves donning rubber gloves and massaging it into submission with lime juice. Read on. Greenwood also has a version of a classic – salad Niçoise – using smoked trout, salmon or mackerel to give it an Irish slant.
The UK food writer Sabrina Ghayour’s carrot, tahini and toasted hazelnut salad with mint is, she says, “a great year-round salad, but also works really well as a slaw, of sorts, jammed into a sandwich with any type of leftover meat. The final touch of mint gives the dish the perfect hint of freshness to offset the rich nutty tahini and sweet crunch of carrots.”
The Japanese chef and London restaurateur Makiko Sano’s steamed sesame chicken salad is healthy, light and exceptionally flavoursome. Just right for these summer days.
If a recipe in a sentence or two sounds more appealing, here are two I’ve been making regularly in this sunny spell.
Griddled courgettes with feta, mint, lemon and extra virgin olive oil
Cut the courgettes into long slices and cook them on a griddle before topping with finely crumbled feta, shredded mint (or mint and basil mixed), add spritz of lemon and a drizzle of really good olive oil.
Tuna with cannelini beans, celery, onion, parsley and lime
Drain the beans and mix with the flaked tuna (Shine's Wild Irish is excellent), finely diced celery, shaved red onion or chopped spring onion, sliced or diced gherkins, chopped flatleaf parsley and grated lime or lemon rind. Add lime or lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, until you're happy with the balance of flavours and texture.
Felicity Cloake’s chargrilled Caesar salad
2 smallish garlic cloves
150ml olive oil
2 chicken breasts or 4 boneless skinless thighs
4 rashers of streaky bacon
4 slices of day-old white sourdough bread
8 Little Gem lettuces
A large handful of finely grated Parmesan
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed
1 egg yolk
Juice of half a lemon
1. I'm loath to mess with an undisputed classic of the genre, which, frankly, has suffered enough (there's a tofu kale Caesar online, seriously), but I'd like to propose this as an adaptation: lettuce is vastly enhanced by a little charring, a process that delivers yet another dollop of umami on top of the anchovy rich dressing. Add the fried bread and the bacon and it's basically a salad for a very sophisticated hangover – hell, there's even an egg yolk in there for good measure.
2. Crush the garlic and add to the oil. Leave to infuse for about an hour. Bash out the chicken until it’s nice and thin. Heat a griddle pan on a high flame and cook the bacon until crisp and well charred.
3. Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks and dunk in the oil, then griddle until crisp.
4. Cut the lettuces in half through the core, and brush with oil. Griddle until charred, then sprinkle with Parmesan. Set aside.
5. Brush the chicken with garlic oil and griddle on both sides until chargrilled and cooked through.
6. Mash the anchovies to a paste in a jug, then beat in the yolk, and gradually the rest of the garlic-infused oil until you have a thickish dressing. Stir in the lemon juice and taste – season if necessary.
7. Snip the bacon into small shards and cut the chicken into slices. Arrange the lettuce halves on a platter and scatter over the croutons, chicken and bacon. Drizzle with dressing to serve.
Donal Skehan’s griddled baby gem salad with toasted hazelnuts and Pecorino
1 tbsp olive oil
4 baby gem lettuce, halved lengthways
For the dressing
4 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp chives, finely chopped
2 tsp Pecorino cheese, finely grated
25g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Pecorino cheese, cut into fine shavings
This is a simple recipe that only takes a matter of minutes to prepare and results in a unique smokey salad. Baby Gem lettuce charred on a barbecue, or cooked inside on a griddle pan, is a thing of beauty and well worth trying. Drizzled with a sharp, creamy dressing and garnished with salty Pecorino and toasted hazelnuts, it makes a decent supper on its own, or an alternative side dish.
1. For the dressing, put all the ingredients into a jar, cover it with a lid and shake until combined.
2. Place a large griddle pan over a high heat. Brush the lettuce halves with a little oil and season them.
3. Place the lettuce halves onto the griddle and cook for about two minutes either side, until they have nice deep char marks, but still hold their shape. You can also barbecue them.
4. To serve, place the Baby Gem on a serving platter, drizzle with the dressing, scatter the hazelnuts on the lettuce and sprinkle the Pecorino shavings over the top.
Carmel Somers’s seared sirloin salad with barley, grapes and sumac
50g pearl barley, cooked in 1 litre of water for 40 minutes, drained and cooled
2 sirloin or T-bone steaks, about 600g in total
1 big bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves only
350g white grapes
Salt and pepper
For the marinade
1 very small onion, grated
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp gound all spice
Pinch of black pepper
For the dressing
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp vinegar
4 tbsp oil
2 tsp sumac
A pinch of all spice
A pinch of coriander
This recipe is adapted from the Moro cookbook and I love it for its simplicity and clever use of ingredients. It is great to have uses for barley as it often lies in our cupboards, opened, waiting for its turn to come around again.
The last minute work required on this recipe is limited, making it perfect for a dinner party as it won’t interfere with your socialising too much.
1. For the marinade – mix all of the ingredients together, rub over the steaks and leave for a couple of hours
2. For the dressing – blend all of the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper.
3. Mix the dressing with the cold barley, parsley leaves and the grapes and place in a serving bowl
4. Heat a griddle or regular pan until it is very hot. Sear the steaks very quickly on both sides. This will take two minutes on the first side and just one on the other for rare, which works best for a salad.
5. Let the meat rest for a few minutes, then slice the steaks into thin slices and place on top of the salad.
Vanessa Greenwood’s kale salad with tahini soy dressing
200g curly kale, washed, ribs removed, leaves cut small
3 large limes, zest and juice (approx 60ml)
Half a red onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 red pepper, deseeded, diced small
1 carrot, peeled into ribbons
5 radishes, sliced finely
Half a red chilli, finely chopped
100g pomegranate seeds
For the tahini soy dressing
1 tsp tahini
2 tsp soy sauce
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp lime juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the chopped kale leaves into a large salad bowl. Remembering to reserve one tablespoon of lime juice for the dressing, pour the lime juice and the zest over the kale. Season with sea salt, stir well to coat and then allow the kale to sit for one hour if possible.
2. I wear vinyl gloves to massage the lime juice into the kale, working through the kale until the leaves soften. I then drain off any excess lime juice remaining in the bottom of the bowl and stir in the sliced onions.
3. For the dressing, whisk together the tahini, soy sauce, extra virgin olive oil, honey and lime juice. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.
4. Just before serving, stir the dressing into the salad, followed by the sesame seeds, to fully coat the leaves. Toss the remaining vegetables through the kale, scatter with pomegranate seeds and serve.
Vanessa Greenwood’s baby new potato, smoked trout, broad bean and egg salad
700g baby new potatoes, cut into halves or quarters
200g broad beans
8 radishes, cut into ribbons
200g smoked trout (or salmon or mackerel), sliced
5g cress or micro shoots
Lemon juice, cut into six wedges, to serve
For the dressing
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp maple syrup or honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring a small pan of boiling water to the boil and cook the broad beans for four minutes, until they are tender. Refresh them under cold water, and slip them out of their skins. Set aside.
2. Whisk together the dressing ingredients until emulsified.
3. Place the eggs in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil and cook for one minute. Remove the eggs, allow to cool, then peel them and cut into quarters.
4. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until cooked (test one potato before draining the water from the saucepan).
5. Drain, and while they are still warm, transfer the potatoes to a wide bowl and toss them in the dressing.
6. Just before serving, gently stir the broad beans, capers and radishes in with the potatoes.
7. Arrange the dressed potatoes on starter plates with the eggs, and slices of smoked trout. Serve warm or cold, with a lemon wedge and scattered with cress.
Sabrina Ghayour’s carrot, tahini and toasted hazelnut salad with mint
500g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced diagonally
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
100g toasted hazelnuts, roughly halved or chopped
40g mint, leaves finely chopped
For the dressing
2 tbsp tahini
4 tbsp olive oil
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp cold water
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
I love salads with ample crunch, texture and dimension, and this delicious dish hits all these notes.
1. Put the carrots, red onion, hazelnuts and mint in a bowl and mix well.
2. To make the dressing, put the tahini, olive oil, lemon zest and juice and the two tablespoons of water (which is added to slacken the mixture) in a small bowl and stir well. Season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Pour over the salad, tossing it through to coat the vegetables well. Serve immediately.
Makiko Sano’s steamed sesame chicken salad
For the dressing
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp rice vinegar
Half a cube chicken stock
Half a tsp sea salt
1 tbsp sesame oil
For the salad
1 tsp sea salt
1 chicken breast
2 tbsp sake (optional)
Half a medium Iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
Half a cucumber, thinly sliced
A few wedges of tomato
A few thin slices of red onion
This is my family's favourite salad; it's filling and tasty but incredibly healthy.
1. Put everything for the dressing – except the sesame oil – into a saucepan with eight tablespoons of water. Place over a low heat and bring to the boil. Stir, making sure both the sugar and chicken stock cube dissolve completely. Remove from the heat, let cool, then add the sesame oil. Cover and chill in the fridge until needed.
2. Sprinkle the salt on the chicken on both sides and place on a heatproof dish. Add the sake, if using.
3. Put two centimetres of cold water in a large saucepan and add a trivet that emerges above the level of the water. Place the chicken dish on the trivet. Cover the saucepan. Place the saucepan on the hob and cook on a medium heat for 25 minutes from start to finish.
4. Remove the dish from the saucepan, and leave until cool enough to handle. Tear the chicken into strips.
5. Put the lettuce on a plate and arrange the cucumber, tomato and red onion over it. Put the chicken on top. Toss with the sesame dressing and serve.
Domini Kemp’s lemon and ginger dressing
50ml olive oil
Big knob (40g) ginger, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
The dressing is made by whizzing the ingredients together in a food processor or blender until it's smooth. Season it well before pouring it over the salad and tossing everything around.
Domini Kemp’s tarragon dressing
2 tsp Dijon mustard
100ml olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion, very finely chopped
Handful tarragon, very finely chopped
Put all the ingredients together in a glass jar with a lid and shake, shake, shake. Use to dress a simple salad of green leaves.
Garrett Fitzgerald’s Brother Hubbard lemon tahini dressing
3 tbsp tahini
Juice of half a lemon
4 tbsp warm water
Mix the tahini with the lemon juice and some salt and pepper in a small bowl before slowly adding the warm water to loosen it to a pouring consistency.