salads never get the attention they deserve and are often misunderstood. Many people have a fixed idea of what a salad is—usually that it’s a light lunch or a side dish to the main event—and it’s about time that changed. But salads can be big and beautiful, they can be a meal in themselves, they can be delicious, they can be fruity and fresh, they can be full of pasta or they can be a simple collection of tasty vegetables. They can be vegetarian or vegan or a meat feast. And they don’t have to have any leaves at all.
Mango, green beans and peanut salad
This is my rather fruity salad. It’s salty and savory thanks to the dressing, chili, and generous dose of salted peanuts, while the mangoes give it a sugary-sweet punch that I can’t get enough of. To go ahead, make the dressing ahead of time and blanch the greens up to a day ahead and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Preparation 20 minutes
300g green beans
200g tender broccoli
1 bunch spring onions (about 100 grams)
½ small forest coriander (about 15g)
½ small forest coin (about 15g)
100 g roasted, salted peanuts
Salt and pepper
A pinch of chili flakesto finish
For the miso and lime dressing
Juice of 2 limes (about 2 tbsp), or 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of miso paste
1 tsp clear honey
3 tablespoon sesame oil
1 red pepper
In a large bowl, whisk the lime juice into the miso paste to loosen it. Add the honey and sesame oil, season generously and whisk to combine (or place in a clean jar, screw on the lid and shake; refrigerate for up to a week). Finely chop the chili pepper, add to the dressing and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the beans and broccoli and cook for two to three minutes, until bright green. Drain, rinse under cold running water until completely cool, then drain again (or dip in a bowl of ice water and drain). Set aside on kitchen paper to dry.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from each mango, then slice off each cheek on either side of the flat stone and thinly slice. Add the drained greens and mango to the dressing bowl.
Finely chop the spring onions and add to the bowl. Pull the herb leaves from the stems, chop them roughly and place most of them in the bowl. Roughly chop the peanuts and add most of them to the bowl as well. Season and toss well.
Place the salad on a platter, garnish with the reserved herbs and peanuts, add the chili flakes for an extra kick and serve.
Strawberry, mint and hazelnut salad
This is the perfect summer salad. Why? Well, it takes 10 minutes to make, and it’s cool, refreshing, salty, and light enough to eat in the sun. I like it with grilled chicken, pork chops or steak. For vegetarians, use a vegetarian hard cheese; for vegans, use a vegan “cheese” in Parmesan or omit it altogether. If you want to get ahead, roast the nuts and make the dressing ahead of time.
Preparation 10 minutes
100g blanched hazelnuts
1 small bunch coin (about 30g)
1 small bunch basil (about 30g)
200g lamb’s lettuceor watercress
160g pitted black olives
100g ricotta salata (salted ricotta), or pecorino or parmesan
Salt and pepper
For the lemon oil dressing
4 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons – you need 2-4 tbsp, to taste, start by squeezing 1 lemon and then add more to taste (I often squeeze the juice of another lemon directly onto the salad before serving)
A pinch of sugar (optional)
Place the oil, lemon juice, and sugar, if using, in a bowl, season generously and whisk to combine (or place in a clean jar, screw on lid and shake; refrigerate for up to a week).
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C hot then risk them turning dark and bitter. Let the roasted nuts cool and then store in an airtight container for up to two months.
Pour the dressing into a large bowl and whisk again. Peel the strawberries, halve them and add to the dressing. Pull the herb leaves from the stems and put them in the bowl with the lamb’s lettuce. Now add the olives and crush them with your hands to break them as you go. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the cheese directly into the bowl. Roughly crush or halve the nuts and add most of them to the salad bowl.
Season generously and toss everything together well. Transfer to bowls or a serving dish, garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and finish with a dash of black pepper.
Recipes extracted from Salads Are More Than Leaves, by Elena Silcock, published by Hamlyn for £20. To order a copy for £17.40, go to Guardianbookshop.com