Top 10 Tips for Creating the Perfect Salad

This month I'm focusing my efforts on creating some killer salads. Salads totally rock in my world. They're easy to make, provide you a broad range of vitamins and minerals, and they look fabulous (if you follow my top 10 tips that is!) A few salads I've made this month that take my top 10 tips into account are lentil, squash and beetroot salad with toasted pecans and pumpkin seeds, C salad (cabbage, courgette and carrot) with blueberries, super simple quinoa salad and roasted veg and amaranth surprise. Recipes for the others coming soon!

So what's the secret?  Here are my top 10 tips to creating the perfect salad:

  1. Choose your base ingredient/s.  This is the star of the show, the thing you want people to remember about your salad, and it's often in the name. E.g. is it a green leafy salad, a lentil salad, a beetroot and kale salad? This should make up the largest part of your salad, then everything else should be added in smaller quantities.
  2. Bulk it up with some green leaves. If your base is already a leafy green salad, try adding some raw kale massaged with lemon or lime, or if you want something more subtle spinach is always a winner (raw if you're having a cold salad, wilted if hot), or of course you could just buy a bag of ready mixed baby leaves and plonk those in. Simples.
  3. Aim for at least 3 different colours in your salad (although I urge you to go for as many as possible!). The colours in fruit and vegetables come from polyphenols; free radical fighting antioxidants found in our food. Polyphenols are micronutrients that help our immune system fight the bad guys and keep us healthy. A few staple colours and some examples of foods you could use are green (spinach, kale, avocado, sugar snap peas, green beans), orange (sweet potato, squash, carrot), red (tomato, red pepper, chilli, strawberries), purple (red cabbage, beetroot, blueberries), yellow(yellow pepper, baby corn, roasted parsnip).
  4. Where possible, add your foods raw. This maximises your salads' nutritious value. Lightly steamed is next best, although that said, I LOVE sautéed (pan fried) kale with garlic, shallots and a little stock, and I barely go a week without eating some kind of roasted vegetable dish.
  5. Fresh herbs are a really simple and easy way to add another layer of flavour to your salad. Mint, coriander and basil are my go to herbs, but you could also try dill, chives, parsley, thyme, or anything else that takes your fancy!
  6. Add some texture with nuts or seeds. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are a good starting point if you're not used to using seeds and are available in all supermarkets. If you're feeling more adventurous why not try hemp seeds, chia seeds or linseeds (also known as flaxseed, and these can be whole or ground). I'm also loving a few pan fried seeds and nuts at the moment.
  7. Beans (also called legumes) are a fab way to make your salad go further. Simply thrown in a tin of rinsed and drained butter beans, black beans, chick peas or any other beans and all of a sudden you can feed another few mouths! I always have a few tins of mixed beans in my drawer as well. I think they're as important to keep stocked as tinned tomatoes.
  8. Now this one's a divider... I think that fruit adds a great dimension to salads, although I know not everyone's a fan. I however go bananas for it (although I'm not sure I would ever add banana to a salad! Apples, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, pear, strawberries, mango, orange and melon are all great fruits to experiment with in your salads.
  9. Your dressing can make or break your salad I'm afraid. If in doubt, go for a good quality organic extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and mix it up in a jar with a little salt and more pepper. You can't go wrong with it. If you're feeling more adventurous, the Hemsley sisters have some great dressings in their 'The Art of Eating Well' recipe book.
  10. For vegetarians, try adding your favourite cheese.  Feta, grilled haloumi, or a soft goat or blue cheese are my favourites, although I try not to eat cheese very often and when I do I buy organic. I've yet to come across an organic soft blue though. Sad face. For meat eaters, left over roast chicken or beef works a treat, as do some salty slice of parma ham or fried pancetta. Again, I try to keep meat to a minimum and when I do eat meat it's always organic.

So there you have it; my top 10 tips for creating the perfect salad. PLEASE let me know what salads you come up with as the potential is limitless! Just remember, if you like it, throw it in. You really can't go wrong :)