When I think of salads, they’ve come a long way over the years.
I remember as a little girl, my mum giving us ‘cold meat & salad’ on a fairly regular basis throughout the summer. That was left over roast with lettuce, tomato and cucumber. If we were lucky there would be some boiled new potatoes, or even fried re-heated ones (they were good, we all liked them!). There was always a choice of homemade chutney, mayonnaise and salad cream to have with it.
The menu changed from time to time, sometimes there was sweetcorn or hard boiled egg added. If there were new carrots ready in the garden, there would be a bowl of them in the middle of the table for us to help ourselves.
Red pepper also was introduced, and much later avocado pear, which tended to be served to adults at a dinner party as they were special. It took me a long time to appreciate the texture of avocado, normally it was served with prawn marie rose where the stone had been or just with French dressing. My mum even had special avocado shaped dishes to serve them in. (She probably still has them.)
Moving on to the restaurant years and I remember there was always a selection of salads put on the plate. There was always coleslaw and potato salad, often pasta salad and sometimes Waldorf salad, made with apple, celery, grapes and walnuts at the side of the plate. All had a generous amount of mayonnaise mixed through them to make them tasty! Lettuce and tomato took up a small corner and usually came back to the kitchen uneaten.
Salads like the ones above are still available in establishments up and down the country (I can spot catering coleslaw from 50 paces), but trends are moving on and certainly for me, the days of mayonnaise slathered salad is a thing of the past.
I usually have a range of ingredients in the fridge, lettuce (romaine or gem), tomato, cucumber, avocado, radish, fennel along with some tasty leaves, rocket or watercress which I mix together and use as a base, adding bits and pieces, depending on what else I have.
Here are 6 easy, quick, delicious salads that I have made this year so far. They can be used as a stand alone meal or as an accompaniment to a larger feast. Some use my lettuce base, others don’t use any and none go anywhere near mayonnaise or salad cream!
Avocado & Soft Boiled Egg Salad
This is another winning combination, an easy, healthy supper if you’re on your own.
1 handful of romaine or gem lettuce
Small handful rocket leaves
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
½ avocado, cut into pieces
1 tsp chopped chives
1 tsp chopped mint leaves
3 tsp Dijon dressing
- Boil the egg for 4 minutes if medium or 5 minutes if large. Run under cold running water to cool before peeling and cutting into quarters.
- Slice the romaine or gem lettuce and toss with the rocket leaves, avocado, cherry tomatoes and half the herbs.
- Arrange the egg over the top of the salad, sprinkle over the remaining herbs and drizzle over the dressing to serve.
Hot Smoked Salmon & Avocado Salad
It had been raining all day, it dried up at tea time and the sun came out. This made the perfect supper.
1 portion hot smoked salmon
1 small avocado
8 pieces of roasted antipasti pepper
1 handful romaine or gem lettuce leaves
Small handful rocket
6 mint leaves, shredded
1 tbsp chives, finely sliced, chive flowers if you have them
Zest of ¼ lemon
Squeeze lemon juice
- Toss the lettuce and rocket in a bowl, crumble over the hot smoked salmon.
- Scoop the avocado out of its shell with a teaspoon and arrange over the dish. Add the pieces of roasted red pepper.
- Scatter over the chives, mint & lemon zest. Grind over black pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice to finish.
Green Bean Salad with Feta Cheese
I like green beans and I like a warm salad; this is a winner!
1 handful of green beans, topped
1 handful of romaine or gem lettuce
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 black olives
2cm slice feta cheese
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
Squeeze of lemon juice
Pinch of salt & grind of black pepper
- Steam the beans for a few minutes until tender, but still with a slight crunch. Remove from the heat and refresh under cold water. Allow to drain, then cut in half.
- Slice the lettuce and toss with the beans, halved cherry tomatoes & olives.
- Sprinkle over the sliced spring onion and crumble over the feta cheese. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt, a grind of black pepper and drizzle with a squeeze of lemon juice to serve.
Salad of Seared Scallops with Watercress Dressing & Crispy Sage
I treated myself to scallops one night, they were huge, so I only needed 3!
Good handful salad leaves
½ small avocado
6 cherry tomatoes
3 – 5 scallops depending on their size
4 sage leaves
Big handful of watercress
Olive oil as needed
Salt & pepper
Juice of ½ lemon
- Put the watercress into a blender and blend to smooth, adding olive oil as you go to make a dressing consistency. Season with salt & pepper, set aside.
- Put the salad leaves on a plate, cut the avocado into chunks and scatter over.
- Halve the cherry tomatoes.
- Pat the scallops dry with kitchen paper, if they are very big, remove any roe and halve them across the middle. Season with salt & pepper.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan, add the cherry tomatoes and sizzle for a minute. Add the sage leaves and fry gently on both sides. Spoon the tomatoes out of the pan and arrange over the salad leaves. Remove the sage from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.
- Put in the scallops in to the pan and cook for 1 minute on each side, squeeze over the lemon juice and allow it to bubble and make a sauce with the other pan juices. Remove from the heat, arrange the scallops over the salad, drizzle over the pan juices, crumble over the sage leaves. Drizzle with a few spoonfuls of watercress dressing and serve.
Summer Roast Aubergine & Feta Cheese Salad
I always find aubergine a challenge, my kids are not particularly keen. This got the thumbs up though!
1 large aubergine
2 tbsp oil
½ bulb fennel, finely sliced
200g pack feta cheese
3 tbsp chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely shredded
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
Rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp good olive oil
- Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6.
- Cut the aubergine into 1cm cubes, put into a roasting tin, season with salt & pepper, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil, toss well and roast for 20 – 30 mins, until well browned around the edges, turning half way through.
- Crumble the feta cheese into a large salad bowl, add the finely sliced fennel, including any fronds, halved tomatoes, chives, mint, and lemon rind. Toss everything together well and add the lemon juice and olive oil.
- Remove the aubergine from the oven, add hot to the salad, tossing well and serve.
Grilled Ras en Hanout Aubergine with Quinoa Salad
This is a great way to eat aubergine. Soft, but full of flavour with a tasty quinoa salad. Ras en hanout is a Middle Eastern spice mix.
1 med aubergine
2 tsp ras en hanout
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp vegetable bouillon
10cm piece cucumber, cubed
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
16 black olives
Small handful coriander or parsley, chopped
¼ of a bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
- Pre heat the grill to high heat, use the middle grilling level.
- Rub the aubergine pieces with the oil and sprinkle over the ras en hanout, pressing it into the aubergine to make it stick. Put the aubergine onto a baking sheet and under the grill, turning to brown it on all sides. Remove from the grill and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Put the water, quinoa and vegetable bouillon into a pan with a lid. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins to cook. Allow to sit for 10 mins to absorb any excess moisture.
- Stir through the cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives and fennel and herbs. Taste and season with salt & pepper if necessary, divide between 2 bowls.
- Serve each bowl topped with 2 quarters of the warm aubergine.