A fresh spin on salads: Eleanor Maidment makes over the summer staple

YOU’s food editor Eleanor Maidment gives our favourite summer staple a glamorous makeover.

Avocado, radish and walnut salad with carrot-miso dressing

The dressing is a real winner. You’ll be amazed at how raw carrot blends into something so creamy. This makes far more dressing than you’ll need, so store the rest in a sealed jar in the fridge for grilled veg, fish or chicken.

avocado radish and walnut
Nassima Rothacker

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Salmon, citrus kale and black rice salad

You can adapt the vegetables in this salad according to what you have in the fridge: cucumber, spring onion and steamed broccoli all work well.

salmon and black rice
Nassima Rothacker

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Broccoli and bacon slaw

Try this instead of your usual summer slaw. The broccoli is eaten raw, and as long as it’s broken into really small pieces it makes a lovely crunchy base for this salad.

broccoli slaw
Nassima Rothacker

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Beetroot, goat’s cheese and nectarine salad with spiced vinaigrette

Beetroot and goat’s cheese is a combination that just works. This takes it a step further by contrasting the textures of raw and cooked beetroot and adding a gently spiced vinaigrette and sweet nectarine.

beetroot and goats cheese
Nassima Rothacker

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Tuna salad with bitter leaves and anchovy dressing

This salad sees a sharp anchovy and garlic dressing spooned over crunchy fresh vegetables, with flaked tuna and jammy eggs. The combination works brilliantly well.

tuna salad
Nassima Rothacker

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Tomato, wasabi and nori salad

Tomatoes, soy sauce and nori are umami-rich flavours that truly complement each other, while the wasabi adds a nice undercurrent of heat.

tomato wasabi
Nassima Rothacker

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My essential ingredients

For the perfect salad, you need the right balance. Here’s how…

Salads are beautifully versatile. They can comprise countless ingredients – raw or cooked, hot or cold – and can be happily served for lunch or dinner. But while you should always let your creative juices flow, it’s worth considering some key factors:

Go big on texture

A good salad needs a range of textures. You definitely want crunch whether it be crisp cos lettuce, garlicky sourdough croutons or toasted nuts and seeds (roast big batches of cashews and pumpkin seeds to have at the ready). Proteins (such as chicken or prawns) and grains (such as wild rice or quinoa) make salads feel more substantial, while soft-boiled eggs, mozzarella or avocado are creamy and mellow.

Balance salt, sweet and acid

Just as you want a variety of textures, so too should flavours be balanced. A little saltiness – think olives, prosciutto or blue cheese – is always appreciated. Sweetcorn, finely sliced green apple or nectarine can add a subtle sweetness, while just a small amount of dried fruit such as cranberries will do wonders to a slaw. Sharpness is important, too, as it lifts other flavours. This could be as simple as a squeeze of lemon juice or the vinegar in a dressing, though quick-pickled onions or cucumber (or indeed any veg or fruit) add a lovely sweet-and-sour hit.

Dress it well

The dressing is arguably the most important part, so consider it carefully. It must suit your salad – a leafy green salad needs something delicate and should be dressed last minute, while a chunky chicken, veg and noodle number can hold its own with something a little more heavy and might do well to soak up the dressing for a while before serving. If you’re going to the trouble of making a great dressing, then double the quantity and store leftovers in a jar in the fridge.

Get the kit

No matter how good your knife skills, a razor-sharp mandoline is worth investing in for finely slicing raw roots (beetroot and carrot) and shredding cabbage. A good one (such as Benriner Japanese Mandoline, £34.99, souschef.co.uk) will come with attachments for julienning vegetables, which is great for slaws. A compact high-speed blender (such as a Nutribullet 600, £57.99, amazon.co.uk) is ideal for whizzing up super-smooth dressings.

Now buy the book

CaliforniaOur recipes are from California: Living & Eating by Eleanor Maidment, published by Hardie Grant, price £22. To order a copy for £18.70 until 22 August, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.