One of my favourite dishes to eat when I go out for lunch is a Ploughman’s Lunch. A Ploughman’s (as it’s known) for those of you that don’t know what it is consists of is a nice chunk of mature cheddar cheese, pickle or chutney, fresh bread, apple & salad. What you actually get when you order it in a pub is: plastic cheese, chutney from a jar, dry bread, half an apple & wilted brown salad. Out of all of it it’s the salad I take offence to. Just like the majority of salads you get when eating out.
What you get when you order a salad in a restaurant and what you imagine it will be are two completely different things. The classic example of this is Caesar Salad. You see it on the menu, you decided to order what you think will be fresh lettuce, baked croutons, anchovies, parmesan cheese and a nice dressing. What arrives is wilted limp lettuce, deep fried croutons, a cheese that has never been near Italy and a sauce out of a bottle (That’s the reason I always order the dressing on the side).
Now that summers here everyone wants to eat lighter meals and salad is a great choice for lunch or a light dinner. Making salad at home is so much better than buying the shop bought pre-made salads. Once you’ve chosen the lettuce leaves you like (rocket, Cos, lambs lettuce, iceberg, frisse) what goes on top it is down to you. Meats, fish, vegetables, dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, beans, pulses, cheese & herbs all make great additions to a salad.
As imaginative as you are with your salad toppings the same applies for salad dressings. Mayonnaise, oils, vinegars & dressings all work well. When making vinaigrettes remember this simple ratio 3x oil – 1x vinegar (see below for list of oils & vinegars that you can use to make dressings).
Over the past months I’ve started to grow my own in the garden. Planted so far are tomato plants (which are flowering and already showing small green tomatoes) a number of herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, sage, oregano, chives) lettuce and black chillis. In preparation for my forthcoming harvest here’s one of my favourite salads that will use a selection of my crop.
Rocket & Tomato Salad
500g Rocket leaves
20 Cherry tomatoes (growing in my garden)
1 Red onion
25g Chives (from the garden)
25g Basil (I’m using Greek basil from my garden)
50g Vegetarian Parmesan (Leave out if vegan)
20ml Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
100ml Balsamic Vinegar
To make the dressing place the vinegar and sugar in a pan and reduce by half until it coats the back of a spoon, if it doesn’t coat the spoon keep reducing until it does. For the salad, toast the pinenuts in a dry pan and allow to cool. Slice the red onion as fine as you can (I use a mandolin), cut tomatoes in half, chop the herbs and peel the cheese with a peeler. Combine all the ingredients and dress with oil and balsamic reduction.
Oils & Vinegars to use for dressings: