Rachel Allen's Salad Days

Express your creative side and you can transform some humble greens into a warm and satisfying taste sensation.

It may have been when Caesar first mixed his anchovies with some cos lettuce that a salad became more than just a few leaves with some dressing. Well, I say, "Hail, Caesar!" I love to experiment with different ingredients in salads, and not be tied down to something light and green. Whether it has potatoes and sausages, or even bacon and egg, a salad can be inventive, filling and even warm.

It can be served as a side dish, or even as a main course – just keep the flavours and textures balanced, and get creative.

Leaves aren't essential to a salad, but I've included them in each of these recipes. At this time of year, I like to use robust salad greens – leaves that have the tenacity for such cold weather and that will stand up to other strongly flavoured warm ingredients without wilting. Mustard greens are one of my favourites. They can be quite hot, though, so I like to use them mixed with other less intense greens. Rocket is always worth including for its perfect pepperiness, while spinach makes a healthy and less assertive addition.

Dressings provide so much of the flavour to your salad that making a well-flavoured dressing is crucial. It's important to season your dressing well with salt and pepper. I like to use different oils or vinegars and, sometimes, I'll add sweetness with honey or even sugar. For the chorizo and potato salad recipe, I've used walnut oil, which has a potent flavour, so I've mixed it with olive oil.

The hazelnut oil in the kidney salad, nicely complements the hazelnuts in the recipe. If you can't get walnut or hazelnut oil, you can leave them out of either of these dishes and replace them with extra-virgin olive oil.

The bacon and egg salad recipe is a twist on the classic Caesar salad, which was actually invented by an Italian cook in America in the 1920s. It keeps that same rich dressing, but I really like the addition of the crisp bacon and a soft poached egg. I love to serve this salad with a slice of toast for a hearty brunch.

Three Salads for you to try:

Photography by Tony Gavin

Shaneod Mar 20, 2014 News