Apple and Celery Salad

I have a terrible blind-spot when it comes to salads. It is unforgivable, because amongst the tens of thousands of recipes nestling amid the hundreds of books and magazines that we own, there must be well over a thousand recipes for delicious, interesting and unusual salads. For every main course there is probably a perfect salad that could be served with it, rather than my usual fallback of rocket, romaine lettuce and cucumber, dressed with citrus or vinaigrette.

Here’s one that Bill Granger suggested to be served alongside his baked leek and goat’s cheese risotto. It complements it in every way: where the risotto is rich and creamy, the salad is sharp, bitter and citric. Where the risotto is soft and melting, the nuts, celery and apple provide crunch and texture. For a risotto, this is the perfect salad – in fact, I’ve tried it with a few other dishes and it goes well with everything so far!

If you cannot find chicory, a couple of good handfuls of rocket is a delicious replacement. If you do not like walnuts then lightly-toasted flaked almonds are also delicious.

It goes without saying that you should use the finest extra-virgin olive oil that you can afford, it makes a huge difference in salads. Price isn’t always an indicator that you will like it more, my advice is to sample as wide a variety as you possibly can and stick with the one that blows your socks off – if you search hard enough you will find one that does just that.

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RECIPE – Serves 4

1 celery stick, cut into batons

1 head of yellow chicory, leaves torn

1 head of purple chicory, leaves torn

1 red apple, cored and cut into thin wedges

a handful of walnuts, roughly chopped (or lightly-toasted flaked almonds)

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

freshly-ground black pepper


METHOD

Prepare the salad ingredients, chop the walnuts (or toast the almond flakes) and toss together in a large salad bowl. Drizzle the lemon juice over the bowl, then drizzle the extra-virgin olive oil over that, toss well and season with a few good grindings of black pepper.

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Carrot salad with Cardamom, Ginger and Lemon

At the risk of being boring, once again I am going to extol the virtues of delicious, fresh ingredients coming together and doing their thing, with minimum interference. Putting together a great salad – any side dish in fact – is like putting together a great guest-list for a party, every element must contribute something to the whole, and the more variety you have the more interesting the result. The most important proviso – for parties as well as food – is that every element must get on with the others, otherwise it can be a disaster.

Every element in this dish has a clear and well-defined job, and when they come together… well, make it, taste it, and find out…

This is an excellent accompaniment to anything spicy: Middle-Eastern dishes and curries in particular.

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RECIPE – serves 4 to 6 people as a side dish

A good thumb-sized knob of ginger, roughly chopped

1/2 red onion, roughly chopped

1kg very fresh organic carrots, topped and tailed

the zest and juice of 2 lemons

1/2 tsp ground cardamom seeds

5 tbsp extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil

2 tsp flaked sea salt

1 tsp golden caster sugar

1 pinch of freshly ground white pepper

a small handful of chopped coriander leaves, or whole mint leaves to garnish


METHOD

Using a food processor makes this extremely quick and easy to make. First, cut away any ugly rough bits of the skin of the ginger, but otherwise leave it unpeeled. Roughly chop it then process it in the food processor, until it is chopped. Now add the red onion and process again.

Change the chopping blade for the grating attachment and grate the carrots into the processor bowl with the ginger and onion, then tip the whole lot into a large bowl and, using your fingers, mix everything thoroughly.

If you don’t have a food processor then you are going to be busy using a grater on the ginger, onion and carrots so allow some time to do this.

Grate the lemon zest over the carrot mixture, and take a small handful of cardamom seeds and gently bash them with a mortar and pestle. Take the seeds out of the husks, and pound them into a powder. Set aside for a moment.

To make the dressing, mix together the lemon juice, oil, salt, sugar, white pepper and cardamom, mix well then drizzle it over the carrot mixture. Toss well so everything is coated, then put into a cold place and leave to sit for a couple of hours for the best flavour – you can of course serve it immediately if you wish.

Stir through some finely chopped coriander leaves just before serving, or scatter with a small handful of whole, small mint leaves.

Kachumbali Salad

Salads don’t have to be bland and boring. This Tanzanian salad is traditionally served with grilled fish or meat, alongside rice. You’ll see red onion in there but don’t worry, it’s harshness is tempered by lemon juice, leaving it deliciously sweet and tangy.

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RECIPE – feeds 4 generously as a side dish

2 red onions, finely sliced

4 large tomatoes, finely sliced

2 green chillies, finely chopped

1/2 cucumber, peeled and finely sliced

1 carrot, peeled and finely sliced

juice of a lemon

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


METHOD

it couldn’t be simpler… prepare all the ingredients and toss together in a large bowl with the lemon juice and seasoning. Ta daa!

Onion Salad

You might think that an onion salad is the last thing you want to eat. Though I love the harshness of raw onion, I don’t appreciate the fact that I can still taste it several hours afterward. It stops my wife from kissing me as well…

Fear not, this delicious onion salad is not at all harsh, the underlying sweetness of the onion is accentuated and the harshness completely obliterated just by marinating in lime juice for 30 minutes or so.

This is a great side dish to serve alongside any curry or spicy dish, and if you ever partake of the poppadom starter before having an Indian restaurant meal you will be very familiar with it.

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RECIPE – feeds 4 with a starter, 2 with a main meal

1 large onion, peeled, halved and sliced

1 large ripe tomato, skinned, de-seeded and finely diced

4 inches of cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and finely diced

a generous splash of lime juice

a small pinch of salt

a small handful of fresh coriander, leaves only, chopped

1 tsp of nigella seeds


METHOD

Slice the onion, not too finely as you want the good texture that a thicker slice will give you. Put into a bowl and ensure the onion is fully broken up. Splash generously with lime juice and using your hands ensure that every piece of onion is coated. Season with a small pinch of salt and set aside.

Boil a kettle, score a cross through the skin at the base of the tomato, put the tomato in a large mug or small bowl, pour the boiled water over it until it is fully submerged and leave it for 15 seconds. Empty the water, immediately refill it with cold water, empty it again, now insert the point of a sharp knife under the scored tomato skin and pull the skin away from the flesh; it should peel off cleanly in large sections.

Caution: Don’t leave the tomato in hot water for more than 15 seconds or it will begin to cook. This will mean that the skin will re-adhere to the tomato flesh and you will have a hard job getting it off.

Cut the tomato into quarters or eighths, cut away the seeds and discard them, then finely dice the tomato flesh. Place on top of the onion.

Peel the cucumber, cut it into quarters or eighths, then slice away the seeds from the middle (they will make your salad too soggy). Finely dice the cucumber flesh and place on top of the onion.

Chop the coriander, place on top of the cucumber and tomato and set aside to sit for at least 30 minutes.

When you are ready to eat, toss everything together thoroughly, scatter the nigella seeds on top and toss again, then serve.

Carrot and Ginger Salad

This simple, quick to make and very attractive salad is the perfect accompaniment to Indian curries.

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RECIPE – feeds 4 

5 or 6 large carrots

1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced

a 2cm knob of fresh ginger, trimmed but not peeled, finely chopped

a handful of flaked almonds

a small bunch of fresh coriander, leaves only, chopped

lime juice


METHOD

Peel and trim the carrots. If you are lucky enough to have a food processor with a grater attachment then you’re in luck, otherwise you will have to grate the carrots by hand. Put them into a salad bowl.

In a small, NOT non-stick pan lightly toast the flaked almonds until they are lightly and evenly browned. Keep your eye on them as they can burn quickly, when you judge that they are ready tip them out of the pan onto a plate to cool – the pan will be hot and they will cook on if left in it. Remove any toasted almonds that are burned as they are bitter.

Add the almonds to the carrots, together with the chilli, ginger and coriander. Toss thoroughly to mix, and when you are ready to eat sprinkle lime juice over the salad and toss again. Check the taste and add more lime if necessary, a little at a time.

Serve as a side salad alongside anything spicy, but this goes particularly well with many Indian dishes.