There are currently two major schools of thought in the salad camp. The first is the traditional, but does it really fill you up/ isn’t it really boring. The second is a newer faction. These people have transcended the humble leaves and carrot on a plate and evolved it into salad jars with layering, Buddha bowls with lineated quadrants, and name checking shit you’ve never even heard of. The salad has been gentrified.
But, dear readers, I am here to offer a third path. Basically, you can make a tasty, filling, not-boring salad without turning into a complete dick and running for a mason jar. The key is just lots of colour, lots of texture, lots of flavour. Don’t be shy about mixing and matching some crazy shit – it’s party time. Most of the options I’ve given here are things you can grab and construct on a lunch break rather than anything too exotic or with too much prep needed. I’M THINKING OF YOU.
Disclaimer: This images were taken while I was salivating over the contents. The photography sucks.
Base: getting leafy
Step away from the bag of mixed leaves. These are generally the blandest thing in the supermarket. A lot of the time these are grown hydroponically in virtually laboratory conditions rather than in the muck outside. I love the practicality of them not being covered in dirt, but I remember the first time I ate actual rocket with some flavour to it and it nearly burnt my mouth off. The best option is to go to an actual grocer and get some organic goodies, but chances are you’ve got ten minutes on a lunch break and don’t exactly have the time or the inclination. The next best thing is to pick up a whole lettuce – little gems are chewy and sweet, icebergs give a good crunch and refreshing flavour, those wavy leaved dark green ones are ok I guess. Anything will taste better, last you longer and be cheaper than those mixed leaves bags. Rant over.
What counts as salad?
ANYTHING. On top of your leafy base, you’re gonna want some more ‘stuff’. If you can afford a cocktail at the weekend, you can afford to treat yourself to something beyond a cucumber (even though cucumbers are actually ace for adding crunch). Try yellow tomatoes or bell peppers, both way sweeter than the normal variants. Broccoli is fab in a salad, full of iron. Chuck it in a microwave for 30 secs with a few drops of water to steam it a little if you don’t want it completely raw and you’re in an office kitchen. Spring onions and cress I feel don’t get enough credit nowadays – both insanely cheap ways to bump up the flavour. Carrot can be grated or chopped into chunks, adding colour and a lot of fibre to your plate. If you’re really worried about it filling you up try some new potatoes – again, the microwave is your friend to soften them up a little before you chuck them in. Try sweetcorn, artichoke, sundried tomatoes. AVOCADO. If it’s weekend brunch or a summer BBQ and you have time for some prep, pan fry some aubergine in some cumin, or broccoli in soy sauce. HELLO.
Adding a protein source to a salad will help fill you up. I’d recommend going down either the nuts or legumes route rather than choosing both – you can do both, but you have to be careful your nuts don’t get all mushy. Choose from chickpeas (rinsed!) Or even a mixed bean combo. Nuts-wise, you can go to town – walnuts are fantastic, also brazils, almonds or cashews. Hazelnuts are ok but they’re quite dry and don’t taste like Nutella so they’re always a tad disappointing to me. If you’re feeling flush, chuck on some macademia, to me they always taste slightly like white chocolate because I’ve had so many cookies with that combo. Sprinkle some seeds on top too – sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, or just those supermarket combos of mixed seeds (the spicy ones are ace). Pine nuts are also a great topping – I have a theory that they have a subliminal taste – they don’t taste of much at all and yet they’re really exciting and I always want more.
This is where shit gets real. We’re going to put fruit on a salad. Blueberries, mango, apple pieces, pomegranate seeds if you really want to push the boat out. Have a look what’s in your fridge or what’s in the Tesco on the corner and give it a go. This is where the fancy quadrantation of a Buddha bowl style salad is useful – if you’re not sure whether different elements will go together you can keep them separate, much like when you maybe use a sausage to keep the beans off your chips #sevenyearoldbirthdaypartylifehack. If you’re not quite ready for this, ease in with some sultanas.
Someone asked me recently what do vegans use as salad dressing. I’ve never really been one to drown a crunchy, colourful salad in mayo so this has never been an issue for me. A simple fave is just a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or you can make a cheeky dressing mixing olive oil, lemon juice, cider vinegar and a bit of salt and pepper in a glass and drizzling it on.You can also mix in basil or mint leaves in at this stage if you’re ready for the next level. Obviously hummus is always an easy go-to, as well as sweet chili sauce, hot sauce, basil or chili oil. The salad flavours should speak for themselves really. Don’t drown them in dressing.
Depending on what mood you’re in and how clean you’re eating, you can always bulk it up a bit with “other stuff” – bulgar wheat, cous cous, falafel, vegan cheese, quinoa, whatever you like (tempeh?). Just chuck it in.
There you have it – my salad inspiration. Go forth and spread the word! It’s been exciting sharing my expertise in this matter, I’d love nothing more than to see your creations.