Cornersmith Guide to Salad Making

Now that you have gathered your winter produce, have the right tools and a great big bowl for mixing, it's time to make the kind of salads you used to go out for. 

This is our guide to making salads that are simply prepared but eaten with gusto. It's about the little differences that make impact. So, here are our thoughts on dressings, knife skills, flavour and the extra touches. 

Slaw Foundation Recipe

Slaws are the ultimate winter salad. They are crunchy and satisfying. Shave cabbage on a mandoline and you will get beautiful thin slices as the building block to then add more textures and punchy flavours. Follow this foundational recipe and go in whatever direction you would like. For example use white cabbage, green beans, some quick pickled radish and toasted sesame seeds for an Asian style salad or red cabbage, kale, celery, dill and toasted walnuts for an Eastern European flavour. Get the basic elements right and then you are only limited by the adventures of your appetite. 

Ingredients:
1/4 small white or red cabbage (about 200g) , thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced seasonal vegetables
Brussels sprouts, fennel, kale, wombok
1 cup thinly sliced very crunchy vegetables or fruit
Snow peas, Sweetcorn, Green beans, Celery, Radish, Carrot, Apple, Pear
1 bunch soft herb leaves
Dill, Coriander, Parsley
Large handful of toasted nuts or seeds
Almonds, Walnuts, Peanuts, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Pepitas

Method: 
Place the cabbage, vegetables and fruit in a salad bowl and gently mix to combine. Drizzle over the dressing and scatter the herbs and toasted nuts or seeds over the top. Mix again and serve immediately.
 

Dressings

A good dressing brings the whole salad together. You want all your ingredients to be evenly coated with a light touch. A delicate oil and quality vinegar will allow the flavours to be in the spotlight. 

We are also fans of dressings that use up the last scraping of condiments in the refrigerator. Substitute the dijon in this recipe with pesto, tahini, yoghurt or that French onion dip you haven't finished. And don't skip on the sweetness - it really does balance everything.

3 tablespoons oil (a mix of good quality olive and good quality vegetable oil)

1 tablespoon of something acidic, such as lemon juice, a good quality vinegar or left over pickling brine.

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

A good pinch of salt and cracked black pepper

A dash of something sweet to balance everything, such as a pinch of sugar, honey, maple syrup or marmalade.

Extra tips:

For a creamy slaw, add 1-2 tablespoons natural yoghurt, tahini, or mayonnaise.

For a spicy slaw, leave out the mustard and add chilli paste or hot sauce, a crushed garlic clove or 1 teaspoon of finely grated ginger.

Combine all ingredients in an old jar, pop the lid on and shake well to emulsify.

Toasting seeds and nuts

One of the simplest ways to fancy up a few green leaves is to toss them with some toasted nuts or seeds. They bring an extra savoury flavour and add protein to make salad a complete meal. 

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees. In a small bowl put 100g of seeds and/or nuts and drizzle with a little oil, add 2 teaspoons of dried spice such as paprika, cumin, oregano, rosemary, fennel and a pinch of cayenne pepper and mix well.

Spread seeds on a lined baking tray and toast them in the oven until they have turned golden and crunchy. Put a timer on and move seeds and nuts around every 2-3 minutes to ensure they toast evenly.

Keep in mind that small seeds such as sesame or poppy seeds might only need 4-5 minutes; sunflower and pepitas and larger nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans take 7-12 minutes.

Leave to cool and store in an airtight container in the pantry. They will stay fresh for about a week. If they get a little stale, give them another 3-5 minutes in the oven to revive.

Quick pickling

Use this recipe to make quick pickles from the odds and ends left in the fridge. Half an onion, a few radishes, a few sticks of celery, sliced carrots, beets or broccoli stems.

Combine 1 cup very hot water, 1/2 cup vinegar (white wine, red wine, apple cider or rice), 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a jar. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. In a non-reactive container put your thinly sliced vegetables and 1 teaspoon spices of your choice (mustard seed, fennel seed, dill seed, dried chilli, peppercorns) or a few slices of ginger or a bay leaf. Pour the hot brine over 1 cup of sliced vegetables and leave to sit for at least 20 minutes. Once cool, cover and store in the fridge for up to one week.