Salads never get the limelight they deserve and are often misunderstood. Many people have a set idea of what a salad is – usually that it’s some kind of light lunch or a side to the main event – and it’s about time that changed. But salads can be big and beautiful, they can be a meal in themselves, they can be indulgent, they can be fruity and fresh, they can be full of pasta or they can be a simple assembly of tasty veg. They can be veggie or vegan or a meat feast. And they don’t even have to feature leaves at all.
Mango, green bean and peanut salad
This is my kinda fruity salad. It’s salty and savoury thanks to the dressing, chilli and the heavy measure of salted peanuts, while the mangoes give the whole thing a sugary punch that I can’t get enough of. To get ahead, make the dressing in advance, and blanch the greens up to a day before and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Prep 20 min
300g green beans
200g Tenderstem broccoli
1 bunch spring onions (about 100g)
½ small bunch coriander (about 15g)
½ small bunch mint (about 15g)
100g roasted, salted peanuts
Salt and pepper
A pinch of chilli flakes, to finish
For the miso and lime dressing
Juice of 2 limes (about 2 tbsp), or 2 tbsp rice-wine vinegar
1 tbsp miso paste
1 tsp clear honey
3 tbsp sesame oil
1 red chilli
In a large bowl, whisk the lime juice into the miso paste to loosen it. Add the honey and sesame oil, season generously and whisk to combine (alternatively, put everything in a clean jar, screw on the lid and shake; store in the fridge for up to a week). Finely chop the chilli, add to the dressing and set aside.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, add the beans and broccoli, and cook for two to three minutes, until bright green. Drain, rinse under cold running water until completely cooled, then drain again (alternatively, plunge them into a bowl of iced water, then drain). Set aside on kitchen paper to dry.
Use a vegetable peeler to take the skin off each mango, then slice off each cheek on either side of the flat stone and finely slice. Add the drained greens and mango to the dressing bowl.
Finely slice the spring onions and add to the bowl. Pull the herb leaves off the stems, roughly chop and add most of them to the bowl. Roughly chop the peanuts and add most of them to the bowl, too. Season and toss well.
Transfer the salad to a platter, top with the reserved herbs and peanuts, add the chilli flakes for an extra touch of spice, and serve.
Strawberry, mint and hazelnut salad
This is the perfect summer salad. Why? Well, it takes 10 minutes to make, and it’s cool, refreshing, salty and light enough to eat in the sun. I like it on the side with barbecued chicken, pork chops or steak. For vegetarians, use a vegetarian hard cheese; for vegans, use a vegan parmesan-style “cheese” or omit it altogether. If you want to get ahead, roast the nuts and make the dressing in advance.
Prep 10 min
100g blanched hazelnuts
1 small bunch mint (about 30g)
1 small bunch basil (about 30g)
200g lamb’s lettuce, or watercress
160g pitted black olives
100g ricotta salata (salted ricotta), or pecorino or parmesan
Salt and pepper
For the lemon and oil dressing
4 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1–2 lemons – you’ll need 2-4 tbsp, to tastestart by squeezing 1 lemon, then add more to taste (I often squeeze the juice of another lemon directly on to the salad before serving)
A pinch of sugar (optional)
Put the oil, lemon juice and sugar, if using, in a bowl, season generously and whisk to combine (alternatively, put everything in a clean jar, screw on the lid and shake; store in the fridge for up to a week).
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Spread out the nuts on a roasting tray and roast for 15–20 minutes, until golden – cooking the nuts at a relatively low temperature means they go golden and sweet, rather than risking them turning dark and bitter. Leave the roasted nuts to cool, then store in an airtight container for up to two months.
Pour the dressing into a large bowl and whisk again. Hull the strawberries, then cut them in half and add to the dressing. Pull the herb leaves off the stems and add to the bowl with the lamb’s lettuce. Now add the olives, crushing them with your hands to break them up as you go. Use a peeler to shave the cheese directly into the bowl. Roughly crush or halve the nuts, and add most of them to the salad bowl.
Season generously, then toss everything well. Transfer to bowls or a platter, top with the remaining hazelnuts and finish with a crack of black pepper.
Recipes extracted from Salads Are More Than Leaves, by Elena Silcock, published by Hamlyn at £20. To order a copy for £17.40, go to guardianbookshop.com