When you focus less on what you think a salad should be made of and expand your veg horizons, some very exciting things can happen on your plate.
Below are five recipes that are centred less on the usual lettuce, cucumber, tomato combo that - although glorious in midsummer – does not reflect the season now, when we need something fresh tasting, but also more substantial.
Cooking creatively with seasonal veg can add brightness, variety and texture to your winter meals. Including fruit really enlivens the plate and contrasts with the crisp crunch of raw vegetables. In these recipes you will find flashes of vibrant colour and exciting flavours ranging from zingy, to earthy and aromatic. Including nuts or lentils is a wonderful way to add protein into your meals and the recipes are easily amended to be vegan. Alternatively, they can be served with simple, grilled, sustainably-caught fish, or organic chicken, depending on your diet.
Roasted beetroot, carrot, lentil and cumin seed salad
Cooked lentils are useful for throwing together a quick salad. This one would also work with other root veg, such as parsnips or celeriac and can be made with or without the leaves, depending on what is available.
2 medium beetroot (about 300–350g), scrubbed well
3 medium carrots (about 300–350g), peeled and cut into quarters lengthways
5–6 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
100g Puy lentils (or other small green lentils)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
Bag of salad leaves, e.g. rocket or watercress
Salt and black pepper
Heat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Wrap the beetroot in foil and roast it in the hot oven – this may take an hour or more, depending on their size. When you can easily insert and remove a knife, they are cooked.
About half an hour before the beetroot are cooked, toss the carrots in a roasting tin with 1 tablespoon of the oil, the cumin seeds and some salt and pepper. Add to the oven and roast for 20–25 minutes, until beginning to caramelise.
Meanwhile, put the lentils into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain the lentils and dress with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a little salt while still warm.
Mix the lemon juice and 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil with a little salt to make a simple dressing. Taste and adjust the balance of lemon to oil if necessary.
Allow the beets to cool so you can handle them, then slip off the skins. Cut into bite-sized chunks and toss with some of the dressing.
Dress the salad leaves, scatter over the lentils and top with the carrots and beetroot.
Variation - For a heartier dish, double the quantity of lentils, omit the leaves and finish with a scattering of crumbled feta and chopped parsley.
Red cabbage salad with beetroot, blue cheese and crispy chestnuts
This lively salad with buttery chestnuts, creamy cheese and tangy apple is good enough to eat on its own. Macerating the raw cabbage and beetroot in the spiced dressing allows the veg to soften and take on some extra flavour. If you don’t have chestnuts, walnuts or even toasted seeds would work well too, and you can omit the cheese for a vegan version. Find the recipe here.
Griddled leeks, wild rice and quinoa, chervil and mustard dressing
This is a clean, nourishing vegetarian dinner, that can be served warm or cold. Griddled leeks top an aromatic pile of wild rice and quinoa with a sharp lemon, mustard and chervil dressing. You could also add other griddled veg – slices of courgette or red pepper work well. You can find the full recipe here.
Radicchio and fruit salad with date and allspice dressing
Simple, quick and really eye catching! Deep burgundy, bitter radicchio pairs fabulously with sweet, ripe fruit in this elegant winter salad. Persimmons or good, firm pears work very well, or try sliced oranges for juiciness.
You could use pecans as well or instead of walnuts, and crumble over a little creamy blue cheese if you want to add salty tones to the mix. Explore the recipe here.
Moroccan spiced carrot dip
We’ve paired the four salads with this warming dip, which has a great depth of flavour and is a great use for any carrots lurking forgotten in the fridge you need to use up.
Serve as a light lunch or starter with warm pittas, or as part of a colourful dinner. You can find the recipe here.