After a snap poll of Standard Issue staffers, we came to the conclusion everyone has a signature dish they’re willing to brag about. Dotty Winters has a trio of salads we’re salivating after.
I Make the Best… Non-Salady Salads
Fuller dish description: It was a surprise to me when I first realised that a lot of my favourite foods are salads. If you are about my age (37), you may well remember when salad was some pale iceberg lettuce with watery cucumber and tomato.
This type of salad has its place, specifically either as garnish for something with chips, or on a plate on a day when you hate yourself and the world around you.
The salads I love are substantial, packed with flavour, and filling. It’s amazing how many calories you can hide in a salad when you really put your mind to it. They should leave you feeling fantastic and vital, and never hungry.
All the best salads come with the memory of sunshine and holidays: Greek salad sat by a port; crab with orange and basil salad on a hot Hong Kong evening; seafood and samphire salad at a pub in Cornwall; crunchy Thai salad on a sunny hillside… even slightly-warm caesar salad eaten out of Tupperware in a car park with friends.
I especially like the image this creates of me travelling the world eating salad, rather than sitting on my sofa, in a onesie, eating crisps, but you get the idea.
Mr W and I had our honeymoon in Thailand. Across the road from our hotel there was an amazing cafe. They served squid salad in three varieties: hot, very hot or extreme. In an uncharacteristically macho moment, Mr W ordered the extreme version.
We managed to eat it, then had to go for a lie down; neither of us remember the following four hours. That’s the kind of salad I aim for – one so powerful it can wipe out a whole afternoon and threaten a marriage.
I’ve picked three of my favourite non-salad-y salads and included the recipes below.
In the end I made all three of these salads on the same day (because DEADLINES) and drafted in Standard Issue contributor and awesome-face Bisha and comedian Gabriel Ebulue to test them out. They really don’t go well together (the salads, not Bisha and Gabriel – they seem fine), so we had a three-course salad lunch.
Bish is a pescatarian, so the Thai salad has salmon rather than chicken – it’s better with chicken in my view, but any salad is better in good company, so it all worked out well.
When did you first make it? I think I’ve made big hearty salads as long as I’ve cooked for others; the arrival of a Lidl in my little town upped my game a bit. Easy access to whole mozzarella, Parma ham and vine tomatoes led to the creation of a family favourite Lidl-salad, which has been a feature of a lot of family events and BBQs ever since.
I bloody love colour too – nothing looks more appetising to me than a plate (or house, or outfit) which contains ALL THE COLOURS.
I used to be self-conscious about serving ‘just salad’ but as the salads got biggerer and betterer, a side dish of pasta bake started to look ridiculous. Serving salad somehow makes everyone feel virtuous, even (especially) if it’s mainly a salad made of pork products.
When did you realise it was the best? (and who has certified it as such?) I realised I was onto something when people starting requesting them for picnics or events – by people, I mean friends and family. I don’t accept salad requests from strangers.
When I told Bisha that I was making the salads for this feature, she confirmed that I DO make the best salads, so if you disagree, take it up with her.
Sometimes people ask me for the recipe. That always confuses me. With most salads all the ingredients are visible.
How often do you make it? I make these any time someone comes for lunch in the summer, or for any picnic, or if I ever have to go to one of those bring-a-dish buffets.
Have you ever tasted anyone else’s version of this, which had you worried? Nope. My internal salad-ego is massive. I do love to be served an amazing salad, but I always think I can do a better version, especially if it doesn’t already have bacon or carbs in.
Is this the only thing you make well? I’m not bad in the kitchen; I used to work in kitchens. My best things though are made in one big dish: stews and cassoulets in winter, salads in summer.
I can’t make meringues. Don’t respond to this by telling me how to make meringues. I’ve tried. I can’t. Meringues are stupid. If you can make them, you are stupid too. Stupid meringue-head.
First up, the Ingredients:
Mackerel and beetroot salad
Boiled eggs (if you are a show-off, these should be cooked with the whites firm but the yolks still a little runny)
Smoked mackerel, cooked, skin removed and flaked
Beetroot (Not pickled beetroot, you savage; pre-peeled and cooked is fine)
Handful of chives
Horseradish (can be substituted with wasabi paste)
Salt and pepper
Yummy crusty bread which you have cubed and left out overnight to go stale.
Ooodles of tomatoes – I think having a few different types of tomatoes looks amazing for this. The better the tomatoes, the better this will taste. If you buy at least some really deliciously tomato-y vine ones, you can slice/chop these and mix them with cheaper tomatoes. And if you leave these to mingle overnight, then all your tomatoes will taste better the next day – this is some science-magic brought to you by enzymes.
Fresh basil (or a good dollop of pesto)
One ball of mozzarella cheese, torn into pieces
Griddled asparagus or courgette, cooked then chilled
Zest and oil of a lemon
Sugar and seasoning
Olive oil (even better if it is the leftover oil from some sundried tomatoes)
Crispy bacon (optional)
Crunchy Thai-style salad
Chopped red, yellow and/or orange peppers
Chopped de-seeded cucumber (the seeds make it go a bit soggy)
Fresh coriander (optional, if you are one of those freaks who doesn’t ADORE coriander)
Fresh ginger root
Chicken (can be replaced with grilled salmon, halloumi or prawns)
Salt and pepper
All of these salads are easy to make, and basically work if you just bung everything in. I usually make them in a large bowl (so it’s easy to mix) but then serve them on a massive sharing plate so they look suitably substantial and dramatic.
Each of these three salads is best served at a specific temperature (see below) and each should be served as a meal in its own right (possibly with a side of bread) – they aren’t designed to go together.
This salad should be served warm (but not hot). All ingredients can be prepared in advance then add the fresh boiled potatoes just before serving. Potatoes, like arguments and car seats, hold the heat.
Place the flaked mackerel, chopped beetroot, radish, chopped chives, rocket and spring onion in a bowl. Make a dressing of half and half yoghurt and mayo, add a good dollop of horseradish. Boil and shell the eggs, Chop in half, set aside.
The steps above can be done up to a day in advance and stored in the fridge.
Boil new potatoes in well-salted water till cooked (but not mushy). Mix dressing with mackerel and veggies. Season well. Add potatoes and mix quickly. Bung it all on a massive, dramatic plate. Garnish with eggs and a few spare chives.
If possible, chop your tomatoes the day before you need them and leave them in the fridge to mingle. You need to assemble this salad about four hours before you eat it, to let the bread take on the flavours.
Mix tomatoes, chunks of bread, a grated garlic clove, griddled veggies, torn mozzarella, the zest and juice of one lemon, 2 tsps of sugar, some oil and seasoning in a big bowl.
Give it a really good mix and leave it to get acquainted for about four hours. This salad is best served at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge an hour before serving.
Before serving, add basil (and bacon if you are using it), mix again and tip it all on a massive plate to serve.
Mix chopped peppers, spring onion, cucumber, mango and chilli in a bowl.
Finely grate a decent-sized lump of ginger into some kitchen towel and squeeze over the salad. (If you’ve never done this you’ll be amazed by how much ginger juice you get this way.)
Add zest and juice of two limes. Season well.
Spread peanut butter on some sticks of celery, slice and add.
I know this sounds weird, but trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Add coriander, stir well and serve chilled on a massive plate. Garnish with chicken, or whatever.
Find out what our other contributors make best of all here.
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Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.