Spotlight on … Salad
While it’s always a good time for a crisp, fresh salad, there’s no doubt that the warmer days of spring and summer are when salads are most enjoyable. These days there’s a fabulous range of salad leaves available, each with their own unique flavour and texture. If you find yourself in a salad rut, automatically grabbing an iceberg every time, read on to learn about some of the most popular varieties of salad leaves.
Undoubtedly the most popular salad leaf, icebergs have cabbage-shaped leaves that stay fresher for longer than other varieties. Fantastic in sandwiches, burgers and in prawn cocktails, the cup-shaped leaf makes it ideal for san choy bow.
Renowned for its peppery flavour, it is able to stand up to strong flavours such as aged or blue cheese and cured meats. Try it blitzed with parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil for a rocket pesto that tastes delicious drizzled over meat and vegetables.
The sturdy leaves of witlof make it great for scooping up dips. It has a slightly bitter and nutty flavour that becomes sweeter when roasted. Try it in a salad with orange segments, shaved fennel, almonds and a mustard vinaigrette.
Traditionally used in Caesar salad, cos have long, narrow leaves. The outer leaves are more bitter than the sweet centre leaves. Whip yourself up a traditional Caesar salad or for a twist, try it with hot smoked salmon or trout, crispy croutons and a classic Caesar dressing.
The peppery flavour of watercress works best when mixed with other milder flavoured leaves in a salad. Both leaves and stem are edible and watercress can be cooked or eaten raw. Try it with egg; the flavours work beautifully together.
Milder than regular spinach, baby spinach is a super versatile salad leaf that can be used raw or cooked in everything from smoothies to pasta.
Which salad leaf should I choose?
To get the most out of salad leaves, you need to think about what you are serving with them so that you can choose the right one. Crisp varieties of salad leaves work well with punchy dressings and soft leaves are best for more subtle flavours.
What should I add to my salad?
There’s an infinite range of additions that you can add to salad leaves to add flavour and texture. Try soft herbs for a hit of flavour or fry up some bacon to add a crispy and salty bite. Olives and capers work beautifully with tomato in salads and crunchy croutons are wonderful for adding another dimension of texture. And don’t forget the dressing for the final layer of flavour but make sure you only dress your salad just before serving to avoid soggy leaves.