How to Make the Perfect Seasonal Salad
We start by thinking about the time of year; which vegetables, legumes and leaves are in season? It’s autumn now, meaning pumpkin, squash and mushrooms are in season and as the weather gets colder, root vegetables and brassicas will be in their prime.
Once we’ve chosen the seasonal ingredients, we think about how we want the salad to taste: fresh and zingy or warming and robust? For winter, we focus on roasting or sautéing vegetables to concentrate their flavour, whereas in summer, serving vegetables steamed or raw showcases freshness. To create a comforting dish for cooler climes, we choose warming spices like cumin and paprika, along with woody herbs like rosemary and thyme to complement the seasonal vegetables. For brighter spring and summer salads, we turn to soft herbs like basil, coriander and mint.
With the key seasonal vegetables and flavours in mind, it’s time to build the salad from base to dressing. We chose a grain or legume for sustenance that will complement the seasonal vegetables – our winter favourites are black barley and lentils.
For contrasting textures and flavours, we like to pair cooked elements like roasted vegetables, lentils and grains with something raw, like thinly sliced raw vegetables and leaves. Adding chopped nuts and seeds brings extra crunch to every mouthful.
When it comes to protein, our favourites are soft cheeses like feta or goat’s cheese which pair well with autumnal flavours like pumpkin and mushroom. Roasted chicken and hot smoked salmon also work well in winter salads and add depth of flavour.
When making the dressing, we think about whether the salad is bitter, sweet or salty, then use contrasting flavours for the dressing. Choose a base for the dressing like buttermilk, yoghurt, or oil, then add acidity with lemon, vinegar, or pomegranate molasses which bring sweetness too. We love using tahini in our salads as it’s great for binding the dressing and offers a nutty, rich flavour.
Grains can be dressed as soon as they’re cooked, to ensure they absorb the flavour of the dressing, but never dress leaves ahead of eating as the leaves will lose their crunch.