“I’ve always felt like salads never get the limelight they deserve and that they’re generally misunderstood. I think 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. I reckon it’s about time that changed.
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 and vegan or they can be a meat feast, and they can be that-dish-that-you-know will-make-you-look-like-a-chef, upstaging any hunk of meat or fancy fish that dares to show up as an accompaniment to your showstopping salad.
They don’t even have to feature leaves at all – I’ve included a salad here that, in all honesty, is more a kind of cheese plate.
This book is all about redefining salads, making them the starting point of any meal planning, rather than an afterthought when looking for something green to whack on the table. I hope that when you start cooking from this book and see the kind of deliciousness you can label as a salad, you’ll jump right on board with the new salad agenda that I’ve got going on”.
Extracted from Salads Are More Than Leaves by Elena Silcock is published by Hamlyn, £20. Photography by Chloe Hardwick.
Watermelon with ricotta salata pine nuts
This is an incredibly simple recipe that is both light and refreshing, perfect for when you’re on holiday and want to make yourself lunch without it taking up too much of your precious downtime. In the absence of ricotta salata, you could use feta, which is slightly more classic, admittedly,
but for a good reason. Grilled halloumi would also be great.
1kg watermelon, fridge-cold, rind removed and cut into chunks
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
100g ricotta salata, shaved
30g pine nuts, toasted
60ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
Pinch of Aleppo chilli flakes (pul biber)
Edible flowers, such as nasturtium (optional)
2 green chillies, thinly sliced
5g picked mint leaves
5g picked basil leaves
Coarse black pepper
1 Arrange the watermelon on a serving platter and top with sliced shallots, ricotta salata and pine nuts.
2 Whisk the olive oil, lime juice and chilli flakes together and spoon over the salad.
3 Garnish with edible flowers (if using), sliced green chillies and herbs. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper and serve immediately.
Miso & Lime dressing
1 tablespoon miso paste
juice of 2 limes (about 2 tablespoons) or 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon clear honey
3 tablespoons sesame oil
salt and pepper
1 Whisk the miso paste with the lime juice in a large serving or mixing bowl to loosen it. Add the honey and sesame oil, season generously
with salt and pepper and whisk until combined.
2 Alternatively, put the ingredients in a clean jam jar, screw the lid on tightly and shake well. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up
to a week
Miso noodle, avo & cucumber
I make a version of this salad about once a week. It’s speedy, it’s fresh and I’m a sucker for the tahini dressing, which I highly recommend making extra of, ready to toss over any veg you cook over the next few days. To get ahead, cook the noodles up to 1–2 days in advance and leave in iced water so that they don’t stick together, then drain, toss in a
little sesame oil and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Toast the sesame seeds and make the dressing in advance.
400g soba noodles
250g frozen edamame beans
1 large cucumber
1 small bunch (about 30g) coriander
2–3 tablespoons soy sauce
salt and pepper
lime wedges, to serve
Sriracha, to serve
Miso & Lime, plus 2 tablespoons tahini
30g sesame seeds
a few of the coriander leaves (see above)
pinch of chilli flakes
1 Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the soba noodles and cook according to the packet instructions. Fill a bowl with iced water and add the edamame beans. Once the noodles are cooked, drain in a sieve, rinse with cold water and add to the bowl of iced water and edamame beans. Set aside.
2 Toast the sesame seeds. Whisk up the dressing including the tahini in a large mixing bowl, adding a splash of water to make it a drizzling consistency.
3 Halve each avocado and remove the stone, then peel and cut into 1cm cubes. Add to the dressing.
4 Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, then use a spoon to scrape down and remove the fleshy seeds. Slice the cucumber into half moons and add to the bowl. Pull the coriander leaves from their stems and add most of them to the bowl.
5 Drain the noodles and edamame beans and add to the bowl, making sure not to catch any ice cubes! Add the soy sauce, then toss together, taste and season well with salt and pepper. Add a splash of water if the salad looks at all clumpy.
4 Transfer to a platter or bowls and top with the remaining coriander leaves, the toasted sesame seeds and chilli flakes. Serve with lime wedges and Sriracha for extra heat and fun!