Even if your garden isn’t producing like Ray’s is right now, there are plenty of ways you can make winter salads.
The word “salad” comes from the Latin word for salt because a salted dish of raw vegetables, eaten with oil and vinegar, was originally what a salad was. The thing which is universal to that very various group of dishes called salads is that they are dishes which have a dressing, usually made from oil and vinegar or lemon juice, but often a combination of creamier elements like mayonnaise or yoghurt. Most cuisines have versions of salads, so the choice is huge. The dressing is the big drawcard as everyone seems to like the tartness of the vinegar combined with the creaminess of the oil.
Like all cold weather food, a winter salad needs to be a bit more hefty than just a light crisp salad of leaves that is the typical hot weather main course or side dish. My idea of a winter salad is a dish that can do duty as a main course, so I want some (preferably hot) protein in it and probably something heartier than just leaves, perhaps grains, nuts, noodles or pasta.
When I grew up there was only one sort of salad, a sliced layered iceberg construction with canned beetroot and boiled eggs with a condensed milk dressing. Thankfully we have moved on from that and the world’s repertoire of entree and main course salads have fast become part of the Kiwi repertoire.
Ray's 10 winter salad ideas
Make a Kiwi salade nicoise using kingfish instead of canned tuna. Put chunks of warm boiled potatoes and green beans in a bowl with halved cherry tomatoes, quartered boiled eggs, anchovy fillets, capers, black olives, basil and parsley leaves and a well-seasoned dressing of white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Dust chunks of skinned, boned kingfish with flour and panfry until golden in olive oil. Add these to the salad, toss gently and serve.
Buy half a Chinese roast duck, take all the meat off the bones and pull it apart. Toss with 2cm fresh pineapple chunks, mung bean sprouts that have been blanched in boiling water for 1 minute and well-drained, soaked glass noodles, thin sliced red chillies, cucumber chunks, mint and dill leaves, a dressing of equal parts lime juice and fish sauce, a touch of sesame oil and sugar to sweeten. It should be sweet, salty and hot. Serve sprinkled with fried shallots.
Boil plenty of Israeli couscous and drain well. Toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add halved cherry tomatoes, sliced sundried tomatoes, capers and sliced blanched green beans. Dress with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Meanwhile, barbecue boneless chicken thighs that have been well rubbed with a mix of dried wild oregano, crushed garlic, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Remove from the barbecue and slice across the grain of the meat. Pile the chicken on to the couscous mix and serve sprinkled with coriander sprigs.
Make walnut sized meatballs with minced lamb, finely chopped garlic, some fresh breadcrumbs soaked in milk, ground cinnamon and chopped parsley. Reserve. Put plenty of steamed quinoa or barley on a warm platter. Sprinkle lots of watercress sprigs, thin sliced, pitted fresh dates, finely chopped red onion, toasted walnut pieces and crumbled feta and mint leaves on top. Barbecue or fry the meatballs and pile them on top of the rice mix. Drizzle with a dressing of red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, runny honey and a little pomegranate molasses.
Peel and seed some pumpkin and cut into 3cm chunks. Toss in extra virgin olive oil and roast on baking paper at 200C for about 40 minutes or until tender and browned, Put lots of baby cos lettuce leaves on a platter. Put the warm pumpkin, sliced avocados, sliced spring onions and grated carrot on top. Fry lots of raw peeled prawns and 2cm diced bacon over high heat in extra virgin olive oil until just cooked (make sure the bacon is browned). Sprinkle these over the salad and dress with a mix of lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with coriander sprigs and pumpkin seeds that have been tossed in a dry pan over moderate heat until they pop.
Blanch leeks in boiling water for 5 minutes then slice into 6cm pieces and drain well. Toss in extra virgin olive oil, season well and barbecue, grill or fry until well browned. Trim all the fat and sinew off some eye fillet of beef (or just panfry your favourite steak for this), rub with evoo, salt and pepper. Brown in a pan then finish cooking in a 200C oven until done the way you like it. Remove from the oven, rest, then slice thinly. Place sliced steamed agria potatoes on a warm platter and place the leeks on top. Put the steak on the leeks. Dress with a vinaigrette of white wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, capers, chopped tarragon and parsley, dijon mustard and some soft boiled eggs, coarsely chopped.
Simmer a chicken with lots of sliced ginger, garlic, a bay leaf and some spring onions until the chicken is well cooked. Remove from the cooking liquid and cool. Remove the meat from the bones (strain the cooking liquid, boil with the discarded bones to reduce by half and freeze for future use). Put a thinly sliced red onion into a mix of 3 tablespoons each lime juice and fish sauce, sugar to sweeten, sliced red chilli, sliced garlic and chopped coriander. Mix well and reserve 10 minutes for the onion to wilt. Slice plenty of savoy cabbage and place in a bowl with grated carrot, crushed roasted unsalted peanuts and soaked glass noodles. Add the onion mixture and the chicken meat and mix well. Be untraditional and eat wrapped in soaked Vietnamese rice papers.
Boil some asparagus spears, pile them on a warm serving platter. Fry plenty of parboiled peeled agria potatoes until they are well browned. Put them around the asparagus. Put lots of fried diced bacon, capers, sliced semi-dried tomatoes, black olives, and rocket leaves on top. Dress with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and serve with crusty bread. Put lots of halved cherry tomatoes in a bowl with a big clove of finely chopped garlic, red wine vinegar, pitted kalamata olives, basil and/or parsley leaves, rocket leaves, anchovies if you like and extra virgin olive oil, Mix well, taste and season. Serve tossed through hot spaghetti. Strangely good with crumbled feta.
There is nothing better than hot smoked salmon crumbled over steamed agria potatoes. Serve it with a dressing of chopped dill, spring onions, finely chopped gherkins, grated horseradish, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.