Christmas feasting is over - now it's time to enjoy light, tempting, easy-to-assemble meals.
Salads are the perfect solution - and dressings help to lift them to another level.
Vinaigrettes are very easy to whip up and are best enjoyed freshly made. Experiment with rice wine vinegar, red wine or raspberry vinegar, and balsamic and sherry vinegars whisked with quality olive, avocado or walnut oil.
Add seasonings such as wasabi, root ginger, crushed garlic and pomegranate molasses. These saucy numbers also make excellent marinades for meats.
Here's a favourite vinaigrette that will keep fresh in the fridge for up to five days.
In a bowl, combine one cup of red wine or raspberry vinegar, two diced shallots, two crushed cloves of garlic, two tablespoons of dried mixed herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.
Whisk well, warm for one minute in the microwave, then stand for several hours to allow the flavours to mature.
Strain through a fine sieve, then whisk in 1 1/2 cups of quality extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of prepared Dijon mustard. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Leftovers from festive dinners can taste marvellous with a little imagination. Diced turkey tossed with pesto and lemon juice and served in lettuce cups; julienned lamb combined with balsamic vinaigrette and cold potatoes; or ham spread with horseradish and served with herb slaw in a pita pocket - all make easy, tasty holiday fare.
Whatever your salad combinations, keep them cool. Store them in the refrigerator until just before serving, or use a well-chilled chilly bin if taking them outdoors. This helps to prevent those nasty bugs and bacteria growing and multiplying.
Refresh salad greens before use. First, wash them carefully in cold water, then shake or pat dry gently with a paper towel.
Place loosely in a plastic bag. Do not pack tightly or squash. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
MINTED POTATO AND HAM SALAD
400g small potatoes, eg Perlas or Little Diggers
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
250g thickly sliced ham, cubed
3 spring onions, diced
1/2 cup sliced fennel bulb (optional)
1 cup mint leaves, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
4 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp each: sugar, prepared wholegrain mustard
Boil or steam the potatoes until tender. Cool a little, then peel.
Microwave the peas for 1-2 minutes, until hot. Cool.
Combine the potatoes and peas with the ham, spring onions, fennel bulb (if you are using it) and three-quarters of the mint leaves.
Season. Mix gently.
Combine the dressing ingredients and stir in the remaining sliced mint leaves. Spoon over the salad and mix to combine.
Great served on a bed of lettuce leaves.
BEEF SALAD WITH THAI FLAVOURS
A version of Thai larb
Finely grated rind of 1 lime
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp ground chilli
250g leftover roast beef, minced or finely diced
4 Tbsp finely chopped roasted peanuts
2 spring onions, diced
2 small kaffir lime leaves, julienned, then diced
1/2 cup each: mint leaves, basil leaves, finely sliced
1/2 red pepper (capsicum), diced
4-6 crisp lettuce cups
Combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.
Combine the salad ingredients - except the lettuce cups - in a bowl. Toss with enough dressing to moisten. Taste.
Add more lime juice, fish sauce or sugar according to your preference.
Spoon into the lettuce cups. Serve any remaining dressing on the side. Serves 2.
6 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
300g-400g cooked chicken or turkey, shredded
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
2 stalks celery, diced
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice and five-spice.
Place the remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss gently. Add the dressing.
Great served in lettuce cups or warmed taco shells. Serves 4-6.
MUSHROOMS AND GOAT CHEESE
500g portabello mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground salt and black pepper to taste
4 cups mixed spicy greens, eg rocket, watercress, mustard cress
150g goat cheese
2 Tbsp raspberry or red wine vinegar
1 tsp prepared Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil Preheat the oven to 225°C. Toss the mushrooms in the oil, salt and pepper. Place in a baking pan in a single layer. Roast in the middle of the oven until golden brown and tender (about 15 minutes). Cool, then thickly slice.
Wash greens and crisp in the refrigerator. Coarsely crumble the cheese. Whisk dressing ingredients.
Combine mushrooms and greens on four serving plates. Drizzle with dressing and top with cheese. Serves 4.
Copyright Jan Bilton
- The Marlborough Express