The season of gluttony is over and the juicy turkey, bacon and mayonnaise sandwiches have been reluctantly replaced with soggy lettuce, unripe tomatoes and an apologetic drizzle of ‘fat-free’ salad cream. This is what we fear most about the January obsession with dieting and a healthier life style, but it really doesn’t have to be such a miserable task to shed the Christmas pudding pounds. Here are a few salad making tips, keeping the calories down while maximising colour, variety and taste. If it’s zero degrees outside, boil yourself up a cuppa soup or a pot of healthy ready-made broth to accompany your salad.
Top tip: Invest in a basil plant…this will last a month or two if well cared for and provide the freshest flavour to season your salad.
The easy Green: Grab a bunch of lettuce (curly leaf or iceberg as preferred), a cucumber, and some juicy red tomatoes (bought in advance and left out of the fridge to ripen) and chop everything into large and roughly shaped chunks. Toss together in a big bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Sprinkle with basil.
The slim Caesar: Chop up a chicken breast into thin slices, fry in a light oil (eg. vegetable) until cooked through and browned on the outside. Cover your plate in lettuce or spinach leaves, add some thinly sliced red pepper, chunks of cucumber and throw on the chicken and some torn up basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
The godly Greek: Time to get some real flavour in your salad bowl! Take a few big red tomatoes and chop them randomly into large chunks. Toss them into the bowl with some thick halved slices of cucumber and some very finely chopped red onion. Throw on some large chunks of feta cheese and some black olives. Mix it up to spread the colour and flavour equally and then drizzle with olive oil, mixed dried herbs and black pepper (no need for salt).
The keen Bean: This is a delicious and simple salad and makes a huge quantity so is great for catering parties or stocking the fridge. Take a tin of kidney beans, cannellini beans, sweet corn and some frozen chopped green beans. Rinse all the tinned goods before mixing them together. Defrost the green beans in simmering water, drain and add. Dress the salad with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh basil.
The noble Nicoise: Take some curly leaf lettuce, sliced red pepper, French green beans, black olives, a tin of tuna and a hard-boiled egg, quartered. Jumble this on a plate and drizzle with olive oil and season generously. This colourful classic incorporates many essential and healthy food types and tastes divine.
The cool Carrot: The one vegetable wonder! Peel and grate a few carrots, then mix in some raisins and drizzle with lemon juice. Sounds odd? Well it’s not…it’s delicious.
Deadly decadence: If you’ve tried all these salads and want to spruce them up a bit, treat yourself to some slices of succulent avocado or a scattering of crunchy croutons. You can make your own croutons with stale dried out baguette. Cut it into rough cubes, drizzle these with the oil of your choice and season with salt and pepper. Then just bake on a tray in a hot oven for 10 minutes until brown and crispy.
These are just a few ideas for some healthy meals, but with your own appetite for variety in colour and texture you can create your own perfect salad: low in calorie, high in flavour.
This article was written by Emily Banham on behalf of Capital Cooking, a high-end catering London company. To enhance your cooking skills why not look into cooking holidays in Italy!