An essential guide to salad dressings

An essential guide to salad dressings
It’s great to have an array of salads in your repertoire over the summer season and with so many wonderful salad leaves and vegetables available, the options are endless. The bagged leaves in our shops make an easy, flavoursome green salad. You can also create something heartier for a lunch or supper dish by using pulses or grains as the base ingredient. Whatever the recipe, we always like to add a final handful of freshly chopped herbs. 

The way to really lift a salad from the ordinary to something so much more is with the dressing. There are lots of interesting oils and vinegars to purchase so we thought it was timely to help you with some key principles.

A salad dressing is a simple combination of oil and vinegar, generally mixed in a ratio of 3:1, which is seasoned with ingredients such as mustard, garlic or honey to balance out the taste. It is essential that you buy really good quality components in order to generate the best flavour. 

A classic vinaigrette is made from olive oil, white wine vinegar, French mustard and garlic, but we like to substitute with golden rapeseed oil and wholegrain mustard. The important thing is to mix the vinegar and mustard first with Cornish sea salt before whisking in a constant stream of oil very slowly so that the dressing emulsifies. Leaving a smashed clove of garlic to infuse in there is enough to generate flavour – just don’t forget to take it out before serving!

Once you have mastered that process, it is time to play with flavours:
For sweetness…
Add runny honey or use a sweet vinegar such as sherry or balsamic. Ideal with bitter leaves such as chicory, radicchio or frisee and to bring out the best of Isle of Wight tomatoes.

For creaminess…
Add mayonnaise, creme fraiche or an egg yolk before emulsifying. Ideal with crisp, sweeter leaves such as romaine or little gems as well as to coat salad potatoes.

For flavour….
Swap vinegar with fresh lemon juice, add thinly sliced shallots, crumbled blue cheese or experiment with the Womersley vinegars. Ideal with milder leaves such as butterhead lettuce, and also cucumber and celery.

The best way to dress a salad is to toss it with clean hands. The leaves should be gently coated with the dressing and the components well mixed. A final seasoning with Cornish sea salt and Kampot black pepper and your salad is ready.

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