Crunch time: Beat those winter blues with Mark Hix's inventive salads

Who said that salads had to be eaten during the summer months?

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Indy Lifestyle Online

You may think that salads are the last thing you should be thinking of during these cold months, but a crunchy, healthy, winter salad always goes down well at a dinner party or family meal. You can turn most good ingredients into an interesting salad – and legend has it that the famous Caesar salad was invented by simply using up a selection of leftovers.

Ruby salad

Serves 4

This is a great winter or autumn salad using a good mixture of red leaves and whatever other suitable red ingredients you can get your hands on.

3-4 good handfuls of red salad leaves such as treviso, radicchio, ruby chard, red endive, red amaranth, etc
2 medium beetroots, cooked, peeled and cut into wedges
20 seedless black grapes, halved
2 large red onions, baked in a moderate oven in their skins for 45 minutes

For the dressing

2tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar
5tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk the vinegar and oil together and season to taste. Remove the skins from the onions, cut them into 6 wedges each and pull the natural layers apart. Toss all of the ingredients together with the dressing and season.

Chopped salad

Serves 4-6

American-style chopped salad has finally hit London restaurant menus – including ours. And it's a good thing, too, after years of having to endure micro-greens and flabby, tasteless, supermarket leaves. I remember that about 25 years ago, the room service menu in hotels would often feature a chef's salad, which was basically whatever they had in the fridge chopped up and arranged neatly in a bowl.

Cutting your seasonal vegetables to the right size to fit the fork or spoon is crucial, and crisp leaves like romaine or iceberg tossed in help to give it that crunch. Getting the dressing right is important, too – it needs to compliment the vegetables and there should be enough of it to coat the ingredients well.

You are going to see this salad on more and more restaurant menus with chicken, prawns, lobster – or cheese as a vegetarian alternative, and I've even heard that Fay Maschler is going to be doing chopped salad masterclasses.

6 boneless chicken thighs, cooked and cut into 1cm dice, or use feta for a vegetarian option
1 red pepper, halved, seeded and cut into 1cm dice
60-70g green beans, cooked and cut into cm lengths
4-5 spring onions, sliced
1 avocado, peeled, stoned and cut into rough 1cm dice
5-6cm piece of white radish, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
a small cucumber, halved, seeded and cut into rough cm cubes
1 large beef tomato, cut into 1cm dice
50-60g cooked peas and/or broad beans if in season (or use frozen)
1 small or half an iceberg or romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut into 1cm dice
1 small head of radicchio, washed, dried and cut into 1cm dice
2tbsp chopped chervil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing

2tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
1tbsp Dijon mustard
3tbsp olive oil
3tbsp vegetable or corn oil
1 clove of garlic, halved
A few sprigs of tarragon

First make the dressing. Whisk all of the ingredients together, season and leave to infuse for a couple of hours, then strain through a sieve. To serve, toss all of the ingredients together, season and transfer to individual or large serving bowls.

Hot potato, smoked haddock and spring onion salad

Serves 4

This combination of warm potatoes and haddock makes a great starter (or even a brunch dish with a poached egg on top).

2 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped
100ml chicken or vegetable stock
30ml white wine vinegar
500g large new potatoes, peeled, cooked and sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp parsley, finely chopped
30-40ml olive or rapeseed oil
4 spring onions, trimmed, washed and finely chopped
20-300g natural smoked haddock
Milk for poaching

Put the shallots, two-thirds of the stock and the white wine vinegar in a saucepan and bring to the boil and simmer until almost completely reduced.

Add the sliced potatoes and the rest of the stock, stir well, cover and cook gently over a low heat for another 4-5 minutes, giving the occasional stir. The liquid should have almost disappeared and the potatoes should be falling apart a little.

Stir in the olive or rapeseed oil and the parsley and replace the lid to keep warm.

Meanwhile, bring the milk to the boil, add a little salt and poach the haddock for about five minutes, then remove from the milk, leave to cool a little and remove the skin. Spoon the warm potatoes on to serving plates and flake the haddock over the top. Garnish with the spring onions.

Cauliflower, puntarelle, hazelnut and raisin salad

Serves 4

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 small head of puntarelle, outside leaves removed to reveal the heart
40g raisins soaked in water overnight
40 hazelnuts, lightly toasted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp white balsamic
3-4tbsp olive oil

Cook the cauliflower in boiling water for 3-4 minutes so that it's still crunchy; drain. Slice the puntarelle heart thinly with a knife or on a mandolin. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces; toss in a bowl with the puntarelle, raisins, hazelnuts, balsamic and olive oil; season. Leave for 30 minutes then give a final stir and serve.

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