Salads reign supreme

South Africa with its fantastic weather for much of the year is ideal for serving up super salads. So why do so many people still revert to boring lettuce, tomato and cucumber when they have friends over or are asked to contribute a salad for a do?

That’s a big part of the problem with what I like to call garden-variety salads – they eventually become so boring that many guests give them a wide berth.

All Sorts of Salads, a new soft-cover title by former international businesswoman Chantal Lascaris, is a gem for anyone who wants to live a healthier lifestyle while also expanding their salad repertoire.

Lascaris and her husband, Reg Lascaris, an icon of the South African advertising industry, often have to entertain guests from around the globe and this inspired her to build up a collection of fresh and tasty salads that suit every palate.

The best thing about an interesting and beautiful salad is that it can completely elevate an ordinary meal.
And it’s also not rocket science (if you’ll pardon the pun) – as Lascaris says – no one’s ever burnt a salad!
With many of the recipes in her book there is not a lettuce leaf in sight.

She is particular about using easily available ingredients and it is interesting to note that many of the recipes included are actually very simple.

It’s more about putting together ingredients that have sometimes surprising synergy, like watermelon and feta; pancetta and fresh figs; smoked chicken and artichokes.

If you still need to get out of your salad rut, then why not try your hand at, for example, the cucumber and fennel salad with roasted pine nuts or her delectable looking butternut, couscous and feta salad zhooshed up with a tangy mango dressing and a scattering of pomegranate arils.

Adding protein to a salad virtually makes it a meal in its own right – something I am fond of doing in my own kitchen.

The calamari, chorizo and chickpea salad is certainly one I can see myself trying in future; the Asian-inspired prawn salad is a feast for the eyes and surely also for the taste buds.
All Sorts of Salads also has a section on fruit salads – only don’t expect a chopped mish-mash of over-ripe, leftover fruit drenched in sugar.

Lascaris focuses instead on fresh, appealing flavours – for instance there’s a very elegant-looking berry salad that gets a classy twist with the addition of a splash of limoncello.
If all this sounds a little experimental for your taste, you can still dip into the section marked “Old Favourites” right at the start of the book.

Here you’ll find salads that are classics and for good reason – Caesar salad, Caprese salad; Waldorf salad and the like. And if dressings often have you stumped, check out the last chapter where recipes range from simple vinaigrettes to more luxurious options like salsa verde or a creamy saffron dressing.

  • All Sorts of Salads is published by Struik Lifestyle and the recommended price is R240.

Tuna salad with nectarine salsa

This is summer food at its best, to be enjoyed outside with friends and a bottle of chilled white wine.

Ingredients

4 tuna steaks
olive oil for grilling
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 to 3 cups mixed salad leaves
8cm cucumber
Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Nectarine salsa:
2 ripe nectarines, chopped
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Method

To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Brush the tuna steaks with olive oil and season well. Heat a non-stick griddle pan until hot and cook the tuna steaks for about 2 minutes per side for medium to rare.
Don’t overcook the tuna as it dries out quickly. While the steaks are cooking, add a drop of soy sauce to each side. Once cooked, remove from the heat and set aside.
Place the salad leaves on a platter. Slice the cucumber using a mandolin slicer to create thin ribbons, and add these to the leaves on the platter.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the leaves.
Place the tuna steaks on top of the leaves and dollop the salsa onto the steaks.

Ostrich salad

Most cuts of venison go superbly with a sweet sauce as the sweetness tempers the gamey taste, Lascaris says.
“Ostrich, although technically poultry, is no exception. The ideal way to serve ostrich is medium to rare. If cooked for too long, it becomes very tough as there is almost no fat in the meat.”

Ingredients

400 g ostrich steak
2 to 3 Tbsp prepared hot English mustard
a few drops of balsamic vinegar
¼ cup red wine
¼ cup white sugar
3 Tbsp butter
2 pears, peeled and cut into wedges
2 cups rocket leaves
¼ red onion, peeled and chopped
2 large spring onions, chopped
¼ cup walnuts, chopped

Dressing

2 Tbsp sugar
½ cup water
1 pear, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Method

To make the dressing, dissolve the sugar in the water in a saucepan. Add the pear pieces and simmer for about 20 minutes until soft.

Remove the pear pieces from the liquid with a slotted spoon and allow to cool. Once cooled, purée in a blender. Whisk the pear purée with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and set aside.

Cut the ostrich against the grain into 3cm thick slices and smear with the mustard. Heat a griddle pan until hot and add the ostrich slices. Drizzle a few drops of balsamic vinegar onto each. Turn the ostrich after about 4 minutes.

The slices may be stuck to the pan, so pour in the red wine to help loosen them. Grill for about 3 minutes on the other side until cooked to your preference.

Allow the ostrich to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before thinly slicing.

Heat the sugar in a frying pan. When it starts to brown, add the butter and allow it to melt, then add the pear wedges. Cook the pears for about 5 minutes, turning continuously to ensure they are well coated.

Remove from the syrup and allow to cool. Toss the rocket, onions and walnuts in a bowl. Add the pears and thinly sliced ostrich.

Give the dressing a final whisk and pour over the salad.

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