Raising Your Salad Game

with Chef Craig Rodger


Summer = Time to raise your salad game.

Salad can be boring, right? Definitely! Everyone has seen or had a “sad salad”. You know the ones; pre-packed salad leaves tossed in supermarket dressing and served with overcooked chicken or canned tuna.

So this Tuesday, I am going to show you how a chef comes up with a salad that he would proudly present to a customer or to his family.

Here’s a few simple steps in order to raise your salad game from “I don’t know why I bother” to “I can’t believe how delicious and easy this is – I decree, salad for everyone!”

Salads have 5 main elements. Most chefs have these elements clear in their head and they construct delicious salads by picking items they feel work well together from each element:

  1. Vegetables: I love salads anytime of year but they are next level in the summer so pick the seasonal produce. Asparagus, courgette, spinach, green beans, watercress, roquette are all great as a base for your salad. Cooking a green vegetable like courgette or green beans and tossing them still warm in your salad makes the salad exciting and improves all the flavours. For my salad i’m picking courgette and spinach.
  2. Main Ingredient: Usually this is meat but this can also be a beautiful cheese or a vegetable you particularly love – broccoli for me. Experiment with slightly unusual main ingredients. I recommend lamb rump with the fat still attached, the trick is to cook the fat until it renders down and begins to provide the oil which you can dress the salad with. I’m definitely using the Lamb Rump for my salad.
  3. Oils and dressings: As i mentioned above, think outside the box as to the dressings or oils you might think to use. Yeah extra virgin olive oil rules the roost but there are other oils (obviously we are avoiding highly oxidisable PUFA’s, in part, because of the unhappy omega 3:6 ratio) and fats that to my palate are as delicious if not more so for certain combinations. Stirring some full fat yoghurt into the rendered lamb fat from the rump is an act of sheer kindness for the lucky people who get to try your creation. For my salad i’m going to get my dressing from the fat from the lamb and the full fat yoghurt with a squeeze of lemon to cut through the richness.
  4. Special flavours: Herbs and spices are incredibly effective in salads. My favourites from the herb family are basil, parsley, chives, coriander and mint. The spices I like to use in a salad are caraway seeds, whole cumin seeds and of course cracked pepper. For my salad I toast the whole cumin as I cook the lamb. This perfumes the meat and removes the raw pungency from the spice. I am also using some picked and torn mint leaves for freshness.
  5. Textures and colours: These are the finishing flourishes that help to continue your salads ascent through the stratosphere. Pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, linseeds, all the nuts; all provide delicious texture and nutrients. Raw vegetables like red onion, red and white cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber and even fruits like strawberries give the salad beautiful colours and different textures and temperatures. For my salad i’ve chosen cherry tomatoes, red onions and pumpkin seeds.

So picking items from these elements, we have my finished salad:

Summer Superfood Salad

Pan Seared Lamb Rump, Spinach and Courgette,

Tossed in a Toasted Cumin Yoghurt with Pumpkin Seeds & Cherry Tomatoes

Sounds great! 

Remember these 5 elements and see how much easier it becomes to make the most delicious summer salads for your friends and family. Only downside is once they catch on, you’ll be on salad duty for all of summer’s barbecues!

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