Salads get a pretty bad rap about being a boring plate that will always leave you wanting more. We’re told eating this “rabbit food” will make us healthier and shed the pounds- but few people find genuine excitement at the prospect of a bowl of salad daily.
But salads don’t have to be bland and unexciting. They don’t have to be all about bland leaves and a few slices of cucumber. Yes, some can be- but if so, you’re making it wrong. A salad should be vibrant, delicious and filling, at the same time as being healthy.
There is so much room for diversity and creativity when it comes to concocting your very own nourishing salad. One of my favourite things about salads is the way you can throw together as many different ingredients as you can find, and you will (9 times out of 10) will get a mouthwateringly good dish.
There’s a basic way of building your own salad: firstly, you choose your greens. I just used a mixed bag of leafy greens, and added a few handfuls to the bowl. Your options are plentiful, I’d recommend having a mix of flavours but here’s a quick guide: if you prefer a crisp or watery green (caesar salad style), iceberg or romaine is your best bet. If you’re more of a peppery leaf lover, go for watercress or rocket. Other options include spinach (hearty and slightly bitter), radicchio (bitter and pepper), kale (mild and slightly bitter) and dandelion greens (bitter and peppery).
Don’t get too bogged down in the detail, though. Just try and vary your options so your bowl doesn’t get too boring!
Next, add your vegetables. This is the fun bit. I love to have as many colours as I can in my bowl. Not only does this make a great photo, but it also provides your body with a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Win win.
Non-starchy options: tomatoes, peppers, red onions, avocadoes, spring onions, red cabbage, radish, cucumber etc.
Starchy options: quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, bulgar wheat, sweet potato, pumpkin etc.
It’s time for the protein. If you eat meat or fish, obviously it’s easy to know what sources you can add. Whether it be chicken, beef, pork, turkey, salmon, tuna… I won’t go on. Pick your favourite and work with it. If you’re a veggie, no worries! Opt for the chickpeas, kidney beans, tofu, lentils or eggs.
Finally, it’s fat time. This means that your salad is a complete, balanced meal, combining carbohydrates, protein and fats (so you’ve hit each category of macro-nutrients). Fats aid in the digestion of protein as well as absorb certain nutrients.
Options: cheese (who doesn’t love a healthy sprinkle of feta over a fresh salad?!), nuts/ seeds (the shop bought salad sprinkle packs are great!), olives, and olive oil (as a dressing, mixed with some lemon juice).
That’s the basics on how to construct a salad, so if you’re keen just go through those basic steps, and add in your favourite ingredients! Below, however, is my new creation. It was created very spontaneously during my study break, but it turned out so well I had to share it!
Recipe: Bulgar Wheat, Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Chipolata Sausages
- 1 bag of mixed chickpeas, quinoa and bulgar wheat
- 1/2 bag mixed leaves
- 10 pomodoro tomatoes (halved)
- 1 red pepper (chopped)
- 1/2 red onion (chopped)
- 2 spring onions (chopped- including the white)
- 60g feta (crumbled)
- Handful of fresh parsley
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 4 chipolata sausages (opt.)
- Microwave the ready to eat mixed chickpeas, quinoa and bulgar wheat for a minute. Leave to cool on the side.
- Place the 2 chipolata sausages in a frying pan on a medium heat. Keep them moving in the pan until they are cooked through. This should take approx. 6 minutes.
- Meanwhile, take a large bowl and mix together all the chopped vegetables, as well as the parsley.
- Pour in the warm bag of grains, and sprinkle the crumbled feta on top. Mix together.
- In a separate bowl, squeeze the lemon and add the olive oil and seasoning.
- Pour the dressing over the salad.
- Plate up your serving of salad, and place your sausages on top. Eat immediately- and enjoy!