Warming winter salads

Winter salads3

In the same way that we pack away our summer wardrobes when the weather starts to turn, salads often become a thing of the past when we move into the chillier months.

But they don't have to disappear from your lunchtime staples. And with a few tweaks, many of them can be hearty enough to take their place at the dinner table. 

Winter salads take a little more effort than summer salads, but they are worth it. I tend to base my winter salads on three key components; leaves, grains and vegetables. Any other additions are a bonus.

In terms of leaves, you want to avoid things like iceberg. While they work well in a summer salad, they won't stand up to the more substantial palate of the winter variety. Instead, go for things like rocket and spinach. Anything with dark green leaves and punchy flavour is a good starting point. 

When it comes to grains there are endless options to choose from. I tend to use lentils, quinoa or buckwheat. If you're really pushed for time, you can find pre-cooked sachets of these in the supermarket, which heat through in a matter of minutes. If you've got the time, boiling your grains should take no longer than 30 minutes.

So you've got your leaves and your greens, next you need your vegetables. For winter salads, I tend to go for things like beetroot, squash, sweet potato, aubergine and courgette. But, you can really use whatever vegetables you like to eat. I find roasting them to be a good way to eat them in this context, as it helps them to take on a caramelised flavour that boiling or steaming just wont deliver.

Now that you've got your leaves, grains and vegetables, how you finish off your salad is up to you. Chicken, fish, cheese or roasted meats, all are there for the taking, depending on what other ingredients you have. This is where I like to get experimental. You can start with a basis of raw kale and top it with warmed black eyed beans and sweet potato, seasoned with sweet paprika. Or a rocket base topped with quinoa, falafel and chick peas.

My all-time favourite winter salad is one with puy lentils, feta and spinach. I'm not a vegetarian, but you don’t miss the meat in this recipe at all. Simply boil puy lentils in some stock and red wine, toss with some raw spinach and add in some sun blush tomatoes and feta cheese. The heat from the lentils will wilt the spinach a little and result in a warm salad that's incredibly moreish.

 

Chiara is an editor who likes the simple things in life; a cup of tea by the fire, travel, and spending time with friends and family. She also can’t resist the lure of Scandinavian decor and has a penchant for anything warm and cosy. You can find out more about Chiara and follow her adventures on her blog, Wine and Olives.