Salads are evolving. The idea of a salad as a diet food of tasteless leaves seasoned with a low-fat tangy dressing to hide the fact that it is just so boring is starting to be replaced by a completely new concept. Now, salads are seen as nutrient-dense meals packed with a variety of colors, flavors and textures. A salad dressing is no longer a cloak to hide the mediocrity of a salad, but an exciting way to experiment with flavors from different cultures. If you feel like Mediterranean flavors, whip up a lemon and olive oil dressing. Want to make it North African? Add some cinnamon and red chilli. Make it Mexican with cumin, lime and jalapenos. The possibilities are endless.
Despite this trend in salads, friends still tell me that although they love salads they just don’t find them filling enough. And I suspect the reason is because they are not eating salads with enough protein in them. You see, the secret to making a really filling salad which won’t leave you hungry after an hour is to include some form of protein. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it should be there in some capacity.
- Cheese is an easy and fast one to add – a few shavings of parmesan, some cubes of cheddar or a crumble of salty feta can really take a salad to new heights
- Beans, tinned or freshly cooked, also work well to make your salad more substantial
- Good quality animal protein like seafood, chicken or beef works well. Whether you use leftovers or cook it especially for the salad, make sure you go for quality over quantity (you only really need to use 2 steaks or 2 chicken breasts for a chopped salad for 4-6 people so it’s worth buying the best quality you can afford)
My ‘Spicy Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Salad’ doubles up on protein by including both feta cheese and chickpeas. It’s a delicious and filling salad to eat on its own but it also works well as a side salad for roasted lamb.
What’s your favorite quick-fix protein to add into your salad? Leave your comments below.
Spicy Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Salad
(Serves 4 as a side dish)
300g / 10 oz aubergine (eggplant), cut into 2-inch pieces
150g / 5 oz red onion, peeled and cut into wedges (2-inches at the widest part of the wedge)
360g / 12 oz bell peppers (capsicums) – any color, deseeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne powder (or more, if you prefer)
1 tsp sea salt
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
90g / 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
4 Tbsp mint leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.
- Prepare your vegetables for roasting. Cut the aubergines into 2-inch chunks with the skin on. Deseed the bell peppers and cut them into 2-inch chunks. Peel the red onions and cut into wedges (which are 2-inches at the widest part).
- In an oven-proof dish, mix 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp sea salt and 1/2 tsp red chilli powder. Toss the aubergines, bell peppers and red onions in the oven-proof dish with the oil and spices until evenly coated.
- Place the oven-proof dish with the vegetables into the oven and roast for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through for even cooking.
- Remove the vegetables from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, drain and rinse your tinned chickpeas. Set aside.
- Wash some mint leaves and roughly chop so that you have 4 Tbsp. Set aside.
- Squeeze 2 Tbsp of lemon juice. Set aside
- Crumble the feta cheese. Put it in the fridge until ready to use.
- Once the vegetables are at room temperature, add the chickpeas, mint leaves, lemon juice and feta cheese. Fold gently until evenly combined.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve for upto 48 hours. Allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.