Classic Salads

Jan 252017

Grilled Endive, Blue Cheese, Pear and Walnut Salad



Growing up on both sides of the Atlantic, I have always vacillated between whether to use American spellings (ie. flavor) or British spellings (ie. flavour). I am certainly guilty of mixing it up here on my blog.


I have spent more time than I need to trying to decide which type of spelling to follow. And my final decision is that I can’t decide. My formative education was in the US (and American spellings are just so simple for everyone to follow) but I went to University and worked in the UK (and British spellings are just so elegant). Either way, I feel like I am betraying one side of the pond.


It gets even more complicated when it comes to names of food. An ‘aubergine’ in the UK is an ‘eggplant’ in the US. A ‘courgette’ in the UK is a ‘zucchini’ in the US. And don’t even get me started on ‘rocket’ versus ‘rucola’ versus ‘arugula’.


I am having the same issue with the ‘endives’ in this recipe, which can also be called ‘escarole’ or ‘chicory’. In the case of endives, it is not just the name but the variety which is also causing some confusion. Endives can be loose frizzy heads of lettuce but they can also be submarine-shaped tightly packed firm leaves. For this recipe, make sure that the endives (or escarole or chicory) that you get are the tightly-packed submarine-shaped ones. Choose red or white according to what you have available.


Endives are slightly bitter, but bitter foods are supposed to be good for you because when your tastebuds sense bitterness, they send signals to your body to start producing more digestive juices. The increase in digestive juices means that your body is able to absorb more nutrients from your food. So, a bitter salad is a great way to start a meal.


You can eat endives raw, but I find that if you grill them it enhances their flavour (or should it be flavor?).




(Serves 4 as a starter or side dish)


Dressing Ingredients:

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp honey (optional – it is not necessary but it will help balance some of the bitterness in the endives)


Salad Ingredients:

4 heads of endive (room temperature)

A little extra virgin olive oil to brush onto the endives before grilling

150-200g / 5-7 oz blue cheese, crumbled

1 pear (about 200g / 7 oz in weight)

80g / 2 oz walnut halves, roughly broken or chopped



  1. Remove the outer leaves from the endives and slightly trim the base, making sure to leaves enough of the base attached so that the endive leaves remain attached. Cut the endives in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides with some olive oil.
  2. To grill the endives, warm up a griddle pan or Panini press on medium heat. When the griddle is hot, place the endives cut-side down on the griddle and leave for 5-7 minutes. If you do not have a griddle pan or Panini press, you can also grill your endives in an oven-proof dish in a 200°C oven for 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare your dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a jar and shaking well. Set aside.
  4. When ready to serve, arrange the endive halves on a platter. Scatter them with the walnuts and crumble some blue cheese on top.
  5. Make sure you slice the pear just prior to serving to avoid discolouration.
  6. Cut the pear into quarters lengthwise, remove the seeds and then slice each quarter horizontally (widthwise) to get small triangle slices of pear. Scatter the pear on top of the salad.
  7. Drizzle the salad dressing on top (you may not need to use all of it).
  8. This salad can be served either warm or cold.


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May 252015

Lettuce with Tarragon Vinaigrette


I recently got some locally grown organic Green and Red Oak Leaf lettuce heads from The Farm House (Dubai). Oak Leaf lettuce is a loosely packed head of lettuce with a soft leaf and mild flavour. It’s perfect on its own served with a simple vinaigrette.


As luck would have it, I’d been eyeing a deliciously simple herby vinaigrette dressing on the Williams-Sonoma website for ‘Butter Lettuce with Mustard Vinaigrette’, so I knew exactly how I wanted to serve these beautiful tender lettuce leaves.


I made a few small changes to the salad dressing, such as slightly increasing the amount of extra virgin olive oil and substituting scallions/spring onions for chives (I didn’t have any chives in the house), but I basically stayed true to the original recipe.


Although Williams-Sonoma calls the dressing ‘Mustard Vinaigrette’, for me the main flavour coming through loud and clear is the fragrant fresh tarragon which is why I have called it ‘Tarragon Vinaigrette’. To get the best flavour, it is crucial to give the flavours time to infuse by letting the salad dressing rest for about 2 hours at room temperature or upto 48 hours in your refrigerator.


Share your thoughts in the comment section: What is your favourite salad dressing for simple lettuce leaves?


Lettuce with Tarragon Vinaigrette



(Serves 4 as a side salad)



Dressing Ingredients (makes 1/2 cup):

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1&1/2 Tbsp red wine (grape) vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp tarragon leaves

1 Tbsp parsley leaves

1 Tbsp chives or scallions/spring onions

pinch of sea salt


Salad Ingredients:

2 heads of loosely-packed soft leaves (ie. Oak Leaves, Butterhead, Boston, Bibb)



  1. Prepare your salad dressing first so that you give it enough time to rest for the flavours to develop (2 hours at room temperature or upto 48 hours in the refrigerator).
  2. Wash your herbs and dry them in a tea towel or kitchen roll. Place them on a cutting board and finely chop them.
  3. If you are using scallions/spring onions instead of chives, remove the outer layer and roots. Wash and dry it, and thinly slice it (both green and white parts).
  4. Get a jar with a lid and some measuring spoons. Add the extra virgin olive oil, red wine (grape) vinegar, Dijon mustard, herbs, scallions and a pinch of salt. Shake it well. Taste it to check if you need to add more salt. At this point, don’t be discouraged if you can’t taste the tarragon as it takes time for the flavour to develop.
  5. Set the dressing aside (2 hours at room temperature or upto 48 hours in the refrigerator).
  6. Prepare your salad by separating the leaves. If the outside leaves are wilted, then discard them. Otherwise if they are fresh, you can go ahead and use them.
  7. Wash the lettuce leaves and dry them well in a salad spinner or on a tea towel/kitchen towel.
  8. Refrigerate the leaves once they are dry, wrapped in some kitchen roll/paper towels.
  9. When you are ready to serve, remove the dressing from the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Get 4 small plates and place 5-6 lettuce leaves on each one. Serve immediately with the dressing on the side or drizzled on top.


Share your thoughts in the comment section: What is your favourite salad dressing for simple lettuce leaves?


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Apr 142015

Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing


Asparagus is the quintessential spring vegetable, in season between March and June.


It comes in a variety of colors – most commonly green, but also purple or white. White asparagus is considered a delicacy. Although it is the same variety as green asparagus, its white colour is cultivated by being covered with soil while it grows. This prevents it from receiving the sunlight necessary to make the chlorophyll which turns vegetables green. White asparagus tends to be twice as expensive as the green variety.


Asparagus spears come in a variety of thicknesses depending on their age, from super-skinny to medium to thick. Surprisingly, the thickness of the asparagus has little bearing on how tender the asparagus spear will be. Although older thicker stalks do benefit from some peeling of the fibrous outer skin, its inner flesh is often very tender.


There are a variety of ways to prepare asparagus for a salad. If the asparagus is very thin, you can simply eat it raw. However, I find that raw asparagus doesn’t have the same depth of flavor as cooked asparagus. Roasting, sautéing, steaming, boiling and blanching are all good options.


In this recipe, I wanted to keep the flavors very fresh, so I opted for blanching my asparagus. Blanching is simply simmering your vegetables for a few minutes until they are just al dente and then plunging them into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. The ice water also helps brighten and set the beautiful green colour of the asparagus.


Share your thoughts in the comment section below: In the market, I have always reached for the green asparagus and just stared wistfully at the white asparagus wondering whether it is worth the extra cost. Do you think white asparagus tastes better than green asparagus?


Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing



(Serves 4)


Dressing Ingredients:

1 shallot, very finely diced (approximately 2 Tbsp)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I used 4 twists of the pepper mill)


Salad Ingredients:

250g asparagus, bottom third cut off (discard or save for use in a stock)

200g green beans (stalk trimmed off) (alternatively, you can use green peas)

2 baby gem lettuces (enough lettuce to put a few leaves on the base of each plate)

4 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 Tbsp chopped pecans/walnuts



  1. To make the dressing, finely dice a shallot (you need around 2 Tbsp of diced shallot). Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside to allow the flavors to develop. Refrigerate if you are not using within an hour. This dressing can be made upto 48 hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
  2. Roughly chop some walnuts or pecans (you will need about 4 Tbsp of chopped nuts). Set aside.
  3. Wash your radishes and lettuce leaves. Place them on a tea-towel to dry. Thinly slice the radishes. If you are using baby gem lettuce, you will not need to chop it as the leaves are small. If you are using another type f lettuce, you may want to chop it a little.
  4. Wash your asparagus. If the stalk is thick, cut off the lower third and then use a potato peeler to peel off one layer of the remaining lower half of the asparagus.
  5. Wash your green beans and cut off the stalks. I prefer to leave the green beans long rather than chop them.
  6. To blanch your vegetables, fill a large bowl with water and ice and set it aside. You will need this water to plunge the vegetables into after cooking.
  7. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to the boil. Add some salt to the water. When the water is boiling, drop in the asparagus and cook them until they are just al dente, around 3 minutes (depending on thickness – mine were quite thick). Do not drain the water (you will need it for the next batch of vegetables). Remove the asparagus from the cooking pot with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water for about 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the ice water and place them on a tea-towel to dry. Add more ice to the water if necessary.
  8. Make sure the pot of water is boiling and drop the green beans into it. Cook them until they are just al dente, around 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove them and place them in the ice water for about 1 minute. Remove them from the ice water and place them on a tea-towel to dry.
  9. If not serving immediately, refrigerate your vegetables.
  10. To serve, allow the vegetables 10 minutes out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. Place the lettuce leaves on the bottom of the plate. Scatter some green beans on top and then place a few asparagus spears. Scatter some sliced radishes and chopped nuts on top.
  11. Shake the dressing. Serve the dressing on the side or drizzled on top.


Share your thoughts in the comment section below: In the market, I have always reached for the green asparagus and just stared wistfully at the white asparagus wondering whether it is worth the extra cost. Do you think white asparagus tastes better than green asparagus? 


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Apr 032015

Classic Egg Salad



Here is a basic recipe for Simple Egg Salad. At a minimum, you only need to use four ingredients: hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, fresh lemon juice and sea salt (if you don’t know how to hard-boil eggs, see my Cooking Tutorial: How To Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs.) You can add a few greens such as chopped celery, scallions/spring onions or herbs but it is not absolutely necessary.


When it comes to egg salads, the two main issues are ‘how to chop the eggs’ and ‘whether or not to use mayonnaise’. I also recently discovered a little tip about the best sequence in which to combine the ingredients in an egg salad which I will share with you at the end of this post.


How To Chop Your Eggs


People have different ways of chopping their eggs when they make egg salads.

  • Mashing with a fork – I am an advocate of mashing your eggs with a fork because it gives you the most control to get the texture you want. For me, the ideal texture is when the egg pieces are small and uneven.
  • Egg slicer – Some people use an egg slicer to slice their eggs in one direction and then rotate the eggs and slice through them again to get evenly diced pieces. I have tried this method and I really didn’t like the angular uniform texture it created. But if you use this method and you like, then go for it!
  • Food processor – Some people use their food processor to make a very smooth whipped spread, but for me this method leaves no texture to the eggs. I prefer something chunkier. Plus, do you really want to have to wash your food processor just for a simple egg salad?


To Add or Not To Add Mayonnaise


Mayonnaise is another biggy. Some people add loads while others avoid it entirely. I am not a huge fan of mayonnaise. I have tried finding an alternative to put into my egg salads by using yogurt or creme fraiche, but somehow I haven’t quite got the taste right yet. In this recipe for Simple Egg Salad, I use 3 Tbsp of mayonnaise and then thin it out with 1 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice, which makes the dressing less cloying and much fresher.


A Little Tip About the Sequence of Adding the Ingredients


As for the the sequence in which to add ingredients while making an egg salad, here is a little tip I recently discovered. In the past, I would always mash my eggs directly into the dressing which tended to make the egg salad a little mushy. But then I realised that there is a better way, so here is what I do now. I get two medium-sized bowls. In the first bowl I prepare my dressing mixture and in the second bowl I mash my eggs. Once the eggs are mashed to my desired consistency, I tip them into the dressing and fold them together. That way I am simply coating the eggs in dressing. Once the dressing and eggs are mixed, I fold in my chopped vegetables and herbs.



Share your thoughts: I am going to be experimenting with Egg Salad recipes. What do you add to your Simple Egg Salad which I have left out?


Classic Egg Salad






6 hardboiled eggs

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp coarse sea salt

1 celery stalk (optional)

2 scallions/spring onions or 2 Tbsp of chopped chives (optional)

2 Tbsp freshly chopped dill or parsley (optional)



  1. Hard-boil 6 eggs. For directions on how to cook hard-boiled eggs, see my Cooking Tutorial: How To Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine 3 Tbsp mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 1 tsp coarse sea salt. Set aside.
  3. Wash and chop 1 celery stalk, 2 scallions/spring onions (or chives), and some dill or parsley. Set aside.
  4. Peel your hard-boiled eggs.
  5. In another medium-sized bowl, mash your peeled hard-boiled eggs with a fork to your desired texture.
  6. Add your mashed hard-boiled eggs to your mayonnaise mixture and fold together.
  7. Fold in the chopped celery, scallions/spring onions/chives, and dill/parsley (optional).
  8. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  9. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh black pepper on bread, toast or lettuce leaves.


Share your thoughts: I am going to be experimenting with Egg Salad recipes. What do you add to your Simple Egg Salad which I have left out?


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Feb 122015


Leafy Green Salad with Garlic-Parmesan Croutons


Most people associate Valentine’s Day with romantic foods like chocolates, strawberries and oysters, but I think that dark green leafy vegetables should be up there on the list too. Dark green leaves are great for the heart, which is an excellent reason to eat them on Valentine’s Day! If you don’t want to mix your own leaves, you can buy pre-mixed bags of leaves which have 4-6 varieties in them.


To make an easy and delicious Valentine’s Salad, try tossing mixed leaves in balsamic vinaigrette and topping them with some delicious home-baked garlic-parmesan croutons. (To learn how to bake croutons, see my Cooking Tutorial: How To Bake Croutons.)


Home-made croutons are so much tastier and healthier than store-bought ones. They are also very easy to make and you can prepare them in large batches and store them (tightly sealed) in your refrigerator to throw onto salads for the whole week!


Some people like to fry their croutons in butter, but I prefer baking them in the oven with extra virgin olive oil. I have read several recipes which suggest using bread which is a few days old but, since I usually don’t plan things in advance, I often use fresh same-day bread and they turn out just fine. You simply need to bake them for a little longer to get them crispy.


At their simplest, croutons can be made with only bread and olive oil and still turn out wonderfully tasty, but adding some garlic and parmesan makes everything more delicious.


The croutons can simply be cut into chunky cubes, but for Valentine’s Day you can make them extra special by using a cookie cutter to cut out heart-shaped croutons. What a great (and healthy) way to say, “I love you!”



Write your comment below: Have you ever cooked something healthy for your other half on Valentine’s Day? Or maybe it was your other half who cooked something special and healthy for you? Tell us what it was!






(Serves 4 as a starter)

(If making for 2, halve the recipe for the salad and dressing but keep the crouton quantity the same)



Crouton Ingredients: (can be made a day in advance)

6 slices from a loaf of good quality white bread

3 garlic cloves, grated

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Generous pinch of salt

Fresh ground pepper (to taste)

3 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan



Dressing Ingredients:

6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Generous pinch of salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste



Salad Ingredients:

6-8 cups of mixed dark green lettuce leaves (you can get good packs of mixed lettuce leaves from most supermarkets)

1 cucumber, sliced

12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half





  1. Croutons: Preheat the oven to 375F/ 190C. Cut your bread slices into chunky cubes or use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Spread evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  2. In a bowl, combine the grated garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and then drizzle over the bread. Toss the bread around to coat it on both sides and then re-arrange it again in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top of the croutons and bake for 10-20 minutes (less time if the bread is dry and more time if it is fresh). Check every 5 minutes to make sure they aren’t getting burnt. Toss the croutons once, when they seem about halfway done.
  4. Allow the croutons to cool to room temperature. Use immediately or seal well and store them in the refrigerator.
  5. Dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients together in a screw-top jar or a bowl. Mix well and put aside until you are ready to serve the salad.
  6. Salad: Wash the salad leaves, cucumber and tomatoes and then dry. Slice the cucumber and cut the tomatoes. Roughly chop the dark green leaves, if necessary. Toss the leaves with the dressing just prior to serving. Scatter the cucumber and tomato on top of the salad and arrange the croutons on top.
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Feb 042015

Avocado on Toast



‘Mashed Avocado on Toast’ has become a modern classic which can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. Avocados are full of fiber and monounsaturated fat (the good kind of fat which reduces bad LDL cholesterol and promotes a healthier heart). They also help you maintain beautiful skin (see 5 Great Reasons: Eating Avocados Gives You Beautiful Skin). Mashing them onto toast is probably one of the simplest healthy meals to make but, as we all know, the simplest recipes are often the ones where we have to be most fastidious about the quality of our ingredients.


First of all, the avocado has to be perfectly ripe. Without a perfectly ripe avocado, there is no ‘Mashed Avocado on Toast’. You can tell that your avocado is ripe if the skin just gives under light pressure from your thumb. If it is rock hard, keep it aside and check on it every day until it is ready. Avoid an avocado which is too soft because that means it is over-ripe and the texture and flavor will be compromised. There are several varieties of avocado, but I have had the best luck using Hass avocados which have a buttery texture and full flavor.


The bread should be wholegrain, preferably containing some kind of nuts or seeds. I favor a slightly chewy thickly-sliced bread for this recipe, lightly toasted.


A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is an important ingredient both for adding some extra flavor and for adding some good Omega-3 fat into this dish (this is a different type of fat from an avocado but it also reduces bad LDL cholesterol and promotes a healthier heart).


A sprinkling of crunchy coarse sea salt is imperative. Freshly ground black pepper is optional.


Write your comment below: What is your favorite topping to add onto your ‘Mashed Avocado on Toast’?




(Makes 2 toasts)



1 ripe avocado (preferably a Hass avocado)

2 slices of good bread

1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Generous pinch of coarse sea salt

Optional: additional toppings such as freshly ground black pepper, chilli flakes, spring onions, freshly squeezed lime juice, etc



  1. Wash and dry the skin of your avocado. With a small sharp knife, cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Twist to separate the two halves. The seed will stick to one half of the avocado. Remove the seed and discard.
  2. With a fork, mash the avocado in its skin until it is soft and spreadable. Set aside for a few minutes while you toast your bread.
  3. Take two slices of bread and toast them lightly.
  4. When the toasts are ready, place them on a plate and spread a generous layer of avocado on both toasts.
  5. If you plan on cutting your toasts in halves or quarters, now is a good time to do that.
  6. Drizzle with 1-2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  7. Sprinkle a generous pinch of coarse sea salt on top of the toasts.
  8. Add any additional toppings.
  9. Eat immediately.


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Oct 252013

Ploughman's Salad



When I was at unversity in London, I had an American friend who always complained about the fillings in British sandwiches. His particular gripe was with the ubiquitous Ploughman’s sandwich, available everywhere from grubby London underground stations to trendy cafes. He found it absolutely outrageous that anyone would dream of selling just cheese and chutney between 2 slices of bread. And even more outrageous that anyone would actually BUY it.


I understand where he’s coming from. I lived in the US for 12 years and I don’t think I ever came across the combination of cheese and chutney. But in Britain, the Ploughman’s Lunch is an institution. There is no real recipe as such. Rather, it’s more of an arrangement of cold items on a platter which (at a minimum) must include cheese (usually cheddar), chutney (usually Branston pickle), and a few chunky wedges of bread. Optional additions include pickled onions, gherkins, cold cuts, cold boiled eggs, and salad. Usually washed down with a glass of ale.


When I think of a Ploughman’s Lunch, I imagine that it has a long and interesting rural history. And while there are some records of variations on this sort of dish dating back to antiquity, the surprising truth is that it really only gained popularity fairly recently. It received its official name ‘Ploughman’s Lunch’ in the 1960’s after the Milk Marketing Board started to promote it in order to increase the sale of cheese in the UK. It was particularly popular in pubs where there was not much cooking (or eating) going on (back in the days before ‘gastro-pubs’). So it seems the Ploughmans’ Lunch was all a modern marketing stunt. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that it’s really delicious and there’s a reason why it still appears on British menus.


Like my American friend, I am not the biggest fan of a Ploughman’s Sandwich. But this has more to do with the soggy bread and over-zealous use of cheap chutney. My preference is to eat a Ploughman’s Salad, which includes all the classic flavors of a Ploughman’s Lunch but with more emphasis on the salad. I like to keep the acidic aspect of this dressing quite low because there are are so many tart ingredients in this salad (chutney, gherkins, pickled onions)  that you need the leaves to taste very clean to balance the acidity in the other ingredients.


What do you think about Ploughman’s? Love it or hate it?




(Serves 4 as a main course)


Dressing Ingredients: (makes about half a cup)

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

pinch of salt


Salad Ingredients:

8 oz / 250g Mature or Vintage Cheddar Cheese block

6 cups lettuce, washed and shredded

24 pieces / 8 oz / 250g cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half

1 red apple, washed and cut into bite-size pieces

1 Tbsp lemon juice (toss it with the cut apple pieces to prevent them from discoloring)

8-12 Pickled onions, cut into quarters

Pickles / Gherkins, 2 per person if small or 1 per person if large

Branston pickle or any other chutney which goes well with cheese, 1 heaped Tbsp per person

Country style bread, sliced

Butter, to spread on the bread




  1. To make the dressing, use a cup or a clean jar with a lid. Pour in 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt, whisk or shake it up to dissolve the salt. Add 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Shake it in the jar (or whisk it in the cup), and set it aside. There should be roughly 1/2 a cup of dressing.
  2. Prepare the salad by shredding the lettuce, and cutting the cherry tomatoes and apple. Squeeze about 1 Tbsp of lemon juice over the apples to prevent them from discoloring. Toss these ingredients into a salad bowl.
  3. Take 8-12 pickled onions (depending on how much you like pickled onions), and cut them into quarters. Toss them into the salad bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. When you are ready to serve, toss the salad in the dressing and place it in the center of 4 plates.
  5. Take your block of cheddar cheese and carefully slice it. 3-4 slices of cheese per person is usually a good amount. The cheddar may crumble a little when you slice it because it is very mature. If this happens, don’t worry – in the event that the crumbling is very extreme, then simply serve the cheese scattered on top of the salad. Arrange 3-4 cheese slices on the side (or scatter them on top if they have crumbled). On one side of the cheese, place a full Tbsp of Branston pickle / chutney. On the other side of the cheese, place the pickled cucumbers.
  6. Finish the plate off with a couple of slices of country bread. Serve with butter on the table.


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Sep 092013

Apple, Roquefort and Walnut Salad



At my house, some fruit gets eaten faster than others. Mangoes, plums, grapes, clementines, conference pears and melons usually disappear within 48 hours. Bananas have been known to get over-ripe at my place, but they are easy to throw into smoothies so don’t end up getting wasted. But apples tend to linger. I’ll buy six apples at the beginning of the week, and by the end of the week there will probably still be four sitting in the fruit basket. It seems they come pretty low down on the preference list around here. So, I’m always happy when I can find new and inventive ways to serve apples to my family.


Apples team really well with cheese and nuts, so why not throw them into a salad together? Apple, Roquefort and Walnut Salad is a great combination. The Roquefort satisfies those of us who have strong savoury cravings, the apple’s sweetness comes in little bursts, and the walnuts give delicious crunch!


Do you have any delicious salad recipes with apples in them? I am always looking for suggestions!




(4 appetiser servings or 2 main course servings)


Dressing Ingredients:

1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of sea salt
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil


Salad Ingredients:

100g lamb’s lettuce leaves (or any other dark green lettuce)
2 medium red crispy apples (the salad needs to be served immediately, so it is best to chill the apples in advance in the refrigerator)
100g walnuts (or pecans)
30g Roquefort cheese



  1. Prepare the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a clean empty jar with a lid and shaking it until well combined. If you don’t have a jam jar, simply whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl or cup.
  2. Wash and dry the lettuce leaves. Place them in a large bowl and toss with the dressing (you may not need to use all the dressing). Set aside.
  3. Wash and cut the apples into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.
  4. Roughly chop the walnuts. Set aside.
  5. Roughly crumble the Roquefort cheese into a small plate or bowl. Set aside.
  6. If making individual servings, arrange the dressed lettuce leaves on the plates and scatter the chopped apples, Roquefort cheese and walnuts evenly on top of each serving.
  7. If serving from a large salad bowl, toss all the ingredients together.
  8. Serve immediately.
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Jun 162013

Pavlova with Berries and Cream


This recipe was the Grand Winner of the Better Life UAE Summer Recipe Challenge 2015.


Every time we have a family dinner in London, there are two dishes which everyone eagerly anticipates. One is my aunt Khajista Phupo’s Biryani. The other is my mother’s Pavlova. No family dinner is complete without these two dishes, and there would be a collective silent sigh of disappointment if either the Biryani or the Pavlova did not make an appearance.


My mother has been making Pavlova ever since I can remember. She makes the meringue thin (no more than 2 inches thick), softly chewy on the inside with a meltingly crisp shell. Always dressed with freshly whipped cream and beautifully arranged berries and kiwifruit, it is almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.


As an adult, one of the first recipes I asked her for was her Pavlova. Now, if you’ve looked into making Pavlovas, you probably know that most recipes are mutli-step affairs, requiring you to beat the egg whites until they start to form soft peaks, then tediously add the sugar spoonful by spoonful, and finally followed by folding in cornstarch and vinegar (or cream of tartar).


My mother’s recipe is different and much easier. All of the ingredients are added in one step at the beginning, and the meringue turns out perfectly. Don’t get discouraged when you start whisking the ingredients. It will take a full 8 minutes before you see anything resembling peaks. I was convinced it wasn’t working when 6 minutes into whisking it all still looked like soup, but I kept with it and in a couple of more minutes it had unbelievably all pulled together.


There are all sorts of rules about how to get the most volume possible into your whisked egg whites:

  • Use a ceramic, glass or metal bowl to whisk the egg whites. Never use a plastic bowl because plastic can harbor traces of grease and moisture, ensuring that your meringue will never whisk into stiff peaks. Never. Trust me, I’ve tried.
  • Make sure that there is no yolk or any type of fat mixed in with the egg white, otherwise the egg whites will not whisk into fluffy clouds. The best way to separate your eggs is in a separate bowl one at at time, and then drop each egg white into the large mixing bowl.
  • Use eggs which are at least 3-4 days old because they whip up to more volume than very fresh eggs.
  • Use cold eggs because they separate better, but then let the separated eggs sit at room temperature for 30 minutes because room temperature egg whites results in more volume.
  • Do not make meringues on a humid or rainy day because the extra moisture in the air can stop your egg whites from aerating and becoming fluffy.


The meringue can be baked the day before and stored in the oven for upto 24 hours (saving counter and fridge space). You can also store it for upto a week at room temperature in an air-tight container.





(Serves 8)



4 egg whites (make sure there is no yolk at all)

3/4 cup caster sugar

1 tsp cornflour

1 tsp white vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract or essence

3 Tbsp boiling water (from the kettle)

2.5 cups / 600ml whipping cream

A good selection of berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. You can also use other fruit such as kiwis, passion fruit, mango, etc…)



  1. Preheat the oven to 210F / 100C (not fan-assisted) and place a baking rack on the lowest shelf so that the Pavlova is furthest from the source of heat.
  2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Alternatively, line the baking tray with aluminium foil and apply a thin layer of butter and dusting of cornflour on top (as my mother always does). Set the baking tray aside.
  3. In a small bowl or cup, add 1 tsp cornflour and 1 tsp vinegar and mix until completely combined (there should be no lumps). Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 3 Tbsp boiling water to the cornflour-vinegar solution. Mix well until smooth. Set aside.
  4. In a large ceramic or metal mixing bowl, add 4 egg whites. It is crucial that there is no trace of egg yolk. The best way to separate your eggs is in a separate bowl one at at time, and then drop each egg white into the large mixing bowl.
  5. With an electric whisk, briefly whisk the egg whites for 10 seconds, just to get them frothy.
  6. Switch off the whisk and add 3/4 cup caster sugar and the cornflour-vinegar solution into the bowl with the egg whites. Whisk on medium speed for around 3 minutes and then increase to maximum speed. Whisk until the egg whites become stiff peaks. It may take another 5-8 minutes. The egg whites are ready when they form glossy stiff peaks and you can hold the bowl upside down without anything falling out.
  7. If you are making one large meringue, spoon the mixture in the center of your baking tray and spread it to make an even circle, approximately the height of your half your index finger. If you want to make individual meringues, use two spoons, one to scoop out the meringue mixture from the bowl and the other to push it onto the baking tray. Spread into 8 individual circles.
  8. Place the baking tray into the oven, close the door and leave it to bake for 90 minutes. Do not open the oven door during baking otherwise your meringue will collapse.
  9. After 90 minutes, switch off the oven and open the oven door for about 10 minutes to cool it down. After 10 minutes, close the oven again with the meringue still inside, and leave it until the oven is cold. This allows the meringue to cool down and dry out. Expect it to shrink slightly as well. The meringue can be left for upto 24 hours in the cold oven. You can store meringue for upto a week at room temperature in an air-tight container.
  10. When you are ready to dress your Pavlova, I prefer my mother’s method of flipping the pavlova over so that the base becomes the top. It not only gives a smoother surface to work on, but it also tastes better. Since the top of the pavlova is more crispy than the base, flipping it over means that the crispiest part of the meringue will be at the bottom, like a crust. The slightly softer part will then be touching the cream, making the cream melt seamlessly into the meringue when you take a bite.
  11. To dress the Pavlova, take your electric whisk and freshly whisk some whipping cream until it starts to form stiff peaks. Wash your fruit and cut it into bite-size pieces if necessary.
  12. Spread the whipped cream over the top of your meringue, and cover the cream with fruit. My mother used to arrange her fruit in intricate patterns, while I prefer to casually scatter the fruit for a more unstructured look (and much less time-consuming!)
  13. Refrigerate and eat within 24 hours.


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Jun 042013

Cobb Salad



If you want a hearty, filling and satisfying salad, look no further than the Cobb Salad.


Cobb Salad is a classic American main course salad. The origin of the Cobb Salad dates back to 1937 when Robert Cobb, the owner of the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, realised very late at night that he has been too busy to eat anything all day. He rummaged through the restaurants refrigerators (charmingly called ice-boxes back then) to collect some ingredients and then swiped some bacon from one of his chefs. He chopped everything up, and the result was the Cobb Salad. We may not have known about the salad if Robert Cobb had not also served it to his friend Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood). Grauman loved the salad so much that the Brown Derby decided to add it to their menu, and the rest is history!





(makes 3-4 main course salads)


Dressing Ingredients: (makes 1/2 cup)

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 small garlic clove, minced or very finely chopped

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper



Salad Ingredients:

4-6 cups chopped salad greens (traditionally a combination of Romaine (Cos), Iceberg Lettuce, Endives and watercress. However, it also works well with only Romaine or Iceberg Lettuce if that is all you can find)

8-10 oz / 250g tomatoes, deseeded and chopped into bite-size pieces

2 ripe avocados (I prefer Hass avocados)

4 oz / 100g bleu cheese (traditionally, Roquefort was used but any crumbly blue cheese will work fine)

2 eggs, hardboiled (you can boil them on a rolling boil for 10-12 minutes, or buy them from them pre-cooked from the deli section of your supermarket)

6 pieces of bacon (turkey or pork), roughly chopped and crispy

2 raw skinless chicken breasts (alternatively, you can use pre-cooked chicken from leftovers or from a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket)




  1. Prepare the salad dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a jar. Shake well and set aside (refrigerate if not serving within an hour).
  2. Eggs: Hard boil 2 eggs for 10-12 minutes on a rolling boil. You can cut out the cooking by buying pre-cooked hard-boiled eggs from the deli section of your supermarket. Allow the boiled eggs to cool a little (you can run cold water on them), and then peel. Chop the hard-boiled eggs with a knife or by using an egg-slicer. If you are using an egg-slicer, the best way to chop them up is by first putting an egg on the slicer and slicing through it horizontally (or vertically). Then, pick up the egg from both ends so that it stays in one piece, and place it in the egg-slicer vertically (or horizontally). Place the chopped hard-boiled egg in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. Chicken: For the chicken, bring a small pot of water to the boil. As soon as the water has started boiling, put the raw chicken breasts (plus 1 tsp of salt and 1 bay leaf, optional) into the water. Simmer for 12-15 minutes, until the chicken is completely white throughout. Allow to cool slightly, and then chop into bite-size pieces.
  4. Bacon: Take 6 pieces of bacon and chop them up. In a frying pan, heat a little bit of oil (just enough to prevent sticking) on medium heat. When the oil is hot add the chopped bacon and fry until crispy. You can also grill the bacon in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 400F/200C if you prefer not to fry.
  5. Lettuce: Wash, dry and chop 4-6 cups of salad greens. You can use one type of lettuce or a mixture. Traditionally a mix of Romaine (Cos), Iceberg, endives and watercress is used. Lay the chopped greens on a large serving platter.
  6. Tomatoes: Cut your tomatoes in half and remove the seeds with a small spoon. Discard the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into bite-size pieces and set aside.
  7. Avocados: Cut your avocados in half, remove the stones and skin. Cut into bite-size pieces and set aside.
  8. Bleu cheese: Crumble your bleu cheese into a bowl using clean hands or a fork. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  9. When all the components of your salad are ready (tomatoes, avocados, bleu cheese, eggs, chicken and bacon), place them in rows on top of your lettuce leaves. Refrigerate for upto 24 hours until ready to serve. Serve with dressing on the side.



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May 032013

Chicken and Celery Salad



Got leftover chicken from dinner? Why not make this tasty chicken salad for lunch the next day! This recipe for Chicken and Celery Salad has only a few ingredients but is packed with flavor. If you don’t have leftovers, you can even use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. Or, try poaching chicken breasts using this quick and easy recipe: How to Poach Chicken for Salads.


Delicious served on a lettuce leaf, crackers, or bread.





(makes approximately 2 cups)



Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp mayonnaise

1-2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (start with 1 Tbsp and increase if necessary)

Salt and pepper, to taste



Salad Ingredients:

12oz/300g cooked chicken (QUICK TIP: Save time by using a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket OR try poaching your own chicken breasts using this quick and easy recipe: How to Poach Chicken for Salads.)

3 sticks of celery, thinly sliced

2 scallions/spring onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)




  1. Prepare the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl and whisking together. (You will add the salad ingredients directly on top of the dressing, so make sure your bowl is big enough.)
  2. Cut or shred the cooked chicken into small bite-size pieces, and put into the bowl on top of the dressing. (You can use leftovers, a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, or grill/poach some chicken breasts.)
  3. Slice the celery and scallions/spring onions. Add them to the bowl on top of the chicken.
  4. Using a spatula or large spoon, fold all the ingredients together.
  5. Taste and add salt/pepper if necessary.
  6. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Serve on lettuce, crackers or bread.



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May 032013

Caesar Salad



Caesar Salad was created on 4 July 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico by Caesar Cardini, an Italian-born restauranteur. The story, according to his daughter Rosa, is that there was such a rush of customers on 4 July that the restaurant’s kitchen ran low on supplies. To satisfy his hungry patrons, Cardini used whatever he could find in the kitchen to create his famous Caesar Salad, which was tossed at the table by the chef.


The original Caesar Salad recipe contained Romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil, eggs, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and a grinding of black pepper. There were no anchovies in sight! It was only a few years later that Caesar’s brother Alex Cardini re-invented the salad dressing using anchovies and called the salad Aviator’s Salad (it was made for some visiting American airmen from San Diego). Although Caesar himself was against the use of anchovies, the slightly salty hint of anchovy in the dressing is what many fans of Caesar Salad actually crave.


Caesar Salad can be served on its own, or with grilled chicken or grilled prawns on top.




(Serves 4)



Dressing Ingredients:

1 garlic clove, peeled and grated / finely chopped

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp light-colored vinegar (ie. apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar)

4 Tbsp (1/2 cup) mayonnaise

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp anchovy paste (or 4 anchovy fillets)

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

4 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese



Salad Ingredients:

10 oz / 280g Romaine or Cos lettuce

Parmesan shavings (optional as there will be parmesan in the dressing)

Anchovy fillets (optional as there will be anchovy in the dressing)



Crouton Ingredients:

4 cups chunky bread cubes

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp dried herbs (ie. herbes de Provence or oregano) (optional)

1 tsp garlic powder (optional)




  1. Croutons: Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Cut up fresh or slightly stale bread into bite-size pieces until you have roughly 4 cups or bread cubes. Put the bread cubes in a baking dish which allows them to sit comfortably in one layer. Drizzle with 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp coarse salt, 1 tsp dried herbs (optional), and 1 tsp garlic powder (optional). Place the dish in the oven. If you are using fresh bread, bake for 10 minutes, stir, and then bake for another 10 minutes. If you are using slightly stale bread, cooking time may be less – 5 minutes, stir, 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
  2. Dressing: If you are using anchovy fillets, mash them together with half a tsp of salt until it forms a paste. Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and whisk well. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Salad: Wash the Cos Lettuce and dry it using a salad spinner or gently rubbing in a tea-towel or kitchen-towel. Cut or tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Assemble the salad just before serving. Place the Cos lettuce on individual plates or in a large salad bowl, drizzle most of the dressing on the leaves (make sure not to drown them), and toss. Taste and add more dressing if necessary.
  5. If you are using parmesan shavings and anchovy fillets, place them on the salad now (optional).
  6. Scatter the croutons on top and serve immediately.



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