picnic salads

Jul 242016

Saffron Couscous and Chickpea Salad


‘Saffron Couscous and Chickpea Salad’ is a great summertime salad to bring to a picnic. It is packed with flavour, delicious at room temperature, and doesn’t get soggy. By steaming the couscous in saffron-infused stock (chicken or vegetable), all the delicious flavours are imbued directly into the grains so there is no need to make a separate dressing.





(Serves 4)




200g dried coucous

250ml hot stock (vegetable or chicken)

½ tsp loosely packed saffron strands

1 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp EVOO + 3 Tbsp EVOO

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

240g drained tinned chickpeas

8 cherry tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, deseeded and cut into bite-size pieces

6 radishes, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

1 small or ½ large cucumber, quartered and chopped

2 Tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

2 Tbsp mint leaves, chopped


Optional garnish (pomegranate seeds, chopped nuts, sumac)




  1. Prepare hot stock and add the saffron strands, 1 tsp coarse sea salt and 2 Tbsp EVOO into it. Allow the mixture to infuse for 5 minutes.
  2. Pour the dried couscous into a saucepan (with a lid) and pour the seasoned stock on top. Mix quickly and then cover and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, uncover and fluff with a fork. Allow to cool. Once the couscous is cool, add 3 Tbsp EVOO and 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar. Toss well.
  3. While the couscous is cooling, drain and rinse the tinned chickpeas.
  4. Prepare all your vegetables by chopping your cucumber, tomatoes and radishes into bite-size pieces and roughly chopping your coriander leaves and mint leaves.
  5. In a large bowl, add the cooled couscous, drained chickpeas, and all the vegetables and herbs. Toss well.
  6. Refrigerate for upto 3 days .
  7. Before serving, scatter pomegranate seeds, chopped nuts and a good sprinkle of sumac over the salad (optional).


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Feb 192015


Roast Potato and Green Bean Salad with Capers and Olives



I have had a potato salad revelation (yes, there is such a thing!).


Up until now, I have always boiled my potatoes whenever I made a potato salad because, well, that’s just what you do, isn’t it? But this time, I decided to try roasting the potatoes for my salad instead, and I was amazed at what a difference it made. The potatoes went from simply being a carrier of flavors to being an integral taste component of the salad, bursting with flavor and texture.


I often roast potatoes for dinner as an easy side dish, and we always eat them hot straight out of the oven – crispy and flavorful on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. I had never even considered eating them as part of a cold dish until one late afternoon last week when I decided to make a potato salad for a family barbecue and suddenly realised that I just couldn’t face the whole potato boiling process.


You know what I mean when I call it a process. First, you need to bring a big pot of water to the boil, which takes ages (Note: the more you check on the water, the longer it takes to boil)Then you have to add the potatoes which makes the water cool down, so you need to bring it back up to the boil all over again (see Note about water, above). You also need to make sure that the water doesn’t overflow when you add the potatoes. And be aware that just when you turn your back to do something else, the heat will suddenly accelerate and make the water bubble over the top of the pot, causing a big mess on your stovetop. Just when everything seems to be under control, you need to start checking the potatoes with a skewer for ‘doneness’. The potatoes need to be properly cooked all the way through but not so soft that they start to break apart. It can be a tricky call. Finally, there is the whole draining bit. Rushing to the sink to drain the potatoes because, if you are like me, you have gotten involved in something else and have invariably forgotten about the potatoes until they are only seconds away from overcooking. Watch out for that hot steam coming at your face! Whew, boiling potatoes is actually a very involved process.


Roasting is much easier. Simply toss your potatoes in extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Put your potatoes into a pre-heated oven and roast for 45 minutes. At most, you will need to flip them over halfway through cooking. It’s easy-going, and there is definitely no steam in your face. I couldn’t get myself to boil the green beans either, so they went into the oven as well and turned out intensely delicious.


This recipe for ‘Roasted Potato and Green Bean Salad with Capers and Olives’ is vibrant both to look at and to taste. I teamed it with a Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette which works well to bring out the best in both the roasted and the fresh ingredients of the salad.



Write your comment below: Have you ever tried making your potato salad with roasted potatoes instead of boiled potatoes? I’ve just discovered roasted potato salad, but maybe you’ve been doing it for years?





(Serves 6-8 as a side dish)


Salad Ingredients: 

1kg waxy potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces with the skin on

3 Tbsp EVOO plus 1 tsp coarse sea salt

200g green beans, ends trimmed off

2 Tbsp EVOO plus a pinch of coarse sea salt

3-4 scallions/spring onions, sliced into thin discs

1 and 1/2 Tbsp capers

12-15 good black olives

250g cherry tomatoes (about 20 pieces), cut in half

1 cup of chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon, basil)

Dressing Ingredients:

6 Tbsp EVOO

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp grainy Dijon mustard

1/2 – 1 tsp coarse sea salt (according to taste)

1/4-1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (according to taste)




  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F. You will roast your potatoes and your green beans in the oven in two separate dishes.
  2. Prepare your green beans by washing them, drying them with a kitchen towel, and then trimming the ends off. Cut the green beans in half because it will make them easier to eat in the salad. Toss them in an oven-proof dish (don’t use the same dish as the potatoes) with 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of coarse sea salt. Set them aside until the oven is hot.
  3. Prepare your potatoes by washing them well, drying them with a kitchen towel, and cutting them into 2-inch pieces (with the skin left on). Toss them in an oven-proof dish with 3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp of coarse sea salt. Set them aside until the oven is hot.
  4. Once the oven is hot, put the potatoes and the green beans into the oven. The green beans will need to roast for about 20 minutes (stir them halfway through cooking). The potatoes will need to roast for 45-60 minutes (stir them halfway through cooking).
  5. When the green beans are done, remove them from the oven and set aside.
  6. When the potatoes are done, remove them from the oven and set aside.
  7. Prepare your salad dressing by combining all of the dressing ingredients in a jar with a screw-top lid. Close the lid and shake well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside.
  8. Wash and dry the scallions/spring onions, cherry tomatoes and herbs. Thinly slice the spring onions into discs, cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and roughly chop the herbs. Set aside.
  9. Measure out your capers and olives, and set them aside.
  10. Get a large bowl to toss all the ingredients together. First pour most of the dressing into the bottom of the bowl (save a little to add at the end if necessary). Add the potatoes and green beans, and toss gently. Add the spring onions, tomatoes and herbs and gently fold them in. Taste and add more dressing if you want.
  11.  Pour the salad onto a serving dish.
  12. Scatter the capers and olives on top.
  13. For a warm salad, serve immediately. For a room temperature salad, allow it to sit for a while. For a cold salad, allow it to cool and refrigerate it.
  14. Can be kept in the refrigerator for upto 3 days.


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May 032013

Greek Style Potato Salad


Potato Salad makes a nice change from serving an ordinary side dish of boiled, mashed or roasted potatoes.


This Greek-Style Potato Salad is a really nice refreshing interpretation of the traditional mayonnaise-laden Potato Salad. It is full of green vegetables, herbs and cooling Greek yoghurt. This Potato Salad will definitely not leave you feeling heavy!





(serves 4 as a side dish) 




1 lb / 450g waxy potatoes

8 oz / 200g Greek yoghurt

2 garlic cloves, minced or finely grated

1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)

3 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 celery stick, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped

1 Tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Caperberries or pickles for garnish, optional




  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks (whatever size you want in your salad). Boil them in salted water until they are cooked and you can easily pierce them with a skewer (do not let them overcook). Boiling time is usually between 10-15 minutes depending on size. Once cooked, drain and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine all the other ingredients (except the caperberries/pickles, if you are using them) and mix well. Refrigerate until the potatoes are cool and ready to add.
  3. Once you have added the potatoes, give the whole mixture a nice gentle stir until the potatoes are coated.
  4. Garnish with some caperberries or pickles on the side for some added bite (optional).
  5. Eat immediately or refrigerate for upto 24 hours.


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May 032013

Quinoa, Corn and Bean Salad


Quinoa, Corn and Bean Salad is a nice side dish to serve as part of a Mexican meal. It has got a nice mixture of textures – chewy quinoa, smooth beans and crunchy corn. It can be prepared in advance and refrigerated upto 24 hours before serving.


To learn more about Quinoa, have a look at ‘Quinoa: 5 Great Reasons Why You Should Be Eating It’.





(Serves 4-6)



Salad Ingredients:

1 cup dried quinoa (3 cups cooked quinoa)

1 & 1/2 cups boiling water

2 cups Frozen Corn, defrosted (or boiled and cooled)

1 can of Red Kidney Beans (drained weight 80z / 240g)

3 Tbsp scallions / spring onions, finely sliced (white and green parts)

3 Tbsp cilantro / coriander leaves, chopped


Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tbsp Vinegar (Apple Cider or White Wine Vinegar)

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed Lime (optional)

2 Garlic cloves, finely grated or very finely chopped

pinch of Sea Salt (to taste)



  1. Measure out 1 cup of dried quinoa and rinse it well. Quinoa can be difficult to rinse because a lot of it floats to the top, so my favorite way of rinsing it is by putting the quinoa in a fine mesh colander and placing the colander in a larger bowl. Place the bowl with the colander in it into the sink and run water over it. This allows you to rinse the quinoa and then raise the colander up out of the bowl to easily drain it. Rinse it well in 2-3 changes of water and set aside.
  2. Boil about 2 cups of water in a kettle. When the water has boiled, measure out 1 & 1/2 cups, and pour it into a saucepan. Bring the water up to the boil on the stove.
  3. Add the drained quinoa to the saucepan. Allow it to simmer (covered) for 15 minutes, followed by 5 minutes off the heat (covered), and then fluff it with a fork.
  4. Spread the quinoa on a plate to cool.
  5. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the Dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shaking well. Set aside while you make the salad.
  6. Defrost 2 cups of frozen corn kernels by placing them in a colander over a bowl at room temperature for about an hour. Alternatively, you can boil some water in the kettle, pour it into a medium-sized bowl, and place the frozen corn kernels into the boiled water for about 5 minutes until they are soft all the way through.
  7. Drain and rinse the red kidney beans.
  8. Chop the cilantro / coriander leaves and scallions / spring onions.
  9. Toss all the salad ingredients together once everything is at room temperature. Pour the dressing over the quinoa salad and toss again to distribute evenly.
  10. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve cold or at room temperature.


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May 032013

Mediterranean Pasta Salad with Tuna and Roasted Tomatoes


Pasta salad is the comfort food of the salad world. It’s filling enough to be served on its own for dinner, but also nice to have as a snack any time of the day. It’s a dream for busy people because it can be prepared in the morning (or even the night before), and then served for dinner without any additional last-minute work.


Pasta salads are easy to make, but the one mistake some people make is to dress them too lightly. Pasta is a hearty ingredient so a light sprinkling of dressing gets masked by it. Also, remember that cold dishes can be less flavorful than hot dishes, so extra dressing is needed to make the flavors stand out.


This Mediterranean Pasta Salad with Tuna and Roasted Tomatoes is a well-rounded pasta salad that makes a nutritious meal. The tomatoes are so easy to roast at home and can be cooking in the oven while you prepare the rest of the salad. They are so much more delicious than the semi-dried or sun-dried tomatoes that you buy in the supermarket, but feel free to substitute them with sun-dried tomatoes if you’re pushed for time.




(Serves 4-6 as a main course)



Salad Ingredients:

1 lb (500g) of dried pasta, boiled in salted water until al dente

1/2 lb (250g) cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (you can substitute with semi-dried or sun-dried tomatoes if you don’t want to roast the tomatoes yourself)

1 large cucumber, cubed into bite-size pieces

12oz (350g) canned tuna in sunflower oil, drained

12oz (350g) black olives, drained

4-6 Tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped



Dressing Ingredients:

10 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (yes, I know it’s a lot)

4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 plump garlic clove

1/2-1 tsp red chilli or cayenne powder (optional)

1-2 pinches sea salt




  1. Preheat the oven to 450F/225C.
  2. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, toss with olive oil, and place cut-side up on a baking tray. Sprinkle with sea salt and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Keep them cut-side up for the entire roasting time. Allow them to cool to room temperature.
  3. While the tomatoes are roasting, boil 500g of dried pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain, toss with a little oilve oil and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare your dressing. Mash the garlic clove with a pinch of sea salt with a pestle and mortar (if you don’t have a pestle and mortar, either grate the garlic clove finely using a cheese-grater, or dice finely).
  5. Combine the mashed garlic with the rest of the dressing ingredients in an empty jar, and shake well. Set aside.
  6. In your salad bowl, flake your drained tin tuna and add a good sprinkle of salt and 3 Tbsp of dressing. Combine well.
  7. Now add the cucumber, black olives, parsley and cooled pasta to the salad bowl and combine well with the tuna.
  8. Add the dressing and toss well.
  9. Add the cooled roasted tomatoes and gently fold into the salad (add these gently to avoid the skin separating from the tomato).
  10. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within 2 days.
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May 032013

French Potato Salad



French Potato Salad refers to a potato salad which is dressed using mustard, olive oil and vinegar rather than mayonnaise. There are all sorts of variations on this type of potato salad – the only rule being no mayonnaise… Ever.


Be sure to use waxy potatoes (as opposed to floury potatoes) as they are less likely to fall apart when you mix the ingredients together. Plus, they tend to have a better texture when served cold. Feel free to mix and match different types of waxy potatoes. I often use half red-skinned potatoes and half yellow-skinned potatoes, and as long as you cut them to the same size they should cook in the same amount of time.





(Serves 6-8)



Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Generous pinch of coarse sea salt



Salad Ingredients:

3 lbs/48oz/1350g waxy potatoes, cut into 2inch (5cm) pieces [TIP: Use half red potatoes and half yellow potatoes for an unusual presentation]

3 spring onions, finely sliced (white and green parts) (alternatively, you can use chives or red onions)

2 celery sticks, finely sliced

3 Tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped (optional)




  1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Cut the waxy potatoes into 2 inch (5cm) pieces, and boil for approximately 10 minutes (until just tender). When done, drain and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a salad bowl and whisking well.
  3. Add the slightly cooled cooked potatoes to the dressing and carefully fold, making sure the potatoes don’t break.
  4. Chop the spring onions, celery, and parsley (optional). Add them to the potatoes and fold in carefully.
  5. Allow to cool completely, and place in the refrigerator.
  6. Serve cold or at room temperature.
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Apr 292013




Tabbouleh is a Lebanese salad which usually comes as part of a mezze selection of several small dishes.


Parsley, which is often unfairly relegated to the status of ‘garnish’, takes centre-stage in Tabbouleh along with mint. These herbs have anti-oxidents, minerals, essential oils and vitamins by the bucket-load. Tabbouleh also has bulgur wheat in it, which is a high fiber wholegrain commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking.


Every household will have their own special way of making Tabbouleh, so feel free to experiment and improvise. I like the proportion of two parts parsley leaves (flat-leaf, not curly) to one part mint leaves.


NOTE: Tabbouleh is a great dish to involve kids in – they love separating the leaves from the stalks, which allows you to focus on preparing the rest of the ingredients.




(Serves 6-8 as a side dish)



Salad Ingredients:

2oz (60g) flat-leaf parsley leaves (the weight with stalks is around 4oz (120g)), remove leaves from stalks and chop finely (discard stalks)

1oz (30g) fresh mint leaves (the weight with stalks is around 2oz (50g)), remove leaves from stalks and chop finely (discard stalks)

4 scallions (spring onions), thinly sliced

4 ripe firm tomatoes, deseeded and finely diced

7oz (200g) prepared bulgur (bulgur usually needs to be boiled or soaked – check the directions on your package). I use around 2.5oz (70g) of dry bulgur to make7oz (200g) cooked bulgur.



Dressing Ingredients:

 4 Tbsp (60ml) fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)

4 Tbsp (60mL) extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

some ground black pepper




  1. Prepare the bulgur according to the directions on your package. I boil 2.5oz (70g) of dried bulgur in water for 10 minutes to get 7oz (200g) of cooked bulgur. Drain and allow to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, separate the parsley and mint leaves from their stalks (kids can help out here!). Discard the stalks, and finely chop the leaves. Put the leaves into a salad bowl.
  3. Chop the scallions/spring onions thinly and add them to the salad bowl.
  4. Deseed and finely dice the tomatoes and add them to the salad bowl.
  5. When the bulgur has cooled, add around 7oz (200g) to the salad bowl and mix well.
  6. Prepare the dressing by mixing the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper together. Pour it over the salad and mix well.
  7. This dish should be served cold so refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
  8. Tabbouleh keeps well in the refrigerator for upto 24 hours.


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Apr 272013

Waldorf Salad



I have been avoiding eating a Waldorf Salad for most of my adult life. It seems easy enough to make, but there is something about apples smothered in mayonnaise which makes my stomach do a back-flip. However, in the interests of www.TotalSalads.com, I have decided to venture where I’ve never been before, and try making (and eating) a traditional Waldorf Salad.


The Waldorf Salad was first created in the 1890s by a chef at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City. It traditionally contains apples, red grapes, celery, walnuts and mayonnaise. While I love each of these ingredients on their own, I am not sure how I feel about eating them all together in one bite.


In terms of ease, there is very little that is simpler to make than a Waldorf Salad, and I found myself humming happily (and nibbling) while dicing up my fruits, vegetables and nuts. Once the mayonnaise was stirred in, I took a tentative bite and I was surprised to find that it wasn’t quite as bad as I was expecting. The nice thing is that every bite tastes so different from the previous one, depending on what ends up on your fork.


So my final conclusion is that Waldrof Salad is actually pretty okay. I don’t think it will ever be my favorite salad and the richness of the mayonnaise means I can only have it in small amounts, but I will certainly not be avoiding it in the future.


(For an alternative lighter recipe, see my Middle Eastern Waldorf Salad.)




(Serves 4 as an appetizer)




130g (2-3 sticks) celery, diced

120g (1 medium) apple, diced

50 g (15-20 halves) walnuts, corsely chopped

70g (16 whole) red grapes, halved

75 ml (5 Tbsp) mayonnaise




1 – Wash and dice the celery, apple, and grapes (do not peel them).

2 – Coarsely chop the walnuts with a pestle and mortar or a chopping knife.

3 – Put the mayonnaise in a large bowl and give it a quick mix to loosen it up.

4 – Add all the rest of the ingredients into the bowl with the mayonnaise and stir gently until well-coated.

5 – Eat immediately or refrigerate for upto 24 hours (allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to get the chill of the salad before serving if it has been in the refrigerator). Serve on a lettuce leaf if desired.


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Apr 222013

Classic Coleslaw


There are all sorts of variations on coleslaw, but when I eat a burger I crave a very Classic Coleslaw. Bold, flavorful and crunchy, it is one of my favorite salads to serve as a side dish with barbecued or grilled food.


The dressing is an equal mixture of mayonnaise and buttermilk which gives it a good balance of sweet and sharp, while the white cabbage, carrots and scallions (spring onions) all bring their own character to the salad. A classic accompaniment to grilled food or a sandwich.




(Serves 6-8)


Salad Ingredients:

1lb / 450g green cabbage, shredded (if cutting a whole cabbage, remove the core before weighing)

8oz / 250g carrots, shredded

4 scallions/spring onions, thinly sliced



Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup buttermilk/laban

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp vinegar (preferably white or apple cider vinegar)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar





  1. Shred the green cabbage and carrots. Thinly slice the scallions/spring onions.
  2. Ensure that the vegetables are not too wet by blotting them with a tea towel or using a salad spinner.
  3. Toss the salad vegetables together until evenly mixed.
  4. Make the dressing by whisking the dressing ingredients together thoroughly. Taste and adjust if necessary (it is best to taste the dressing on a bit of cabbage).
  5. Pour the dressing onto the mixed vegetables and carefully fold until the dressing is evenly distributed.
  6. Refrigerate for upto 2 days and serve cold.



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