In the heat of an Aussie Christmas, salads are the dishes that make the meal. They provide relief, texture, colour and flavour, helping to make the big guys (the proteins more often than not) shine.
When it comes to salad, it is all about the timing and the quality of your produce. Use the freshest leaves and herbs you can find. Don't dress it too soon, and when you do, be sure to season and toss thoroughly to ensure an even distribution of all the glorious bits and bobs.
All salads serve 6-8 as part of a festive spread.
Beetroot and herb tabbouleh
This festive salad is equal parts beautiful to look at and hardworking; partnering well with a range of proteins from lamb to prawns. I like to roast beetroot with its skin on, once cooked it is quick and easy to peel and it adds to the veg's earthy flavour.
4 evenly sized beetroots (about 700g total), washed and trimmed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 cup mint leaves, chopped
1 cup coriander leaves, chopped
1 cup kale leaves, deveined and torn (we used dinosaur kale)
100g flaked almonds
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp ground cumin
zest of 1 lemon
1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Place the beetroot on a large sheet of foil and give them a good splash of olive oil. Cover tightly and enclose the foil to create a parcel and roast for 90 minutes or until the beetroot is tender when pierced with a skewer.
3. Add the burghul to a bowl and cover with boiling water (or stock of your preference). Set aside for approximately 50 minutes or until the grains have softened. Strain off any residual liquid.
4. Place two of the beetroots, the 2 teaspoons of cumin, olive oil and garlic in a blender and blitz to a thick puree that resembles hummus consistency. Add the puree to a large bowl with the burghul and red onion and toss to coat – it will seem quite wet.
5. Chop the remaining two beetroots into bite-sized cubes – keep these relatively large to add texture to the salad.
6. Place a frypan over medium heat add the butter, remaining one teaspoon of cumin and salt. Once foaming, add the flaked almonds and cook for about 45 seconds or until the nuts are just golden.
7. Add the toasted nuts, beetroot chunks, mint, coriander and kale to the beetroot-burghul mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper, toss together then serve warm or cold.
Christmas cos. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Christmas cos with very useful dressing
This salad dressing gives and gives this holiday season. It is a spectacular dressing, at home pooling between the leaves of icy cold cos as much as it is served with roast chook, roast veg or on leftover ham sandwiches. It makes over a cup, more than you need, but will keep in the fridge for a few days.
4 baby cos, stems removed, halved, washed thoroughly
¼ cup creme fraiche
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup Kewpie mayo
1 cup of dill sprigs, loosely packed, plus a few extra sprigs to serve
½ large red onion, roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to season
1. Arrange the cos lettuce halves, cut-side up, on a serving platter.
2. Add the dressing ingredients to a blender and blitz to combine. Ensure the onion has been blitzed and the mixture is free from large chunks – it should be quite thin.
3. Drizzle the dressing generously over the cos, scatter with a few extra dill fronds and serve immediately.
Tomato trio salad. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Three tomato salad with sunflower seed puree and whipped feta
A tomato party that celebrates tomato season.
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup milk
squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
500g medley tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to season
½ cup semi-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
500g cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup basil leaves, coarsely torn
½ cup soft Persian-style feta
1 tbsp milk
½ tbsp olive oil
1. Place the sunflower seeds, stock and milk in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the sunflower seeds are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated (Note: If the seeds are soft and you still have liquid, strain first before blending).
2. Add the seed mixture, lemon juice and olive oil to a blender and blitz to a smooth paste – if too thick, loosen with a tablespoon of water and blitz again. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 180C.
4. Place the medley tomatoes on a roasting tray with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to burst.
5. While the tomatoes are roasting, add the whipped feta ingredients to a blender and pulse until creamy and smooth.
6. Place blobs of sunflower seed puree and the whipped feta on a serving plate – it doesn't have to be neat, just make pockets of flavour over the base of the plate. Top with the fresh, roasted and sun-dried tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, scatter with basil leaves and serve immediately.
Radicchio and red grapes showered in manchego snow. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Balsamic radicchio, grape and manchego salad
Hands-down one of the quickest salads you'll put together this Christmas and one of the tastiest. An excellent marriage of crunch and sweet and salt and soft, all covered in manchego cheese snow.
3 tbsp quality balsamic glaze
juice of ½ lemon
5 tbsp olive oil
150g radicchio leaves
1½ cups red grapes, halved
½ red onion, finely sliced on a mandolin
arils of ½ pomegranate
salt and pepper to season
1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
2. Spread the radicchio leaves on a large serving platter. Top with cut grapes, onion and pomegranate arils. Season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Spoon over the dressing, enough to coat the salad here and there in pockets of balsamic and oil.
4. Using a microplane, grate the manchego generously over the salad and serve immediately.