Beetroot Salad

I have a few recipes for beetroot salads – and they all begin with roasting the beetroot. I take the simple way out with this – slice off the top and bottom of each beetroot wrap the lot in foil and roast in a moderate oven (180C) or camp oven for about an hour. You should be able to get a knife easily through the largest beetroot. If you want to get fancy, you can pop some unpeeled garlic cloves and some thyme or rosemary springs into the foil parcels before roasting.

Leave them wrapped in their little parcels until they are cool enough to handle – the skins will pretty much slide off – before cutting them into rounds.

Slice a Spanish or red onion into little half moons, placing them in a shallow dish, and drizzle over a few teaspoons of red wine vinegar. Not only does this bring out the pink, but it also makes the onions easier on the tummy – if you’re the type who has problems digesting onions. Leave them for at least 15 minutes.

Arrange the beetroot on a serving plate, top with the onions, a little of the vinegar and a good slug of decent olive oil.

Some chopped herbs – mint, basil or thyme – will complete your salad. I used Greek Basil to top mine – mainly because the leaves are tiny, the stalks soft, and the flavour a tad more intense than regular basil…and because I planted some and hadn’t yet had the opportunity to use it.

Other options

Cube your beetroot and serve with cubes of feta and some spinach, rocket or baby beet leaves. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkle some almonds over the top.

If you’re after a traybake beetroot salad, try this one. Peel the beetroot before cooking and cut into wedges. Pop into an oven tray with a few cloves of (peeled) garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar – naturally, mix the oil, sugar and vinegar together first. Cook in a moderate oven (or camp oven) for 40-45 mins – or until soft and a little shrivelled. Discard the garlic – it was there to flavour the oil – and toss it all together with some rocket, feta and almonds or walnuts.

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Salad

You know those weekend days when the skies are blue, the sun is shining and it’s almost warm enough to dip your toe in the pool, but absolutely beach weather? On days like that, you want a lunch like this. One that you can prepare quickly, that won’t weigh you down, that works brilliantly with white wine or water, and that, most importantly, leaves room for pizza or fish and chips at the beach for dinner.

It requires no flames, no special equipment, and can be on the table in 10 minutes. We bought all the ingredients at our local farmer’s market that morning, but if you don’t have a farmer’s market nearby, everything is readily available from most supermarkets.

As an aside, this works just as well with prawns or leftover shredded barbecue chicken.

Finally, a note on quantities. This will feed 4 if it’s part of a shared meal, or 2 if it’s all you’re having.

What you need

  • 100g smoked salmon
  • a handful of rocket or other leaves
  • 1 avocado peeled and sliced
  • 1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
  • About a 10cm length of cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • coriander to garnish (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons plain unsweetened yoghurt

What you do with it

  •  In a large mixing bowl toss together the avocado, tomatoes, cucumber, leaves, juice of one of the lemons, the olive oil and some salt and pepper to taste.
  • Mix together the yoghurt and the juice from half of the other lemon. Cut the other half into halves for serving.
  • Place the salad in a large serving bowl and arrange the salmon through it. If you don’t trust your dining partner to share, split it all into 2 dishes and split the salmon one piece for me, one piece for him…
  • Drizzle the yoghurt dressing over the top, garnish with coriander – unless you’re a paid-up member of the I Hate Coriander Club – and serve with the leftover lemon.
  • Sit back and tell everyone how healthy you are – knowing all the while that you’ll be blowing it when the 5pm nibblies come out!

 

Bun Cha- Vietnamese Pork Salad

Now that Spring is upon us we’re looking for something lighter and cooler. Vietnamese-style noodle salads like this one deliver on both counts – yet are full of flavour and won’t weigh you down. We like this for lunch on a weekend or a light dinner when we’ve over-indulged a tad.

This noodle salad uses little pork patties – which you can quickly and easily put together in the morning and set aside in the fridge until you’re ready to cook. But you can also use shredded poached or barbecued chicken – it’s a great use of leftovers – or lemongrass-marinated beef. If you’re making the latter, slice about 400g beef into strips and marinade for 30mins in a paste made of 1 lemongrass stalk, 3 cloves garlic smashed or chopped finely, a teaspoon each of fish sauce and caster sugar.

Before I get into the recipe proper, a note about convenience. Obviously fresh is best – and that goes for herbs, spices, etc, but if you’re on the road, camping out or in a van, you’re probably not going to carry the sort of kit you have at home. That’s where those squeezy tubes of ginger, garlic and lemongrass that you find in the veggie section of the supermarket can be lifesavers. I’ll give you the instructions for the fresh stuff, but feel free to take shortcuts too. Just saying.

Vietnamese Salad Dressing

 

What you need

  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped*

What you do with it

  • Put the water, fish sauce, sugar and vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn it down and let it simmer for a couple of minutes to dissolve the sugar.
  • Stir through the lime juice, garlic and chilli.

*A note on the chilli – we like things spicy so tend to leave some seeds in or include all or half of a small Thai style chilli as well. Your call.

The Pork Patties

What you need

  • 500g pork mince
  • 1 garlic clove – crushed, finely diced
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • 1/4 cup green shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

What you do with it

Mix it all together…preferably with your hands. I like to also pick up small amounts and slam it back into the side of the bowl. I have no idea what it does but it does help the mix become quite pliable and sticky.

With wet hands roll into 16 small balls and gently pat to flatten.

Cook in a pan over your burner or on a barbecue. They should take about 3 minutes each side.

The Herb Noodle Salad

What you need

200g rice vermicelli noodles

1 bunch fresh mint, leaves picked

1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked

1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts

We also use basil or Thai basil or Vietnamese mint – depending on what’s available – and assorted salad leaves. I don’t like bean sprouts but apparently, everyone else does so while they won’t appear in my salad, they might show up in yours.

What you do with it

Place the vermicelli in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and stand for 2 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

Arrange all your leaves onto a platter with the noodles, top with the patties and pass around the dressing.

Mustard Salad Dressing

This dressing is a tad like a caesar dressing with the garlic amped way up but works amazingly well with pretty much anything. We had a guest one night who drank it from the jug…I wouldn’t go that far.

I like to use it on my potato and bean salad – essentially I pan fry some halved Kipfler potatoes and toss in some green beans for the last 10 minutes, then toss this dressing through it. You could add some fried bacon too if you wanted.

What you need

  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp water
  • 3 – 4 tbsp extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil
  • 10g shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do with it

  • Combine mustard, vinegar and water in a large bowl.
  • Add oil in a thin, steady stream whisking until emulsified
  • Season and stir through shallot and garlic