Friday, 30 May 2014

Get Dressed

The humble but divine vinaigrette
How many bottles of various salad dressings do you have in your cupboard? I bet there is at least something with sweet chilli and one with whole grain mustard and maybe something poncey and artisanal that you've never opened. And they are all gross because salad dressing should be made at home. Practically free and one million times better than something bought. For years I've been trying to emulate my Dad's recipe, the problem being it's not really a recipe as he just makes it on the spot, a little taste here and there, until 'Aaah, just right'. I'm no salad hugger, but along side a juicy steak I want nothing more than a perfectly dressed salad. And chips. Lots of chips. When eaten with something on the heavy side, like a risotto, a perfectly dressed salad is a necessary and complimentary accompaniment. Friends have often asked how I make my dressing so I figured, yes, dressing does matter! How awful is a thoughtless splash of screamingly tart Balsamic vinegar over a beautiful salad? How is it so acidic and so sweet at the same time? 

You don't need fancy vinegars to make a decent dressing, lemon juice and olive oil works perfectly, but below are the ingredients I use to make what I reckon is a pretty near perfect lick for otherwise, lets face it, boring salad leaves.

Oil base: I always use extra virgin olive oil, don't understand this rape seeds oil stuff, bleurgh.
Acidity: Anything you fancy from lemon juice, cider or white wine vinegar etc etc
Sweetness: this will stop that burning in the back of your throat, the tiniest pinch of sugar, I use whatever is to hand. It's not to make it taste sweet, rather to neutralise the acid a little.
Seasoning: essential, freshly ground salt and pepper.
Heat: I nearly always add a little pinch of English mustard powder or a little Dijon mustard.
Flavour: For a simple salad I always like to let a bashed clove of garlic flavour the dressing.

I never bother measuring but the general rule is one part acid to three parts oil. The rest of it is personal taste but add a little at a time, you can always add but it's annoying trying to take away. I don't have anything fancy to make dressing in, I just use a little glass and give it all a good stir. If using garlic let it sit a while, otherwise you're good to go. Also great for asparagus and globe artichoke.

A nicely dressed salad adds much needed freshness to anything from steak to pasta, go forth and mix, elevate your drab lettuce leaves to something wonderful!