Summer days = salad days. Warm weather and sunshine - or even just the idea of them! - makes me long for bowls full of cool greens and interesting grains, platters of poached chicken scattered with handfuls of herbs and pomegranate seeds, large servings of crunchy vegetables and toasted nuts, all drizzled with a simple homemade dressing.
Making your own salad dressing is simple. The classic French vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part vinegar, plus some seasoning. Take this for your base and play around:
Put these in a jar with a screwcap lid, shake well, taste and pour over your salad. Then you can start to play around. I like a zesty dressing, so I'll often increase the amount of vinegar or squeeze in some lemon juice as well. I love to add mustard – smooth Dijon or crunchy wholegrain – which helps the vinaigrette to emulsify, pulling the whole thing together. Some sweetness from a drizzle of honey or Highbank Orchard syrup or maple syrup is welcome if you have especially punchy rocket or mustard leaves; also good in a dressing for a crunchy ‘slaw.
While I'm not a fan of mayonnaise in coleslaw – I prefer punch to gloop! - I do like to have a jar of good quality, or homemade, mayo in the fridge. It gets used for tuna melts or shaked up with buttermilk for a ranch-style dressing that I toss through quantities of raw broccoli or drizzle over crunchy iceberg lettuce with some blue cheese and crunchy bacon. Summertime eating has never been so much fun.
Whole Egg Mayonnaise
When I'm buying, Hellmann's is my brand. When I'm making it myself, I use this genius no-waste recipe, which I have adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If you run out of your favourite bought mayonnaise, this is definitely quicker to make than going to the shop.
Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature before starting. Break the egg into a medium mixing bowl and add the mustard and salt. Using a hand-held immersion blender, whizz together for a minute. Add the lemon juice and blend again.
Hold the oil in a jug in one hand and the blender with the other, add the oil to the bowl, a drop at a time, while blending. The most important thing here is to make sure each drop of oil is thoroughly mixed in before adding more. As the mixture starts to thicken, you can start pouring more quickly. It will soon become almost too thick to blend.
Taste and add more salt, mustard or lemon juice as appropriate. It can also be thinned with a little water. Scrape into a screwcap jar and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
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