With flowers, fruits and bright green leaves, here's how to turn a bog-standard salad into a blossoming garden of eating
If you think eating salad is a punishment, you're probably doing it wrong. Turn over a new leaf this summer with these seven steps to salad salivation.
Step 1: exotic leaves
We've got nothing against iceberg lettuce – its cool crunch is most welcome on a hot summer's day – but it doesn't have much going for it in the flavour stakes.
Mix it with purple chicory, peppery rocket and baby lamb's lettuce … or get more adventurous with magical micro herbs (now available in select Sainsbury's stores). Don't be fooled – these teeny leaves such as crimson king basil and butterfly sorrel may be small, but they sure pack a punch. Proceed with caution.
Step 2: ancient grains
What salads really need is carbs, and trendy carbs at that. Get freaky with the grassy-flavour of freekeh, big up the couscous with the giant variety and lose all refinement with wild rice (an aquatic North American grass, no relation to the white stuff). It's what salads have always wanted but were too afraid to ask.
Step 3: pro for protein
For famished office workers eating al-desko, the salad can be guilty of a most heinous crime. Worse than an egg sarnie that offends the nostrils or an untimely lunch box theft, a salad can fail to fill you up.
You can right this wrong with protein, of course. But yawn, not the typical boiled eggs or tinned fish (unless you're after a bite of nostalgia). Turn to smoked tofu, chargrilled halloumi, smoked salmon trimmings or chorizo chunks, which all boost the flavour and fill your tummy without bringing back memories of a sweaty school sandwich.
Step 4: filling flowers
Edible flowers that is. Claret-coloured violas look pretty and taste slightly sweet while a blithe scattering of nasturtium petals is probably as romantic as a working lunch gets.
Don't just merrily head down to the flower beds, though. Not all flowers are edible and those that are need to be pesticide-free. Pick some up next time you're in Sainsbury's or grow your own with their edible flower garden seeds.
Step 5: tooty fruity
Toss in a few plump blueberries, sliced strawberries or posh sable grapes (also known as black grapes) and each mouthful will be rewarded by a burst of surreptitious sweetness. Supreme orange segments can lurk under leaves while sparkly pomegranate seeds are the perfect finishing touch.
Step 6: texture trailblazer
Lead the way in modern salad-making by thinking about textures: soft roasted veggies, crunchy panzanella-style breadcrumbs, creamy cheeses like burrata or goats', and crisp slivered nuts or toasted coconut.
Frilly dill, soft basil and curly parsley add tons of flavour and texture, too. Clap any herbage between your hands before muddling into the mix to release its aroma and natural oils.
Step 7: never eat naked
No sooner than you would leave the house without your trousers, should a salad be eaten without dressing. Even if it's just olive oil and balsamic vinegar, you've got to give it something.
Toasted sesame seed oil, smoked oil or fresh lime juice are fun to experiment with – just don't be too heavy handed or you'll be eating a bowl full of grease. Spices or dried herbs are good in a dressing, too. Start off with something safe such as dried oregano or zesty sumac rather than cloves or nutmeg, which can be bitter.