Quick fix salads

Sunshine vitamins
Even as we head towards autumn when the sun is thinner, there’s nothing better to lift the mood than sitting outside surrounded by all the colours under the sun, catching some back end of summer rays and with a bowl of Mediterranean freshness topped with crispy Habas Fritas. Everyone can dream.

Originating in Spain, Habas Fritas (roasted, salted broad beans) have become popular as a snack but you don’t need a gin and tonic to enjoy them. They are currently my favourite crunchy topping for salads. You can roast your own, thereby controlling the amount of fat and salt, in which case dried split fava beans from Hodmedods are just the job and are British grown. Or you can live dangerously and get the ready fried and salted ones. I recently got a massive tub from Belazu which I’d like to say would see me through Christmas – but they are exceedingly moreish.

Garden salsa
Many people grow their own veggies in pots and tubs in an effort to be more self-sufficient and for the sheer enjoyment of eating own-grown produce. If you are lucky enough to have an allotment, know someone who has or can make room for raised beds, then your own market garden will keep you well supplied. Even the smallest patio, back yard or balcony can provide fresh bounty and you can salsa around picking the best of your crops.

Walking on sunshine
I make getting a regular Vitamin D top-up part of my daily ritual – any excuse to step out outside for a stretch and another sit. Vitamin D, AKA the “the sunshine vitamin”, is synthesised naturally when the skin is exposed to sunlight. You can probably predict a flaw in the system for those places that do not have many sunshine hours, where people do not spend much time outdoors or cover up in the sun – especially since the latter is recommended as protection against skin cancer. Weighing up the pros and cons, 10 minutes several times a week from March to end of September is likely to be sufficient UK exposure time for those with light skin. Darker skins synthesise Vitamin D from sunlight less efficiently so need a slightly longer boost and Vitamin D management. Health warning: UV protection still applies for all skin types.

Vitamin D is good for the bones and teeth of young and old alike since it promotes calcium and phosphate absorption and has a role in making muscles work efficiently, boosting energy levels and the immune system – so you really do need Vitamin D for chomping on salad and doing that salsa through the garden. It is also thought to contribute to lung function and to reduce inflammation in the body. Does it give any protection against infections? The jury is still out, but what’s the harm in making sure you don’t run short since adults in the northern hemisphere are prone to deficiency.

Food-wise good sources of Vitamin D are eggs, green leafy veg, red meat, oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna) and mushrooms exposed to sunlight. You can pop mushrooms on a sunny window ledge 30 minutes before using to up their sunshine vitamin level or buy those that already contain more Vitamin D, egs shiitake that have been sun-dried or check the label for those that have been exposed to UV during production. Some foods, including fat spreads, yogurt and milk are fortified with Vitamin D.

My high five
Salad-wise nothing could be simpler than taking a few choice, seasonal ingredients that combine well, provide a pop of colour and a variety of fresh textures and flavours. Good for a weekday when you may not have the time or inclination to do any more than grab and prep whatever you have available.

The recipes are so simple they don’t need much explanation. They can be yours with little more than a:
Chop. Cut. Snip. Shred. Grate. Spiralise. Slice. Cube. Dice.

Here are my high-5 salads fixes that can be put together quickly with just a few ingredients and which never fail to please. A little goes a long way and varying and customising them is the name of the game – all substitutions allowed.

The Juicy: Cubed watermelon and goat’s cheese + chopped or torn spinach and mint leaves.At the point of serving drizzle over some olive oil and balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses.
The Green & Crunchy: Massaged kale, salad leaves, chopped celery and carrot, toasted cashews. This one has some left-over steamed broccoli added for a taste most brassicaceous. Kale massaged with olive oil, salt crystals and lemon juice becomes almost instantly tenderised and less fibrous. The massage oil and lemon also serves as a dressing although you could also top with drizzle of tahini (sesame seed paste).
The Spiralised: Sauté slices of garlic in a couple of 15ml (table) spoons olive oil until just turning golden. Pour the infused oil over spiralised courgette and sprinkle with lemon juice, salt crystals and chilli flakes if liked. Ring the changes by spiralising other veggies such as carrot, sweet potato or golden beetroot instead/ as well as courgette.
The Mediterranean: Cos, Iceberg or Little Gem lettuce, chunky chopped tomatoes and cucumber, your choice of olives (these are green and black with mixed herbs and pimento), cubed or crumbled feta cheese, topped with roasted, salted broad beans, all with a lavish drizzle of olive oil and a generous squidge of lemon juice. Goes well with hummus and flatbread.
The Salsa: Yellow and green courgettes, tomatoes, green beans and chives. Chop or dice the tomatoes and courgettes. The green beans can be from canned or frozen but these were cooked from fresh, covered with water for 2 mins in the microwave. Sweetcorn would also work well. Chives could be substituted with salad onions or finely chopped raw red onion. Once the veg are prepped, stir in a teaspoon or two of mango chutney and relish this instant salad dressing.

Quick fix top tips

  • Bring the outside in and grow your own – micro greens and herbs only need a window ledge and are gifts that keep on giving.
  • Stopped buying kale because too tough and chewy? Kale massaged with your fingertips for a few minutes with olive oil, salt crystals and lemon juice becomes putty in your hands. Provides an instant dressing too.
  • Bob’s your uncle – pop mushrooms on a sunny window ledge 30 minutes before using to increase their Vitamin D content.
  • And Fanny’s your aunt – a couple of teaspoons of mango chutney lifts a few raw vegetables to make a well dressed salad.

If that’s what can be achieved in a week, roll on the weekend for more salad fixes.