How to make a quick, filling & tasty salad

Hey Em, what's this Q&E series?

Well, let me give you the lowdown.  (Do people still say that?)

When I first caught the cooking bug, a love of food imperiously followed.  By making my own meals, I was suddenly taken back to the many summers I helped on my Nans village allotment, shelling peas.  Now buckle up because I'm about to go all simple-pleasures on you.

We'd spend hours, crouched down in the mud, picking and shelling.  Every so often, she'd come across a big one, give it a wipe, and then pop the fresh little bugger straight into my mouth.  I'd greedily chomp away on it and it was the best thing in the world.  Better than chocolate, better than crisps.  Even as a junk food loving child, just helping my nan on her allotment gave me an intense pleasure in the food I was eating.
Whereas, if you'd of given me a bag of shop bought peas and tried to give them to me?

Not happening.  Nope.  Pass me my monster munch.  I'm off.

So can you really be surprised that most children feel this way now?  In fact, most adults!

We are so distanced from our food, so let's get serious.  For me, when it comes to cooking, it's not about showing off (though let us be honest, we all have our moments) it's mostly about the following reasons:
  1. So I'm not reliant on 'The Man' to feed me. (Check me out, I'm so political)
  2. So I'm not completely distanced from the food I'm eating. 
  3. Because I love eating something I've created from scratch, see shelling peas above
  4. In case there's ever a zombie apocalypse.  No one is going to sacrifice me cause I'll be the badass who knows how to make that tin of beans taste awesome.  It will be our group's one simple pleasure.
When I first started to learn, I was a bit overwhelmed.  The first piece of equipment I bought myself was sushi making kit.  I have no idea why, I didn't even eat sushi at the time.  I guess I figured if I could hack something as easy as 'mini rolls of rice' that I'd be able to tackle everything else.

It didn't go down to well.  As you can imagine.  Wasabi paste and seaweed sheets lived in my mums cupboards for a while.  Which is where I think the problem lies.

We go out with these big intentions, buy random ingredients and when it doesn't work out?  There they stay.

I mean c'mon.  Sushi?  I should have been learning the basics.  But everything else seemed to take so long to make.  Or it seemed so complicated.  It was mental.

I was thinking about this the other day when talking to a friend and then the idea came to me.  How great would it be to read a recipe online that was easy to make, easy to understand and you could experiment with, and get more confident with every time you make it?  Something you could put your own stamp on?  Even if you were just learning.

I love Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals because it shows you all the tricks of the trade to making a great meal fast.  The main one being "Don't be afraid!"

Which leads me to this:

I'll be starting up the "quick and easy" series because quick and easy is my middle name.  Wait no, let me rephrase that.  I disagree that you can't have good food, quickly and easily.  You just need some know-how.  Yeah, that's better.

This series will focus on not just getting your food quickly, but making the right choices, and just being generally awesome.  I then aim to make it, with someone else, and post the results here.

For the first one I'll be doing with the lovely Ayse, whilst drinking lots of wine.  To prove how easy it is, for research purposes of course.  FOR SCIENCE.  I'm all about the science, me.

But more on that later, first, let's see how to do this.

First up, Here's the back bone I use to make every salad I eat.

1- A base of leafy greens.
2- Fresh Herbs
3- Mix of crunchy veggies
4- The filling part.
5- Main flavour and its contrasting flavour.
6- Toppings and what I like to call 'surprises'
7- Dressings.

If you follow this simple pyramid step system (Is it a pyramid?  Is it a step?  Who knows?!) you will have a fantastic salad every time.  Naturally, to make things easier, I'm only going to list a few choices, but hopefully, you'll get creative and add your own in after a bit of experimenting.

So, here's the choices.  The pick 'n' mix, if you will.  Each layer adds a different texture and/or flavour and that's what makes a salad (for me anyway) awesome.

So I already hear you saying "I'm going to have to go out and buy all this stuff.  This is not cheap and it's not easy!"  But apart from the leafy green base, you can use the rest of the ingredients in other meals throughout the week.  Also, you don't have to go out and buy everything you see here.  Just the things you like.

Use common sense when mixing.  Most of these go together, but obviously some flavours won't be to your liking.  Experiment!  That's the best way.

Personally, to keep things quick here, I go for a salad bag of leaves.  You can pick up a pretty decent bag of tender leaf for about £1 in most places.  Massive bags of baby spinach are only £1.  That can last you ages.

Flat leaf parsley
Fennel (not the seeds)

Coloured bell peppers
Spring onion
Cooked beetroot
Grated / sliced carrot

THE FILLING PART (Pick 1 or 2)
Roasted sweet potato
Boiled new potato, coated in a bit of butter or olive oil.
Roasted butternut squash
Grilled avocado (or raw, depending on your preference)
Roasted Chickpeas
2 tablespoons cous cous cooked with stock.

Goats cheese and red onion chutney
Turkey and cranberry sauce
Veggie meatballs and tomato sauce
Fajita chicken and creme fraiche
Grilled prawns and mango chunks
3 tablespoons cooked quinoa and lentils with chilli
Mozzarella and cranberry sauce / pesto

Chia seeds
Roasted seeds and nuts
Poppy seeds
Tablespoon of dried vine fruit (raisins, sultanas etc)
Mango chunks (Goes surprisingly well with everything)

DRESSINGS (Pick 1 or 2)
Splash of extra virgin olive oil
Splash of roasted peanut oil
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Splash of herb vinaigrette

Okay, so you have your choices.

So now I'm going to make it myself.

The salad Ayse and myself made was using the following choices:

1- A base of leafy greens
Tender leaf salad mix with extra spinach

2- Fresh Herbs
Chopped coriander, mint and parsley, mixed in with the leaf mix.

3- Mix of crunchy veggies
Radishes and Cucumber

4- The filling part.
Roasted sweet potato (in the peanut oil for flavour)

5- Main flavour and its contrasting flavour.
Goats cheese and Onion chutney

6- Toppings and what I like to call 'surprises'
Chia seeds, raisins, roasted seeds AND mango chunks.

7 - Dressings.
Dash Of olive oil mixed with some balsamic vinegar.

The more you drink, the blurrier the pictures are.....

But no matter how much you drink, don't forget to clean up your herby messes!

Dinner is served.

So here's some other variations using this system, all made and eaten by moi:

You might recognise some of them from previous posts, Instagrams and facebook shares.  Which I think proves my point that I always use this system.  AMIRIGHT?

Get creative, use this backbone and send me any ideas you have for your own.  Remember you can have this on your table in under 30 minutes!

Let me know what you think!


  1. I am a salad gal...I need salad every day, just as much as I need husband didn't eat salad before, now his dinner plate is usually packed with leafy greens and seasonal fruit. He commented that's a sign of being married.
    I love all your salad choices, but sweet potato in peanut oil...that's a favourite!

    1. Cheers Angie! I love your salads! They are really creative. I agree though, I think people just need to find a flavour that makes them happy and then the love of salads follow on from that I think :)

  2. Oh Emma this is brilliant! Love it. Also did you do the little quick and easy banner bit on the first photo? If so that is super creative and I'm jealous. It's so cool. I cannot stand salad no matter how much a try, but putting sweet potato in peanut oil on it, I could seriously be won round!

    1. Thanks Holly! Yeah I made it, one of the perks of having all this graphics stuff at my disposal at work!

      And sweet potato in peanut oil is amazing. Cannot big it up enough. :)

  3. I love quick and easy and I love salads too. I really like the choices you list. I try to eat a salad almost everyday. I have lettuce growing in my garden this summer and it is almost ready to eat, can't wait. I love your pictures.

    1. Thanks Dawn :) I'm so jealous that you have fresh lettuce growing in your garden! That's my aim for next year!

  4. Sounds good to me! Looks like it was fun to make too and I expect the wine helped! ;)

  5. I love your reasons for cooking that you've listed as I share them as well! I love a good salad, especially this time of year - they are perfect for a quick dinner that doesn't require the stove. But, it is important for me to make sure they are filling so these are great tips!

  6. Love this idea for a series! Often the basics are the bit we don't bother to learn.


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