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Salad days: Fresh, healthy recipes

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Fresh and healthy fruit salads, combined with leafy greens, are simply super for summer, and look every bit as good as they taste. Jane Drew provides some essential recipes.

Super for summer, salad is an incredibly versatile dish, involving much more than crisp lettuce and sliced tomato. A great way to use up leftovers, you can toss almost anything into a salad, in much the same way as you would a sandwich, and with far more delicious and nutritious results. Mix chicken, hard-boiled egg, bacon and avocado with green leaves and you have the basis of a classic Cobb salad. The basic ingredients for Salade niçoise – tins of tuna, anchovy and olives – are likely right there at the back of your kitchen cupboard. As inventive as we are with our salads, combining fresh leaves with fruit is still something of a rarity for home cooks. So take a look at these four classic recipes for some inspiration. Derived from Spain, England, Thailand and Mexico, they work equally well as a side dish or main course and are deliciously easy to make.

Prawn and mango salad

This recipe serves four and immediately brings a touch of Spain to your table. The slightly sour arugula contrasts well with the sweet mango and prawn but you can use any leafy green. Just be sure to get the balance right – don’t overdo the serving of fruit.


  • 400g king prawns, cooked
  • 85g watercress, chopped
  • 150g sugar snaps, halved
  • 225g arugula
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1 large, firm mango
  • 1 large lime
  • 1½tbsp fresh coriander


  1. Put the prawns in a large bowl and combine with the watercress, sugar snaps and arugula.
  2. Trim the spring onions, halve them lengthways, then slice them on the diagonal into small pieces and add them to the bowl.
  3. Slice the cheeks off both sides of the mango stone, peel them and slice the flesh into thin slivers. Remove the flesh from the stone and slice. Add to the bowl.
  4. Pare the skin and pith from the lime, then chop the flesh into small pieces and put in the bowl, followed by the coriander leaves.
  5. To make the dressing, whisk together 3tbsps Thai fish sauce; juice of 1 lime; 1tbsp caster sugar; 1 medium red chilli, chopped; 1 thumbnail-sized piece ginger, chopped; 1 large clove garlic, chopped; and 3tbsps groundnut oil.
  6. Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing and serve.

Source: Super Salads 2007 Seven Publishing Group

Spinach and strawberry salad

This classic English recipe serves four. A delicious vegetarian option, you can also beef it up with the addition of pre-cooked langoustines, prawns or chicken. Remember pepper brings out the flavour of strawberries, in much the same way as salt does wonders for pineapple and watermelon.


  • 50g pine nuts or walnuts
  • 3 slices fresh pineapple
  • 315g baby spinach leaves
  • 450g strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 25g feta, crumbled


  1. Toss the pine nuts in a dry pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  2. To make the dressing, whisk together 2tbsp red wine vinegar; 3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil; 1tsp clear honey; and 1tsp Dijon mustard. Season to taste and set aside.
  3. Slice the pineapple into segments of a similar size to the strawberries.
  4. Toss the spinach leaves and fruit with the dressing in a bowl. Add pepper to taste.
  5. Sprinkle with feta and pine nuts or walnuts to serve.

Source: Super Salads 2007 Seven Publishing Group

Spicy papaya salad

This tasty Thai recipe serves two and is best combined with sticky rice and larb, a spicy minced meat salad with raw vegetables. If you can’t find green papaya, substitute with turnip, courgette or cucumber.


  • 2tbsp peanuts, crushed and toasted
  • ½ piece palm sugar
  • 2 cups green papaya, shredded
  • 2 fresh birds eye chilli, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1tbsp dried shrimp
  • 7 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1-2tbsp green beans, roughly chopped
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1½tbsp fish sauce


  1. Roughly crush a small handful of unsalted peanuts with a mortar and pestle. Toast in a dry pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  2. Melt the palm sugar in a small pan at low or medium heat, adding a splash of water, to form a thick syrup.
  3. Peel the papaya, shred it into thin strips and soak in cold water.
  4. Gently bash the chillies and peeled garlic with a mortar and pestle. Add the shrimp and continue bashing. Add 1tbsp peanuts and mix well – you need to see bits and pieces not a purée.
  5. Add the shredded papaya and continue bashing gently, so the mixture soaks up the flavours.
  6. Add the liquid palm sugar, tomatoes, beans, lime juice and fish sauce. Continue to lightly bash, and mix well.
  7. Sprinkle with the remaining peanuts to serve.

Quick guacamole

This takes five minutes to make and works well as a starter for four people (with nachos or crudités) or as a rich salad dressing. Cut and halve 4 avocados, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Immediately add 3tbsps lemon juice; 1 small red onion, chopped fine; and 1 large garlic clove, minced. Season to taste and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced small. Mix well and season to taste – add a splash of hot pepper sauce for authentic Mexican guacamole with a kick.

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