Entertaining Salads

Grilled Sweetcorn salad photo Marina Oliphant

What makes a great salad?

To start, use a combination of interesting flavours and textures.

Use seasonal ingredients, which will be at their peak in flavour. Buy fresh from the markets or have a go and grow your own. The same applies to fresh herbs. They are an integral part of most salads and you can easily grow some in a pot or a sunny spot in the garden at this time of year. They are convenient to pick and you only use as much as you need, with minimal wastage.

Texture is also important in a salad. Nuts and seeds are a great choice and can be sprinkled over a salad just before serving. Smoked almonds provide a salty, smoky crunch to the sweet corn salad. Pistachios add texture to the quinoa salad. And the fried school prawns provide the crunch factor in the asian coleslaw, along with the crispy fried shallots and the peanuts.

Look out for unusual ingredients and toss these into your salads for variety. I have combined quinoa, red rice and black lentils in one of the salads. These grains and pulses not only add their own texture and flavour, they act as a vehicle for the salad dressing, by soaking up and carrying the flavours.

As far as salad dressings go, there are many different oils and vinegars that you can use. Whatever combination you choose, the general guide for ratios is 1 part acid (vinegar or juice) to 3 or 4 parts oil. It will depend on the strength of both the vinegar and the oil, so always remember to taste and adjust until it’s just right.


Grilled Sweet corn salad with black beans, almonds and pickled onion


This salad has a hint of Mexico. Delicious on its own or with barbecued meats.


1 cup black beans, soaked overnight

2 small red onions

juice 2 limes

juice 1 orange

3 ears of sweetcorn, husks on

400g punnet mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes

100g smoked almonds chopped

1 avocado, peeled and chopped into large chunks

2 eschalots, thinly sliced

½ (half) cup olive oil for salad dressing

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

salt and pepper to season

handful coriander leaves, washed and dried

handful mint leaves, washed and dried


Cook beans in plenty of water for around 60 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

Peel and slice the onion thinly. Pour over boiling water to cover for 10 minutes. Drain then marinate in orange and lime juice for an hour.

Heat a bbq hot plate to high and cook corn in its husks, turning over to colour evenly for 30 minutes.

Remove and cool.  Peel the outer husk off and slice kernels off the cob. Place cobs in a mixing bowl and discard the corn husks.

Roughly chop the smoked almonds.

Fry the eschalots until crispy. Drain on paper towel.

Drain the pickled onions, reserving a little of the liquid for the salad dressing.

Make a simple dressing with the reserved juice, finely chopped garlic and chilli. Whisk in as much olive oil as you need. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix all the ingredients together and serve.


serves 4.


Asian coleslaw with green papaya and crispy fried school prawns

asian coleslaw photo Marina Oliphant


Classic coleslaw has been jazzed up with lemongrass and green papaya. Fresh zingy herbs and crunchy school prawns in their shells add a finishing touch.


½ (half) cup rice vinegar

3 tbsp sugar

1 red onion, thinly sliced in half moons

1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, thinly sliced

250g wombok cabbage, shredded

½ (half) red cabbage, shredded

1 large carrot, peeled and shredded

½ (half) green papaya, peeled and shredded

2 tbsp olive oil

fresh Vietnamese mint leaves to garnish

fresh coriander leaves to garnish

1 tbsp chopped roasted peanuts

1 tbsp crisp fried shallots

500g school prawns, shells and heads on

2 tbsp plain flour

prawn crackers to serve


nuoc mam cham sauce

½ (half) tsp sugar

3 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 red chilli, sliced


Combine vinegar and sugar, marinate sliced onion and lemongrass for 30 minutes.

Mix cabbage, carrot and papaya together in a large bowl. Add onion and marinade, drizzle with oil and toss well to combine.

Garnish with mint, coriander, peanuts and shallots.

Toss the prawns in flour to lightly coat then deep fry for 1-2 minutes, until they turn red and become crispy. Drain on paper towel.

Top salad with crispy fried prawns.

To make the sauce, mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Serve with prawn crackers and sauce.


Serves 4.


quinoa and red rice salad with spicy cauliflower and black lentils


quinoa salad photo Marina Oliphant


An interesting take on a rice salad, packed with flavour and unusual ingredients.


200g quinoa

200g red rice, rinsed

150g black lentils, rinsed

2 brown onions, thinly sliced

100ml olive oil, plus 3 tbsp extra

100g dried cranberries

grated zest and juice 1 orange

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

¼ (quarter) cup plain flour

½ (half) cauliflower, broken into small florets

200g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

1 cup fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

juice 1 lemon

¼ – ½  (quarter to half) cup extra virgin olive oil for dressing

1 garlic clove, crushed

salt and pepper to season


Cook quinoa in a medium pot of boiling lightly salted water for 12-14 minutes until just tender. Drain and set aside.

Cook red rice and lentils in a large pot of boiling lightly salted water for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat frypan, add 100ml oil and cook onions over low heat with oil for 10 minutes until well caramelised.

Soak the cranberries in the orange juice for 10 minutes until plump.

Mix cumin, coriander and flour in a small bowl. Toss the cauliflower in the flour mix.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large frypan, add cauliflower and panfry over low heat for 10 minutes until cauliflower is soft.

Toss with drained quinoa, rice and lentils. Add caramelised onions, drizzling in any extra oil from the pan. Add cranberries and the orange juice from soaking them. Add pistachios and fresh herbs.

Make a simple dressing with lemon juice, remaining extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine, taste and adjust quantities if necessary.

Add to the salad and mix well.


Serves 4.



3 Responses

  1. i make this quinoa red rice and cauli salad all the time now – I made it for a BBQ in January and our guests named it “salad of the year”, love it!

    • Thanks so much. I have had other lovely comments about this salad. I love it too. Will set my mind to more interesting salads to try.

  2. […] is a cut down version of a Caroline Velik salad I made for Christmas Day which everybody loved.  It can be a little more time consuming than […]

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