I’m reading a great book by Joel Salatin, an American farmer and cult figure in sustainable living whose catch cry (and book title) is “Folks, this ain’t normal!”
While a good old-fashioned hog killin’ might be a bit beyond us, I certainly rise to the challenge of getting back to basics and remembering the essential kitchen skills we’re in danger of losing.
There are a lot of things you simply do not need to buy from a supermarket and, over the course of the next few weeks, I would like to demonstrate some of them here.
First up, I’d like to share with you my salad dressing recipe. Or, for anyone who has come across my style of cooking before, my salad dressing NON-recipe! I work on basic principles and taste. Once you’ve got these two things mastered, it’s easy to make variations and be a competent, confident cook.
My basic, adaptable salad dressing recipe uses four ingredients (plus salt and pepper), which I chop and change to suit my taste and what I have available. Here’s what’s not in homemade salad dressing, but is rife in store-bought salad dressings:
- Dubious oils such as soy or canola
- E-numbers: preservatives, flavour enhancers
- Dairy products or gluten
Homemade salad dressing doesn’t have a label, costs a fraction of the price and takes all of about one minute to make. You can make a week’s worth and keep it in the fridge. For some weird reason, I tend to make it fresh each time I have a salad.
So here it is, the most basic and easy-to-make salad dressing recipe:
Vinegar or lemon juice
Combine three parts oil with one part vinegar in a small recycled jar. Peel a clove of garlic and bash it with the blade of your knife, add to jar with a dollop of mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Shake like a margarita. Test with something you pinched from your salad. If it’s too sharp, add more oil. Not sharp enough, more vinegar.
That’s it. Seriously. The principle is this: half oil plus half acid equals salad dressing.
I use a combination of vinegar or citrus juice with mustard, but you can leave the mustard out and up the vinegar if you prefer, but as the mustard acts as an emulsifier, it won’t combine as well. The garlic is also optional. Don’t freak out if it goes green in the fridge, just take it out and pop it in the compost.
Use whatever vinegar you like – red wine is quite smooth, balsamic is sweeter, apple cider and citrus juice are very tart. I use olive oil for most salads but you can experiment with rice bran, coconut or whatever takes your fancy.
Once you’re feeling brave, mix up the oils and flavours. You can make an Asian-style dressing with a mix of peanut and sesame oils, with lime juice and fish sauce for the acid.
And, of course, you can always add herbs and spices for different flavours. Cumin works really well on a salad with root vegetables and seeds, Italian herbs make an old iceberg lettuce a little bit fancy…
Do you have a favourite salad dressing recipe? Do share!