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Dublin: 6°C Saturday 22 January 2022

Ditch the sambos: 6 colourful winter salads guaranteed to make your co-workers jealous

Prepare for some envy from your colleagues with these bold and vibrant salad combos.

Image: Shutterstock/bitt24

IT’S ONLY NATURAL that our tastes change as the evenings grow darker and the temperature starts to dive. We crave comforting, more indulgent dishes to fill us up in the colder months.

There’s no need to pack away the salad bowl just yet, though. With the change in seasons comes a raft of new and exciting vegetables, plus more of a reason to fill your salads with hearty grains like barley or pulses like chickpeas. Below you’ll find a selection of my favourite winter salads, perfect for a colourful lunch.

Some of these recipes are best served cold, while others call for warm ingredients. If you’re lucky enough to have a staff kitchen at work, just pack those ingredients separately and pop them into the microwave for a quick reheat. In no time at all, you’ll have a hearty, healthy and Instagram-worthy desk lunch to make your colleagues kale-green with envy!

All recipes serve four; make two on Sunday and have delicious lunch for the week. 

1. Simple winter vegetable salad

This is a firm favourite in our house, mainly because it requires minimal effort – ideal for a meatless Monday. To start, pre-heat the oven to 180C, and drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on a deep-bottomed baking tray. Toss in chopped beetroot, carrot, parsnip and sweet potato (about two of each). Give the tray a good shake to coat everything in oil, season to taste, and add some thyme if it’s handy. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, turning mid-way, until the vegetables have softened and taken on a golden hue. Meanwhile, make your dressing: in a sealable cup or jar, mix together four tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of lemon juice, and two teaspoons of Dijon mustard. Close the top and shake vigorously until the liquids have transformed into a smooth  dressing.

I like to serve the vegetables with a plate of mixed winter greens (kale or spinach), a generous pour of dressing, and some crumbled feta cheese on top, for a deliciously creamy finish.

2. Seared steak and blue cheese salad

Steak doesn’t reheat brilliantly, but the good news is this salad is just as delicious cold. While your oven is pre-heating to 180C, peel and dice a large butternut squash. Arrange the squash on a baking tray, season it to taste, and pour one tablespoon of olive oil all over. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning once, and remove when tender and browning. Meanwhile, pour two tablespoons of olive oil onto a pan, bring it to a high heat, and add two large seasoned sirloin steaks (about 500g). Cook for about three minutes either side, depending on how well-done you like your steak. Remove from the pan and leave to rest for about 8-10 minutes before slicing thinly. Blue cheese dressing is perfect with this dish, and super-easy to make: just combine 75g of mayonnaise with 50g of finely-crumbled blue cheese, a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour in a little water or milk until it’s thinned to your desired consistency, and you’re done! 

We’re big cheese fans, so I like to serve the steak on a pile of fresh spinach, with lashings of cheesy dressing and a handful of pomegranate seeds to add a hint of sweetness and a pop of colour.

shutterstock_1382867702 Source: Shutterstock/DronG

3. Chicken, cranberry and quinoa salad

If you’re pushed for time, shredded rotisserie chicken works just as well here: we’ve all been saved by the deli counter in the past! First, get the quinoa on to boil: 250g will take about 15 minutes to absorb all the water, but keep an eye on it. While that’s simmering, heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan and add four small chicken breasts, cooking for about four to five minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through. Remove the chicken breasts (saving the juices from the pan) and slice evenly. Boost the flavour of a quick French vinaigrette by adding the chicken juices to six tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, one teaspoon Dijon mustard, two tablespoons white wine vinegar and freshly-ground black pepper and a pinch of salt, before whisking or shaking together until thoroughly combined.

Arrange a layer of winter leaves on a serving plate (I like radicchio here, because of its pretty pink colour), add a spoonful of quinoa and a sliced chicken breast, drizzle the dressing on top, and sprinkle a handful of dried cranberries for some festive flair. Pack your radicchio leaves separately before plating up at work, so they don’t wilt too much before lunchtime.

4. Warm potato and bacon salad

Potatoes, bacon and butter are a match made in a particularly Irish heaven, and this salad makes the most of that treasured trinity. Get the spuds onto boil first – one kilogram of baby potatoes will take about 10 minutes in a pot of simmering water. While they’re cooking, melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan and add 200g of bacon lardons, stirring frequently over a medium heat. After about two minutes, when they’re starting to crisp up, add three more tablespoons of butter and a minced shallot. Watch carefully and remove from heat when the mixture has turned nut-brown, without burning. Stir in a handful of spinach leaves: they don’t need to cook, just soften a little. You might notice an audience forming as your kitchen fills with the beautiful aroma of browned butter and crispy bacon. 

This one couldn’t be easier to serve: just pour the browned butter, wilted spinach and bacon lardons over the cooked, quartered potatoes, and finish with some freshly-chopped parsley, a grind of black pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt. Pack up the leftovers (if there are any) for work the next day and simply reheat in the microwave. 

5. Halloumi salad with roast vegetables

High in protein and flavour, halloumi is one of my favourite cheeses, especially when grilled or fried. For this salad, we’ll be roasting vegetables again, so pre-heat the oven to 180C. Peel and dice a medium butternut squash, two beetroots, a courgette and two small red onions. Add a couple of unpeeled garlic cloves, season the vegetables and cover the whole lot with a tablespoon of olive oil before popping into the oven for about 25 minutes. After about 15 minutes of cooking time, arrange 200g of cubed halloumi on another tray, and put them in the oven too, for about 10 minutes. When the cheese has turned golden and the vegetables are tender, they’re all done.

In a shallow bowl, mix a handful of vegetables with a couple of cubes of halloumi, a spoonful of cooked chickpeas, a drizzle of olive oil, some fresh parsley and a pinch of chilli flakes if, like me, you like some heat on wintry days. Oh, and don’t forget to peel the garlic cloves, revealing that gorgeously creamy roast garlic inside. 

shutterstock_472826572 Source: Shutterstock/philippou

6. Salmon salad with winter vegetables

This is one of those great dishes that tastes just as good cold as hot, so it’s ideal for a weeknight meal turned busy working lunch. Start by pre-heating the oven to 180C and pouring a tablespoon of olive oil on a deep-bottomed baking tray. Toss in two beetroot, two sweet potatoes, and one small red onion, all cut into wedges, as well as 200g of Brussels sprouts, halved and trimmed. Shake the tray to ensure everything is coated in oil, season the mixture, and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender but not burning (keep an eye on the beetroot and onion). After about 10 minutes, arrange four fillets of salmon on a layer of foil on a separate tray, skin-side down. Coat them in oil, season well, and cook for 10-15 minutes: you’ll know they’re done when the salmon flakes easily as you nudge it with a fork. While the fish is cooking, make your dressing: in a sealable jar, combine two teaspoons of wholegrain mustard with two teaspoons of honey, three tablespoons of lemon juice and six tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Season, shake, and it’s ready. 

When all the ingredients are cooked, just spoon the vegetables onto a plate, topping them with flaked salmon, a little crumbed goat’s cheese, and a hefty pour of lemon and mustard dressing.

More: Just as tasty: 6 vegetarian-friendly alternatives to the classic Sunday roast

About the author:

Rachael Kealy

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