Think salads are just for summer? Think again! I am not talking lettuce, tomato and a bit of limp cucumber with a dollop of salad cream on the side, but instead making the very best of what the season has to offer with some seasonal winter salads.

Seasonal ingredients like beetroot, oranges, red cabbage, kale, pears and cauliflower can be the base for some sensational hearty, earthy, winter salads.

According to last year’s Healthy Ireland survey, only about one third of the population on this island manages to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, so warm winter salads and hearty slaws can be an easy way to help us reach the five-a-day goal.

How to build the ultimate winter salad

  • Think ‘colour’; red cabbage, squashes, beetroot, carrot, red onion and kale are great.
  • Add some texture, crunch and a nutritional boost with a handful of fresh nuts or seeds like walnuts, cashews, pecans, sunflower or pumpkin seeds,
  • Add some herbs or spices. Parsley is good at this time of the year (basil is for summer), spices like chilli and ginger give a kick.
  • Add something fruity; blueberries, grated apple, sliced pear or pomegranate seeds are good, and lime juice makes a zesty change to lemon juice, especially with chilli and spicy slaws.
  • Dress it up. No salad is complete without a good dressing. Combine a good quality oil like extra virgin olive oil with something acidic – choose from lemon or lime juice, cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, freshly squeezed orange juice – the choice is yours.
  • Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  • Make enough to do two or three days. Perfect to pack into a lunch box with some fish, leftover chicken, or a bean salad.

Not only does the oil help intensify the flavour of the ingredients you are using, but it also helps us get the most from our food nutritionally, as oils help the transport and absorption of fat-soluble antioxidants and vitamins like carotenoids and vitamin E.

Most of these winter ingredients are more robust and hold a dressing better than softer, summer salad ingredients, so they are less likely to go limp and wilted in the fridge if you dress the salad today and eat tomorrow.

How to make beetroot and carrot slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 raw beetroot, peeled
  • 2 medium carrots, scrubbed but not peeled
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 small red onion
  • Generous handful of flat leaf parsley
  • A big handful of walnuts
  • 1-2 tblsp apple cider vinegar (with ‘mother’)
  • 1-2 tblsp olive oil
  • Sea salt & black pepper

Put the beetroot and carrots through your food processor with the fine grater blade (or grate by hand). Finely chop the celery and apple and place in a large bowl with the carrot and beetroot. Slice the red onion finely, chop the parsley and add to the bowl too.

Crush the walnuts under the flat side of your knife and add to the mix. Drizzle with the cider vinegar and olive oil. Season well and mix together.

How to make warm butternut squash salad 

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 500g butternut squash (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tblsp low salt soy sauce
  • zest & juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 80g cashew nuts
  • 20g fresh coriander

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6. If using fresh butternut squash, peel, deseed and chop into chunky cubes. Cook the squash for 30 mins on a baking tray, no need for any oil, just spread out the squash out & pop it in.

Put the cashew nuts in a dry frying pan over a medium heat and toast gently for four to five minutes until they start to colour. Keep moving them, so they don’t burn.

Mix the soy sauce, lime zest and juice and chilli in a small bowl. Put the butternut squash in a large bowl and add the dressing while the squash is still warm. Stir in the cashew nuts and coriander. Serve warm (can be served cold too!)

This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 30 November 2019.