Sunday Herald Sun - Body and Soul


The world of salads can be a place of great joy, says Matt Preston. All you have to do is dress to impress

- @mattscrava­t @MattsCrava­t


Whoever said “you don’t make friends with salad” was obviously doing salads wrong.The world of salads – be they simple or complex – is one of great joy, but it helps immeasurab­ly if you get the dressing right. It’s what holds the salad together. Sometimes literally; metaphoric­ally,always.

A great dressing enhances the salad rather than overwhelmi­ng it. It can be as simple as olive, lemon juice and salt to something as magical as mayonnaise or a vinaigrett­e that has gone creamy and cloudy from shaking. Emulsifica­tion is a trick of Las-Vegas-strip-level magic.

For me, the dressing should bring at least two of the following: salt, sweetness, acidity, heat, creaminess or contrastin­g flavours.The creaminess can come from anything – from an ingredient like avocado, from dairy or from that emulsifica­tion trick.You have a similar range of options with acidity,whether you plump for a vinegar from any of the vast range on offer, citrus juice or something more unusual like tamarind pulp, or even by adding a pickled element to your salad to provide that needed bite.The same goes with oils.Try avocado, macadamia, pumpkin-seed or expensive walnut oil for their different flavour and mouth-feel.

Do be sparing,however,with the other flavours you add. Keep them simple and in keeping with whatever you are serving the salad with, as well as the ingredient­s you are using.

Here are some of my current favourite dressings, away from the classics, that you can try out at home if you’re looking to change-up or step-up your salad game.


That desired creaminess could also come from cheese.The first Cobb salad was topped with a slab of salty blue roquefort instead of a dressing.This is perhaps going a little too far, but certainly leave the last of the marinated feta in the jar with the oil and shake it with the vinegar of your choice – balsamic is great.This makes a great no-waste, creamy cheese dressing.

You can also mash you favourite blue cheese into a mix of crème fraîche and cream with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice for edge. Serve in bacon burgers instead of mayo, or spoon over crisp baby cos lettuce hearts. It’s also really good on celery,walnuts and grapes,or dolloped into a mix of rocket and roast pears with almonds for crunch. Even if the weather isn’t balmy, try it on baked potatoes or stirred through warm potatoes like chats to make an autumnal potato salad.


Greek or natural yoghurt are great bases for tarter creamy dressings. Hit your yoghurt with a big spoon of tahini, crushed garlic and a little lemon juice to give a Middle Eastern vibe to wedges of roast pumpkin, or fish or chicken thighs baked in a chermoula spice paste of cumin, coriander, preserved lemon, parsley and garlic.


Huge in the US but one of the most underrated dressings here, traditiona­lly a creamy ranch dressing is made with buttermilk, garlic, mustard and herbs like dill, parsley and chives mixed with mayo.

I make an easier, cheat’s version using sour cream and a splash of vinegar instead of the buttermilk and mayo. This thin dressing is lovely on butter lettuce and cucumber, to serve with fried chicken.


The art of mixing other ingredient­s – sweet chilli sauce, mustard, barbecue sauce or sriracha – into mayo can be traced back to the Nobel-awarding winning Argentinia­n biochemist Luis Federico Leloir,who instructed the chef at a swank golf club to mix up tomato sauce and mayo to serve with his fries.This so-called “golf sauce” would evolve into the Rose Marie sauce that graces many retro prawn cocktails.


I learnt this dressing from a Thai Laotian restaurant in Melbourne (hence the name). It’s a play on a nam pla prik or a Vietnamese nuoc cham with 45g of pounded peanuts added to 4 tbs white sugar, 5 tbs lemon juice, 3 tbs fish sauce and 2 tbs chilli flakes. Try this on shredded cabbage and carrot to make a play on Thai coleslaw,with the addition of loads of suitable fresh herbs.


Essentiall­y this is a step up from your usual vinaigrett­e and wonderful served with beef fillet from the barbecue.To make it,crush a clove of garlic with a pinch of salt and work

ON SUNDAY in two small anchovy fillets.Then whisk in one part red wine vinegar and three parts olive oil.Add as many baby capers as you like. If you want to make this agrodolce, throw in the same amount of plumped raisins.This now-sweet-and-sour dressing is great spooned over seared lamb loin.


Far more recent is this wonderful egg-free mayo I discovered last year.You make it like my usual instant mayonnaise (recipe online at but you use three tbs of the liquid from inside a can of chickpeas instead of the egg. It makes for a wonderfull­y light creamy mayo that I actually prefer to the raw-egg version.


When serving something simple like grilled fish or grilled skewers of yakitori chicken, the freshness of a salad dressed with a Japanese-inspired vinaigrett­e is always welcome. I whisk together 1 tbs sesame oil, 2 tbs mirin, 1 tbs rice wine vinegar and 1 tsp caster sugar.Then season with a splash of soy sauce and the juice of a couple of lemons to taste.This is great on a classic salad of shredded, blanched snowpeas and edamame (soy beans), or just over thinly sliced radishes and sliced iceberg lettuce.

To discover Matt’s Nine Rules of Salad head online to

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 ??  ?? CRUNCH TIME There’s a lot of untapped potential when it comes to salad, says Matt Preston. And the dressing can make all the difference. It can be as simple as crumbling some yummy cheese over your ingredient­s, like in this celery, fennel, candied-macadamia and blue-cheese salad from
CRUNCH TIME There’s a lot of untapped potential when it comes to salad, says Matt Preston. And the dressing can make all the difference. It can be as simple as crumbling some yummy cheese over your ingredient­s, like in this celery, fennel, candied-macadamia and blue-cheese salad from

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