A delicious dressing makes or breaks a salad. Whisking up one at home is easy and far better tasting than any store bought viniagrette. Plus this way you know there are no preservatives in the dressing and you can control how much sugar or fat you put in.
A basic vinaigrette has few ingredients, oil, vinegar, mustard, salt
and pepper , but will only be as good as the quality of your
ingredients. Usually, the proportions are one part vinegar to three
parts oil, but this can be varied according to your personal taste.
Lemon or lime juice can be substituted for vinegar, in which case you
should use one part lemon or lime to four or five parts oil. You can
also use Verjuice in place of lemon juice or vinegar. Verjuice
(available from leading supermarkets and delis countrywide) is made
from unfermented grapes and adds zest to salad dressings, avoiding the
tartness of vinegar and the sharpness of lemon juice and therefore
enhances flavours rather than mask them.
Salad dressing tricks
Don't think you have to stick with red wine vinegar and olive oil when
making a dressing, experiment with a variety of flavoured oils (peanut
oil or rich olive oil) and vinegars (full red wine or raspberry). Used
for cold and warm salads, dressing also make a handy marinade or
basting for grilling. Ideally, vinaigrettes shouldn't be refrigerated
as the oil congeals and can even turn rancid. If the oil does become
cloudy, stand the bottle in a bowl of warm water for a couple of
minutes to clear. If you're adding fresh herbs to your dressing, heat
them gently in warm oil and strain before making the vinaigrette. This
way, the herbs release more flavour. Freshly made salad dressing will
keep one week at room temperature. It goes without saying that, unless
you want to marinate your ingredients, salad dressing should be added
just before serving.
There are dozens of variations on the basic vinaigrette theme and most
cooks reach for two cloves of crushed garlic as first choice of
flavouring. But there are other delicious ideas:
- For a really strong
mustardy flavour, eg, warm a bowl and add the mustard (Dijon, French or
English). Beat in 45ml of boiling water, drop by drop. Add 125ml oil,
again drop by drop, beating until thick and creamy. Beat in salt and
pepper and lemon juice to taste. Add 30 ml chopped fresh herbs.
For nutty flavours, heat 30 ml olive oil with a handful of roasted
hazelnuts and a few rosemary leaves. Allow the flavours to infuse and
add a squeeze of lemon juice, freshly ground pepper and pour over salad
Sherry livens up a dressing. Whisk together 60ml olive oil, 10ml dry
sherry and 10ml white-wine vinegar, finely snipped chives, parsley,
small crushed clove of garlic, salt and pepper and shake 'em up.
Create an Asian dressing by adding tomato and ginger. Mix 90 ml of oil,
15 ml sesame oil, 30 ml soy sauce, 10ml sugar, three plum tomatoes
(skinned, seeded and cubed), six spring onions, sliced and 15 ml grated
Believe it or not, beetroot makes a superb dressing. Liquidise a
cooked, peeled beetroot and add to 300 ml vinaigrette. Shake and serve.
If you like it hot, combine 90 ml oil, 50 ml sesame oil, 30 ml vinegar,
15 ml soy sauce, chilli paste to taste, 15 ml grated ginger, salt and
pepper and half a bunch of chopped coriander and mix well. This also
makes a great basting sauce.
Balsamic vinegar makes wonderful dressing, mix 375 ml oil and 125 ml
balsamic vinegar, 2,5 ml soy sauce, 5 ml sugar and 250 ml finely
chopped basil and mix well.
What went wrong?
Sometimes, despite your most heroic efforts, things go wrong. If your
dressing separates, it hasn't been whisked enough or has been allowed
to stand. If the dressing is thin, it will still work but won't coat
the leaves properly. Whisk again or add a dash or two more oil.
If your dressing tastes bland, it probably needs more seasoning or the
dry herbs you've used have lost their flavour. Intensify the flavour by
adding finely chopped onion, ginger, a drop or two soy sauce, chilli
flakes and/or really fresh, slightly crushed mixed herbs.
Sometimes a vinaigrette is too acidic. That's becuse you're used too
little oil or a cheap vinegar. Add more oil, but if the taste is still
no good, throw the dressing away, get some good vinegar and start all
over. 5 Salad Dressings
1. Thai dressing for vegetables
2. Mustard and yoghurt salad dressing
3. Caesar dressing
4. Oil-free salad dressing
5. Basil and hazelnut vinaigrette